I love stumbling upon fun and unique food spots that deliver great food when on family road trips. Not far from Burlington Vermont’s busy pedestrian mall you’ll find El Cortijo Taqueria Cantina and some of the best soft tacos in town.
You can’t help but be attracted to the El Cortijo’s stainless steel exterior accented with splashes of orange and turquoise. We were pleased when we stepped over the titled threshold to discover that the diner motif wasn’t just a façade. The kids opted for the spinning counter stools over the smaller booths that lined the windows. I don’t blame them. Sitting up at the counter gave us a front row seat to the super juicer that worked overtime, making limejuice for El Cortjo’s handcrafted cucumber margaritas. That mirrored backsplash not only made the narrow diner appear bigger, it also was fun to make faces at each other.
The menu is simple and laid out on the plastic placemat in front of you. You’ll find tacos, burritos, and nachos but their main dish seems to be the soft taco plates. If the word taco brings up visions of sloppy combination of questionable meat and beans, be prepared to fall in love with a real taco at El Cortijo. A supporter of Vermont farmers and the rural agricultural heritage, El Cortjo’s tacos consist of locally raised food. You can enjoy tacos with organic black bean to house made local pork. My favourites were the Carnitase with seasoned local pork, charred pineapple salsa and lettuce and the Pescado with crusted fish, tequila lime crema, and red cabbage slaw.
Each taco plate comes with one, two or three tacos depending on your appetite as well as a choice of two sides of Spanish rice, greens, or organic beans (black or refried). I found the refried beans a tad bland but the house made sweet lime chili on the table perked it right up. You can also order any of El Cortijo’s signature tacos on their own, without the sides if you prefer.
Only open for about a year and a half, El Cortijo is a popular spot with regulars. We were fortunate enough to find a spot in the cantina for our early midweek lunch. Weekends and evenings may leave you waiting awhile for an empty booth. The kids were disappointed we were heading out of Vermont when we found El Cortijo. It will definitely be on our list to visit again.