Billing itself as “Gourmet California Burritos” and named after our beloved City’s Mission Dolores Park, Dolores doesn’t pretend to be Mexican food. Its gimmick is clear: Bring a fast-food experience to Berlin that the young creatives of San Francisco love to engorge.
The lunchtime lines at the counter look similar to the desperate queues at Berlin’s famous nightclubs, where the clientele waits to receive nutritional validation from the slightly aloof staff.
It’s strictly a day-time affair at Dolores though, where its loud decor is more Jamba Juice than steamy, late-night Mission Street drunk tank. This is the part of Berlin where people go to work, not party, so you can forget about dining at this taqueria once the sun goes down. (You still have to hit up a Döner Kebab shop for those needs.)
The original Dolores location is right in the middle of the busy Mitte district, packed to the brim with thick-rimmed bespectacled fashionistas, media-ites and hipsters.
(By the way: a good way of outdoing the obnoxious twenty-something next to you, who complains the music isn’t as good as his Spotify playlists at home, is to loudly explain to your lunch partner everywhere you’ve lived and partied, along with the cultural significance of at least three points along Mission Street. Preferably crimes. You’ll sound cooler.)
Nothing comes close to resembling sloppiness at Dolores, including the requisite Pitchfork-approved tunes on the soundsystem. (The Cramps have been heard at the second Dolores location, but that’s a more than a stone’s throw from where most transplants stay.)
Adorning an entire wall is the ever-present reminder of the taqueria’s inspiration: A massive, impeccably accurate map of the Mission District.
For Berlin, a town awash with underwhelming cheap culinary experiences, Dolores’ burritos are a godsend. They’re big, and full of fresh and diverse ingredients that are guaranteed to induce a classic burrito coma.
The San Francisco burrito connoisseur shouldn’t go in expecting exactly the same experience as back home. Rather than the traditional assortment found at most Bay Area taquerias, at Dolores you simply order up a burrito and then hand-select ingredients. First, the salsa. Then the rice, beans and cheese.
The tortillas are served warm, but a bit soft and not exactly like back home. And the beans lack the savory juice of Pancho Villa or Farolito.
Of course, it’s optional to add your choice of flavored tofu or meat. Secret tip: Ask for the off-menu whole wheat tortilla. It’s free.
But for many, even Bay Area transplants, Dolores burritos are a reasonable stand-in for the real deal by the Bay. Cory Vielma, video curator for a Web-based network NetworkAwesome, lived in The City for 12 years:
“Dolores is without a doubt the closest thing to California-style burritos you will find in Berlin. When I was in SF last year, I actually ate at two different taquerias where I thought, ‘Dolores is better than this.’”
Dolores burritos are even reasonably cheap for “foreign” food in Berlin. We could outline the costs, but, hell, it’s all monopoly money anyway, right?
Walter Crasshole is web editor at Exberliner Magazine and an SFBay correspondent.