Lil’ Burro in Bellevue features home-grown spices on its Mexican dishes
By John Keenan – World Herald Staff Writer, September 5, 2005
The owner of Lil’ Burro Mexican restaurant in Bellevue spent some of his boyhood in Central City, Iowa, where relatives farmed corn and soybeans. Ashelford’s garden is more modest – a 35 foot by 25 foot patch behind his restaurant. He grows basil, oregano, Anaheim peppers, tomatillos and other vegetables for the dishes he serves.
On our recent visit, for example, my wife had a chili rellenos ($8.50), three big Anaheim peppers out of Ashelford’s garden, breaded and stuffed with mozzarella cheese. The heat of the peppers varies. She found two of them only mildly spicy, while the third was at the forehead-sweating level.
Ashelford stopped by our table to ask how we liked the food and told us how he uses his produce.
Diners get a complimentary basket of freshly made chips and salsa. The salsa, he told us, is homemade, featuring his garden-grown peppers and spices. He also let us sample a homemade cabbage salsa that tops a couple of his dishes. It was chunkier and drier than the more traditional red salsa, and it had a pleasantly mild zing.
I had the chicken chipotle ($8.95), served with rice and beans. It was unexpectedly mild, though it had a slow-building heat – by the time I finished, my mouth was tingling. The chicken chipotle features a smoky jalapeno pepper cream sauce, made with heavy whipping cream flavored with garlic and oregano over a fried, breaded chicken breast. My plate, served with rice and beans, was swimming in sauce.
Ashelford also grows green peppers for his fajitas and habanero peppers for the restaurant’s hottest green sauce.
“We’ve only go two or three of those plants,” he said. “I only planted those for the guys who think they can eat fire.”
This year’s crop was especially good because his brother-in-law Ignacio Garcia, a talented gardener, helped out.
The kids, in less adventurous mood than usual, ordered a hot dog ($2.95) and a cheeseburger ($4.15) off the children’s menu. Lil Burro’s kids menu offers tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and nachos, but there’s also grilled cheese and other American dishes for children who aren’t in the mood for Mexican.
The restaurant is a homey little place, decorated with old metal advertisements for Coca-Cola or farm equipment. The menu is filled with traditional entrees such as tamales, enchiladas and tacos.
We finished our meal with the fried ice cream ($4.50), served with chocolate sauce in a cinnamon-dusted tortilla bowl. The total for entire meal before tip, was $31.35.
Where: 29th Avenue and Capehart Road, Bellevue
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30p.m, Tuesdays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays
Prices: Appetizers $2.95 to $7. 95; entrees $5.95 to $13.95
Alcohol: Full Bar
Payment: Credit Cards, checks
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Smoking section: Yes
The restaurant is practically below the military water tower with the SAC logo on Capehart Road in Bellevue
Most of the vintage metal soft-drink and gas signs that decorate the walls are originals.
Lil’ Burro’s bar specializes in premium tequila, carrying more than 25 varieties of the intoxicant.
Lil’ Burro is 10 years old and owner Shane Ashelford has been growing his own peppers for the past eight years