One of my favourite ways of visiting a country and experiencing their culture is through food. It is one of the most basic needs for all living things, but from Japanese takoyaki and gyoza to Spanish chuuros and paella, it is the street food the locals enjoy that I’m most interested in. More often than not, restaurants serving food from other countries don’t often serve authentic food the locals would eat (I can definitely say for certain I hardly visit Chinese takeaways or restaurants here in the UK unless it’s in Chinatown).
On a night where a friend I were on the hunt for a small bite to eat but not quite wanting dessert, we decided to give El Toro Loco a go.
In Asia, street food is literally that. Unless you’ve got recommendations from a local in Hong Kong, it’s not always safe to buy street food from vendors. For hygienic reasons, a lot of street food vendors now operate from a shop, but use a portable cooking station on the street to entice customers with the fragrant scents of their dishes. In Europe, the regulations are more stringent and you can be assured that any catering vans serving food around Edinburgh have been vetted and carry a licence.
I passed by the small restaurant a few times while walking through Grassmarket, but never really got a chance to visit. When my friend and I were thinking about getting a quick bite to eat around 11pm on a weekend night, the brightly lit bull’s head logo tempted us into the warm and lively atmosphere of the intimate eatery. The walls are adorned with recognisable Mexican art, like a Mexican wrestler riding a bull, mosaic geckos and a small portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
All meat are Scottish produce, slow cooked each morning and you’ve got the choice of pork carnitas (pork shoulder with orange and cumin), barbacoa beef (beef brisket cooked with tomatoes and chilli) or chipotle chicken (chicken thighs cooked in chipotle sauce and chillies). There are also other choices how hot you like your salsa and whether you prefer your pinto beans cooked with pork ends or the vegetarian option of beans cooked in beer. For a truly Mexican experience, you can always wash down your dish with a bottle of native beer or if you’re truly looking for a great night, some tequila.
My favourite Mexican dish has to be the burrito but because I wasn’t too hungry, I was worried about ordering a big dish so went with soft tacos with pulled pork, salad greens, mild salsa and sour cream. I would have liked to try the bowl, but wanted the yeasty flavour of a tortilla.
Not surprisingly, I had a stack of napkins nearby because I can never seem to eat a burrito or taco gracefully. I made quite a mess and most likely looked silly to passerbys outside the window where we were seated. At that time of night, I was more concerned about how good my tacos tasted rather than how I looked eating it. For what seemed like 3 small sized tacos, they were really filling.
I’m definitely looking forward to going back so I can properly try all the dishes they have to offer as well as try their different meat and vegetarian options!
El Toro Loco can be found at 60 Grassmarket, EH12JR and is open daily from 9:00am till 11:00pm Sunday to Thursday (midnight on Friday and Saturday). Bookings are not required, but if you have any questions call 0131 290 2411.