One of the first questions anyone asked me after I re-booted Pino de Gallo came from my buddy Salmi who immediately wanted to know if he could be my escort on a burrito outing. In the past, I would only venture out in public with the classiest escorts, but as a recent addition to
the moocher class those “between opportunities,” I was forced to settle on good ol’ Steady Salmi. To quote his lady companion, the Pamnado, “Continuity is the spice of Salmi’s life,” so although he’s a fast ball right down the middle kind of guy, he also doesn’t mince words when it comes to things he puts in his mouth. He’ll do.
Located across the street from Galludet University (fun fact: where the football huddle was invented!), and in close proximity to both of our houses, is the local establishment Chinito’s Burritos. Chinito translates to (and I know this is not the preferred nomenclature) Chinaman; but hey, he said it, not me. And that man behind the potentially uncomfortable restaurant name is Chicago-born Chef Jin Chong. Chinito’s is his first “project restaurant” and does a bit of the “East-meets-West” thing with a diverse menu. Or as Mister Halfsmoke X says in a comment on their Facebook page: “YO CHECK IT: Dis joint just popped outta space when I wuz cruzin thru da NE spot, and alls I gotta say is: DAAAYYYYUMMMM! Get it? Day-yum? HAHA, i’m funny and you know it. Truth baby, truth…
They be crushin it right herrrr son, word is bond! I mean they got tha burritos, tha tacos, the mucho deliciouso homemade chips, the fresh homemade gaucalamoleypoley, the fresh “SALSA” (sexy Mexican accent) and get this—–they even got the MEXICAN EGG ROLLS! OMG WTF FELIZ NAVIDAD!!!”
(I wish I was making that up)
So with that in mind, we went right before Chinito’s debuted a new, slightly altered menu, but most of the basics are the same. At the counter near the entrance to the restaurant are slips of papers where a mix of customizeable options are laid out.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I love a burrito place that has the ingredients displayed for all to see… none of these back-
door room shenanigans! It’s the sort of honesty that is valued in Mexican society and can be traced all the way back to Cortés, when he said, “Give me all your gold or honestly, I’ll kill you.” We value that kind of transparency.
We blew past the appetizers which include Tex-Mex Egg rolls, but I have had them in the past and they are delicious. Plus for $3, they come with avocado ranch dressing and can’t be beat. It ended up being fortuitous that we opted out because we would need all the room we could spare for the upcoming burritos. Despite being a burrito connisseur, I enjoy making burrito excursions social functions not just because it forces me to eat like a normal member of society, but because I enjoy the banter and hearing what people think about their choices in life, love, and burritos (or in my case, that are one in the same). The teryiaki chicken and Asian slaw caught our eyes as ingredients, but I was hesistant to stray from the Mexican path. My first instinct was that the one among us of Asian descent, Pamnado, should be the one to try it out, but Salmi appropriately chimed in, “Well, I do have a taste for the Asian.” In the end, Pamnado was a champ and ended up going with the more Asian flav with the teriyaki chicken.
On this day, I felt like going big time, so I went with both steak (carne asada) and guacamole (extra $2!) in my burrito on top of the standard ingredients which this time were spicy roasted tomato salsa, green salsa, cheese, lettuce, rice, and pinto beans. I even splurged on a grapefruit flavored Jarritos soda, which I bet often confuses people who expect it to be lime since it’s in a green bottle. Crafty Mexicans.
We moseyed over to one of the high tables where there were an array of different sauces for us to try: Mambo Sauce (a DC favorite!), salsa verde, red habenero, wasabi mayo, Siracha, and the roasted tomato.
Mambo Sauce – What can I say? It’s a sweet tangy sauce that goes pretty well on most things. It made a few splashes on my burrito. Buy local!
Salsa Verde – It was hearty, it was spicy, and had great texture. I’m a harsh critic of salsa verde but this was possibly the best SV I’ve had in DC. Reminds me of Papa Pino’s back home on the radish farm.
Habanero – Real Spicy. Possibly too much at times, but it had great flavor, so if you can deal with the burn, I highly recommend it. In other words, how I imagine Leo’s character in The Wolf of Wall Street viewed sleeping with prostitutes.
Pamnado described the mild teriyaki flavor as “slightly sweeter” and “good for picky eaters… or children… who are picky eaters.” The grilled vegetables she ordered were practically non-existent. It wasn’t until a late dissecting of the burrito remains did we find evidence that there were grilled vegetables in there at all. Salmi was brave enough to opt-in to the unorthodox fried egg option for his burrito, and concluded that he was very pro-egg. Egg in general is a highly underrated topping.
The enormous burritos were a bit intimidating when they came out. We started to dig in, but the tortilla’s structural integrity failed and the burritos quickly descending to a Lord of the Flies type scenario with toppings going everywhere, meats bursting out of holes (phrasing?), and Pamnado turning her burrito into bootleg nachos. This was combined with both very bland rice (did they add any flavor?) and guacamole (for $2!). At times the beans tried to wrestle dominance of the burrito from the other flavors, and the salsas certainly didn’t do anything to stop it – they were pretty much non-factors. The steak was cooked perfectly and had a delicious salty fresh flavor that I really enjoyed. Thankfully the salsas detailed above were on the table and at my disposal because I had to hit them frequently and hard.
Late in the game, I hear “I’ve got a burrito crisis on my hands,” and I look up to see Salmi’s burrito on the verge of disintegration. Maybe Chinito’s burrista’s ambitions were too grand for their questionable tortillas, but I won’t fault anyone for trying to feed me a hearty burrito. In the end, Salmi and I were both full until well into the next day, while I believe Pamnado was able to subsist on hers until early the next week.
Chinito’s has a lot of good going for them. It’s got a good vision with some interesting twists and a bevy of options. The staff was super nice, and even gave us extra chips (that were delicious and tasted homemade). My particular combination didn’t work for me too well today, but I will definitely return and give some of the other interesting options a try.