El Gato Cantina Burlington, VT: Grumpy cat says meh.

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4 min read

As I've said in some of my other posts, I would consider Burlington, VT quite the foodie town. For only being a town of about 45,000 people, it has vast range of cultural selections as well as many farm to table style eateries.

What @mrsbozz and I did seem to notice was a lack of "Mexican" places to try out. You probably know by now I put Mexican in quotes because I know full well American Mexican food isn't really like what they actually eat in Mexico. I'd do the same thing if I was talking about a Chinese restaurant.

After our lunch at Ruben James, we headed back to our hotel room and watched the rain fall. We already had plans to watch the Michigan/Michigan State football game in our hotel room, but before that, we needed to get some dinner.

We searched the map and eventually found a place that we thought might fit the bill. It was a Taqueria that sat at the far North end of Church Street Marketplace. It was raining, but we figured if we walked fast, it might not be too bad.

We were wrong. By the time we reached the Taqueria, we were completely soaked. Then, to make matters worse, we found out that the establishment was closed! We quickly found a awning to stand under and started looking for a different place to eat.

Thus we ended up at El Gato Cantina. The building itself left a lot to be desired. It looked pretty run down and it was tucked in between a couple other establishments, so it made it almost hard to see the entrance. It also sat at the opposite end of Church Street, so we got a little more wet walking down there.

Inside, it was quite welcoming, but we noticed there weren't a ton of people inside. There was one large group sitting at a table up front and unfortunately, our waitress seemed more interested in helping them out and chatting with them than taking care of us.

She eventually did, but service was pretty slow and sparse

We noticed this article from a local paper on the wall talking about how this was an up and coming place and how great their food was. That gave us a lot of hope that this was going to be an awesome meal. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

In doing some research for this post, I discovered the other day that about a week ago, the owners of El Gato closed the location we had visited and plan on using it as an event space. They have another location at a different spot in the city, that I believe is their flagship location, so maybe we should have went there.

I was telling @mrsbozz about the fact that they closed the one location down and I said "maybe that's why it wasn't up to par" and she said "no, it was just disgusting".

We started off with some queso for our chips. The house salsa wasn't too bad, but we wanted something a little extra. You might remember from some of my other posts that @mrsbozz has a knack for knowing when queso has Velveeta cheese in it. It's a big nope from her while I am pretty much oblivious.

That was the case with this queso, I was shocked when she mentioned it was just Velveeta. There I was happily enjoying my queso, totally oblivious to the facts. I sometimes wonder if being ignorant sometimes has it's advantages. I'm not saying it was the best queso I have ever had, but it was at least edible.

@mrsbozz decided to go with a diet soda, but I wanted something with a little more oomph, so I went with a traditional margarita. It honestly wasn't that good. I'm not sure what it was, but there was something bitter about it. I paid a little more for the higher end tequila, but it still didn't taste quite right.

I did appreciate the fact that they didn't use so much sour mix that it was basically just heartburn in a cup. It definitely wasn't the best margarita I have ever had though.

For our entrees, my wife got the chicken burrito bowl. As you can see, the presentation was quite pleasant, but in her opinion, the execution was very lacking. The chicken didn't have a ton of flavor and everything else was just kind of there in the bowl. The flavors didn't compliment each other well at all.

On top of that, it took an exceptionally long time for us to get our food. I don't know if it was because the waitress was too busy with that other table or if it was because the kitchen was struggling.

In the end, it was one of those meals that you kind of wish you could have taken back.

As you can see from the opening photo and the photo above, I got the two taco entre. I selected el pastor and the carnitas I think. One was pork and the other was steak. The tacos weren't horrible, but the meat was a little dry in each of them and that was kind of a turn off for me. In fact, I think I ended up not finishing each of them.

I got rice and refried beans to accompany my dish and those were not that great either. Everything just felt really dry and without a ton of flavor. It wasn't what I have come to expect from even the simplest of Mexican restaurants.

Knowing now what I didn't know then, I would be willing to give El Gato another chance, but I would definitely go to the other location (not much choice now).

The next day we were walking down by the other taqueria again and we noticed that it was open, so it must have just been a one night thing. It had us wondering how different our experience might have been if we had waited a day to have a Mexican dinner.

With so few options in the Burlington area, we should have known it was going to be a crap shoot finding a good place.

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All pictures/screenshots taken by myself or @mrsbozz unless otherwise sourced