Casual Mexican: It's the new Chinese. As places like Lime, Baja Fresh, Salsa Fiesta and Pepper's proliferate in South Florida, the cardboard quart of kung pao is being replaced by bomb-sized burritos stuffed with beans, rice, cheese and meat. At Pepper's Burrito Grill - open about a year in Sunny Isles Beach, with newer locations off Brickell and on South Beach - the choices can be dizzying. But it all comes down to the basics: chicken, fish or beef. Don't know your enchilada from your quesadilla? The menu explains each item and lists what's inside.
The fish burrito is stuffed with chunks of grilled tilapia (fried, if you prefer), rice, beans, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream. The chicken version comes the same way. If you're ordering different burritos each family member, tell the cashier to write what's inside the foil to avoid the guessing game we went through before getting the right order to the right person. Burritos are so big that sharing is a good idea. Each order also comes with fistfuls of no-salt, no-grease tortilla chips.
Ordering a taco is no simple matter. They come hard or soft and either "your way" (lettuce, pica de gallo, sour cream or cheese) or a la Mex (corn tortilla, cilantro and onions). The shrimp taco is a snack, with tiny shrimp looking lonely in an unfolded soft taco. We dumped some innocent-looking red sauce on top, not knowing it would send us to the garden hose, head on fire. The "your way" ground beef taco never made it inside our takeout bag.
Enchiladas (corn tortilla) are bathed in a creamy tomatilla, with cheese and onions nestled inside. The veggie quesadilla (flour tortilla) is all about the green pepper, with some corn and onions keeping it company. Pepper's also has an array of salads with many of the same ingredients - onions, tomatoes, corn, pico de gallo, chicken, cheese and sour cream - splayed across mixed greens.
Sides include tortilla soup (with chicken and a mildly spicy broth), chips (skip since orders come with enough) and a decent guacamole. Get the large guac; the small comes in a cup too small to accommodate a chip without breaking it into bits.
Pepper's Burrito Grill
18120 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach
Prices: Burritos $6.99-$7.99, soups and salads $2.99-$7.99, fajitas $9.99-$12.99, enchiladas $7.99, quesadillas $6.99-$7.99