Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Burrito Bloat, Part 1

As I wrote a year or so ago, there has been a proliferation of burrito joints. These places seem to be popping up with more frequency than “Tribbles” or Bob Costas. The burrito places are the rabbits of the food chain.

In the Metrowest, within a quarter mile of each other, Chipotle and Boloco battle for wrapped tortilla supremacy, and now Moe’s Southwest Grill, which features the “Homewrecker”, is planning to open in Sherwood Plaza. Even with such an appetizing name, people can’t get enough of burritos. I can tell you, having eaten at six different burrito joints, I have “Burrito Bloat”. If I eat another burrito, it will be too soon.

Despite my preferences, I wonder every time I pass on of these places…why? Why now, why here? Have we learned nothing from Dr. Atkins and reducing our consumption of “white” carbs? How healthy is a flour tortilla stuffed with rice and beans and some meat? Despite containing a full “recommended daily allowance” of carbohydrates, it hasn’t stopped people consuming these football-sized meals.

At the request of Jordan Rich, I embarked on the burrito crusade, a burrito battle, a burrito imbroglio, if you will, and ate at six different joints. My methodology was to eat and compare a “fast food” style burrito, assuming that a sit-down restaurant selling burritos could take their time and make it right, but the real challenge would be making a burrito “on-demand” while the customer/consumer was standing there, watching the creation of the colon-bomb; sit-down restaurants were taken out of the mix.

After choking down all these delights, I have decided that some things just aren’t meant to be wrapped up in a flour tortilla. There are several burrito places that give you a variety of fillings to choose from. I’m not sure that Buffalo Chicken or Thai Peanut Chicken was meant to be stuffed into a wrap, whether white, or whole wheat. As I said on the radio, and have shared with you before, the more choices you give the customer, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong, whether in execution or in taste. In the case of the burrito, I think simpler is better.

Without further ado…the results.

We can take “Baja Fresh” out of the mix entirely, because they have closed all locations in Massachusetts. The closest ones are in New York. (If I’m taking a road trip, it’s to Columbus, Ohio for the last standing York Steakhouse for a Number 4, not a burrito.) Apparently for them, there’s no money in the burrito stand…

I was less favorably inclined to QDoba’s burritos, but do like an unusual menu item--“Mexican gumbo”. The “gumbo” is some rice, a little soup, some meat, some beans, etc., with some tortilla chips on top. An interesting concept, and I like it. Unfortunately, not many other people did, because the QDoba nearest me has closed. (As an aside, that location was also subject to a lawsuit prior to its opening, when a Panera Bread located in the same plaza objected to its opening, claiming they were serving “sandwiches”, which was Panera’s exclusive right in that plaza. There was an actual trial, and none other than chef/restaurant owner/author Chris Schlesinger of the “East Coast Grill” in Cambridge testified that a burrito is not a sandwich. You got that right! Valuable court time being taken up with the debate of “beef and beans” vs. “chicken salad”. The burrito won in a landslide…”blew” them away, if you will. Must have been the beans.)

Tomorrow, we continue the Aztec Death March from one burrito shack to the next…

Until next time America…enjoy “Tijuana Brass”…

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