El Borracho to reopen as a plant-based restaurant

Mexican restaurant and bar El Borracho is undergoing a major change: They’re switching to an entirely plant-based menu at all three of their Puget Sound locations, including Ballard.

El Borracho closed to the public at the beginning of the pandemic, and they haven’t reopened for dine-in customers since, offering only take-out options throughout the past year.

The Ballard location, which has been closed since early May, will be reopening later this summer with a completely new menu and format. Owner Kittie Davidovich, who has been vegan for 30 years, says it felt like time to make the change.

“It’s always been at the forefront of my mind to be plant-based, but I wasn’t sure if we could make it. But I’ve seen a shift in Seattle,” she says.

The new menu features primarily tacos, burritos, and burrito bowls. The ground beef has been swapped out for Impossible Burger; seitan has taken the place of carne asada. Meat substitutes include tofu, “chikin”, and “shrymp”, with soy- and dairy-free cheeses and dressings throughout.

“Our timing is good,” Davidovich tells My Ballard, saying she’s noticed that people are more vegan-curious than ever. She’s just reopened the Pike location, and says customers are loving the change. “It’s not a room full of plant-based eaters,” she says. “It’s all kinds of different folks that seem to have more of an open mind now for plant-based eating.”

Some of their new taco and burrito fillers include Jackfruit Cochinitas Pibil with shredded orange-achiote jackfruit and pickled red onion; Al Pastor with smoky-sweet tofu and pineapple made from non-GMO soybeans in Tacoma; Seitan Baracoa with handmade ancho Chile seitan steak made by Snackriledge in Portland; and the Chikin Tenga, made from shredded soy-based “chikin” in chipotle sauce.

The Ballard location will operate a little differently than in the past: Davidovich says they’ll have QR code menus at each table for ordering. The bar will still be staffed with a bartender, but it will be a more minimal operation as they crack open their doors for business.

“We don’t want just vegans. We want everyone. We want to promote plant-based eating and show how delicious and decadent we can be,” she says.

“I can’t wait to get back open,” Davidovich says, but added that the hospitality industry’s labor shortage has been a challenge. “We have been through the ringer,” she says. “To come back to a labor shortage is so difficult.”

The only hold-up on the Ballard reopening is staff-related, and Davidovich is actively hiring for servers. (If you want to learn more about working for El Borracho, email Davidovich at safetyfirstelborracho@gmail.com.)