The Boloco E-mails

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Like many of these early posts in the return of Pino de Gallo, it was written several months ago about a burrito excursion that took place even longer in the past. But even when I was busy with work and facing bloggers block, I was constantly conjuring up bits of posts to write and ideas to “picante” up the blog. Without further ado, I give you…. The Boloco E-mails!

Inspired, eh?

Mase:
It’s election season down in DC, which means I’m busier than a plastic surgeon in LA, and I’ve called upon Little Peen to do something a little different for our latest review. We’re going to have a dialog of sorts where we will e-mail back and forth as we discuss our adventure to Boloco. I think we have somewhat different views on our excursion, so this will let people see two Peens in action. (which just caused this post to get this blocked by your work firewall!) So let’s do the Wayne’s World flashback thing, and go back to Memorial Day weekend (aka Pinothon Monday) and see what we got.

Bo(ston) Lo(cal) Co(mpany)…. how clever. I could tell from the minute we got there we were dealing with some sharp individuals.  Although it is apparently a local company, when you enter the restaurant, it has the feel of a chain that’s trying to be a local place, which seems like it’s the opposite of what they are (local place trying to become quasi-chain). Maybe Little Peen can weigh in on the decor a little bit more.

Menu is pretty straightforward looking: several varieties of burritos, 3 sizes – “Original ($6.25)”; “Small (formerly “regular” – $5.35)” and “Mini – $3.25.” The mini is described as “disturbingly small.” (their words) This is America, we do not want/need things disturbingly small. Not to mention all the potentially emasculating jokes one could make if a man ordered those. Wait, come to think of it, didn’t you order a few of those because you found them to be “less intimidating”?

Options! Options!

Little Peen:
Har Har Har, Mase. If you recall, those 3 menu items were 3 “Small (formerly “Regular”) burritos that we decided to split in order to taste more of the menu. If I remember correctly, we got a “Memphis BBQ”, “Summer” and “Buffalo.” We’ll get into those in a bit, though.

As for the actual location we went to, it was one of the nicer/bigger Bolocos in the area, located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Boylston. Everything is pretty sleek, but it’s nothing that special. It’s aesthetically pleasing, but you certainly won’t be admiring the architecture while downing a burrito. Mase did forget to mention that Boloco also has a few options on their menu other than burritos. You can get a “Burrito Bowl” which is just the contents of a burrito….in a bowl. Their other very popular item are their smoothies (most people seem to especially like the “Jimmy Carter”…iiirrronnyyyy).

Nice shake

Mase:
When we entered this location, they did welcome us with open arms and tightly wrapped burritos, so I have to give them credit there. But here at Pino de Gallo, we only have three things 1) a love for burritos, 2) journalistic integrity, and 3) functional alcoholism. Therefore, I must be tough, but fair (and inebriated). And we’re not here to review their bowls. I think they just created them as a warning to burritos if they behave badly: they get gutted and thrown in a bowl for everyone to see their exposed innards. But c’mon, who doesn’t love Jimmy Carter!? And the smoothie is a pretty yummy one. (Jimmy Carter Shake: all-natural creamy peanut butter, banana, skim milk, non-fat frozen yogurt, 1 Iranian hostage crisis, and a healthy serving of executive ineptitude)

Now let’s start breaking down the burritos, shall we?

Memphis BBQ – Sweet BBQ sauce, creamy coleslaw, pinto beans, boloco rice
Buffalo – spicy buffalo sauce, bleu cheese dressing, celery, boloco rice
The Summer – Mango Salsa, melted cheese, black beans, boloco rice

3 Amigos!

Now if you look at these options, as well as the rest of the menu, you really get the vibe that it’s a wrap shop that happens to have a few Mexican options. The only 2 things that come off as Mexican are the rice and the name that ends in “o”. That being said, I am very intrigued by many  of the items they have in these… ahem, “burritos.”

Little Peen:
The only reason I brought up the uh..savings…was to help legitimize the growth and respect by the burrito community for Pino de Gallo to your tens of readers! But anyway, I agree in that it’s more of a wrap place than a traditional burrito place, but they steam their tortillas, so I guess that kind of automatically makes it a burrito. Hell, you can even get a Chicken Caesar Salad “burrito” on a steamed tortilla.

So lets dig in. I’ll start with the Memphis BBQ burrito first.

In brief, I enjoy this burrito whenever I get it. Its probably my go-to burrito from Boloco.

Overall, though, its pretty mediocre. The pinto beans were soggy and average at best. the meat is the same in every burrito no matter what type you get, which is a disappointment. The only thing that changes from ‘rito to ‘rito is the sauce and other contents. It would have been really nice if these interesting menu options were actually cooked differently (I mean, who doesn’t love BBQ? …me, when its not actually barbecued). That being said, the meat isn’t that bad. I’d say it’s the Reggie Bush of burrito meats. You’re super excited at first due to its potential, and has bites of awesomeness, but overall its just a sweet concept with a bad ankle. The other thing was the rice. “Boloco Rice” is extremely generic, and pretty much just a filler. Nothing really to say there. The coleslaw is also runny, but not bad in terms of taste, so I’ll give it a bit of a pass.

Mase, anything you agree/disagree with here? What’d you think of the actually preparation?

Mase:
There are dozens of us! Dozens!

I think that’s a fair assessment of the memphis. Most of the meat across the burritos fell somewhere between “dry” and “bland,” and the only thing I like dry and bland is my British humor! The pinto beans really had a nothingness taste to them. Although most of the flavor in beans comes from the sauce it is cooked in, which if this was an “authentic” Mexican or southern style food establishment, would be a very unvegetarian pork based simmer. At Boloco, (surprise!) it is veggie friendly. Similar to Chipotle, Boloco is big on the veggie options and the ethical treatment of animals. This is good for people that do not like moral dilemmas when they eat, or for those people that eat veggies out of spite (vegetarians). But can be bad for those that like to savor all the fat and (literal) elbow grease that goes into factory farming our country into an antibiotic resistant post-zombie apocalypse nightmare.

The buffalo wrap intrigued me. I love the build and ingredients in the traditional burrito but also have a soft spot for buffalo wings. Theoretically this should be a good mix of the two, right? Well, yes and no. It was a mess to eat and, again, felt more like a wrap than a real “burrito”. I suppose this just falls into a more “modern” interpretation of a burrito because there was indeed meat, cheese and rice thrown into a tortilla. The buffalo sauce, made of Frank’s Red Hot, and the bleu cheese dressing flavors (not particularly unique) leave little room for the other flavors of a true burrito. I enjoyed it, but will never be going out of the way to get it.

Little Peen:
I too have a soft spot for buffalo (insert food). The buffalo is definitely what I get when I am sick of the Memphis, or if I’m craving something particularly unhealthy, or if I was Native American (I use all the parts of the buffalo… sauce). However, I have a slightly different opinion about this burrito than Mase, it seems. The overpowering of the two main flavors, buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing, is entirely intended. It is supposed to taste like you are eating a chicken wing, or something of the sort, and I am 100% okay with it. However, I do like to throw the burrista a bit of a curve ball sometimes and add lettuce and tomatoes, which definitely adds some flavor and a bit of crunchiness from the lettuce.

As for the Summer Burrito, from what I remember, it was a much more sweet burrito, which is fitting for “Summer.” Again, it was not anything special, but was moderately enjoyable and the mango salsa and yellow peppers added to it were certainly a nice touch that gave it some extra flavor. It’s certainly a good option on those hot summer days where all you can think of is “Damn, I really want a burrito, but I also want to be refreshed.”

Buffalo has a special place in Little Peen's heart

Despite what I (and I dont know about you, Mase) have said, I do usually enjoy these burritos when I get them. However, I am always hesitant to get them because of their Size/Price/Tastiness ratio. If these burritos were a bit bigger, or if the 2 smaller sizes were cheaper, or the ingredients a bit fresher, I would be much more inclined to get a burrito there more often. However, they have to keep up with their hipster friendly style, and pay for wireless internet and their fancy modern furniture, which I’m sure helps in driving up the cost of the burritos.

Is this ironic? Who the fuck cares?

All in all, for me, these burritos will satisfy your taste buds because of the variety, but may leave your stomach wanting a bit more. So I give Boloco 2.5 out of 5 Sombreros.

Mase:
I have to say, I think you make a fair point and my inclination is to support and encourage local businesses. I think Boloco does a couple things well but has a lot of room for improvement. While their attempt to be different and give their customers options is valiant, maybe trimming down and concentrating on improving a few of the aforementioned areas would do them well. While it’s possible I’ll hit one up again next time I’m in Boston, most likely I won’t be going out of my way to do it.

I concur with Little Peen: 2.5/5 Sombreros

Just Your Average BUrritoria (Boca Grande)

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(In celebration of the New England Patriots successfully defending their home turf against the lowly New York Jets, Pino de Gallo’s man in Boston shares with us a review right outside of Fenway Park. Let’s welcome back Little Peen!)

Boca Grande. Spanish for “Safety School”  …no? Oh, its “Large Mouth”? Okay. Large Mouth: located at the famous Kenmore Square near Fenway Pahk where the Red Sox hit the ball wicked fahh. But unfortunately, this means it’s also located next to one of the (multiple) second tier private universities in the area….Boston University. I was accompanied by a friend of both Mase and mine, Boob Face Esq. (BFE), who was visiting from his fancy pants Law School.

Future Judge Boobface presiding over this burrito

“The BU Strip” (aka BU’s “campus”) should never be confused with any other sort of “Strip” anything. For example, Vegas Strip: no open container laws, gambling, (mostly) attractive women, etc; Strip Poker: boobs, gambling, (hopefully) attractive women; BU Strip: open container laws, no gambling, J.A.Ps as far as the eye can see, (rarely) attractive women. You see what I mean?

Anyway, Boca Grande is located at the beginning of The BU Strip, and is actually a pretty good metaphor for BU as a whole. Just replace “Burrito” with “school,” “Boca Grande” with “BU,” and the contents of the burrito with offerings at BU throughout the review, and you basically have a description of the BU education/experience.

Boca Grande’s location is extremely beneficial to its business, as Kenmore Square is a highly trafficked area of Boston, especially during baseball season. However, as a whole, it’s pretty average. It has a lot of offerings, but doesn’t seem to do one thing particularly well, or have any kind of specialty.

A man held back by his BU education. Imagine what he could have accomplished...

I ordered the Chicken Ranchero Grande Burrito, and BFE got the Colorado Chicken Burrito which was described as “a little spicy” by the tiny Mexican cashier. Each came with the typical amenities, rice, beans (we both got black), lettuce, sour cream and guacamole (.80 extra for both).

Nothing about this burrito was more than middle of the road. The chicken was bland, the rice was plain, the lettuce was not fresh, and the guac wasn’t anything special, and BFE thought the tomatoes were overpowering in his.

Boca Grande itself is pretty nice, though. Seems to be recently renovated, and (as stated) is in a great location. The presentation of our food was also a plus. The burrito held together well, and was wrapped in a fine steamed tortilla. It was also of pretty decent size, and filled us up sufficiently.

So when it comes down to it, this burrito isn’t something you’d hang your hat on, but you could certainly do better, probably for a bit cheaper (burrito was about $7.25), and with a better mascot than a fucking Boston Terrier…oh sorry, this is about burritos not schools. But anyway, if you are looking for a solid educa….sorry, burrito, that isn’t really anything special, but will suffice for the time being, Boca Grande certainly isn’t your worst option. And who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about the tides from some BU grad while you’re there? (Editor’s note: Tides go in… tides go out…)

I give Boca Grande a Second Tier, marginally overpriced, 2.5 out of 5 sombreros.

648 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 437-9700

Pica Taco… or should I say Pica Burrito?

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1629 Columbia Rd NW

Beautiful, sunny day in the district. Woke up functionally hungover, and was feeling mighty peckish at this point. I ride by Pica Taco every day on my way to work and have been dying to try this place out. It’s located in the grundle between (or if you’re being mature: “at the crossroads of”) Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, and Adams Morgan. There is also a second location in the taint between Columbia Heights and U St on Florida Ave and 14th Street.

Rolled down with my quasi-hetero lifemate, the Bonesaw, whose curiosity about this place was almost as insatiable as my desire to eat burritos, and mosey on over at midday. I was pretty famished so I decide to have a chicken taco as an appetizer, which will slow my eating of the burrito and let me savor the flavor. The establishment is called Pica Taco so all the more reason to get the title dish. On top of that, there was a special on chicken tacos… only $1.95 per! How can I turn down that deal? The answer? I can’t. So of course….Boom: Taco.

Mase: Ugh, want to grab burritos? Bonesaw: Do I have to move?

 

A yummy little chicken taco with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese provided a delightful warm up to the main course. Two corn tortillas, a serving of chicken, and fresh veggies. Can’t complain. The turnaround time on the burrito was relatively quick, which was very appreciated in my hunger weakened state. For this excursion, I settled on the barbacoa burrito (On a previous trip, I tried the chicken burrito so I had some experience with the Peek-Tac as it’s called on the street). and added avocado slices for $.95, which I don’t mind paying for (we are very far away from both California and Mexico which produces roughly 99.8% of all avocados), but cheese was an extra $.95 as well! This I could not stand, but ultimately gave into because, as the old saying goes, “tis not a burrito sans cheese.”

The burrito came delivered in a classic steamed flour tortilla and was of moderate size. I noticed a bottle of salsa near the register which much to my delight was a very good (and what tasted fresh and made from scratch) salsa verde. (That’s spanish for Green Salsa… according to google translate)

(Hold on a sec, side bar people…. So I am writing this while in Tejas visiting the Mama and Papa Mase/celebrating the birth of a Jew that may not have actually existed on a day that he wasn’t actually born on/doing Texas burrito research, and the two main things I forget about until I’m here are: 1) How fat people in Texas are and 2) How hilariously foreign most of my family is. For example, every family has their own holiday traditions and idiosyncrasies. Some families always go to Grandma’s house, some might do a secret santa, some decide to confront you on your alcoholism which I still maintain is functional, but there’s an another layer to the comedy when you throw in an international flair. Being of Latin descent, and my grandmother (Abuela) being very Catholic, means we have a big ass party on Christmas eve instead of Christmas day, get hammered and open our gifts at midnight. It’s actually pretty fantastic because then I get to sleep through the hangover… I mean sleep in, on Christmas day. Thing is one of my aunts was born on December 25th, which I imagine growing up was something like this, and we sing her happy birthday. My abuela tries her best to sing it in english but it just results in sound like “Happy Verde”. My cousins and I have found it hilarious for years and now I sing “Happy Verde” to my brother with a thick spanish accent for his birthday. Isn’t it nice how family traditions can arise at the expense of another family member? Ah, the holidays. But I digress…)

I would have loved if the salsa verde had come in the burrito, but I am happy that it was available and let’s the burrito consumer (or burrisumer) decide how much goes on. Every single burrista makes their burritos differently, and what may be right for you, may not be right for some. The barbacoa was simmering in a light red sauce, and while it was tasty, my initial reaction was that it was drier than I would have liked or expected, but was solid. The rice was a hearty yellow Mexican rice but was somewhat undercooked, which diminished its otherwise flavorful base. The veggies inside, especially the avocado, were fresh and tasty, my only complaint here is there wasn’t enough of them! Their cool, crisp texture was a nice contrast to the warmth of the meat and rice. For an extra $.95, you can get a cheese blend added, which I think is a travesty and is like having to pay for a carry on bag (I’m looking at you… Spirit Airlines). The burritos came with black beans that on some bites I found to be overwhelming, but overall did not add much to the burrito except a hearty texture, and didn’t take much off the table either.

Pica Taco is a great, small neighborhood eatery. Their prices are reasonable, and the menu contains enough variety to warrant multiple visits (as long as you don’t focus on the fact that 90% of Mexican food is meat, rice, and beans arranged in different ways inside, on top of, or next to a tortilla). There’s even some authentic lengua (cow tongue) on the menu, which has little to no appeal to me, but to someone like the Bonesaw (who has lived in China for many years, eaten weird parts of weird animals, and was nicknamed “Scraps” in high school), this was a delicious surprise! If you do venture to PT and are hungry, I highly recommend the taco-burrito one-two punch. It left me feeling very satisfied.

While not exceptional, for those of us who live near U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, or Mount Pleasant, it’s a great neighborhood burritoria. Pico Taco gets a very respectable 3 out of 5 sombreros.

Pica Taco
1629 Columbia Road Northwest, Washington D.C.
(202) 518-0076

1406 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C.
(202) 518-6820

Burrito Bros. (I don’t mean the Pinos)

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On a balmy summer day in DC, Nate Dawg and Little Peen are visiting Mase in our , excuse me, your nation’s capital. This day, we decide to kill several birds with a few less than that many stones. Hungry? Yup. Craving burritos? As always. With a couple of tourists who want to see some of “DC”? Unfortunately had those in tow as well. This meant that we were hopping in a zipcar and navigating the one-way and oft closed streets of the city to Capitol Hill to go to Burrito Brothers.

For those of you not familiar, Capitol Hill is the nice area located near, wait for it…. the U.S. Capitol, where rich white people live, poor Hill staffers live 12 to a house so they can have a short commute on their low government salaries, and dangerous SE DC is just far enough away that people forget that they’re living in “Mad Max” times over there.

Southeast DC

There are some that say Stanford is the Yale of the West, well in a similar vein, there are those that say that DC is Hollywood east, but instead of lots of hot people, we have lots of nerdy overachievers. Remember how there was that one smoking hot girl in high school that decided to move out to LA to become an “actress” or a “model” and it turned out there are much hotter and more caddy girls there already? That’s what DC is but instead of hot girls, it’s made up of “motivated” college graduates who “wants to make a difference” and now work for a non-profits or an NGO and is going to change the world by doing grant writing to get water purifying plastic bags sent to Bangladesh or something; but on the bright side, DC is a great place to add “condescending” to your resume. So that’s where we find ourselves, at the mothership of it all. We had “a lunch on hill.” Damn, I forgot my briefcase and my Master’s degree at home.

With us in spirit

Burrito Brothers is located on Pennsylvania Ave (that’s the same road that the President lives on!) and is a tiny location with some small counter space and two small tables to eat there. There’s a small salsa/sauces/miscellaneous bar immediately upon entering, and behind the cash register the kitchen and ingredients are clearly visible. So far, so good in my book… er… blog.

Above the cash register where the burrista is ready to take your order, there is an extensive menu of the usual Mexican thoroughfare ranging from tacos to enchiladas to quesadillas. But the key part, the essential part, nay the only part of importance is the far left column of the menu. This sliver gently holds your hand as it guides you through each step of the burrito building process. Tortilla…. meat… cheese…  Who ordered the big daddy burrito? This is starting to sound like the beginning of a Mexican porno. Better stop myself before I get too excited.  Let’s start at the top shall we?

Tortilla – options include flour (standard), whole wheat, spinach, jalapeno, tomato, and multigrain. With the exception of flour, the diversity of tortillas comes at a price of an extra 50 cents. I found the flour tortilla to be nicely moist and steamed that held together only moderately well under the ravaging hurt that I tend to put on a burrito. The structural integrity buckled under the pressure. Unfortunately, both the whole wheat and the jalapeno tortilla resulted in dry burritos that significantly detracted from my devouring experience.

Good size & girth; will fit right inside Mabeuf

Meat – Chicken, steak, carnitas, ground beef, carne asada (+$1.00), pollo asado (+$1.00), and chorizo (+$1.00).  I went for the carnitas while Nate Dawg splurged some of his Jew gold on the pollo asado. We concurred (that means we agreed) that the meat was juicy and delicious. Chicken is more often the victim of the drying out. It’s like chicken is the pretty girl with daddy issues, and overcooking it is like convincing her to do porn in the San Fernando Valley, it’s just too easy to do. The carnitas have less of excuse to be dried out because of the fat, grease and slow cooking that usually goes into it. Thankfully our Burrito Bros seemed to know what they were doing.

Beans – Black, pinto, refried. Standard, standard, bonus (as I look at it). Nice to see the Bros have a third option. Most places in the DC do not. Unfortunately, the variety did not make up for the subpar showing in this category. While the flavor of the black beans was ok, they were very runny and turned this into a hot mess. While eating, it looked like several western PA coal miners had sneezed into our hands. Not great.

Veggies/salsa – Here is one spot where the variety sure paid off. Options included: Jalapenos, cilantro (one of my favorite smells/flavors in the world; if there was a cilantro cologne, I would douse it on me everyday and be forced to contain the desire to lick myself), salsa verde, roasted tomatoes, onions, green peppers, lettuce, and plain tomatoes. The quantity of the veggies was not overwhelming in the burrito, but I had been able to notice the cilantro flavor more. The salsas, both roasted tomato and salsa verde, were average but, much like the beans, contributed to the runny mess of these burritos. This thing needed some “Neat & Discreet” adult diapers. And with the non-flour tortillas so dried out, the moisture was not absorbed at all but became runoff like pesticides from a golf course right into a town’s drinking water, but this time the drinking water was my hand, which is way more important.

This is going to get messy....

Wouldn't hurt

Extras – Cheese ($.80), Sour cream ($.80), guacamole ($1.10), corn ($.85), spinach ($1.25). I have a very anti-payforcheese policy, but much like gasoline, my demand for cheese is inelastic (thanks AP Econ!), but my demand for guacamole is very elastic. This time I go for the guac, and it’s good, but not $1.10 good.  Would love to add corn to my burrito, but my knowledge of just how dirt cheap corn is in this country means that I refuse to pay that kind of money for a scoop of it. I may love burritos, and I may be bad with my money, but I am not stupid and bad with my money.

Burrito Brothers is one of the better options for a non-chain burrito inside the district that I have encountered so far. Their variety of ingredients and customization allows the burritor to enjoy a different experience every time. The prices reflect the area (Capitol Hill) and that is a shame, because it definitely lowers the value. Although I did not have the strongest experience at Burrito Brothers, I would definitely return, partially due to the chance that I could get something completely different (relatively speaking), but also because I’ve learned what to do to avoid an overpriced, wet mess.  But if you’re in Capitol Hill, be sure to swing by Burrito Brothers, just don’t forget to grab extra napkins.

Verdict: (a strong) 3/5 Sombreros

Burrito Brothers of Capitol Hill
205 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E.
Washington D.C.
Phone: +1 (202) 543-6835

We’re back!

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As you may have seen on my gchat status or my Pino de Gallo twitter feed, but today at 11:11 on 1/11/11, I shall post the triumphant return of Pino de Gallo. 2010 was good to us. We launched, had some good posts, and even became a burrito activist and heard back from the Washington Wizards. In 2010, Pino de Gallo received over 5500 hits. Not a bad start, but I am not content with that. Because of a mix of technical difficulties (laptop dying) and my “corporate” job taking over for a few months, combined with a bad case of bloggers block, I was unable to produce. I am going to make this up to you now.

Today at 11:11 AM, I will post a fresh review. Here’s what else we have coming up in the next few weeks:

1) Pica Taco review on Friday 1/14
2) The Boloco E-mails
3) Alaska burrito week brought to you by Mabeuf
4) Texas week, yee-haw!
5) A Boston BUrrito excursion at the hands of Little Peen
6) San Francisco week
7) The much anticipated follow up to the Washington Wizards invitation to Pino de Gallo

Big year, spread the word and stay tuned!

-Mase