Mexican food lovers generally feel a little lost in November when local favorite Boom Boom Mex Mex closes for the season. That’s when owners Tom and Lupe Bryan migrate to Mexico for a winter of well-deserved rest. Although you can’t really make up for the five-month siesta of Syracuse’s most authentic burrito and quesadilla spot—voted the Best of Syracuse two consecutive years by Syracuse New Times readers—a couple of new eateries featuring south-of-the-border-style cuisine have jumped in to try to ease the pain by serving their own versions of the sometimes fiery, always lively, flavors.
The newest local contender is no newcomer to the Mexican food wars. Chipotle Mexican Grill, 3496 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt, is the first foray into the Syracuse market for the national chain that has been twirling tortillas since 1993. The Oct. 19 grand opening of the Denver-based company was greeted by long lines of hungry gringos, some with a taste for Chipotle’s simple but sumptuous menu farom visiting their locations in Rochester, Albany or maybe another of their more than 1,000 spots nationwide.
“I think a lot of people have tried us in cities like Washington, D.C., or New York City or some of our upstate New York restaurants,” says marketing consultant Jacqueline Gonzales. “We’re doing very well in both Rochester and Albany. We’ve had a great reception in the entire upstate market. We’ve had a ton of Syracuse University students come in today and they’ve been excited about us. The college kids tend to love us.”
A few miles west, the downtown lunch scene has added its second new Mexican joint this year with the Oct. 5 debut of Tacolicious, 308 S. Warren St. It’s a clear contrast to the noveau-Mex style of La Taqueria, which opened in July at 409 S. Clinton St. with an upscale menu that matches its ritzier Armory Square locale. Tacolicious slides right in as an office worker lunch spot in a building that has housed several other restaurants over the years. When harried and hurried workers step out for a lunch that’s both quick and inexpensive, the American-style Mexican of Tacolicious should be as attractive as the festive pennants that flutter over the dining area.
Syracusan Della Reese Brown finds herself in a competitive market without the advantages of a massive corporation to underwrite her efforts. But she comes prepared for her first restaurant with experience in catering and as proprietor of a stand at Paradise Market, supplemented by business training from the South Side Innovation Center.
“They help people who are upcoming entrepreneurs who are interested in starting their own business,” Reese says. “I took a lot of classes there. I also did a boot camp at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management and got a certificate from there as well.”
Despite its similarities to other national fast-food chains, Chipotle tries to divorce itself from the McDonald’s stereotype, reinventing its personality as good neighbor and solid citizen. “We have a vision and a mission called ‘Food with Integrity,’” Gonzales explains. “It has us on a search to find the absolute best ingredients from the best sources that we can. We like to get them from places that have respect for the environment and respect for the land and the animals and the farmers, which eventually is respect for our customers who come in and spend their hard-earned money. So we do a lot of things that other fast-casual restaurants don’t by sourcing naturally raised meats, hormone and antibiotic free, vegetarianfed, humanely raised. We try to find local and organic produce whenever we can.”
The food-with-integrity claim is bolstered by the restaurant using only dairy products
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