Pedro & Vinny, Pino & Pino

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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.

Lil Peen Microsoft Store

Dance for a better life!

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!

Happy to be far from the border patrol!

Happy to be far from the border patrol!

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.

Derelicte

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?

Game of thrones pete rose 2nd base

 

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.

Pedro & Vinny's is the flop of the week!

Pedro & Vinny’s is the flop of the week!

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.

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Bad Bean Baja Grill – The OBX Vacation Burrito

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Bad Bean baja grill front

“Vacation? Vacation from what exactly?” I know, it sounds crazy, but sometimes one just needs a break from the life of sleeping in and biking around the city eating burritos, and just escape to a simpler place where I can sleep in, make a big breakfast, and drunkenly pass out on the beach. I think we can all relate to that feeling. So while most people found something fun to do Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to truly honor our fallen soldiers by celebrating a Memorial Day Week in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

I’m a known South-hater going back at least to reconstruction and my pro-Tucemseh Sherman stance (kidding… or am I?), and my disdain for their love of tobacco and amateur sports. That being said, I appreciate the delicate balance they achieve in vacation towns… something in the realm of “We hate that we have to hide our racism and homophobia, but we’re going to be sweet to you because you’re spending money and something something southern hospitality.” Well, as long as you’re selling me food in large portions and beer for cheap, I think we can reconcile these differences.

After doing a bit of research (i.e. searching yelp for literally the closest place that sells burritos), I bugged Dan Pauly and Ms. Nogic to escort me on a burritoventure. Our destination of the day: Bad Bean Baja Grill. The chef, owner, and president of redundancy, Rob Robinson, owns and operates the two Bad Beans in the OBX area. According to their website, he spent five years living and working in California and traveling both Baja and Mexico before opening the Bad Bean Taqueria and Bad Bean Baja Grill. They serve the self-proclaimed “best Cali-Mex cuisine on the Outer Banks.”

On this quiet afternoon, we sat down, and glanced at our menus. Under the “Giant Cali Burritos” section, it lists the ingredients and options (12″ or 15″ tortilla) and closes with “rolled and wrapped to be eaten like a sandwich.” Maybe the South isn’t really familiar with what a burrito involves, but how else would you eat a burrito? Shredded, strewn about, and eaten with chopsticks?

12″ or 15″… tortilla?

Like a hot woman walking into an NFL locker room, the array of options to put inside me was both varied and impressive. “Achoite Roasted Chicken, Pork Barbacoa, Ancho Braised Beef Brisket, Roasted Sweet Pepper, Marinated Grilled Tofu.” Which led to this exchange:

Mase: I don’t know what I want…
Nogic: I recommend the burrito.

 

Glad she was able to join and provide such sage advice. I solicited input from the waitress, and while I’m sure she meant it, she gave the classic non-answer of listing a bunch of menu items that she assured me were really good and said, “Everything is fresh and homemade.”  I decided on the 15″ burrito (because I’m a man!) with the Ancho Beef Brisket and everything else: Mexican spiced rice, black beans, cheese, lettuce, sour cream (hey, I’m on vacation!), habanero salsa, and guacamole. Pauly got both the beef and the pork barbacoa tacos because he was having trouble deciding between the meats as well.

When my 15″ burrito arrived, I weighed it in my hand and felt the power. It was heavy and hearty, and I’m pretty sure I could club a man to death with it. Once I quieted the voices in my head wondering if I could go on a GTA-like spree with nothing but a burrito, I began digging in and got a strong hit of the beef brisket. While I was expecting a more Mexican-peppery taste, it definitely had the southern BBQy tastes to it. I guess as the old saying goes, “You can import the Mexican, but you can’t stop the South from forcing its way on it.” That being said, I actually love BBQ and this brisket was awesome. Seriously, the waitress was right.

After the meat, the next thing that jumped out at me was an overabundance of beans. They were everywhere, but somehow didn’t detract from the flavor of my giant Cali burrito. How Chef Rob Redundinson pulled that off, I have no idea. There was a great balance of sour cream and lettuce, adding just the right amount of cooling dairy and crunch respectively. The Mexican rice was cooked perfectly and had a subtle but good flavor that complimented the burrito well. My special request of extra cilantro was accommodated for and I could taste it throughout which made me a happy camper (vacationer?).

Slowed down to 1/10th of actual speed so humans can see it

Slowed down to 1/10th of actual speed so humans can see it

I also have to give credit to the burrista who assembled this one, because the structural integrity was sound and not too drippy until the devil’s inch and a half. The rice formed a cocoon around the burrito contents, which I loved, but the guacamole was not really noticeable for a while. When I finally hit it, I wasn’t blown away but it was good. The habanero salsa didn’t overwhelm anything in the burrito, and provided residual heat like that feeling we all have deep in our loins when we finish a viewing of Magic Mike. 

How to finish the devil's inch

How to finish the devil’s inch

 

On the other side of the table, Pauly loved the two meats he was putting in his mouth, and Nogic really enjoyed her tossed salad. The cilantro-lime dressing was so phenomenal that she requested the leftover to go, and after I tasted it I decided it’s what I want on every salad for the rest of my life.

When I finally finished this behemoth, I was very full… like just at the pain threshold. Is this what the runner’s high feels like? It must be. Now I know the appeal of marathons. It felt a little pricey (at $8.99 plus another $.99 for guac), but I’ll chalk that up to its size and being located in a vacation town. I loved this burrito and espoused the virtues of this place to my friends who were joining us in the OBX later in the week. They all agreed that it was a damn good burrito. I wish I could 1) make a return trip to the Bad Bean Baja Grill and 2) go on vacation with this burrito. Very solid 4 out of 5 sombreros.

And with this burrito protruding out of me like I’m in the movie Alien, I made my way back to the beach to lie in the sun and digest like a snake. Like our receipt, “Thank You” for reading.

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Bad Bean Baja Grill
3105 N. Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
252.261.1300
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