Housed in the former location of Long John Silver's, and now painted a very bright yellow, Gilberto's is a 24-hour, non-stop parade of some of the best Mexican street food as you are likely to lay your hands on in our fair city. If you like fresh, authentic, hand crafted flavor, this is your place. If your idea of authentic Mexican is a burrito full of tater tots or tacos made out of Dorritos, well, you know where to go.
Gilberto's isn't doing anything you cannot find in other established eateries in Sioux Falls, they are just doing it extremely well, if not better, than others. You can get similar, awesome food, at places like Nikki's and a host of other places that I think frankly appear a little intimidating to a lot of pasty white Sioux Falls natives. And, I suppose Gilberto's may seem a little intimidating, as well, so here is what to expect when you go:
- The parking situation SUCKS. There is one relatively narrow driveway off Minnesota Avenue that leads to an "L" shaped parking lot that sort of wraps around the back of the building. Some of the spots are in some places that are easier to get into than out of. Overall, probably very close to the utter inconvenience of the Eberts & Gerbert's parking lot on South Louise. Of, and when exiting during daylight hours, you probably realistically cannot turn left to go south, so don't even think about it.
- The ordering situation looks a little funky. Go in the back entrance of the building. Step around the corner and you are going to be confronted with a short line (a good thing). As you wait, you will peruse an extremely large menu posted on the wall. And I mean huge. There are breakfast items served all day that range from huevos rancheros to egg filled burritos. There are some platters of various items that even include Americanized fare such as chimichanga. There are some most definitely authentic items, like menudo by the quart on weekends. The real stars, though, and where you want to concentrate your focus is the listing of tacos, burritos, and tortas. You will have time to study the board as you move toward the extremely efficient and friendly people who will take you order. And don't fret, there is a smaller version of the menu on the counter right in front of the registers.
- The "trick" to the menu items is that they are all built on a foundation of one of about seven types of meat. It's all fantastic. If you cannot fathom the concept of nose-to-tail eating, stick to carnitas (moist pulled pork), carne asada (grilled steak), adobada (marinated grilled pork), or chorizo (pork sausage). If you want awesome flavor and adventure try some lengua (tongue that is beefier and more tender than your granny's Sunday pot roast), tripa (tripe, a/k/a stomach lining- not for everyone), cabeza (beef from the head area- cheeks, temples), or chicharones (pork skin- pork rind taco).
- Tacos are a great way to experiment. They are maybe $2 each, so you can try several different flavors. The tacos are served on a couple warm, fresh, corn tortillas and topped with a little guacamole and onion. Fresh and bottled salsas and hot sauces are available.
- The burritos will blow you away. The burritos are in the $6-7 range. They will include one or more meats and may also include other ingredients like rice, beans, guacamole, onions, peppers, or nopales (cactus). (Special hint- find that one on the menu and try it. It's the bomb.) Be advised, these are not like the thigh-sized homage to Mission-style burritos chock full of rice and beans and studded by a few chunks of meat like you get at Qdoba or, ahem Chipotle. These are more like super-flavored meat logs. Oh, and I swear the tortillas are made in-house.
- Tortas are sandwiches. Like the tortillas, I swear the bread is house-made. So, you've got the meat foundation of your choice along with avocado, onion, lettuce, and some beans on a pillowy soft, warm and toasted in all the right spots bollio roll.
- Be careful with sides. Things like rice and beans are available and they look awesome. Orders of chips and salsa or chips and guacamole are available. The chips don't come out of a bag or a warming hopper in the corner. Nope, made to order. Super good. I recommend getting a side if you brought a friend to lunch, because if you order about $7 of food a piece (roughly three tacos, one burrito, or one torta each) you are not going to leave searching for a snack.
- Try the pickled carrots on the fresh salsa bar.
- No cerveza. As much as I would love a super ice-cold Tecate or Negro Modello to wash down these delicious treasures, it ain't happening. So, do the next best thing and get a nice, authentic, sugary drink like a Jarritos, a bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola made with cane sugar, or at least some Orange Crush out of the fountain.
Seriously, give Gilberto's a go. Take a friend. Try something new. You won't be sorry.