His new take-out Mexican restaurant, El Burro Comedor, has been open barely a week and Derek Burnell already feels welcome in the North Side.
"Residents [here] are very proud of their neighborhood and they love to support local businesses," says Burnell, who owns El Burro with business partner Wes De Renouard. "We have people come in and thanking us for coming into their neighborhood.
"The response has really been incredible."
Burnell is no stranger to the city or Mexican cuisine; he also owns and operates the Round Corner Cantina, in Lawrenceville. While El Burro has some similarities to Round Corner, the bustling take-out restaurant is definitely developing its own personality.
The food is reminiscent of the border fare that Burnell and De Renouard — friends since second grade — grew up eating in San Diego. The menu's staples are burritos and tacos. Fillings include the standards, such as beef, pork and chicken, but you can also get El Burro's own chorizo or vegetarian options. A popular item is the guacamole with house-made tortilla chips.
A less-common grab-and-go is the Tijuana Street Dog, a hot dog topped with avocado salad, pico de gallo and jalapeños. The south-of-the-border flavors work well with the meaty hot dog.
"This hot dog is a staple of late-night Mexican food," says Burnell, harkening back to his days in San Diego. "You'd have these hot-dog stands lining the streets, serving the kids when they left the clubs."