Thursday, August 18, 2011

Xolo Taqueria in Oakland

Creative But Soggy Burritos
1916 Telegraph Ave. (at 19th), Oakland
Uptown neighborhood
PH: 510.986.0151
Open Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. (till midnight on Friday and Saturday)
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

So I mentioned how there were some new restaurants near my workplace. One of them is the second taqueria serving up fancy burritos from the people behind Dona Tomas.

Xolo, which in the Mexican culture is a kind of “hairless dog,” is just a few yards up from Dona Tomas’ American bistro Flora across from Oakland’s Fox Theater. But the narrow restaurant painted in a distinctive aqua blue is more like Tacubaya, Dona Tomas’ first taqueria in Berkeley.

But Xolo has a more limited menu, and it also seats fewer people since the bulk of the restaurant is taken up by the open kitchen in the center. Still, a line starts up soon after the lunch hour.

The décor could be describe as Chic Mexican Religious, with a variety of religious paintings around the walls. And every table has a religious figurine on top of the napkin dispenser. It has the two things you need for lunch: a saint to watch over you and hot sauce.

The casual spot works on a number system, so you order at the counter and find a seat in the front or in the tiny alcove above and wait for your food to be delivered by the friendly staff.

I dropped in a few times for lunch, and here are some of the items I tried:

This is the Surf ‘n Turf burrito ($8.95), filled with grilled carne asada, pinto beans, rice, cheese and shrimp. This is actually the second burrito I ordered here. (The first I tried was the Chile Verde for $8.50 but I didn’t take a photo of it.) Both burritos had the same annoying characteristic – they were too wet. The chile verde and the carne asada were in so much sauce that on the first bite the ingredients oozed out, making it really difficult to hold the burrito and eat.

Despite the soggy structure, the ingredients were fresh and tasty. There were a lot of the carne asada, but just a bit of the shrimp, which were tiny (don’t think jumbo). After two tries of the burritos, I learned that I either have to eat them with a fork and knife or keep the aluminum around it and slowly slurp my way down.

The bulk of the menu is made of up burritos (eight versions) and tacos (six types), but there are a few specials, including this Ensalada de Tacubaya ($7.75), a mixed green salad with shredded red cabbage, carrots, and avocado topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and dressed in a very light lemon vinaigrette. (The salad also comes with red onions, but I ordered mine without them.)

The salad is quite big but, of course, tastes really light because of the lemon vinaigrette. This is definitely a healthy item on the menu, although I wished they gave more than just two slices of avocado.

Another unusual item on the menu is the Danger Dog ($6.50), a bacon-wrapped hot dog that’s buried under a pile of pinto beans, cheese, pickled jalapenos, and avocado cubes all in a bolillo roll. You can see in the photo that the dog is totally buried, and I had to eat this with a fork and knife because there was no way I could lift it up.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed this hot dog. I think it was the comforting baked beans blending with the saltiness of the hot dog. The ingredients buried the flavor of the bacon, so I hardly noticed it was surrounding the dog, but I liked how all the ingredients seemed to blend together even though I’m sure it wasn’t healthy for me to eat all of this.

Speaking of unhealthy, the same time I tried the Danger Dog I ordered a bowl of churritos ($3.95), Xolo’s mini version of churros, which is the traditional fried dough stick eaten as a snack or dessert. I know I always say I don’t eat deep-fried foods, but I really wanted to see what the miniature churros would be like.

They actually weren’t as mini as I thought they would be, just short churros, each maybe two inches in length. They were freshly fried from the kitchen because they were hot. Even though they were freshly made, they didn’t have the lightness or bounce that I expected from a good churro. And they were covered with a lot of sugar. One order of churritos actually is a lot for one person as you can see in the photo.

Even though I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, I do like a good burrito for lunch because it hits the spot and is often a value buy. But the soggy burritos at Xolo doesn’t really excite me, despite the cool décor of the place and the fresh, quality ingredients used in the dishes. The menu might be different than your typical taqueria, but the execution is pretty standard.

Single guy rating: 2.25 stars (fancified burrito spot)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Xolo on Urbanspoon


Carolyn Jung said...

Love the name -- and look -- of that Danger Dog. Anything called that just has to be good. ;)

Cookie said...

LOVE Taquerias especially for the Tapatio!

Jason said...

I would love to know what language "Mexican" is exactly. "Xolo" means something in another language and it isn't Mexican. And it's pretty pointless to even mention all this anyways.