Just before coming to Europe Ryan and I met up at Illegal Pete’s on Pearl Street for burritos, as we often did, when I had the horrifying thought that our European adventure was open-ended, which meant that I did not know when I would have burritos again. I know part of traveling is trying new cuisine and “doing as the Romans do,” but tacos and burritos are a huge part of my life. I could never just stop eating Mexican food. I eat tacos, burritos, or quesadillas at least three times a week. I want all of my food smothered in green chili. I want endless bowls of beans and rice. I want to open my fridge and see a dozen tamales all perfectly wrapped in their corn husks. Mexican food more than just my favorite cuisine; it’s my lifestyle.
I made it all of a week of traveling Europe before finding a burrito shop in Dublin, Ireland. It was certainly not the best burrito and I quickly realized that Mexican food in Europe would be such a knockoff from what I’m used to. It was a cheap imitation, at best. Plus, while sitting there eating my burrito I looked over and saw a man staring at me, trying to figure out how to eat his burrito. He had no idea how to unwrap the foil or how he was supposed to eat it once he did. It struck me that I might be the only Mexican in Ireland, so I had some teaching to do.
Even though that burrito was mediocre, it did give me hope that other countries had burrito bars and that there had to be good Mexican food somewhere. How could Europe, the birthplace of so many culinary traditions, have no standard for burritos? I set off on a wandering pursuit of tacos across Europe.
Here’s what I found…
1. La Neta Stockholm, Sweden.
Stockholm has the best Mexican food in Europe? The land of vikings and IKEA? That Stockholm? How can a place that brought the world ABBA also have some of the most authentic Mexican cuisine on this side of the Atlantic?
We were surprised too. Stockholm is extremely expensive and by the time we ended up in Sweden we had been traveling for quite some time and had to limit ourselves to one meal out only. That can be tough in Stockholm, a place that has a vast array of amazing food from all over the world. They have great markets, fresh fish, and quality Asian, Indian, Thai, American BBQ, and good Mexican food. It’s hard not to spend too much money once you see all of the options. We were craving tacos, though, and we were lucky enough to end up at La Neta.
La Neta is part tortilla factory and part restaurant. The space is simply decorated, with long community tables, bright colors, and an open kitchen. The service is quick, and behind the counter are actual Mexicans making proper Mexican cuisine. It was honestly the only Mexican restaurant that we found in Europe that had proper picante salsa. It was spicy and there were multiple spicy options. It was heaven after such a long time without it.
The tacos are “Stockholm” priced, which means that they are more than you are used to paying for. It is $3 for one taco, with no sides. While that’s a steep price, it is honestly some of the cheapest food in Stockholm and is as authentic as you can find. Stop by for lunch, where for 90 kroner (about $13) you can get 2 grande tacos, rice, and a drink. Score extra points by ordering in Spanish.
2. Arriba Taqueria Budapest, Hungary
We found this place after almost two months of being burrito free. It was so good that we went here three times in four days. It’s simple and fun. The have a mural saying Gracias a Dios por Crear el Taco because they know what is important in life. Nothing is over the top or particularly special, but they make a good burrito everytime. They have all the regular options, plus free jalapeños. Even in a cheaper country like Hungary, a burrito still costs about 1890 ft ($7). They have a slushie machines full of margs and horchata. Horchata in Europe is very different from what we drink back home. Originating in Valencia, Spain, horchata is made from tigernuts, or chufas. Back home, most horchata is made from rice or almond milk and contains a lot of sugar and cinnamon. The machine at Arriba is far from either of these, but it still made my day.
You may be tempted by other burrito bars in Budapest, but do not go. Learn from our mistakes. We came out of Szimpla tipsy and looking for food. To our right we saw a sign for Tacos Rapidos. Could it be true? Did we just find another place to get burritos? We happily walked into a tiny shop filled with tequila and ordered our tacos. To our extreme disappointment these tacos were more despacio than rapido. I’m not one to complain about a place because of its name. I’d let the slowness go if these tacos were good, but they weren’t. We threw them away and went to Arriba.
Just kidding. We would never throw a taco away. It was tiny and we finished it in two bites, and then went to Arriba.
Note: If you are hungry, but don’t feel like tacos, the Thai place across and to the left of Tacos Rapidos is AMAZING. And they have real Sriracha!
3. Taco Mazama, Scotland
I was surprised and excited to find that Glasgow was the unofficial burrito capital of Scotland. My dreams of endless burrito tastings were crushed when I remembered the US dollar conversion rate, though. After being detained for three hours (that’s for another story) and left in Glasgow without any plans we felt that we deserved to splurge on a burrito. This place takes Mexican cuisine seriously. The decor has an Aztec vibe with sugar skulls and lizards on the walls. The downstairs is a tequlia bar that offers tasting throughout the week. The burrito station is not very big, but don’t be fooled. They offer all the usuals and the ingredients are very fresh. They keep their menu interesting by having new creations of the week and every Tuesday they offer a new vegan option. I would never miss out on a traditional barbacoa burrito, but the vegan option did look good.
The reason we came here so often was because they offer some killer lunch deals. You can get a burrito, chips and a soda for pretty cheap, which is important in a place like Scotland. A small burrito lunch deal is 5 pounds and a regular is 7 pounds. They also have a great deal to get a burrito and two beers for 10 pounds, which of course we took.
One day I plan to go back after training my stomach for the burrito challenge. You have to eat a Triple Sized Giant Burrito in under ten minutes. If you complete the challenge, you get your picture on the wall and don’t have to pay the 15 pounds.
4. Boojum, Ireland
Ireland is not exactly known for it’s wealth of culinary options. Don’t get me wrong, I love potatoes. And after trying it, I decided I like cabbage too. That being said, Boojum, a small Irish chain, knows how to do burrito bars. I struggled where to put this one in my list, but decided that since they charge for jalapeños and do not have lunch deals, they would be fourth. These burritos are huge and delicious. You can find them in most major cities in Ireland. They cost about 7 euros and then .40 for jalapeños and .80 for guacamole.
I will give them an extra bonus star because they include a sticker with instructions for how to eat a burrito. Again, not a lot of culinary exploration happening in Ireland, and as I explained before, some people really don’t know how to eat one.
5. Chipotle, Paris and the UK
Let’s be real, there is no problem in the world that Chipotle can’t fix. There is no shame at eating at places we have at home when you need to. I mean if you only eat at McDonalds or Subway while in Europe than you’re kind of missing the point, but there is nothing wrong with a little taste of home every now and then.
Chipotle can be found in London and Paris. It tastes the same as it does at home, but at the insane price of 9 euros (I guess it’s exotic?). That price is justifiable, though, when you have not had a taste of home in 8 months.
Obviously there are so many more burrito bars in Europe, but budget life doesn’t allow me to try them all. Berlin, we know, has a large amount of Mexican cuisine, but we chose to eat a from an old toilet converted into a burger joint under the train tracks, a decision that I surprisingly still stand by.
Let us know what great burrito bars you found while traveling and enjoy life in the pursuit of tacos!