Monday, 21 January 2013

Illegal Jack's South West Grill - Edinburgh


I have walked back home up Lothian Road lots of times since I moved to Edinburgh, usually lugging food shopping or another purchase all the way back from the city centre, getting tired and cold by this point and more than a bit hungry (admittedly this is still nearer town than my home to my shame). Many a time I have fancied going into the Burrito/South West place that it Illegal Jack's South West Grill on Lothian Road and this weekend I eventually went in for a tasty dinner.

Conveniently situated just up from the Usher Hall and Lyceum Theatre (I was heading there after) they offer a medium sized menu of tortilla dishes, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, tacos, plus chilli bowls and nachos and all the SW trimmings. The burritos are made up to order,  filled with a combination of rice, chicken, pork, steak, veggie, pinto beans, fresh salsas, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream and guacamole. I love this sort of food and there's a good selection to choose from, not so long it takes forever to decide and order, not too short that you couldn't go back a few times and try different things.

It is both takeaway and sitting in, the decor inside is relaxed and basic, pretty cheap and cheerful but that fits in about right for the menu and style of the food. On arrival you get a paper place mat-sized menu, decide, go up to order and they make up the burritos there and then using an ingenious tortillas press that heats them in a second. You get drinks and pay at the end so it's pretty quick, then take the food back to the table instead of waitress service.  For the drinks they have a few wines, Mexican beers, artisan cider and margaritas which I would try next time. Other dishes such as chilli are ordered and brought to your table later by the staff. There's cutlery, napkins and hot sauce on the side and you help yourself.

For two people we both had identical burritos; rice, roast pork, pinto beans, hot salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and jalapenos. The burritos were huge and the meat and combination of flavours were really good, smoky, oniony and hot enough for me, though I still added chilli sauce to the occasional bite. The burritos are wrapped up snug in foil, then you unpeel and eat them as you go. The food looks and tastes fresh and full of flavour, instead of the usual bland salsas and sauces you often find in american/tex mex places so that is a major plus. I'm quite picky about guacamole and hate any of the ready made stuff you usually get but this was far superior. The ingredients they use such as Scottish beef seem up to scratch.

The only thing was the basic price is listed, then extra for meat fillings, plus extra for each of guacamole, sour cream and jalapenos. Who doesn't like all three of those in tortillas anyway? I imagine this pricing structure works well for them, but for me I'd rather just pay one price for everything rather than seeing a lower price to start with that then creeps up and up. On the other hand it's great to find somewhere quick and casual that serves fresh, flavoursome food instead of charging the same or more for the usual bland dishes, using poor quality ingredients or ready made sauces bought in.

For 2 people for 2 burritos plus a very great bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (£14.50) it was £32.50 so pretty decent for some tasty, fresh food that was served quickly, ideal when you are heading out afterwards to the theatre/cinema/etc or have limited time. Maybe not the place for a long, lingering feast although I could graze over this sort of food all night. It is however perfect for breaking up the (not very) long, cold walk home, some much-welcomed heat and colour after traipsing round a damp and grey city centre!

Half munched burrito, foil scraps, wine, hot sauce

Full menu here: Illegal Jack's South West Grill, 113-117 Lothian Rd Edinburgh EH3 9AN