Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boojum Fresh Mexican

One of my earliest proper foodie experiences happened in America. What I find surprising about this is that I was fourteen at the time and surrounded, of course, by Pop Tarts, quadruple Macs, Oreo breakfast cereal and 32 ounce soft drink cups that you could refill at any decent petrol station for a mere fifteen cents! Basically, most of the prominent foods in America at the time were geared towards fulfilling every young boy’s dream: a constant supply of sweet, fatty snackables in exceedingly large amounts. I haven’t been stateside in nearly six years now, but word has it that things may or may not be the same. It has been suggested, we’ll say. Despite the grand list of treats above, the food that stuck with me more than any other was – in fact – a burrito I had in Madison, Wisconsin. But not just any burrito, no, this was a burrito made in a Qdoba Mexican Grill; a moderately sized restaurant chain that covers most of the United States. It was my first burrito outright, and first taste of Mexican style food altogether. I was bedazzled, completely. There, in the palm of your hand was an entire and filling meal. It had rice, beef, salsa, vegetables and most importantly, tasted fantastic; nothing I’d have expected to find in what looked to be another American fast food (fast casual, I should probably say) chain. Even to watch the burrito being made was fun as it passed from station to station, the ingredients piling up generously until the whole thing was literally wrapped up. I immediately wondered why there was no equivalent in Dublin, or Ireland for that matter. Sandwich bars were of course common place at the time, then came the smoothie revolution and afterwards, bagel cafés. The odd sushi bar has also started popping up more frequently of late, but still I we had nothing in the mould of Qdoba’s burrito production line. I’d given up all hope, but last weekend it finally happened. On the New Millennium Walkway, next to Koh and opposite Cactus Jack’s you will now find Boojum; Dublin’s first ‘fast casual’ Mexican eatery.

As far as location goes, it couldn’t have been picked more perfectly. The Millennium Walkway sees thousands of diverse pedestrians daily, is next to the Jervis Luas stop and what you might call an invertible foodie’s Mecca: Lemon Jelly, the aforementioned Koh and Cactus Jack’s along with Bar Italia all flank either side of the pavement, whilst you can also shop in your choice of an Asian or Turkish market. In the past, it’s also been home to one of Boticelli’s ice cream joints. The remaining shops on the Walkway are chic to the core, attracting exactly the kind of people who are likely to be intrigued with what a new eatery like Boojum is offering. Effectively, half of the work has already been done for them, so all that’s left is to roll out the food!

In principal, Boojum’s approach to their menu is modelled in a very similar way to Qdoba’s. In fact, the staff I talked to during our visit suggested as much. So far, so good. You initially choose what kind of meal you’d like from a burrito, fajita burrito, burrito bowl, tacos or a salad, then select your meat filling from chicken, shredded beef or steak (there’s a veggie option too!) and finally what salsa you’d like to finish it off. Sour cream and cheese either come with your selection or as add-ons. Beyond how they’re served, all of these choices are virtually the same in terms of what you have to choose from; it largely depends on whether or not you want to eat from a flour tortilla or a bowl. That said, you may find the menu somewhat limited the more you look at it, but the level to which you can customise each meal available will probably distract you from this sufficiently. A quick inspection of their website reveals that the menu in Boojum’s Belfast branch is reinforced with the presence of Nachos; something I hope will make its way down south sooner rather than later. There is a lot of room to expand the number of items available, but thankfully Mexican cuisine is expansive enough to ensure that this should happen at some point in the future.

It didn’t take me long to decide on a fajita burrito in the hope of recreating my Qdoba experience, and Rebecca was equally quick to choose the taco option. In we strode. The first thing that greets you as you walk through the door is a practical army of men and women behind the counter, all with their place on the burrito production line. One steams the tortilla, the other adds the vegetables, then another the meat, sour cream and so on; each just as enthusiastic as the last I have to say! There was a definite atmosphere of brimming eagerness to please, as you’d expect to find in any new establishment like this in the city centre. All I can say is that once the food is good, if you feel welcomed then it makes anywhere a place worth going back to. Even more so where the onus isn’t as much on creating a dining experience, pleasantry is still very much appreciated. You might call that an American trait; the Wal-Mart approach if you will. Yet another example that Boojum looks to be carrying over from stateside.

As for the food itself? My burrito didn’t blow me away like the one I’d had so many years ago, but it was still rather tasty. I’d chosen shredded beef for meat and came nicely seasoned in plentiful but proportionate amounts. No ingredient was left to fall into the background so every bite was filled with juicy peppers and rice too; sometimes more than others depending on which direction you eat it from! The only element lacking omph was the salsa verde, which had more of a mild spice as opposed to the medium it’s listed as on the menu. This was, however, nothing a quick dash of the sauces provided tableside didn’t fix.

Rebecca finished as much of her three tacos as humanly possible, with a little help from myself. What pleased me about them was the obvious authenticity of the fried shells where it would be so easy to use and serve mass produced ones instead. This was echoed by both the menu and manager on hand at the time, both underlining to us that Boojum is a place where you will only find fresh ingredients, everything prepared from scratch in the morning. In the end, we left satisfied and less than twenty euro lighter for both of our meals and two bottles of water; me doubly so since the staff had been kind enough to let me take a couple of pictures of them preparing a burrito or two (thanks guys!).

It’s early days yet, but I have little doubt that Boojum will stand the test of time and settle amongst Dublin’s favourite quick stop eateries. Their location gives them a great head start, all that’s left is to perhaps expand their menu to include two or three more additional base items and they’ll be running a very safe and reliable operation. Who knows? In the line of Zumo and the Bagel Factory, we might start seeing similar venues popping up on every street corner. And if we’re really, really lucky, a Qdoba may one day join them. If only for my sake and nobody else’s.

Boojum Fresh Mexican
New Millennium Walkway,
Dublin 1

Tph: 01-8788152


Post a Comment