Photo by Danilo Sierra
Across the street louche firemen sit on plastic chairs gawking at the fauna of Wiener Strasse. As your mouth catches fire at Chaparro (“shorty”), you might be tempted to call them for help, but a cold bottle of Bohemia (not to be confused with Netto’s Stara Bohemia) might suffice.
Chaparro is the latest Mexican burrito/taco place to join the street food fray, just down the road from several competitors. The deco is as spartan as it gets, aside from the wrestling mask in the window and a few Mexican knickknacks.
We ordered at the counter and it’s no-nonsense from the get-go: choose burrito or tacos or quesadilla... choose a filling (black chicken, barbacoa beef, pork carnitas, veggie chorizo...), and a salsa (roja, verde, chipotle or habanero). Seven minutes later our order was ready.
Upon first bite, we tasted something different to other Berlin Mexican. Something non-Tex-Mex, non-Californian, non-German. Something about the way the refried beans melted with the meat, framed by a slight crispiness of tortilla. Close to the real deal, really. Being a Mexican doesn’t mean you can cook burritos, not every German knows how to make Spätzle. But owner Raul Oliver knows what he’s doing.
The burritos (we got barbacoa beef with the hottest salsa, the three-chili habanero – €5.20) get plonked on the plate garnish-free (which is probably why a German magazine didn’t really get this place), in the proper fashion. Beans, pico de gallo with fresh cilantro, marinated, shredded beef, lettuce. No fancy trimmings – just an old-fashioned burrito. The taco plate (€4.60-5.20, depending on filling) is a more artful combo: three filled soft corn tortillas arranged in a row next to three mini-bowls containing rice, beans, and salsa – for dipping or drizzling. Chunky guac (€1.50), the way we like it. And did we mention that the habanero is excellent? It’s more flavour than pain, always sign of a salsa done right.
While the portions are less than huge, they’re pleasantly filling. No need for dessert, which is ok as there isn’t any. A horchata (€2) is the closest you’re going to get to something sweet here. One tiny gripe: Chaparro seems to be licensed as an Imbiss, meaning it isn’t required to have a toilet. Washing your hands before eating tacos isn’t a bad thing – though we’re told the neighbouring bars don’t mind people dropping in to use the lavatory.