Chicken Tortilla: The Rise of Mabeuf


Mase’s note: I am happy to introduce to the readers of Pino de Gallo a special, and hopefully regular, contributor to our little world: Mabeuf.  The Houston raised, Capitol Hill workin’, Alaska campaigning, orange wearing, soccer loving burrito enthusiast wrote this piece that I am all too happy to share with the world. ¡Buen provecho!

While the most distinguished American cities proudly claim a hallmark dish, Washington D.C.’s culinary resume lacks a namesake, like Des Moines and the ham & cheese lunchable. What Washington D.C., and its restaurants inspired by Food Network’s Iron Chefs, doesn’t know, is that hungry interns and erstwhile young professionals don’t want high-class cat brains fondue or some Gruyere cheese disfigured by a molecular gastronomy project developed in a Culinary Institute of America thesis statement.

No. As the creatures of a city striving for an identity outside of marble hallways, hideous crime rates, and the phrase ‘bitch set me up,’ we want one thing… gritty, hunger-axing, asphyxiatingly enormous, distension inducing burritos.

We want LeBron James’ bicep emblazoned with the Taco Bell logo. Making each dunk a reminder that our new national allegiance is to utensil free consumption of a vegetable and meat cocktail encased in a flour tortilla.

We want the U.S. Trade Representative to renegotiate our national interests to properly represent our insatiable appetite for guac.

We want James Cameron to rewrite the plot of Avatar as a metaphor for our hunger vs. the military-industrial-burrito complex.

Our demands and my quest is clear. To help America’s culture adapt by enlightening the internet of the edible satchel size treats our great country has to offer.

With this in mind I make my debut on Pino de Gallo needing to carb up for a 10-mile run. The target: Chicken Tortilla on 8th St. SE just south of Barracks Row.

I opted against making a “Give me the burritos and I will leave quietly” note out of letters from the copy of Vogue I left in the car, instead I hit the menu. There I found two items of interest. 

1. The burrito: it comes with a choice of chicken, steak, Argentinian Sausage or veggies w/ guac.

2. The super burrito: If you often struggle with a choice of protein, the super burrito is for you… resembling a WWE sponsored Royale Rumble between Kurt Angle, John Cena, and your stomach’s ability to absorb grease, you get three beefy protein packed pieces of meat writhing together in one mind-bending burrito. I question if a single tortilla and foil can hold a burrito with chicken, steak, and shrimp, but I don’t doubt I will find out one day.

Your blogger opted for the first option stylized with rice, black beans, chicken, peppers, lettuce, onions, corn and red sauce. The restaurants Burrista (like what I did there?) piled it high. They skimped on the ‘red sauce,’ but I did not complain. Anytime a burrito lacks pico and your blogger is forced to identify it as ‘red sauce’ you are usually getting the shit Taco Bell doesn’t bother to individually wrap.

The burrito’s size was respectable, it stood as long as 2 1/3rd BlackBerrys.

2 1/3rd Blackberrys, or in Metric....?

Upon unwrapping this child I am struck by the tortilla’s aroma. Combining a bagged tortilla with an open flame and steam press created an astoundingly delicious infrastructure. The smell reminded me of what a kitchen would smell like in the morning, if I didn’t have a habit of sneaking out the window at 5 a.m.

I may be stepping out on a limb by saying this… “I assume that Americans still eat chicken, despite the Double Down’s attempt to ‘ruin it for all of us,’ like the dude at the party who ‘always handles his everclear.'”

Chicken Tortilla fancies itself a Peruvian chicken establishment and this includes the burritos. Your chicken burrito features succulent diced chicken pulled straight from a rotisserie Peruvian chicken, not grilled. This is the burrito’s calling card. I found myself pinching pieces of chicken out and flipping them into my mouth like Tropical Skittles.

On the downside… The burrito’s veggies tasted more ‘Un-Safeway counter fresh’ than farm-fresh. Perhaps proving that the restaurant fancies itself a chicken place, not a burrito place, is its lack of salsa. Instead of salsa is an over-sized ketchup bottle containing a mixture masquerading as a Dan’s Cafe Vodka Cranberry. It tastes like Tabasco sauce and they claim to “buy it from a vendor.” My investigations determined that the restaurant does have Tabasco and a water-hose.

In all, the burrito fills you up. But, aside from the chicken it fails to distinguish itself. Also, the price tag of $10 does not give it any breathing room.

This baby rides in with 3 sombreros. Though I could upgrade that after the next weeknight USA Soccer game at Molly Malone’s finds me scrambling to solidify my stomach contents by 8 a.m.

Chicken Tortilla
1100 8th Street Southeast
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-1904

Just follow the billboards! Pedro is waiting!


This post is a demonstration of my loyalty to my tens of readers and Pino de Gallo. When you attach your name to something, you better make for damn sure it is the best product you can put out. I believe that is why Jimmy Dean personally slaughters every pig for every sausage. What a guy! (citation needed)

Anyways, some of you may be familiar with the tourist trap/racist Mecca known as South of the Border. Well, Pino de Gallo made a special trip down there just for you. I was driving around the beltway in DC when I saw a billboard that said, “Pedro says ‘Come to South of the Border’ – only 373 miles away!” And with catchy advertising like that, how could I say no?

Different Pedro, same idea

When one is finally “drawn in by its awesomeness” (a direct quote from mr stone), one can’t help but be amazed by the small oasis of Mexico right in the heart of the Confederacy. I half expected Madre Mase to greet me with freshly made tortillas as I pulled into the gas station. Would the food at South of the Border compare to the homecookin’ of Madre Mase? Only one way to find out…

As famished as I was from my journey by donkey pulled VW Jetta, I had to take in the sights before I sat down to a hearty meal. I have passed by South of the Border many times in college on our way to spring break, and even stopped for a fairly extended period of time once, but this time… it was business. Burrito Blog Business.

How can this NOT be good? (Answer: very easily)

I went into the establishment that offered such a range of products like foot long hot dogs, tacos, Mexican beer, french fries, and a litany of other options. Hmm, appeared authentic enough to me. The people who were eating and working in this fine establishment must have been speaking a dialect of Spanish that I didn’t know, because I could not understand a single word they said.

The burrito options were listed as follows “Beef-Beans-or Beef and Beans.” That is actually how it was formatted on the menu, and it took me a minute to figure out. ME! Have I mentioned I have a Master’s degree? Anyways, how am I possibly supposed to make a decision with so many options? I go with beef. Simple. Straightforward. I’m informed by the register attendant that probably has an 8th grade level education that my burrito will come with tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce. “Ok,” I think to myself, “That’s simple and a pretty good base for a burrito. Can’t mess this up, right?”  Oh, how naive I was. The cost was also nice; the exchange rate to pesos must have really helped me, because it was only $3.85. Of course at the time it did not cross my mind the old saying “Big players make big plays” which was good because that saying was completely irrelevant to this situation; but the saying that should have crossed my mind is “you get what you pay for,” and I wasn’t paying that much…..

After an inexplicably long wait (I mean, it’s meat, cheese, tortilla, lettuce and tomatoes! I’m sure that all of those things are already prepared and just sitting there!), I finally get my food and go outside to breathe in that sweet Mexican South Carolina air. It had the rich aroma of marinating meat, gasoline, and racism. I believe those are also the primary ingredients in many Martha Stewart soups. Anyways, I open my wrapper to find a fairly small burrito. Again, I paid a low price, so I shouldn’t expect a monster burrito.

Pictured: South of the Border abortion... er... burrito

I begin to dive into this burrito, and I am… how do you say? Less than thrilled. The meat is bland and probably grade F meat (tasted lower quality than Taco Bell, no offense to the chihuahua), the cheese was generic processed shredded cheese, and the tomatoes and lettuce at this point can do nothing to salvage this unmitigated disaster. I try to power through it, knowing that I will need the strength to make my journey home and because I like to play a game I called “let’s see if I can make it to the next rest stop without shitting my pants after I ate something I shouldn’t have.” (I’m undefeated… so far, but this gave me a run for my money)

This was the first burrito I’ve ever been unable and unwilling to finish. I tried, I really did. I made it down to a few remaining bites and just could not bring myself to eat this greasy tortilla wrapped turd. I threw out the rest, started to walk over to the bathrooms, then realized that probably everyone else who ate here did the same thing, so those bathrooms couldn’t be in very good shape either.

Thankfully Pedro sells sand pails….

Verdict:  1/2 sombrero out of 5.

South of the Border
Interstate 95,
Hamer, SC 29547

The least Vegan thing… ever.


The Least Vegan Thing Ever

I will take a brief break from the world of burritos to discuss the latest heart stopping, artery clogging, blood pressure spiking food product that is available to the average consumer: KFC’s new Double Down. In a time when we export little more than our consumerism, it’s nice to see that America is still a land of ingenuity.

Have you ever been eating something and thought, “Man, this bread, lettuce, and condiments are really slowing down my meat consumption”? Or “Ugh! I’m so busy! How am I possibly going to find the time to consume my daily dose of sodium over the next four days?” Well, the Double Down is the answer.

2 pieces of fried chicken? Check.
2 slices of processed cheese? Check.
2 slices of heavily processed bacon? Check.
1400 mg of sodium? Check.
Mystery sauce? (there’s always a sauce) Check.

It was greasy, soft, and cumbersome to eat. It tasted exactly as you would expect: awesome and gross at the exact same time. I have been sweating out the salt and grease for 2 days since I ate it. Would I eat it again? Only if I was told I came down with a terminal disease.

mr stone and I engaged in this pinnacle of Americanism for dinner. Halfway through mr exclaimed, “There’s bacon in this too?!” Of course there is… This is America, where all your dreams come true. Just watch out for those chest pains afterwards, or what those in the DD community call “The Jabbies.”

Chipeezy fo’ reezy


What presentation!

Beautiful day in Friendship Heights. I was very hungry and we realized that today would be the first day of the spring that we could sit outside for lunch. We decided to go to the über-popular Chipotle. These things are poppin’ up almost as frequently as websites about hipsters. Almost daily someone from my office goes down to Chipeezy for lunch, and when they ask if I want to go… how can I possibly say no?

So I roll down to Chipeezy, about 50 deep with co-workers…. give or take 40 (yeah, it was probably closer to 90), we post up at some tables and go to town on a variety of Mexican fare. The long and short of Chipotle is that you get quality food and convenience with a decent variety of choices at only a slight premium. Major bonus points go to the many environmental and animal welfare policies that Chipotle implements.  Napkins of recycled paper, and food with integrity means that the meat is treated humanely and not fed anti-biotics or hormones.

Real Meat, eh? Bold move, Chipotle.

To my knowledge, Chipotle is the only nation-wide chain that does anything like this. There are a lot of good links and reading suggestions (like Michael Pollan’s The Ominvore’s Dilemma) on the Chipotle website. At least they’re using their burrito powers for good.

In the past, I have gotten the chicken burrito ($6.10 + tax) because it is cheaper and I generally prefer poultry over pork or beef. I decide to switch it up and get barbacoa ($6.50 +tax) – shredded, seasoned beef, similar to carnitas. Chipotle manages to churn out burritos at an impressive rate, which means that even when the line is long, the wait is bearable and worth it. We start with a steamed tortilla (I love burritos with steamed tortillas – it improves texture, decreases dryness, and makes the burrito more structurally sound). Throw on some white cilantro rice (disappointed that it’s white, but I love the cilantro), and the option of black or pinto beans – an important option to have. Carnitas and barbacoa both look dried up like 50 Cent’s career, but we’ll see how it tastes (and as I wait for another 50¢ album, come on buddy!) 

Four options for salsa: pico de gallo (mild… hey! That name sounds familiar!), roasted chili-corn salsa (medium), tomatillo-green chili salsa (medium), and tomatillo-red chili salsa (hot).  To say the pico de gallo is mild is like saying Lady Gaga has a peculiar fashion sense. It adds moderate taste and texture, but doesn’t have a knock out flavor, although none of the salsas do. I end up throwing together 3 of them: the pico, the corn “salsa” (really, it’s just corn), and the tomatillo-red chili salsa, which does add a bit of spice, but not much considering it’s billed as “hot.” Guacamole is an additional $1.85 on meat burritos, which is a big minus. The guacamole is delicious and I believe each individual avocado is tenderly loved and raised on Baby Mozart and then has its balls caressed ever so gently when it’s time to make the salsa.  While I appreciate organic and whatnot, $1.85 makes it unrealistic to ever put guac in the burrito.

Finally, add on some sour cream (nice option), throw in some shredded cheese and romaine lettuce, and wrap that sucker up! I am hungry and excited, and being the showman that I am, I am giddy with anticipation to have people watch me devour this burrito and critique it on the fly.  My co-workers are equally riveted at the prospect of seeing a real live burrito connoisseur in action.

Hard at work

Grab a seat and go to town. The meat did in fact taste as dry as it looked. I would not recommend getting the carnitas or barbacoa ever. I can say from experience that the chicken is quite tasty and rarely too dry; the steak is somewhat bland but has not had the same dryness problem as the pork; and the veggie burrito, as long as the preparers don’t overwhelm it with beans, is very satisfying, delicious, and never dry (probably b/c of the big helping of guac and salsa you’re able to get on it).

So, as I said at the beginning, Chipotle is a great option because of its accessibility and quality of ingredients. It’s not particularly creative and has somewhat limited options, but that doesn’t stop people from lining up to get a piece. I can assuredly say that Chipotle is the best chain burrito joint that I have encountered so far. Bonus points for locations and food with integrity practices.

Final verdict: 3.5/5 Sombreros