With just five seats and a small kitchen, stuffed in behind a large front window that’s topped by a colourful sign, it’s easy to miss El Grito in crowded Merchant’s Arch.
But it’d be a shame if you did. They say they prepare “the best tacos in Temple bar”, and these are real, authentic, Mexican-style tacos.
“I would find the same flavour back home,” says Hector Romero, who is from the Mexican state of Sinaloa and frequently eats at El Grito.
He’s finishing what El Grito calls a “gringa”: a mix of pork, onions, coriander and cheese folded into a soft tortilla.
“This is typical Mexican street food,” Romero says. “Where I live, we call it mixta, but the name is pretty much the only difference.”
He squeezes lime over his plate, goes up and asks the Mexican cook, in Spanish, for more onions, and then returns to his meal.
“The interaction between our cooks and the customers is very important for us,” says Tomasz Oleksy, who, with his wife Lucy, launched El Grito in 2015.
“We wanted to create a Mexican street-food atmosphere, where you can eat good food in no time and in a friendly place,” he says.
On the Menu
Oleksy, who is Polish, first came to Ireland in 2006. It was supposed to be a three-month visit, but he finally never left. He later met his wife Lucy in Dublin.
“She had a great influence on the El Grito project,” he says. Her family is from the Mexican state of Guanajuato, about 400 kilometres north of Mexico City.
In the kitchen at El Grito, two cooks work around a massive piece of pork meat, roasted on a vertical spit – similar to what you’d see in a kebab shop.
“This is what makes our tacos al pastor,” says Oleksy. The technique came from the Lebanese community that immigrated to Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.
On the two tables in El Grito, you can find three different home-made chili sauces.
“The spiciest one is made from habanero chili. I can’t eat it. I thought I liked spicy food until I spent five weeks in Mexico,” Oleksy says with a smile.
To cool down the fire in your mouth, you can order the agua de horchata, a refreshing drink that’s a mix of rice water and cinnamon.
Tacos can be filled with pork, beef or chicken.
Beside the traditional gringa, the volcan – a crispy corn tortilla filled with grilled cheese, meat and vegetables – or the Mexican sandwich torta – long and thick slices of white bread filled with meat, refried beans and guacamole – make the menu at El Grito.
The team also cook these meals in a vegetarian-friendly way, and recently added burritos to their menu.
All the meals are under €10, and are usually served in less than 10 minutes.
“We added the burrito because many people were asking for it,” Tomasz Oleksy said.
“A burrito is more of a Tex-Mex meal,” said Lucy Olesky, rather than authentic Mexican food.
Tex-Mex is a mix of Mexican and Texan styles of cooking, and it’s popular on both sides of the US-Mexico border.
Another El Grito
El Grito was very busy on a recent Friday night.
“Many Mexicans in Dublin know this place,” says Romero, who was eating there. “Simply because it’s really good, you can talk to the cooks, and you don’t wait.”
The name of the restaurant, El Grito, is a patriotic reference to the Mexican war for independence from Spain. El Grito de Dolores (“The Cry of Dolores”) was a pronouncement issued in the town of Dolores Hidalgo on 16 September 1810 that marked the start of the war.
“My mother-in-law came with up it when we were looking for a name,” Tomasz Oleksy said. “It’s catchy, easy to say for English-speaking people, and every Mexican person know what it stands for.”
El Grito shares its premises with an Argentinian grocery. “We are not doing the same thing, so there is no competition between us,” says Oleksy. “Anyway, he knows our food is better than his,” he says, smiling at his neighbour.
Business is good at El Grito, so Oleksy says he is thinking about opening another location in Dublin, somewhere outside of Temple Bar. “We would like to find a bigger place, where [more] people can sit, where we could sell beer,” he says.
But regular customers shouldn’t worry, he says. “We are not moving El Grito from Merchant’s Arch. We will stay open here anyways.”