Finding rare Mexican food in the middle of Kigali

It’s somewhat of a rare find–gourmet Mexican food in the middle of Kigali. And in many ways, that is the reason Griffin Richards started Meze-Fresh. Just opened one week ago, the burrito bar has become a popular lunch destination for both locals and international visitors, and word about it is spreading like wildfire. All that, and Griffin says “We haven’t gotten a chance to start on publicity yet.”
Customers help themselves to food. The Sunday Times / R . Spector
Customers help themselves to food. The Sunday Times / R . Spector

It’s somewhat of a rare find–gourmet Mexican food in the middle of Kigali. And in many ways, that is the reason Griffin Richards started Meze-Fresh. Just opened one week ago, the burrito bar has become a popular lunch destination for both locals and international visitors, and word about it is spreading like wildfire. All that, and Griffin says “We haven’t gotten a chance to start on publicity yet.”

The location is prime, around the corner from a slew of office buildings in Kimihurura including the Parliament, Ministry of Justice, and even The New Times headquarters. What’s more, stand outside between its operating hours (11am to 11pm Tuesday through Sunday) and you are bound to see several taxis and motos drop off at Meze-Fresh’s front door. Needless to say, as low key as it is, it’s not just a neighborhood grub kind of place.

A quesadilla lover myself, the limited menu is somewhat disappointing though those craving a juicy burrito can certainly get their fix. There are four options for the kind of burrito you can order—chicken, beef, pork, or vegetarian—“choose your protein” as the black chalkboard hanging above the serving station reads. There are also options for a burrito-without-the-tortilla bowl, as well as soft tacos. Coming soon, the restaurant will also offer Mexican salads, according to an announcement on the menu.

The fillings for all of the options are endless, and can be mixed and matched, though they do vary in price. They include everything from mango salsa to guacamole, sour cream and purple cabbage salad. Crispy pita chips (highly recommended) come at an additional cost but serve well to scoop up the fillings that may fall out of one’s burrito.

The restaurant evokes a loft-style feel, with tall ceilings and a staircase leading up to second-story seating. There is a twist of Santa Barbara (where Griffin hails from originally) with the open window breeze that flows through the space. But at its core, the restaurant is “Rwanda-Mex” as Griffin likes to call it. And while many foreign patrons laugh about how they never imagined they would be eating Mexican food in Rwanda, Griffin emphasizes the many similarities in the cultures and cuisines.

The walls, stucco yellow, neon green, and sky blue echo traditional Mexican aesthetics as well as the many saloons, restaurants, homes and stop-and-shops scattered around Kigali. The staples of the burritos, in addition to one’s chosen protein, are rice and beans, both locally bought. In fact, Griffin assures me, “Everything we have is locally grown—the guacamole, the salsa—everything,” except maybe the Coronas.

Griffin mainly hopes to target the local Rwandan community, he told The Sunday Times. Part of that, however, is because he was pretty sure when he began the venture over a year ago that at least Americans would come for a taste of home. When Griffin first moved to Rwanda four years ago, as a public health worker, he fell in love with the country but when his friends would ask what he missed about America he recalls that he would respond “sushi and Mexican food.”

With the eclectic mix of Asian delicacies opened recently in the city, Griffin took it upon himself to fulfill his other wish. “I had never started my own business before, so that was definitely a challenge.” So far, however, the restaurant and its growing popularity seem to be paying off.

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