Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mexican bite in the heart of Korea

Gringos are ready to take a bite out of Korea
 Gringos offers Mexican food, such as a variety of burritos at 5,000 won each, from the traditional chicken to bacon or chorizo breakfast choices.

When Vancouver native Mike Durkan and Mark Lynn from Los Angeles, first arrived in Korea they were dismayed by the level of Mexican food options in the greater Seoul area.

“But rather than complaining about the low-quality, overpriced Mexican food on offer, we said to each other, ‘Wait. We can do better,’” Lynn explained.

And thus, Gringos Burritos was born in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, in the spring of 2011.

So why “Gringos”? For Durkan, the name of the business serves as an ironic wink. “Gringos was a name that seemed entirely apt for two reasons,” he said. “First, we’re two white guys making Mexican food. Second, gringos is a term for foreigners in Mexico. We’re foreigners in Korea, and most of our clientele are foreigners in Korea. But together we should all embrace this status, as we’re all gringos together.”

Gringos’ offerings include a variety of burritos at 5,000 won each, from the traditional chicken to bacon or chorizo breakfast choices. They also have a vegetarian option with tofu.

According to Durkan, the Gringos guys craft their burritos by hand with 100 percent natural ingredients with no preservatives. Based on a taste test, this reporter found the subtle blends and measured quantities of ingredients excellent, particularly the cheese and chorizo. The newest addition to the ever-expanding menu is the carne asada steak burrito at 7,000 won.

“As you can see from the burritos, we take our time to cook them slowly and season them to perfection,” Durkan said. “If you take a bite, you can identify all the different ingredients.”

Compact, tasty and with no preservatives, Gringos have set a new benchmark for burrito quality within Korea.

To complement each burrito are a choice of three sides, chili, salsa and bean dip (5,000 won each). When asked about the sides selection, Lynn said, “Salsa complements each burrito, the bean side developed naturally as it’s extremely tasty while chilli ― a meal in itself ― is a great way to round off a meal between friends.”

When asked about perfecting their burrito recipe, Lynn described the three-month-long process of enhancing the taste. Aside from their own taste buds, they also relied on feedback from friends and family.

“This involved cooking each ingredient until it was awesome on its own ― how much of each filling made the burrito most satisfying ― before finding the right blend for each portion to complement each other,” he said.

Word of mouth and social media sites have served as Gringos’ advertising, especially within foreign communities who have reacted positively. “We’ve been really pleased with the feedback so far,” Durkan said.

Steady growth has allowed Gringos to expand from a home-based business to professional premises. “Cooking times were shortened and quantities increased, allowing us to produce burritos faster and service our customers more quickly,” Durkan said. “Also my wife has access to her kitchen again.”

The goal now for Durkan and Lynn is to cater to a growing market, one that includes Korean consumers. With delicious products and a growing fan base, it is a matter of when, not if, Gringos can achieve these aims.

To find out more about Gringos visit their website at 

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