BURRITO WISDOM – a vegetarian burrito quest www.burritowisdom.com

DOS TOROS (7.75)

Posted in Union Square by burritowizard on February 27, 2010

137 Fourth Avenue

New York, NY 10003

(212) 677-7300

www.dostorosnyc.com

Basic Burrito $6.50 after tax

Measurements: 9″ circumference; 7″ (standard size)

Beans: vegetarian

Rice: chicken stock

Hours:

11am – 11pm, Monday-Saturday

12pm – 10pm, Sunday

Modeled after the Gordo Taqueria in Berkeley, CA; Dos Toros is the best California inspired burrito in NYC.  I’ve heard some compare this place to Chipotle, but there is no resemblance for the learned burritophile.  Rolled similarly to S.F. style, with a thick slice of cheese melted onto the tortilla, flavorful pico de gallo, and perfect pinto beans (also have black).  The red rice is a little too moist, and is the low point of quite possibly the best burrito on the island.  This place is making a killing.  Expect to wait a half an hour to get a burrito during peak hours.  They are the first to pull off a Bay Area style burrito in NYC.

The salsas are great for NYC.  Fresh, spicy and appropriate for their burritos.  (medium hot green serrano/ jalapeno: left; hot hot red habanero: right)

Value: Are you sure this place is in NYC???  This place must be a 501c3 non-profit.

WIZARD’S SCORE: 7.75

MOE’S SOUTHWEST GRILL (6.25)

Posted in Atlanta, National Chain by burritowizard on February 25, 2010

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL)

Concourse C

www.moes.com

Art Vandolay (Veggie)  Burrito $6.16 after tax

Measurements: 8″ circumference; 7″ length (standard size for a tightly wound burrito)

Whole black or pinto beans

The newest chain establishing a welcome national presence, the first Moe’s opened in Atlanta in 2000.  In 2007 Moe’s began spreading rapidly throughout the country, minus California.   Three details that set them apart from other chains are: They wind their burritos tightly in tinfoil, similar to Mission style; Fresh add-ins (cilantro, jalapenos, etc…); unlimited access to their one-type of salsa in their salsa bar.  The zany attitude at Moe’s is upbeat, but at times made me feel like Napoleon in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) in the scene at the ice cream shop when he eats the large ice cream concoction called a “Ziggy Pig”. The crowd eggs him on with the chant, “Eat the Pig! / Eat the Pig! / Eat the Ziggy, Ziggy Pig!” After he does so, they pin a badge depicting a cartoon pig on his lapel.  “Welcome to Moe’s!!!”

Moe’s salsa is versatile.  More of a chips and salsa house salsa than that of a taqueria.  Tastes to me like it is jarred or canned, then doctored up with fresh ingredients on-site.

Value: Amazing for an airport

WIZARD’S SCORE: 6.25

TACOS CHAPALPA GRILL (5.5)

Posted in Jefferson Park by burritowizard on February 23, 2010

2622 Jefferson Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90018

(323) 602-9939

Bean-Rice-Cheese Burrito w/ pico de gallo (no jalapenos) = $4.93 after tax

Formerly Sabor a Mexico, which closed sometime recently.  Tacos Chapala Grill, the name says it all.  Actually, I’m not really sure what the name is?  And I couldn’t get a strait answer out of them on the phone.  If you’re vegetarian, skip this one.  Lardy beans.  Sabor a Mexico is closed for business at this location.

Fresh salsa, but didn’t really impress.

Value: no comment

WIZARD’S SCORE: 5.5

BURRITO WIZARD CHATS WITH JOHN ROMAN

Posted in Interviews by burritowizard on February 21, 2010

The Burrito Wizard chatted with the ubiquitous John Roman of Pittsburgh through a series of emails (2/10/10 -2/17/10)

BW: As a native of Pittsburgh, what is your take on burritos?

JR: Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh during the seventies, burritos were almost like some strange exotic foreign dish.  Everyone takes burrito access for granted now, but I never even had anything passing for a burrito until Taco Bell started to open franchises in our area sometime in the early to mid eighties.  I knew this wasn’t the genuine article, but I kept my eyes open for anything resembling such fare. It wasn’t until around 1990 or so that I was able to find a place that sold burritos and it wasn’t even in the city limits.  Places boasting Mexican food in this area are still somewhat scarce in these parts compared to say San Diego or Chicago.  They’re a bit more abundant, but you still might have to chomp on some turds before you find a place that you can rely on.

BW: I don’t have many nice things to say about Taco Bell these days, but there is no denying what a pioneering effort they made in spreading burritos, and Mexican Food throughout the U.S.  You mentioned Chicago and San Diego, do you have a favorite place, or several worth mentioning??

JR: There’s a place in San Diego that I’ve been to a couple of times.  I think it’s called Pokey’s (Pokez) or some shit like that.  It’s been awhile, but I remember getting hooked up pretty nice for around seven dollars. The place has atmosphere too.  The places in Chicago are a dime a dozen and all look pretty much like anything you’d expect out of that town.  File under “functional”.

BW: I feel like Chicago is to burritos what Chicago is to pizza.  You don’t meet a lot of people outside of Chicago calling it the best.  Speaking of pizza, Pittsburgh: Squirrel Hill: Murray Avenue: who has the best slice?  Are there any good burrito spots in Pittsburgh?

JR: Out of all the places on the Murray Ave strip in Squirrel Hill, Napoli’s is by far my favorite.  Somehow, they get the crust right in that crispy, but not too hard or soft kind of way. Their toppings aren’t bad either.  Pepperoni and roasted red peppers are a recurring combination of mine.  A lot of people tend to lean towards Mineo’s or Aiello’s which are a block down from Nap’s and those places are O.K. I guess, but seem to lack something in the way of craftsmanship.  Napoli’s staff is also a little more personable and it seems like it’s mainly been the same 5 or 6 people forever. Outside of the city there’s Vincent’s which is a whole different ballgame when it comes to pizza.  I don’t think they serve by the slice.  It’s a place that you go to when you have an hour or so to sit down.  Their pizza looks like the surface of the moon and the toppings are piled to somewhat of an obscene degree.  Imagine pepperoni that was chopped up in a tree shredder and whole hot sausage links chopped into about six huge chunks and you start to get the idea.  I guess this sort of tells you what kind of burrito spots there are in Pittsburgh.

Check out John Roman’s current musical projects: microwaves; Brown Angel

Wizard recommends the uniquely Pittsburgh Black and Gold Burrito @:

Mexico City

111 Smithfield St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

(412) 391-2591

LALO’S (7.5)

Posted in Fashion District, Skid Row by burritowizard on February 17, 2010

400 E 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 891-1069

Vegetarian Burrito: $3.75 after tax

Measurements: 9″ circumference; 7″ length (standard size)

As the new fangled continues its march, places like Lalo’s are the last bastion of what once was.  For good or for bad, Lalo’s is as real as it gets.  Walking up to order, you cancel the rest of your appointments for the day assuming you will become deathly ill from whatever you eat.  But, it’s not that type of place.  Lalo’s is vegetarian friendly, with a burrito that is the prototypical Los Angeles style: re-fried beans, Spanish rice, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and onion.  Their salsas are fresh and well constructed.  I can’t help but compare this place to the food spot in the movie Colors (1988).

Usually they have their chile de arbol (left) and spicy tomatillo (right), both are excellent.  Sometimes they have a spicy tomato salsa (below)

Value: cheapest full sized burrito I’ve ever seen

WIZARD’S SCORE: 7.5

CASITAS TACO AL CARBON (6.75)

Posted in Burbank by burritowizard on February 14, 2010


405 N Victory Blvd

Burbank, CA 91502

(818) 848-3242

Vegetarian Burrito:  $5.15 after tax

Measurements: 9″ circumference; 7″ length (average size)

Also known as: Casita Taco de Carbon, this is the best burrito spot I’ve found in Burbank, which is not saying a whole lot.  Solid burrito, ample salsa bar, decent prices, but nothing really stands out.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  If you’re looking for the best burrito option in Burbank, this is probably it.

Value: Below average prices

WIZARD’S SCORE: 6.75

Tagged with: ,

BURRITO KNAVE VISITS BADBOY BURRITO IN KEY WEST

Posted in Florida, Gringo, Guest Reviews, Key West by burritowizard on February 12, 2010

1220 1/2 Simonton Street

Key West, FL 33040

(305) 292-2697

www.badboyburrito.com

Let me start off by saying that I am very excited about my first assignment for Burrito Wisdom.  Big ups to the Burrito Wizard.  On a recent trip to Key West, I checked out this tiny burrito spot / juice bar.  What?  You guys grow your own wheat grass?  Really?  Weird.   Bad Boy Burrito is run by a young couple (with a culinary pedigree) and is at once sublime and vexing.  A solid ethos (super fresh ingredients and bio-degradable takeaway containers)?  Check.   Red onion escabeche (a lot of people don’t even know what that is.)?  Check.  No tables (a counter with three stools and a bench out front)?  Check.  $8 burritos?  Check.

(Jesus holding a burrito (above))

Their burritos or “phatties” as they claim to roll them, (I know, right?) consist of an organic flour tortilla with basmati rice, rattlesnake beans (a variation of pinto beans, slightly darker), one veggie filling (marinated tofu, seasonal veg, or mushroom), one salsa (pico de gallo, verde, red chili, mango habenero, or tomatilla) and up to three toppings (everything from shredded cheese and sour cream to ancho chili relish to the aforementioned red onion escabeche).   I tried the marinated tofu with shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro with (per the owner’s suggestion) the mango habenero salsa.   The burrito, (definitely not a “phattie”) ordered to go, was rolled tightly in tinfoil.  It was excellent.  Transcendental even.  But as I walked back up Simonton Street eating this burrito, slightly confused, a couple of thoughts kept rattling around my brain.  Why doesn’t this place have a couple of defacto burritos on the menu?  Say, I don’t know, a vegetarian burrito or some such, so you, Mr. owner / chef / order taker won’t seem so narked as I (as, invariably, every other first time customer must)  fumble through the toppings list, trying to narrow it down to three?  And, I’m closer to Cuba than I am to Miami.

I really like this place.  Next time I’ll try the…

No Salsa Bar.  Dimensions:  Average.

Value:  Good.  I never thought I’d say that about an $8 burrito.

KNAVE’S SCORE:  8.25

EL BURRITO JR (6)

Posted in Redondo Beach by burritowizard on February 11, 2010

919 S. Pacific Coast Hwy.

Redondo Beach, CA 90277

310-316-5058

Veggie Burrito: $4.23 after tax

Measurements: 8″ circumference; 7″ length (smaller than average)

Beans: Lard (not vegetarian)

Rice: Vegetarian

I’ve read great reviews of this place, and heard about people who drive all the way from central Los Angeles for the experience.  Poppycock.  The food reminds me of what you would expect the snack shop, from the original Bad News Bears (1976) with Walter Matthau, to serve.  This is the type of L.A. area burrito spot that makes San Franciscans feel superior.  El Burrito Jr.’s salsa is good, and the prices are reasonable, but the flavor is nil.  Best enjoyed while drunk or hungover, not for the refined burrito palate.

Value:  very good

WIZARD’S SCORE: 6

Tagged with: ,