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Funny, this place doesn’t remind me much of my Mexican vacation, he thinks as he stops and peers in the restaurant window.
Los Angeles has lots of Oaxacan food. New York has no Oaxacan food. Which is why I was excited to hear a new restaurant was opening northeast of Grand Central called Oaxaca Mexican Grill.
Even when I learned that it was merely a burrito joint, I still held out hope that there’d be something Oaxacan about the menu. The bitter news is that there’s zero Oaxacan about the menu, which makes it another epic case of cultural chutzpah, pilfering the name of Mexico’s most flavorful state. It’s culinary doublethink, or maybe I mean bait-and-switch.
The good news is that the burritos are ample and well-furnished, with a greater variety of choices in fillings, no extra charge for guacamole, and an availablitiy of burritos in two sizes, with two sorts of flour tortilla offered per size. The small burrito is more than enough for a sane person.
The place glimmers with stainless steel, and the t-shirted attendants are so excited they seem about to jump over the counter. Is Oaxaca trying to compete with Chipotle? The concept is nearly the same, with a few salads and tacos added to fill out a menu that is burrito-centric in the extreme.
Mini burrito on the left, regular burrito on the right.
I got a “mini” burrito made with a 10-inch flour tortilla and featuring “shredded beef brisket” along with black beans and white rice ($6.43), and a regular burrito with a whole-wheat wrapper, stuffed with pulled pork and featuring brown rice and red beans ($7.81). Yes, the price for either a mini or a regular burrito is almost the same. The two fillings I selected were virtually indistinguishable. (Would it have hurt them to have cooked the fillings with some authentic spice combinations from Oaxaca?)
Five sauces are offered, including two (“habanero pepper” and “tomatillo-red chili”) which were actually quite hot. Plaudits to Oaxaca (and the real Oaxaca) in this regard.
Funny how the burrito fad won’t die. 245 Park Avenue (entrance on 47th Street), 212-818-9500
The same burritos burst open to reveal their beguiling insides.