As purse strings are pulled ever tighter, the need for cheap and cheerful eateries has never been greater. At BoTCom, we’ve come up with a couple of great value for money alternatives – one only weeks old, the 'price friendly' Flying Burrito Brothers Cantina.
The Flying Burrito credo is ‘genuine fresh Mex,’ with less emphasis on fried food, and more on fresh green vegetables, well chosen cuts of meat, poultry and seafood, accompanied by inventive chilli and herb flavours. It’s an authentic take on Mexican cuisine, but wisely influenced by seasonal Kiwi produce.
Tauranga’s Flying Burrito Brothers Cantina (dining) and Tequileria (bar) is a franchise - the other two outlets are in Wellington and Christchurch. The local FBB is based in the former Palms in Grey Street (occupied for years by the well regarded Picolo Italia). Behind the new venture is go-getting American Edd Groves, a former U.S. Army captain and Vietnam vet, who ran a group of companies in L.A. for many years. Mr Groves has extensively remodelled the premises, revamping the kitchen, and even installing large palms in the new courtyard created outside.
Not only is it Tauranga’s sole Mexican restaurant, ‘also I think it is the most exciting and festive restaurant in town,’ he says. ‘It’s a beautiful atmosphere and my staff are very happy to look after the customers.’ (Staff even include two Mexican nationals – Alex from Yucatan and Victor from Mexico City). Edd Groves and wife Donna know a thing or two about Mexican food, as ‘professional Mexican food diners.’ In L.A. they ate Mexican food at favourite restaurants once or twice a week.
Edd’s hope is that Tauranga folk who are new to Mexican food will ‘be adventurous, and try different things – and they will find they enjoy it most...’ Helpfully, the menu has a big glossary with 30-plus definitions. He extends a warm welcome: ‘I’d like everybody to come in and try the menu, try a Margarita and have a Sol beer. “And the menu is price friendly. It’s not an expensive place to dine, and everybody should have a good time.’
A little help with the good times comes from an astounding 150 types of tequila. There are also 12 fruit-flavoured Margaritas. And of course there is the Mex version of happy hour - Margarita Madness with $2 off, Monday to Friday, 4.30 to 6pm. (Discounts extend to food as well with Taco Tuesday $4 off, and free meals for under-12s on Sunday before 7pm).
Diners get huge choice with a Mex menu that runs from 20 bacaditos (small bites) and 16 versions of tortilla (flatbread) dishes – including enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, and quesadillas. Prices range from around $19 for the tortilla dishes to $28 for exotics like Camarones – lime and tequila marinated prawns.
The signature dish is a Flying Burrito, a grilled flour tortilla parcel drizzled with coriander oil, and served with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and salad greens of with your choice of either hot beef, smoked chicken or a spicy vegetable medley. Mine was just as tasty as it sounds, and I’ll bet you a bottle of top shelf Tequila you’d tread a lot of streets in Auckland, to find ethnic Mexican food on a par with this. I washed it down with an icy Classic Margarita that more than lived up to the name. I scribbled ‘superb’ on my paper napkin.
Great presentation is another feature of this eatery: my daughter’s chicken fajita (strips of grilled meat) came on a sizzling metal hot plate, atop a huge wooden platter ringed by 5 little side dishes of avocado, refried beans, salsa and more. You whisk ingredients together to make a DIY burrito. Live dangerously...the sauce bottles on the table come in hot, very hot and extra hot flavours.
And the atmosphere? Plenty of colour, which you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant and a very festive, sparkly ambience - thanks in part to some star-shaped lights. I’m forgetting to mention a nice touch: the front-of-house bloke who took us to our seats was a smiling Mexican national. As they say in the menu’s glossary: Muy autentico y delicioso...
Abrakebabra! Turkish Food in Tauranga – Made by a Kebab Pioneer
Perhaps only other Turks living in Tauranga would be aware that the genial owner of this restaurant and takeaway in Devonport Road, is one of the pioneers of Turkish eateries in this country.
Erol Gurleyen launched Abrakebabra around six months ago, with decades of experience behind him - running some well-known Turkish kebab shops and restaurants in Wellington. He had come to New Zealand from Turkey 18 years ago, and entered the restaurant trade when he couldn’t find a job with his limited English. Erol launched what was then, only the second kebab shop in Wellington - Abdullah’s in Newtown. He went on to run others, including another Abdullah’s in Courtney Place, and the exotically- furnished upstairs restaurant, the Harem Mezza Bar, now run by his brother.
Erol claims in fact, to be the first person to start rolling up his home-made Turkish flat bread with ingredients inside, when others were still using ‘pockets.’ ‘I thought I have to do something different, you know? Now everybody is doing it.’ Erol also believes he was first to use garlic yoghurt as a sauce in his kebabs.
The doner kebab, he says, is ‘totally Turkish,’ translated as ‘turning around itself’ - a reference to the meat on a rotating spit cooked slowly in front of an electric element. But he notes that many countries have their own versions of the dish. The Arabs call theirs sharwarmas, and the Greeks souvlaki.
The reality is different approaches in places like Australia or Europe, and some evolution taking place as customers request different things. In Tauranga, avocado sauce has been requested.
He insists you’ll get a genuine Turkish kebab at Abrakebabra - as original as it gets, in the words of a Turkish friend seated nearby. They are made with chicken, lamb, both combined, fish, or vegetarian (falafel) ingredients. The fillings are served with a salad made from shredded lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and red cabbage. Choose from 9 sauces, ranging from tomato, chilli, satay and mint, to garlic yoghurt.
We sampled a $9 lam kebab with garlic yoghurt and mint, and found a mini-meal with impressively fresh ingredients, beautifully cooked, tasty lamb - all wrapped in one of Erol’s light, Turkish flat breads made fresh on the premises. The doner kebabs are all priced from $8.50 to $10 but if you want a bigger meal, there are other options including lamb on rice kebabs, chicken on rice, and mixed vegetable on rice.
A range of burgers come with similar fillings, come in a ‘regular’ or ‘Turkish’ option – made with Turkish bread instead of a bun. Turkish pizza is also on the menu.
Budget-minded movie-goers, who go on cut-price Tuesday nights, have certainly discovered Abrakebabra. It’s the busiest evening of the week for the team, as patrons chase a bargain bite. You can have a glass of wine from $6.50 or even an Efes Turkish lager beer.