Flavor tripping

El Bramido Mexican Restaurant & Bar

Good for: changing your mind about Mexican food in Sacramento
Notable dishes: aguachiles, tostada mixta, crispy tacos

El Bramido Mexican Restaurant & Bar

2394 Northgate Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95833

(916) 565-1552

No one else is speaking English, and that’s how I like it.

Inside El Bramido Mexican Restaurant & Bar on a recent Saturday night, every barstool is taken. Men are drinking Modelos, laughing and breaking out into song. Tables are full of families, sharing whole fried fish and seafood platters. A pair of graying gentlemen graze on raw jicama dusted with chili, their eyes fixated on the televised Mexican soccer game. Follow the orange, yellow and green walls to the bathroom and take a whiff. Intensely floral and distinct, it smells like the just-cleaned bathrooms of Mexico.

No matter what I order at El Bramido, I am elated. It stems from years of disappointment in Sacramento’s Mexican restaurants and taquerias, after growing up with Mission-style burritos in San Francisco and taco trucks in Oakland and living with nonstop excellent Mexican food in Los Angeles.

My first El Bramido super burrito ($7.99) felt like a revelation—the first burrito in Sacramento that left me 100 percent satisfied. Too often, Sacramento burritos are either dry or overly reliant on sour cream. Not so at El Bramido. This is a truly superior burrito—9 inches tall, slender and sturdy—with an even distribution of ingredients. The foil-wrapped package demonstrates teamwork, with every element doing its part for the greater good flavor.

I felt no need to hit the salsa bar over the course of that burrito, though the salsas are top-notch as well. I particularly loved employing the burnt red, deeply smoky chipotle on my street-style tacos ($1.95). Which meats are best? Your usual choice will probably be your favorite here, because they’re all at least done well, if not exceptionally so. For me, the most memorable were the richly flavored, crispy tripe; super-juicy cabeza; meaty carnitas with charred edges; and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp.

If you’re a Jimboy’s Tacos fan, order at least one crispy taco ($2.95-$3.25). These deep-fried, parmesan-dusted shells overflow with meat, melty cheese and romaine. My favorite filling here is the shrimp, which lends a nice lightness. But also, shrimp here are just stellar in every preparation—seafood is clearly a specialty. The tostada mixta ($4.29) shows off impressive construction: a freshly fried tortilla gets topped with a thin smear of mayonnaise and fresh cilantro; cucumber and tomato cubes follow; shrimp form a spiral, met with an onslaught of limey, tender octopus ceviche; and finally, fanned slices of avocado form a crown.

Though aguachiles ($16.49) is one of the most expensive items on the menu, it’s still generously priced. The classic, lesser-known dish hails from Sinaloa, Mexico and consists of a lime-and-chile dressing poured over a tangle of lightly salt-cured, butterflied shrimp. At El Bramido, chile-dusted orange slices, cucumber, tomato, shredded lettuce and raw red onion provide textural contrasts. But most of all, the silky, I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-raw shrimp need to be quality for the dish to work, and the dish absolutely works—and leaves your mouth tingling.

Honestly, I can gush about this place for hours. The sope ($3.50) offered a masa base that was soft, crunchy and chewy at the same time. The chilaquiles ($8.99) portion was enormous—the saucy, fried tortillas plus three eggs, rice and beans—and actually prepared properly, which is rare in Sacramento. The horchata ($1.75) tasted nutty, and not too sweet. Even the chile relleno ($3.50), often mushy and drowning in sauce, showed finesse.

Tortillas aside—they’re totally fine, but not a highlight here—I challenge you to find me a better all-around Mexican restaurant in Sacramento. Until then, you’ll find me chowing down in that yellow, orange and green room, with my stomach teleported to Oakland, Los Angeles and Mexico.