"People told me opening a restaurant would be the most stressful thing I've ever done," says the unflappable Tom Davies, owner of burrito joint Mission District, which has just launched in Ripponlea, next door to Attica. "They've clearly not worked in the film industry."
Davies is a TV commercial producer who fell in love with Cali-Mex cuisine when he lived in San Francisco. He's keeping one foot in ad land while opening the restaurant with his wife Jenna, a former bassoonist now working as a primary school teacher.
The menu is built around Mission burritos, huge flour tortillas filled with rice, beans, meat, cheese and salsa then wrapped in foil. They're a San Francisco staple and a signature dish of taquerias in that city's colourful Mission District.
"Melbourne has seen a renaissance of modern Mexican, taco-focused food," says Tom Davies. "But the burrito is still associated with Old El Paso and chains. I want to show people that the burrito can be as delicious and as carefully made as the finest tacos you can get."
The burritos have all been road-tested during lockdown via takeaway, which will continue in-store. "The carnitas [pork] is cooked in 100 per cent lard so it's crispy and soft," says Tom. "The brisket takes us five days to make. The charcoal chicken gets a lot of love, too." As a coeliac, he's working towards a fully gluten-free menu. Beyond burritos, chef Davish Juggiah is turning out chilli con queso (cheesy dip), fried chicken, tacos, and churros with Valrhona chocolate sauce.
After delays caused by building issues and lockdown, the Davies are delighted to finally welcome people into the cantina and bar, where carefully wrought margaritas feature artisan tequila, and wall art dotted with hidden burritos will keep things interesting. "We want it to be a fun drop-in spot for locals," says Jenna.
Open Tue-Thu noon-8.30pm, Fri-Sat noon-9.30pm.
76 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, missiondistrict.com.au