Top value Mexican food has all the answers - but look out for that Burrito Challenge
Is street food still street food if you eat it in a restaurant?
When do tortilla chips become nachos?
Exactly how hot is medium salsa?
This and other universal issues were running through our heads as we headed for the Street Food Chef Canteen on Arundel Street after watching Love and Mercy, the film about the Beach Boys’ genius songwriter Brian Wilson, at the Showroom cinema.
The movie traces some of the mental anguish and internal struggle of the man who produced some of the 20th century’s greatest pop songs.
Powerful but not laugh-a-minute, the film left us needing light relief.
What better place to clear the puzzles in our heads than the Street Food Chef on Arundel Street in the Cultural Industries Quarter of the city.
That corner of S1 is ‘coming up’, to use Street Food Chef owner Abi Golland’s term.
And it will no doubt ‘come up’ even more when the new Hallam University Institute of Education building comes on-stream in September
But higher education is not the only growth industry in that part of the city.
Roast and the Motore Cafe that stands on Howard Street, The Globe, Rutland Arms and Red Lion pubs, Silversmith’s, Wellies sandwich shop, Tamper Seller’s Wheel, Fusion Organic café, The Showroom, assorted coffee bars in galleries and those glorious cakes from the Depot Bakery give that area a thriving and diverse food offer.
But Street Food Chef could have been a hot dog stand, a soup kitchen or a noodle house.
“We have been in Sheffield since 2011 when we opened on Pinstone Street. Before that we had a year on the road with a mobile food van,” said Abi, co-owner of Street Food Café’s two outlets, soon to be three.
“We went all over, to Nottingham, Glasgow, Cardiff with our van and learned a lot in a year. We considered hot dogs, soups, noodles but we went for Mexican because it’s good food, fresh, healthy, makes you feel good and we thought there was a gap in the market.
“People seem to love it. Both our places are doing well and we’re looking to open another store on Ecclesall Road or Division Street – it’s essentially fast food so we need somewhere busy where the footfall is good.”
Then there’s the legendary Burrito Challenge where those with eyes bigger than their vientre can try and eat the huge £15 pound burrito.
“It’s very popular,” adds Abi.
“It weighs three and a half pounds with meats, cheese, nachos and four types of salsa and Mexican hot sauce. “It’s a monster and people have to eat it within an hour. “We used to give them for free if people ate it but that got a bit messy so we give them a certificate now and their picture on the wall of fame.
“They do it for the glory. Around 30 per cent manage to get through it. Those that fail get their picture on the wall of shame - in the toilet.
We considered it for two seconds, maybe one, and decided no, not when there’s churros on the menu. More on that later.
We started with a bowl of nachos between us for a starter. They come with cheese, black beans, chopped tomatoes and onions, sour cream and a beautifully piquant salsa verdi made from tomatillos - closely related to the tomato, jalapeno peppers, onions coriander and lime. Excellent.
The system at the Street Food café is thus:
1 Choose a drink
2 Place your food order
3 Customise with salsas and extras
4 Sit and wait for order to be called
5 Pick up food from the counter.
Simple and effective.
For main course I went for the Mexican Plate - rice, black beans, beef brisket (chicken and pulled pork also available) nachos, salad, salsa Verdi and sour cream.
The meat was fall-apart tender- moist with hints of cumin and jalapenos, rice cooked to perfection.
Joe, who did think seriously about the burrito challenge, ended up having three tacos - a tenth the size of that monster. One pulled pork, again the meat was a delight and beautifully spiced, one beef brisket and a chicken mole (mole is a Mexican word for sauce). All served with salad and sour cream and very tasty.
For dessert there was no real contest. Churros and a dessert called Elephant Ears which was two folded tortillas stuffed with chocolate and fried with a scoop of Sheffield’s Our Cow Molly ice cream - topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
The churros - deep fried dough pastry a bit donut-like but chewier - in long thin piped sections with a rich chocolate dipping sauce. Gorgeous.
Abi is a former nursery teacher from Oxford. She moved to Sheffield with husband Richard, who’s worked in restaurants and construction and is originally from Manor Top and latterly from Totley and Grindleford.
They run a very smart and fun little café with some excellent ideas and fresh tasty food.
They’ll go down a storm on busy Ecclesall Road or Division Street, and so they should.
For a shared starter and two other courses each, a Corona beer and a Grapefruit soda we paid £27.55.
Star ratings out of five:
Mexican Street Food Cafe, 90 Arundel Street, Sheffield , S1 4RE, Tel: 0114 275 2390
Open 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, 10am to 9pm Sundays. Street Food Chef