In the world somewhere between a taqueria and a sit-down Mexican restaurant exists a wonderful place called Burrito Parrilla Mexicana, a counter-service concept that's earned a steady, happy following.
The Lombard location we visited, at 2770 Highland Ave., across from Yorktown Mall, has been open for two years, and last fall a second outpost opened on Ace Lane in Naperville in November.
Burrito Parrilla Mexicana2770 Highland Ave., Lombard, (630) 705-9833, burritopm.com
Setting: Modern, clean, fast casual
Entrees: $2.39 to $14.99
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
The restaurant is fascinating in the way it provides good, quickly prepared specials and, perhaps just as much, for its smart business model. The food's high quality is undeniable, due not only to what appears to be a deep understanding of the cuisine, but also the in-house preparation of sauces, premium meats and fresh ingredients.
At the same time, the success of the business is underpinned by the menu's clever design (the pork and pineapple of the al pastor combo appears on a sandwich, taco and burrito; the steak in the enchiladas, parrilla, burritos, tacos and tortas, and so on). The very personable service, clean, polished look and comfortable booths, high ceilings, flat-screen TVs and a fireplace add to the appeal.
And the service really does stand out. Since orders are placed at the register and diners get a number to set on the table -- it wouldn't be that outlandish to assume service wouldn't be the number one priority. But our food runner was so courteous and friendly that she brought us extra condiments, plates and napkins without so much as a whiff of annoyance. She further charmed us by letting us order dessert straight from the table, so that we didn't have to get back up. (Make sure that you too express your gratitude accordingly.)
The menu features enough salads, tortas like milanesa, carnitas and ham and cheese, as well as appetizers, like a fresh guacamole ($7.99), tacos, burritos, fajitas, parrilla (grilled items), and enchiladas that you won't get bored easily, but not too many so that choices are hard to make. Several breakfast options and weekend specials like huevos con chorizo and chilaquiles con carne round out the selection.
House-made table salsa with slight, crispy chips was complimentary and just as tasty as a darker, chili version that proved a perfect accompaniment to everything you could order.
An entree salad -- sliced skirt steak over spring greens, crunchy, lengthy strips of tortilla and a quarter avocado -- was a great healthier option that still satisfied.
On the parrilla side, the tampiquena -- plated beautifully on oversized square porcelain -- featured a generous strip of skirt steak cooked with just the slightest sliver of pink in the middle, accompanied by a gooey, cheesy enchilada bathed in mole negro, rice and refried beans.
A trio of tacos on flour tortillas offered the lingering spice of a chorizo, the flavorful bites of grilled chicken, as well as the comforting sweetness of an al pastor: pineapple and slow-cooked pork. These, by default, come topped with Monterey Jack cheese and lettuce, but the option of onions and cilantro is the way to go. The al pastor taco was equally great in double-folded flour tortillas and within the confines of a corn counterpart.
After indulging us with to-go boxes, our server presented us with a delicious white flan drizzled in chocolate and a toasty churro aided by a small cup of warmed chocolate.
When we came up for air, there was only the quick beat of the salsa music in the background. We'd eaten it all.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.