JUANITA BURRITOS AND TACOS
No. 51-1, Lane 160, Dunhua S. Rd, Sec. 1
website: Juanita's FB page
hours: 11AM - 10PM
$ (about NT$200/person)
Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted but some room for strollers. kid friendly options on menu like rice
Visit reviewed: 9/24/2012
This is what a typical Taipei alley looks like- long and narrow, lined with pedestrians and parked motorcycles, with an array of endless colorful storefront signs in Chinese characters for hotpot, noodles, tea shops or cafes.
This is NOT a typical sight in Taipei- an English only sign for Mexican food, the newly opened Juanita Burritos and Tacos, in an alley not too far behind old Sogo on Zhongxiao East Road. The name is an interesting choice as I can't even imagine how Taiwanese people will butcher the name, trying to pronounciate "Juanita," not to mention that the J sounds different in Spanish than it does in English, as do double LLs like in "tortilla." (I had a co-worker tell me recently that the name Heather was too hard to say, but that's a story for another day). But the name is memorable and stands out.
The warm wood paneling storefront is an unusual, but welcome sight for me and for other burrito lovers in Taipei, as I am happy to see more and more entrepreneurs try to make finding good Mexican food in Taipei a reality after it being so many years an impossible dream. It's definitely interesting seeing more burrito places like Juanita open up this past year, as well as Barrito at ATT4Fun.
Juanita's kitchen and counter takes up most of the shop, with some seating in the front and back. It's a tad roomier than Macho Tacos, seating about 20 people or so.
I admit that I was quite surprised to see only English on all the red and white signs above the counter. Perhaps they expect customers who step foot inside to already be interested and kind of know what they are getting into. Anyone who has been to US fast casual chain Chipotle will definitely be drawing comparisons, since Juanita has pretty much ripped a page (or the whole book) from their menu.
You start by ordering choosing a meat (or vegetarian), then what form you want it in (burrito, fajita burrito, burrito bowl, salad or tacos) and then your toppings/salsas which are all in view behind the glass counter. Prices are competitive, ranging from NT$150-170. There's no nachos or quesadillas (which are two of the most popular things my local friends usually order), but I'm curious about the fajita burrito.
There's a choice of pinto or black beans, only one choice of cilantro lime rice and a range of salsas including roasted chile corn as well as fresh Haas avocado guacamole. I also liked that the option to add in cheese was free. Horchata, frozen margaritas and beers are also available, along with soft drinks.
I ordered guacamole on the side (NT$30) for my barbacoa beef burrito, as well as the free side of chips we were given for the soft opening period. Without specifically asking for it on the side, I was also given some pico de gallo and tomatillo green chili salsa, both fresh and flavorful. Just the sight of the right colors and the right textures of the sauces was a great sign and integral part of the meal. Fresh green guacamole not made with Taiwan avocados!!
The burrito was a decent size, though some might might think too small or not enough meat if comparing to the heartier sizes in the states. I would have appreciated more meat though I was adequately full (and satisfied) afterwards and enjoying my chips with the guac and salsas. Juanita actually reminded me of when Taipei counter burrito pioneer Oola first opened, before the owners parted and it went downhill (and transformed from Taipei's first Chipotle clone into some weird nightclub/mexican + burgers/pizza place).
Reader Diane was the first to message me, saying Juanita did a good job being "Chipotle in Taipei." Most Taiwanese people (and some non-American expats) have probably have never heard of Chipotle, let alone eaten there. But I know a number of you have been craving it. Who's tried it and what do you think? Where is your favorite Mexican spot in Taipei, or are you still waiting?