Editor’s note: On the same day that this was originally posted, the Arlington Pedro & Vinny’s got shut down for multiple health code violations. Read about it here.
There are several rules that govern this universe – Newton’s Laws of Motion, Natural Selection, and if you’re rich enough, you can literally get away with murder. But I recently discovered another invisible hand magically pulling the strings behind the scenes of this wayward journey I call life: No city can host two employed Pinos at the same time. Now, I don’t know why this is; maybe it’s because two Pinos with disposable income would end up looking something like the scene in Superman 3 when he gets drunk and fights himself, maybe it’s racism, or maybe it’s just to knock us down a proverbial peg.
Regardless of the reason, when I was living in Boston I worked as a paralegal defending helpless asbestos makers from pesky cancer patients, and Lil Peen did not because he was in school. Then I went back to school, and Lil Peen started his paid internship (close enough to a job). I stayed unemployed until moving to DC (who knew that a financial collapse would decrease the demand for Int’l Relations Master’s degrees?). Flash forward a couple of years and Lil Peen moves down to the Distict o’ Columbia to try “make a difference” and “pursue his passions” or some young pre-cynical shenanigans. Like many other shifty immigrants before him, Lil Peen was forced to work odd jobs and do what we the rightful legal residents of this country refuse to do… work retail.
After months of hard work, Lil Peen landed a full time gig in an office doing social media or some made up job (it’s the American way!)… and my company promptly went out of business because of the polar vortex. I’m not kidding, it actually happened. Suddenly, my life is a daily ritual of sweatshorts and burrito blogging, while Lil Peen puts on a shirt and tie (he thinks he’s people!) and goes to an office. Then, right before his 25th birthday. Lil Peen landed the starring role in the new reality show “Mexicans North of the Wall”, where he is now working on a Senatorial campaign in Fairbanks, Alaska. Talk about pescado out of water!
And, to bring balance to the universe, just a week after Lil Peen left, I got a job offer, and my days of sleeveless freedom and daytime museum visits was behind me. But before he departed to search for the northwest passage, we decided to do an old school Pino2Pino burritoventure. This time to Pedro & Vinny’s burrito cart at 15th & K st. NW. I asked Lil Peen to write his thoughts since I knew he’d have time on his long flight to the great white north. (Lil Peen’s in italics)
I biked to meet up with Mase at the corner of 15th and K St in downtown District expecting to find a typical looking burritoria/restaurant. Instead, what I got was a food cart that seemed way more legit than a food cart, but not quite as legit as a food truck. This surprised me, especially because I googled the name of the establishment for directions and it gave me a firm address exactly where it was located. Legitimacy had been confirmed by the google machine.
I, too, was expecting more of a food truck than a food cart. The thing looked like it should have been selling popcorn at a carnival, and that is definitely not a compliment. At least the guy running it didn’t have small hands and reek of cabbage, at least not that I could tell. I should have known what to expect when the website described it by using the CVS as a landmark. We circled the cart to make sure this was the “place” and to get a sense of what we were getting into.
We got in the unexpectedly long line with some of the regulars and “locals” (translation: sell-out consultants that probably make way more than I’ll make in the next ten years). The homeless woman sitting on the curb next to the stand provided us with a sweet, sweet ambient offbeat and unskilled tapping of a snare drum. It truly felt like home.
I always say a good meal deserves a good soundtrack. Little did I realize the urban chic music would be foreshadowing our eating experience this day. Good thing we scouted the cart, because while Lil Peen and I live in a 21st century economy, Pedro & Vinny’s cart is either stuck in 50s or is a laundering money because it was a cash-only operation. Cash should be reserved exclusively for use in the sex/drugs/bike trade. Sorry guys, this sombrero is not filled with pesos.
The burrista (no word on if it was Pedro or Vinny) kept the long line moving by shouting out ahead to ask what kind of tortilla we wanted (flour, whole wheat, spinach, or tomato) with raucous enthusiasm. There were several sizes and options listed on the side of the cart, but it really seemed like there was only one size: burrito, which honestly is fine by me.
Upon beginning our order, we were asked what kind of tortilla we would like and if we wanted cheese. I chose “flour” and “absolutely.” The only meat option was chicken, so I was stuck with that choice. I also chose to add both kinds of beans, tomato “salsa”, guac, sour cream, and lettuce. I was given a choice of additional hot salsas on a heat scale of 1-10, and since that is a completely arbitrary scale which I have no idea what it is based off of, I chose 5 like a bitch.
I similarly took the only option available in the chicken, and opted for the wheat tortilla. Lil Peen was skeptical because he’s never had a good whole wheat experience, but the slow steaming process was the Obi-wan Kenobi hope to my Princess Leia hunger. I grabbed all the same ingredients as LP except opted for a “7” on the arbitrary hot scale because, unlike LP, I’m not a bitch.
The chef was essentially just throwing shit into a tortilla and didn’t look like he was putting any real care into, but his passion for it actually got me pretty excited about his creation. He seemed to have the unbridled enthusiasm of a 15 year old telling the story of how he got to second base that one time.
Ohhhhhh man! It was great! We were in my friend Lauren’s parents’ basement watching There’s Something About Mary when I slyly slid my hand… oh sorry that wasn’t a story cue?
As the burrista haphazardly threw ingredients into our burritos, I went to pay and the system felt like the equivalent of “take a penny, leave a penny” but with twons, hams, and logs. ($20, $10, $5… try to keep up people). The burrito had a good cost to weight ratio at $7.50
That’s where my enjoyment ended, though. Upon biting into the burrito I was given a mouthful of blandness. The chicken and rice were dry and almost entirely tasteless. The beans were mediocre at best and carried little flavor. The guac, sour cream, and “5” hot sauce were the only remotely redeemable aspects of this burrito.
I found my “7” hot sauce to be pretty good and the guac to be… just ok. Agreed on the low flavor of the beans, and the rice seemed to be undercooked and entirely devoid of flavor. Just cook it in some chicken or pork stock then add some cilantro. It ain’t that hard. Then again, my first job in DC was essentially data entry and somehow there was a non-negligible amount of people who were bad at it. Go figure.
The “fresh salsa” and “corn salsa” were just chopped up tomatoes and corn respectively. But don’t confuse my grammatical clarification for respect for the salsa. Even Rodney Dangerfield would say he gets more respect than this salsa.
It surprisingly held together during both Mase and my defoiling, much to my surprise. The burritos were dripping from when they were handed to us, and there wasn’t a moment during eating it that I didn’t have some of its contents on my hands.
Even through 4 layers of foil, it did in fact drip a lot, but that didn’t justify how much you were smelling your fingers afterwards. AND it got on my shirt. The judges dock you one half sombrero!
I would hope that the brick & mortar of Vinny’s prides itself a little better than the food cart, despite being the newer of the two. The only other redeeming factors of this burrito was that it was only $7.50, and relatively filling. The tastlessness and the messiness of it does not make up for that in the grand scheme of things though, and you could easily (and should) find a better overall value in the city.
I’m going to give it 2 sombreros, but only because I think it just barely is better than a 1.5 and we typically round up. Spend an extra $1.50 and get Chipotle or something.
Absolutely, I agree with you. This thing was a 2 ‘brero experience. Based on the line and things I’ve heard/seen/read on the internet, I had hopes for this “P-n-V” that people seem to hold in high regard. Unfortunately, once I got it in, it definitely did not live up to the hype. If you work in the area, maybe you should think about walking a few more blocks and go find Far East Taco Grill’s truck.