In one of the year's most talked-about restaurant openings so far, Beach Burrito has finally launched its first Victorian store, setting up in a former Gertrude Street metalworks shop earlier this month.
While the fast-paced, Mexican fare they're serving is good, that buzz has more to do with the working skate bowl you'll find inside. There's no denying that Fitzroy is the ideal place for such a hipster-friendly venue concept — especially when that venue also involves burritos, buckets of beer and a big dose of neon and polished concrete. A pinch of 80s garage grunge doesn't hurt either, it seems.
The bowl plays host to regular pro-skater visits, with two levels of booths tucked safely away behind cyclone wire fencing. But even without the skateboard action, there are good times to be had, thanks to an upbeat vibe and hunger-busting fare. You can fill the tank up pretty cheaply, especially if you take advantage of the numerous daily specials being pedalled.
Kick things off with some loaded chilli fries or corn chips; the starter nachos are heaving with a chilli con carne and cheese mix and topped with guacamole, sour cream and a dusting of chilli. A serving of mild, but tasty jalapeno poppers ($12 for four) are also a good starting point and would work wonders for a hangover.
Many will skip past the taquitos, quesadillas and chimichangas to the safety net of the burrito list, which is as well-rounded as that skate bowl, with options to keep most punters happy. The pulled beef version is a moreish mix of slow-cooked meat, rice, beans, corn, salsa, cheese and guacamole. Have it the traditional way ($14.95) or served in a tortilla bowl ($16.95).
Soft shell tacos are a steal on Tuesdays at $3 each ($5 every other day) and again, there are plenty to choose from. The pork number comes with tender pulled meat, beans, chipotle mayo and shredded red cabbage, while juicy garlic, lime and chilli prawns are teamed with rice, sweet corn and a zesty salsa.
If you're considering dessert, the sugar-crusted churros make a pretty good case for stretching the stomach that little bit more. They're served with a mountain of whipped cream and caramel dipping sauce ($14.95 for two people).
The beer list is a three-tiered affair; stick to the shallow end if you're on a budget, or hand over $10 for a craft beer like Sierra Nevada (or pay $40 for a bucket of five). Bartenders can whip you up a cocktail or you can choose one of three margarita styles ($12) — but if you’re there on a Sunday, $20 for a litre of sangria is a deal that's hard to pass up. It arrives with sugar-rimmed, fruit-laden tumblers ready to help you get your party started.
At the end of the day, this is easy-eating, casual Mexican food that, even without the novelty factor, makes a solid grab at the young, fun and hungry crowd.