It’s not very often you see a line outside the door of an eating establishment in Belfast. (That’s what San Franciscans do!) According to my husband, Belfastians aren’t generally foodies. The majority of Belfastians are not so head over heels about food that they aren’t willing to wait more than 10 minutes in line. They care more about drink than food. (It’s Ireland, afterall.) Imagine how shocked my husband and I were when we saw a line (or queue as they say here in the UK) outside Boojum, a new Mexican fast food “burrito bar” in the city centre.
Boojum is a small chain in Ireland started by a husband and wife team. The husband is an American from Philadelphia and the wife from Ireland. The wife was so addicted to burritos during her time spent in Philadelphia that she had the brilliant idea of opening up a burrito bar in Ireland. Boojum was born.
We have pretty decent Mexican food in San Francisco but nothing compares to the Mexican food in Los Angeles. My first authentic Mexican food experience was when my roommate at UCLA (a second generation Mexican-American) took me to her East Los Angeles hood. Her family owned a taqueria and it was here I was introduced to enchiladas swimming in mole sauce. It was a revelation and ego shattering to discover that Mexican food in San Francisco is not up to par as its Southern California cousins. Goes to show the closer you are to the border, the more authentic the food gets.
The distance between Belfast and Mexico City is 5,266 miles. Let’s hope Boojum disproves my proximity theory…
Ambience: Noisy and bunged to the gills. The place was packed. Looks more like an upscale fast food place than a restaurant. Limited seating: high tables and bar stools. If you decide to eat-in, you are lucky to find a seat. Some people were standing around holding their drink and burrito while waiting for a seat to open. My suggestion is to avoid the work week lunch hour crowd from 12-2pm.
Customer Service: I was slightly amused that there were menu flyers with step by step instructions on how to build your burrito, fajito, taco, etc…
You tell them what kind of main you want, beans (pinto or black, no refried beans), and extra fillers like, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc. They build your burrito right before your very eyes down the human assembly line (much like your your local taqueria except nobody speaks Spanish) at lightning speed.
Food: I ordered a Burrito Carnitas (shredded pork) with black beans, sweet corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. All you get is burrito, don’t expect the complimentary side of nacho chips and salsa. You have to ask (and pay for) those.
I was surprised at how huge this burrito is. It’s a large portion for UK standards, it’s almost the size I would get back home in the Mission, I would say around 75%. It was entertaining to watch others tackle the monstrosity with forks and knives. Call me a snob, but there is a proper (aka San Francisco) way of eating a burrito:
According to Andrea Schulte-Peevers and Sara Benson in their 2006 travel guide Lonely Planet California, it is customary for diners eating San Francisco burritos to forgo utensils entirely and to eat the burrito with their hands, tearing the foil gradually down as they eat from above, but keeping the foil on the bottom to continue to support the structure of the uneaten portion. Adding salsa to the burrito before each subsequent bite is a popular practice. (wikipedia)
The pork was flavorful and tender. Stuffed to the seams with your usual fillings of rice, beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. My only gripes are the rice and cheese. I don’t know what kind of rice they use but it wasn’t the same texture as the rice you get back home and it was bland. I was expecting the usual seasoned Mexican rice. I also didn’t get the ooey gooey creamy cheese you expect when you bite into a burrito. Again, not sure what type of cheese but it wasn’t the melty kind. Overall, it was a decent burrito and I was surprised it exceeded my expectations. Husband was impressed too!
Pricepoint: A burrito for a fiver. Very cheap for ethnic food and large portions which is rare in Northern Ireland. Anything they consider exotic they charge an exorbitant amount.
Would I Eat Here Again? Yes. As a matter of fact, if I lived here, I would visit this place regularly for my Mexican food fix.
Final Verdict: Decent Mexican fast food. Cheap prices and large portions. Can be noisy and crowded during the lunch hour but can be avoided. It’s not East L.A. but Boojum is as close to authentic Mexican food you can get in Ireland. My proximity theory is half-true.
Locations:19-27 Chichester Street Belfast BT1 4JB 73 Botanic Avenue Belfast, County Antrim BT7 1JL Millennium Walkway Smithfield, Dublin 1, Ireland [Image 1 & 3] via Belfast Bites [Image 2 & 4] by Olfactory Obsessed