Carlos is smiling at me over the counter as he makes his way with his hands – seemingly automatically – between the colourful salsas, beans, meat, and veggies. Layer by layer, my vegan burrito takes shape.
Carlos moves along the huge counter, tiled in a friendly baby blue, explains all the different ingredients on offer, the hotness of the salsas and how he uses ground avocado leaves for the black beans. He speaks to me in English, yet with a charming Spanish tang.
Carlos plays a main role in the future success of Max & Benito. He’s a pro chef when it comes to tacos, burritos, and the Mexican cuisine in general. And that’s why owners, Stephan and Markus, flew him in directly from Mexico.
“Originally, I met Carlos in London where I was working a few years ago,” Stephans tells us. Stephan was always a lover of Latin American food, but when he got back to Vienna, he missed the rich, flavourful taste of the states below the States. So he hatched a plan on how he was going to change that all himself.
“To be honest, I didn’t know anything about gastronomy, coming from the economics field,” Stephan explains. “But when I told my colleague Markus about my plans of starting something new, he was immediately on board.” While reminiscing about these first weeks of planning, the two are smiling even more. It’s like listening to a couple recount how they first met.
But what about the names Max & Benito? Stephan and Markus laughingly shake their heads when I suggest that this must be their nicknames.
“We wanted our business to mirror the fact that we’re combining Austria and Mexico in a way. So we chose two very iconic gentlemen to be our spokespeople: Maximilian I., empress Sisi’s brother-in-law and the Emperor of Mexico, and Benito Juárez, the well known reformer and president of Mexico.”
It’s an interesting story, but not half as interesting as the mix of flavours in our burritos. I even have to close my eyes to take in the taste sensation unfolding – with the zesty lime rice, the beautifully smooth texture of the black beans, the crunch of the lettuce, the garlicky veggies, the sweetness of the freshly made guacamole, and the hot and tangy salsa. Let us assure the Mexican lovers out there – the salsa is the real deal.
My meat-loving friend sitting across from me can barely contain his feelings, wants to jump up and kiss Carlos on the cheek for the super slowly braised pork he put in his burrito. I stop him mid-air.
“Chill out, dude. I want to come here again in the future”, I whisper.