Burritos in the Sun

Melissa Uchiyama

Wading through Sunshine City’s field of restaurants on the 3rd floor can be a tad overwhelming, especially with growling tummies that should have at least looked over a menu by now.

When we’d narrowed it down to two choices, added our name to a list, there was still a fifteen-minute wait. The other was a dud, only serving pork. What’s over there? Oh—only cakes. And there? Such a long wait. But then a tunnel of hope opened-up: Mexican Food! El Torito’s neon green bulbs shimmered. My husband literally jogged-over to add our name. No grappling. No wishy-washy thinking. Everyone in our party of eight let-out audible cheers, or at least content sighs.

And on this national holiday, with all of Tokyo out and about, celebrating their day-off and a relaxing, sleep-in Monday? We were the only name on El Torito’s list.  Our appetites clamored at the menu’s vibrant pictures of tortilla soup, table-made guacamole, festive enchiladas spread with red ancho sauce, and burritos stuffed and rolled, brimming with chicken and beef. Gigundo bowls of chopped chicken and avocado salad dressed with snappy cilantro dressing. Ahh, cilantro. It beckoned to me.

A great start: my first-course, garbanzo soup, yielded freshly chopped cilantro floating and mingling with hearty jalapeño wheels, garbanzos, generous chicken chunks, in a well-spiced chicken broth. Cilantro and jalapeño were a power-team to order again. Both the tortilla and garbanzo soup run at 390 yen.

Visiting Tokyo soon? Don’t leave without downloading our ebook!
20% off coupon code: TYO7382.

Our hot app of fried avocado-cheese balls were also a hit  (390 yen). Both items secured our notion that among Sunchine City’s so-many restaurants, El Torito was the right choice. I must have shared at least three sips of my prized, zingy-soup. Sometimes you need people to taste and understand. “Why don’t you make this?” my husband suggested. Um…

Ikebukuro, Mexican Food, Lunch, Chicken Burrito, Burrito
Maybe it was the sauce? Every bite balanced flavorful chicken, corn tortilla, and velvety cheese, with the neighboring rice and bean/beef chile.

My chicken enchilada entrée was tender, moist, and highly-flavorful. Oftentimes, chicken burritos or enchiladas are stiff, dry, and generally disappointing to me. I mean, it’s a gamble. That’s a lot of chicken—your whole meal may be quite splendid or quite terrible. This enchilada was a treat. Two of these guys, plus rice, a kind of bean-beef chile sat on either side of my enchiladas. I could have eaten more of the enchiladas, rice, and chile, showered with queso fresca. That’s what happens when I love what I eat. I want a bit more– a testament to my appetite as well as their portions, I believe. Some items, like their chicken fajita burrito are offered in grande size for 200 yen more (980 yen without a drink, or 1,180 with drink. More is sometimes more. Mexican food, amigos. Any chance for cheese in Tokyo is a lovely thing. A fiesta in itself. Wait–they have cheese???!!!

To be fair, my husband and I split both entrees; remembering this caused me to break-out in a smile. Fajitas! No sizzling or smoky, steamy fanfare parading from their open kitchen, but an appetizing sight, nonetheless! A kit, really. One hot, iron pan housing chicken, steak strips and all the the classic fajita veggies. The classic hard-plastic tortilla holder (for six),  one tray for sour cream (luxe in Tokyo), pico de gallo, and guacamole. The beef stands out in this dish; whereas other similar restaurants serve shreds of beef, dry starving-for-juice strands, El Torito serves  well-portioned chunks of beef, soaked in flavor. (The restaurant’s beef hails from the U.S., and is labeled Safe-Fed Cattle). We shared the plentiful half-size for 1,390 yen. Full size is 1,990 yen. The spicy fajitas are only an option as full-size, but we asked for a side of this spicy sauce and came out strong. Fresh, picante, and an excellent addition to the already wonderful fajita-flavors.  This is good date food, too, if you don’t mind escaped juice running down your hand.

Fajitas, Mexican food, lunch, Ikebukuro, Sunshine City
A star of El Torito’s show, the juicy fajita. Carmelized onions, peppers, cool avocado, tomatoes, nestled-in with succulent beef and chicken.

Established in 1954 in California, the “little bull” has certainly grown.

El Torito’s website advises that diner budget 800 yen for lunch. Twelve lunch items, priced from 680 yen (not including drinks) to 980 yen line the Tex-Mex menu. Items are listed without a drink or with a choice of drink, for 200 yen more. You could do without your soft drink, tea, or coffee, and stick to water. Both coffee and iced tea are refilled. Then again, you could spend 790 yen on a regular (fruity) margarita or 1,190 on the Cadillac, a shot of Grand Marnier on the side.

Speaking of the cantina, Coronas run 690 yen, dressed in their lime wedge. They also stock icy Negro Modelo, Dos Equis, Dos Equis Amber, Sol, Bohemia,  as well as Budweiser (if you must) and other imported beers. Corona and draft beer are 100 yen less when ordered with lunch. In other words, pay 100 yen less if you are not a Corona fan. (Fun fact to sprinkle-in while enjoying your drink, warm salty chips and salsa: El Torito’s founder is credited for popularizing the margarita in America. What a guy!)



Kids meals are hearty, authentic representations of the adult menu, around 600 yen. There are four choices in main dishes, but all come with a drink, orange jelly (like jello), three hot and not-too-sweet churros dolloped with whipped cream, french fries in their skins, with ketchup. The joke was that our friend wanted to order milk for his daughter. Ala carte? 420 yen. For 200 yen more, they won an extra kids’ meal and she obviously got her ice cold milk. A 200 yen meal! Score.

Kids Meals, Mexican Restaurants, Ikebukuro
Kids do really well here! This is one of four well-portioned & tasty kids’ meals.

At one point, I picked-up a holiday menu, but thought they were simply preparing for December, as the font was green and red. Pity. I would have scored an even better lunch deal! Know this: if you go to El Torito on a weekend or national holiday, choose something from their holiday menu. (Even if your server never even glances at said menu or does anything to steer you closer to premium-value-enchilada-happiness). I quickly adjusted, however, as their normal lunch menu is generally not over 1,000 yen, anyways.

Holiday menu, Mexican food, lunch specials, Ikebukuro
Not only for December holidays or new year. Green and red were so deceptive!

More advice: Become a member to receive special notices and coupons. Send a blank email to m_eltorito_5@c.katy.jp . They will send a reply with a link to a brief survey. Filling-out this initial survey gets you another link: your coupon! Print or present by phone. Complete this whole process on the day of your big El Torito Mexican-food-craving, as the coupon is only valid on that day.

Name: El Torito
Location:Sunshine City Alpa Shop 3F3-1-1 Higashiikebukuro

Toshima, Tokyo 170-0013
Closest Station: 11 mins. from Ikebukuro Station, 7 minutes from Higashiikebukuro Station
Web: ww.gyuan.jp/eltorito/index.html (Japanese only, but you can certainly use Google Translate)
Phone:
  • 03-5954-7611  
Business hours: 11:00 to 23:00

Watch this next

New Video: A Cheapo's Day Trip Guide to Kamakura

Kamakura is a coastal city famous for its rich history, numerous Buddhist shrines and temples, scenic views and beaches.




Get our Tokyo Cheapo Hacks direct to your inbox




Recommended hotels located nearby



12 Responses to “Burritos in the Sun”

  1. Rabbit Wrangler

    In a city full of mediocre Mexican restaurants, El Torito really is one of the worst, which is no small accomplishment. There’s a reason there was no waiting line, while every other restaurant around it had one.

    And from a cheapo point of view, Y680-980 for lunch with no drink is pretty average these days, not some super-bargain.

  2. Rabbit Wrangler

    In a city full of mediocre Mexican restaurants, El Torito really is one of the worst, which is no small accomplishment. There’s a reason there was no waiting line, while every other restaurant around it had one.

    And from a cheapo point of view, Y680-980 for lunch with no drink is pretty average these days, not some super-bargain.

  3. Melissa, could you include some wider shots in your next post? The close-ups aren’t really working for me. The lighting could also be better, but that’s something beyond your control.

    Thanks!

  4. Melissa, could you include some wider shots in your next post? The close-ups aren’t really working for me. The lighting could also be better, but that’s something beyond your control.

    Thanks!

  5. I recently found El Torito myself…as someone growing up in Las Vegas (Spanish for “The Meadows”), I had a dearth of cheap South American grub to go gordita on…El Torito at Nishi-Funabashi was my first Tokyo-taquito… I had a Negra Modelo. It was nice but I do hope there is better. El Torito reminded me of all the cheesy tex-mex places that catered to chubby middle class Americans who pronounced amarillo as “ama-rillll-lo” instead of “amariyo”.. I always preferred the roach-coaches with their habanero salsas and Spanish-only-staff. Un carnita burrito con cilantro y cebolla y avocado por favor. Muchas gracias. I hope to find a good chile rellenos someday. And ancho chiles… and all the other amazing Latin American offerings that are super exotic in Tokyo, it seems.

  6. Jessica Robins-eads

    I recently found El Torito myself…as someone growing up in Las Vegas (Spanish for “The Meadows”), I had a dearth of cheap South American grub to go gordita on…El Torito at Nishi-Funabashi was my first Tokyo-taquito… I had a Negra Modelo. It was nice but I do hope there is better. El Torito reminded me of all the cheesy tex-mex places that catered to chubby middle class Americans who pronounced amarillo as “ama-rillll-lo” instead of “amariyo”.. I always preferred the roach-coaches with their habanero salsas and Spanish-only-staff. Un carnita burrito con cilantro y cebolla y avocado por favor. Muchas gracias. I hope to find a good chile rellenos someday. And ancho chiles… and all the other amazing Latin American offerings that are super exotic in Tokyo, it seems.

  7. The only place I know of where you can get good burritos and tacos in Japan is at Frijoles’s in Azubu-Juban and it is super expensive. Students get free drinks though. http://www.frijoles.jp/top.html
    edit- Looks like they got one in Roppongi and Akasaka too.

    I will check this place out with my gf. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  8. The only place I know of where you can get good burritos and tacos in Japan is at Frijoles’s in Azubu-Juban and it is super expensive. Students get free drinks though. http://www.frijoles.jp/top.html
    edit- Looks like they got one in Roppongi and Akasaka too.

    I will check this place out with my gf. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  9. I’ve been to El Torito a few times in recent months for lunches, dinners, and a party in the bar with coworkers. On each occasion, the food has satisfied and the prices are very reasonable. Also, the drink menu is quite varied with more beer, liquor, and mixed drink options than many other restaurants. While it may not the best Mexican food to be found in the city, the restaurant is conveniently located for me and a welcome change of pace from the standard fare in the Sunshine area.
    The location is kind of tucked away in the corner of the floor past a Korean restaurant, so it may be a bit hard to find in passing. I’ve never had to wait to be seated, but there can be long lines during the peak lunch rush hours.

  10. I’ve been to El Torito a few times in recent months for lunches, dinners, and a party in the bar with coworkers. On each occasion, the food has satisfied and the prices are very reasonable. Also, the drink menu is quite varied with more beer, liquor, and mixed drink options than many other restaurants. While it may not the best Mexican food to be found in the city, the restaurant is conveniently located for me and a welcome change of pace from the standard fare in the Sunshine area.
    The location is kind of tucked away in the corner of the floor past a Korean restaurant, so it may be a bit hard to find in passing. I’ve never had to wait to be seated, but there can be long lines during the peak lunch rush hours.

  11. CheapoGreg

    It’s fine to disagree – it’s great to see people care about this so much 🙂 What would be really helpful though is if we could get some suggestions on what you think are good, cheap Mexican places in Tokyo.
    Sometimes authenticity can take a bake seat to other things. I’d prefer Frijoles (they’re got a store in Akasaka too) but my kids don’t give a crap about that – they’d rather have the El Torito lunch set. Just saying the appeal of any place we review isn’t going to be universal but I guess people can read the article, read the comments and then decide for themselves.

  12. CheapoGreg

    It’s fine to disagree – it’s great to see people care about this so much 🙂 What would be really helpful though is if we could get some suggestions on what you think are good, cheap Mexican places in Tokyo.
    Sometimes authenticity can take a bake seat to other things. I’d prefer Frijoles (they’re got a store in Akasaka too) but my kids don’t give a crap about that – they’d rather have the El Torito lunch set. Just saying the appeal of any place we review isn’t going to be universal but I guess people can read the article, read the comments and then decide for themselves.


Questions or comments about this article? Start a thread on our community forum