Defeated by a Burrito

After we settled on Mono Loco for dinner last night, Shaun mentioned that he hoped the place was “like Yuca Bar in NYC.” Yuca was a go-to spot by my old apartment in New York [OK, mostly just for Kelly and I] for Latin-fusion food – delicious, inexpensive tapas. Could Mono Loco fill this void in C’Ville? It billed itself as “Charlottesville’s original nouveau-Latin restaurant,” so I had high hopes.

It was a gorgeous night, so we were surprised by how warm our walk was, particularly after seeing snow on the mountains earlier. We arrived around 7:30 and found the place packed with UVa-Duke football game attendees [31-21, another win for us!]. The most painful part of the night was the wait – although only 15 minutes, there was really nowhere to stand. We and a few other sets of people were forced to hover awkwardly by the bar, which was also surrounded by tables [one woman was visibly and audibly annoyed by our presence, I almost “tripped” into her fish tacos just for kicks]. But within no time, we secured a table on the covered, outdoor patio.

To begin, we shared the chips and salsa [$5] and upgraded to add the guacamole [another $5]. A reasonable portion arrived, with a clay pot full of smoked tomato salsa and chili verde.

iPhone photos.

The star was the red, smoked salsa. It reminded me of the salsa at Mayahuel, which is easily one of the best salsas I’ve ever had. The salsa verde was disappointingly bland [where was the spicy!?], and the guacamole tasted like the $2.95 guac at Guadalajara [slimy, bland, pre-packaged], but came at quite the premium. Solution? Douse it in sriracha and mix in the smoked salsa. And, don’t order it next time.

Mono Loco has a nice looking drink list so I opted for a 2008 Argentinian Malbec [$7] and Shaun went for the 16-oz cans of Tecate [$3 each, a real steal]. My Malbec was a standard oaky-spicy flavor [which I love], except their pours there are huge. I think it came in a vase, not a wine glass. When I saw how tiny the glasses of sangria were for the same price, I knew I made the right choice. Great value. Tecate’s actually not that bad, either. It definitely beats Bud and Coors. And hey, check out this fun trick Shaun taught me:

for getting the lime in there.

My fiance, the drink genius? For our entrees, we split a burrito and a salad. There was a nice chunk of time in between our appetizers and entrees, giving us a chance to relax and talk, which doesn’t often happen at restaurants on a busy Saturday night. It was a great plus; however, our server wasn’t the best so most of that time was spent with empty water glasses – not a great situation when you’re snacking on uber-salty nouveau-Latin cuisine. We had to flag down another server on multiple occasions, but the staff seems to work as a team so everyone was happy to help each other out.

I think we finally found a place that has substantive dinner salads! We shared the Ensalada Fresco, which came with plantains, queso fresco, pickled vegetables, baby greens, and a citrus vinaigrette [$9]. It was HUGE. The plantains were cooked until they were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and the vegetables were tangy. The greens were fluffy and fresh. Also, it’s been so long since I had queso fresco – its so mild but a great complement.

washed out, sorry 😦

They were kind enough to put the burrito on two separate plates for us [the Spicy Truffled Mushroom Burrito with Sauteed Veggies and Chevre, $13]. This was the largest burrito I have ever seen. I’m so glad we decided to split, it would have been a complete waste of another $13.*

oh my god, so large.

I couldn’t even finish half. I was so full I relinquished almost half of my half back to the server. We were defeated by this monster burrito. But honestly, the burrito was extremely disappointing. No “spicy” at all, about 2 “sauteed veggies,” and about 99% bland rice filler. I’m always disappointed when I order something that has “spicy” in the title and there’s not even the tiniest kick.

As a whole, the meal was good. Standing alone, the dishes weren’t stellar, except for the salad, which I would definitely order again. Their menu is large enough that I’m not deterred from returning, but I wouldn’t get the guacamole or that burrito again. Thankfully the menu is full of vegetarian options; unfortunately the vegetarian meat substitute is generally always the “spicy” truffled mushrooms. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to Yuca Bar, we had a great time, and margaritas and salads could be in our future there [Shaun would probably like to interject here and say, “and the nachos, they looked bomb”].

* Splitting seems pretty standard at Mono Loco – I saw them bring out a few split burritos over the course of the night. Remember, though, that many restaurants discourage or even forbid splitting of entrees [or will charge you a fee to do so], so be respectful of their menu decisions before opting to share.


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Categories: C-Ville, Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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