I’ll have sour cream, beans, salsa…. and infant?

Standard

In conversation, when I am describing a large burrito, I often put it in terms of infant size. I usually hold my hands up about a foot apart, then put it up to my stomach to demonstrate how much space a child (or in this case… a burrito) takes up, and then go on to describe me owning the aforementioned burrito. But never have I actually confused a burrito for a child. Apparently Wal-Mart serves plus size burritos! (Probably to make their customers feel at home)

ONLY a burrito?! Well, did you save it?

 Thanks to Ry-Guy for the link!

Enter the District (Taqueria Distrito Federal)

Standard

It's the American way!

 

Rainy sunday, woke up in the mid-afternoon… called up Benny Z, just to see how he’s doin’. My blue-eyed-MI….T educated-“one hell of a catch-friend” from Boston, Benny Z was in town for the afternoon because of a Bar Mitzvah in Silver Spring. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of those really fun-maneshevitz flowing like wine- bar mitzvahs that the “reformed” J-O-Os in the suburbs threw when I was in middle school; no, this was a legit prayin’-Kosher-lochs ‘n bagels-early morning Bar Mitzvah. Me First & the Gimme Gimme’s did not ruin this one. This gave us the afternoon free for beer, burritos, and “bro” time. (That is the first and last time I will ever use the phrase “bro time”, but I’m a sucker for alliteration. Alliteration always.) 

I had heard some recommendations to check out this place just north of the Columbia Heights metro station. When I asked people about this place, I got responses like “authentic,” “great menu,” “I’m sorry, I don’t give change to homeless people,” and “Please stop harassing me, I don’t know you.”  All signs pointed to making this an early stop on the burrito blog, so there we went, roommates M-Chow and Patchy in tow. 

We found the restaurant – a tiny place on 14th st. with a low ceiling and one open dining area. The first thing I noticed was a small piece of paper that says “Hay que comer para vivir y no vivir para comer,” which translates to “One must eat to live, not live to eat.” This eatery would probably be more popular if it dropped this mantra because that is counter to our country’s value system. In America, we eat as much as we want, whenever we want, regardless of how many third world fingers, dolphin dorsal fins, or endangered spotted owls it took to make us the food. Then we get type-2 diabetes, buy a Rascal Scooter, and complain about how Obama is turning this country socialist. 

Whoa. So many choices.

 

When one opens the menu, one is immediately impressed by the meat options. It makes pink sock night at Wonderland look like Lilith Fair.  These options include al pastor (marinated beef & pork), carnitas (pork), carne asada (grilled steak), chorizo (Mexican sausage), and pollo (chicken) amongst the mainstream options. Rarer, and very interesting, choices included lengua (beef tongue), barbacoa versions of chivo (goat) and res (beef), costilla puerco (baby pork ribs), and for the health conscious vegan, the chicarron en salsa verde (pork skin in green sauce). This time I chose to play it safe and get al pastor; one of my favorites back home that I have not seen frequently in DC. 

Costilla Puerco - looks delicious!

 

These burritos ($7.00) are described on the menu as containing “your choice of meat, pinto beans, rice, cream, cheese, onions, cilantro and avocado.”  That sounds like some pretty good options to me. M-Chow and Patchy both chose the vegetarian burrito, which I didn’t think was an option. M-Chow tried to get more avocado put into hers as the replacement for the meat, but I think something was lost in translation because the end result was, by her accounts, little more than beans and rice. Looks like this place is just like the Bonesaw – all about the meat! 

We were served some chips and salsa to munch on while waiting for our burritos. I feel this is an imperative of any sit down or quasi-sit down Mexican restaurant. Let me try your different salsa while I get warmed up for the maincourse. It’s like foreplay for the burrito experience. The salsa verde was soupy and slightly above mediocre. The habanero salsa was indeed spicy (or “picante” if you will), and very flavorful. It was easily my favorite. Their array of Mexican beverages was also a plus. The horchata was quite good. 

When the burrito emerged from the kitchen and made its way to our table, I laid my eyes upon a grilled burrito of moderate  size. Nothing to brag about, but I’m sure it would satisfy most mere mortals. Here I encountered the most authentic and best tasting rice I have encountered thus far on my burrito journey. The rice was flavorful, moist, and had a great texture. The al pastor meat blend was also “muy rico” and very enjoyable. Downside was the lack of the rest of the promised goods in the burrito. Avocado was undetectable, as was the majority of the ingredients. I love cilantro, cheese, and sour cream. Sadly, they were not in sufficient quantities to properly utilize their skills in the tortilla orgy known as the burrito. Ideally, no one flavor would be over powering, but it was clear that in this case, the balance was off and the rice and meat were far and away the dominant flavors. 

Although the ratios in the burrito were less than ideal, I would heavily recommend Distrito Federal for any burrito enthusiast. The meat varieties alone make it worth multiple trips. I know that I will be a repeat customer. 

 

Taqueria Distrito Federal
http://www.taqueriadf.com/reviews.php
3463 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

Ahhhhh! Screamin’ Burrito (California Tortilla)

Standard

On a crisp evening, after seeing a minor league basketball game… (I’m sorry, hold on; I’m getting word that the Wizards still play in the NBA! How bout that?), it was time for a Mexican night cap.  Because no tequila could be procured in Chinatown, we had to settle on a burrito… and settle we did! Welcome to chain restaurants everybody!

The limited time only special was the California Screamin’ Burrito (regular size: $6.89). There was nothing screaming about it… unless it was screaming “I’m Mediocre!!!”, which is generally my job and I would have kicked its ass if that was the case. Ok, that’s not true, I just would have gotten passive aggressive and cranky that the burrito was stealing my mediocre thunder, but alas, I digress. 

Cover your ears! And probably your mouth!

 According to this stylish advertisement, the California Screamin’ Burrito includes “our signature blackened chicken, queso, California screamin’ sauce, grilled peppers and onions, Mexican rice, and salsa.” These ingredients intrigued me… queso is often a great addition to a burrito but is rare, the peppers and onions could compliment it nicely, and this doesn’t just have rice…. it has Mexican rice. Let’s see if this is as exciting as when I became old enough to distinguish between an “open bar” and a “cash bar.”

The California Screamin’ Burrito was much like the state of California’s economy: great in principle but terribly flawed.  The rice was saturated and mushy, for lack of a better word. I enjoyed the grilled onions and peppers being included, but from time to time they were somewhat over-powering. I barely noticed the queso, and the “salsa” was little more than a few chunks of tomato in the burrito. And like a male stripper, this burrito’s meat was hidden until the end. Buried at the bottom of it was generally bland and dry chicken. And while dry, this was not amusing in the way a Brit’s dry humor regarding parliamentary procedure inevitably leads to a good laugh; no, this resulted in many trips to the variety of sauces that are available at every California Tortilla location.

Burrito Autopsy

The one redeeming quality about California Tortilla’s fare is the expansive array of sauces that are available (called the Wall of Flame). This includes a variety of interesting hard to find brands and flavors like BBQ Mango, Green Bandit Cilantro, and…. Colon Cleaner (which was really convenient since I don’t have health insurance). Unfortunately, this is not enough to really make it worthwhile. The sauces are like the white guys at the end of an NBA bench. Yeah, I’m sure they’re great guys and great for chemistry, but they’re not winning you any basketball games. And we’re here to win basketball games… I mean eat good burritos.

So maybe you’re doing a walk of shame back from Gallery Place on a Sunday morning, and you want your insides to feel the way your outsides look, then this is probably the place to go.  But if you’re in the area, there’s a Chipotle across the street anyways, but we’ll cover that another day….

The Verdict: 1.5/5 Sombreros

California Tortilla
728 7th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 638-2233

Not quite a tuxedo, but twas a good burrito (Well Dressed Burrito)

Standard

I love terrible puns!

Much like the members of the Real World DC, this hole in the wall Mexican joint can be found in an alley off 19th street. It was at this location that the Bonesaw and I launched Pino de Gallo with our first field visit. On this dreary Friday, we turned to man’s comfort food…. the burrito.
This spot features a daily special called…. wait for it…“The Well Dressed Burrito,” ($6.25, about $7 w/ taxes) so I figured I might as well get the titular burrito on my first visit. The special came with ground beef and the usual fixin’s of lettuce, rice, nacho cheese, and beans. The friendly woman behind the counter asked me which kind of salsa I would like. Being the man that I am, and seeing as I am always looking for something to put some hair on my chest because it gives me more legitimacy when I shout “Bully!”, I opted for the hot salsa. The Bonesaw warned me that unlike other places, the hot salsa at WDB was in fact… hot. Of course I have to heed the Bonesaw’s warning… the man has a great beard and is fresh off of two years of backpacking and organ trafficking in China… he’s a worldly individual.
 
The Well Dressed Burrito

The Well Dressed Burrito

 The rice I found to be mediocre and somewhat under proportioned. The queso was great, but there was not enough of it. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, but like the Kardashians, it was everywhere I turned and I couldn’t get a break from it. The ground beef was not too dry, but also not particularly flavorful. The burrito came grilled which gave it more structural integrity, but I prefer a steamed burrito because it makes it prevents dryness and has a richer taste. The habanero (spicy) salsa was delicious and in fact spicy.  The mild salsa was salsa verde, a personal favorite, but WDB’s was only slightly above average if that. It was a bit too… milky (in terms of texture), but had decent flavor nonetheless. The medium salsa, which they were out of at the time, is a nice chipotle salsa, which apparently has received the Bonesaw’s mumbley seal of approval. Good enough for me.
 
If I could improve on the burrito, I would increase the queso and seasoning of the meat, while shifting the rice/lettuce ratios a bit. Finally, I would put the salsa in the burrito rather than as a side dish. One of the best qualities of a burrito is that it is entirely self-contained… or should be anyways. It’s like a submarine, but instead of torpedoing battleships, it torpedos HUNGER! (And sadness. And loneliness. And really almost any ailment.)
 
The Well Dressed Burrito is a great lunchtime stop in Dupont Circle. If I lived or worked closer, I would definitely be a regular customer. Their burritos are not groundbreaking or Earth shattering, but the ingredients are quality and the prices are reasonable. This has definitely resulted in its popularity in the area, and it is well deserved. To you, The Well Dressed Burrito, I tip my sombrero thrice. (3 out of 5)
Location info:
1220 19th St. NW
M-F 11:45 am – 2:15 pm

Eating Animals

Standard

I know that everyone is frothing at the mouth and loins to get the latest gems of wisdom from the mind of Mase, but WordPress has been finnicky lately. I’m trying to fix formatting errors and I’m getting the posts for this week ready. You can expect posts on the following this week:

1) Well Dressed Burrito (Dupont)

2) California Tortilla (Gallery Pl., not California)

3) Taqueria Distrito Federal (Columbia Heights)

In the meantime, enjoy these delicious looking burritos.

Burrito Puppy

Welcome to Pino de Gallo!

Standard

Hola! Mucho gusto. My name is Mase Pino and I eat burritos. That is actually a gross understatement. I LOVE burritos. (see picture left) It got to the point that I needed to set aside a portion of my budget just for them… rent, credit card, cable, burritos… So this is Pino de Gallo, a clever wordplay on pico de gallo, a type of delicious salsa. Literal translation of pico de gallo is “beak of the rooster,” which makes Pino de gallo mean

I'm their #1 Fan!

“Pine of the rooster,” or even better, when you put it into google translator it comes out as….. Pine Cock. Faaaaantastic. Warning: This is not family programming.

So what am I doing here and where is this going? I grew up in a small pueblo outside of Mexico City. We led a simple life, but it was a good life. The burritos flowed like wine, we played futbol in the fields (or as you Americans would call “boring sport that kids play and eat oranges during halftime” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-apigHJC3I ).  But then came NAFTA and the burrito blight of ’91 and times were tough.  No longer could we survive in our little pueblo, so my parents sent me into the big city to make some money for the family.  After trying unsuccessfully to peddle flip-flops made from stale tortillas, I was smuggled into this country in the back of a radish truck. I smelled like radishes until I was 12 and was relentlessly teased by my classmates about this unfortunate fact. Let’s just say that I didn’t attend many sleepovers during those years. To my great relief, the smell eventually faded away, but to this day if I find myself in the radish aisle of the supermarket, I have ‘Nam style flashbacks to that Mexican cargo trunk bumping along through the desert.

After living in Connecticut and Texas (where I first encountered truly epic burritos), I settled in Boston where I lived for the last 6 and a half years. There I lived an alcohol and debt fueled life. The highlight of my time in college may have been when the burrito bar became a permanent fixture at our dining hall.  But again, the good times wouldn’t last.  Apparently, credit cards and student loans have to be paid back… and not in burritos. Who knew? Finally, a group of “banditos” got together and ran me out of town. (pictured right)

Group of Banditos

As you can see... a terrifying bunch!

The result was that I ended up in Washington, DC… the Windy City! The Big Easy! The phoenix city! The City of Brotherly Love! The Big Apple! The Bean! The City of Angels! Oh wait, that was Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Well, I’m sure DC also has a nickname, but I just don’t know it. I lived on a couch, and now in a windowless room with a mattress on the floor. I’m living the American dream!
So here I am, in a new city that is not exactly known for its Mexican cuisine. My friend the Bonesaw is aware of my ethnic heritage and my insatiable quest for the ultimate burrito, he suggested that I focus my attention and create a blog! (“Welcome to 2006, Mase”, yeah, I know, but better late than pregnant… or something) The name was suggested by one of my roommates, the Cat Herder, and the tag line provided by my former host Sethward J. And as much as you enjoy reading my rambling life story seen through the eyes of a burrito, time to get down to business.
I am going on an burrito eating tour of DC with the goal of delivering to you, the people of this fair city, a rundown of every burrito I am able to consume. I’m going to give you my opinion of the establishment, the creativity of the burritos, quality of the ingredients, and value (cost to taste ratio). I’m only one man (although probably more of a man than you are), so I can only review one to two burritos per visit. This means that I’ll have to rely on some feedback from friends that accompany me  and I’ll probably have some repeat visits. Thankfully, I’ve been graced with a camera phone, so I can try to provide a complete multimedia experience. I’ll be rating the burritos on a 5 sombrero scale. 5 tips of my sombrero would be the ultimate burrito. El burrito del Dios…. if you will. This is the story of the quest for that burrito.
I want feedback and suggestions. Grammar nazis – e-mail me corrections… and I’ll e-mail a description of what it’s like to have friends.