A Trip to the Homeland: Casablanca Grill & Bar

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Lineline in her Pino De Gallo debut. Not the last time you will see her, but probably last time in a bikini.

Ahh, Mexico. It’s good to be home where the tequila flows like wine and $10 gets you enough alcohol to last you a week (or an afternoon in Mase’s case). I come to you from the beautiful island of Cozumel, a small diver’s island near Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. I write this to you, readers of Pino De Gallo, while on vacation with my lady (who will be referred to as Lineline).  We have been enjoying the beach, cervezas and tequila, and most importantly, comida Mexicana. This means I am obligated to review a burrito (see: “Travel” clause of my Pino De Gallo contract).  Unfortunately, this will be my only official review of any burritos in Mexico, because I wanted to eat as many different things as possible, but I’ll be sure to mention a few of the other dishes.

After leaving our hotel one evening so that our maid who looked way too much like Consuela could clean our room, we walked over to the main plaza to try to decide on a place to eat. We walked around the plaza for a bit and were accosted by countless street salesmen and drivers yelling “taaax-iii?” out their windows before we decided on a place called Casablanca (not an homage to the 1942 film set in Africa). It was 2 for 1 margarita hour, so that certainly made Casablanca a bit more appealing and ultimately made our decision for us.

The restaurant itself was pretty cute. It had only outdoor seating (unless you wanted to drink at the bar), and also had a roofdeck. The menu was also pretty extensive, and obviously included just about every mexican dish you can think of (and some you probably wouldn’t. I was almost tempted to get the chimichanga…but this was a burrito mission).

This is neither white NOR a house...

The one problem I was having was actually locating the “Burritos” on the menu. I asked the waiter where they were, and he said they were called “alambres” on the menu. So, thats what I ordered.

On the menu, it was described as “beef with onions and green peppers.” Hmm…seemed pretty plain. It was also the only option. So like the Wisconsin Democrats, I didn’t really have a choice. It came with fresh guac and beans on the side. Also a bit disappointing that it wasn’t already inside.  “But whatever,” I thought, “I’ll just stick them into the burrito. No need to lose hope.” On top of that, we were quickly served home made tortilla chips with some deliciously home made pico de gallo, which I could always add on to the burrito as well.

As a sidenote, Lineline and I had already eaten at a number of places, and every place had extremely fresh and tasty guacamole, beans, and pico which is why I was not giving up hope….plus, it didn’t EVER cost extra. As promised, a few of the other meals we had included chicken tamales (probably one of my favorite meals of the week), enchiladas, fajitas, and quesadillas; all of which were extremely fresh and well made. This theme carried over to Casablanca, where not only the guacamole was crazy fresh, but so were all the other ingredients.

*Fork and knife recommended....but I suppose not required

However, when we were served our food, I was a bit surprised at what was placed in front of me. It looked like a set of 3 enchiladas with their open ends and red tomato sauce on the top. However, I was assured by the waiter that this was in fact the “alambre” and not a mistake by the chef. As stated, it was served with Guacamole and beans on the side (and a chip in each to use as a faux spoon) and were delicious as expected. But back to the “burrito(s).” I dug into these things with a fork and a knife since they were open ended and covered in sauce, which was a bit disappointing to me, but what ended up in my mouth was a pleasant surprise…..unlike that one game of “Who’s in my mouth?”

The beef was juicy and very well cooked, and the green peppers and onions seemed fresh and added a nice touch to the beef. The tortilla was particularly delicious, and I was told that they were made in-house, which added some extra authenticity. The sauce that it was topped with was also pretty good, but not nearly as good as the other ingredients. The only things I could really find wrong with this “burrito” was its lack of other amenities. There was no lettuce, no tomatoes, and no cheese(!). With all the other ingredients being so tasty, I could only bet that if these others were added we could have had a pretty superb burrito.

Either way, I did still enjoy my meal, as did Lineline. She gave me a taste of her delicious fish tacos, but seeing as she is a vegetarian she did not put any of my beef in her mouth (all puns intended).

In summation, Casablanca had deliciously authentic food/ingredients and was practically dirt cheap (about $5 per plate), although these were certainly different kinds of burritos than I was expecting, so I’ll give Casablanca a 3 of of 5 sombreros.

Casablanca Grill & Bar
Corner of 1st St. and 5th Ave.
Cozumel, Mexico

And just to make you jealous, here is what the beaches look like in Cozumel.

No, I did not steal this from the internets. (Photo Credit: Lineline)

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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

Viva! (Live!) Burrito

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Editor’s (aka Mase’s) notes: Little Peen returns for his second review on Pino(s) de Gallo. As always, my notes are in italics. You can find his first review here

Enter here for pleasure

So here I am, back for my second (and I’m sure long-awaited) review on Pino De Gallo. I’m back in Boston now, finally back from where Ma$e had carried me on his back as a young child over the Rio Grande (Large River for all of you who don’t “habla espanol”) in Texas. Unfortunately, it took me a while to get back to the Northeast because a certain Pase Mino spent our life savings on a block of ice to send down to our family in Mexico to keep them cool during the summer. I wonder how that worked out… regardless, it caused for a certain delay in my return to Boston.

Anyway, back to burritos. While there is not quite the vibrant Mejicano environment in Boston as there is in Houston, there are still some quality burrito joints (as demonstrated by The Pelon). The marijuana cigarette I went to is called Viva! Burrito, and is located very close to where I work (in the MA State House), right by Suffolk University. I also went with my co-workers John, Juli (yes spelled that way), and Jaime, which we can call ThreeJ (all of their names start with J…see what I did there?).

It was your typical Mexican restaurant, although a bit different from your typical burritoria. The menu was pretty big and rather intimidating. Not Vince Wilfork intimidating, but more like Jared Allen with a mullet intimidating. It wasn’t to the point where you feared for your life, but it’s still pretty daunting, but still inviting. Orders were placed at the register, and it was made in the pseudo-kitchen just to the left. You did not get to see your food being made or get to pick which things you wanted in it during assembly; you simply had to know what you wanted in it when you ordered. While they had all the normal things to put in a burrito, not being able to see what I wanted in front of me was a bit of a letdown. However, the price came out to be pretty cheap, and was only $7.44. I kept up my optimism, as did ThreeJ, because we had heard that this place had the “Best Burrito in Boston” [citation needed].

The best way to transport 4 sombreros in aluminum foil

I ordered a chicken burrito with black beans, brown rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa (seemed to be pico de gallo) and guacamole. It took them a little while to make my food, about 5 minutes, but I was okay with it. I wanted my burrito to have the tender love and care a “Mama Grizzly has for her Cubs“. ThreeJ and I got our food and started hammerin’ away as quickly as “The Situation” plows through ugly chicks. ThreeJ ordered a chicken burrito (like me!), a salad with chicken (lame), and a taco salad (slutty). As I bit into the burrito, I immediately loved it. Everything was distributed nicely, unlike some burritos that are layered and you get bites of just rice or salsa. The chicken was unbelievably juicy, tender, and well-seasoned, and was far and away the best part of the burrito. The steamed tortilla helped keep the burrito’s structural integrity intact, which is a bonus every time. The brown rice I got in the burrito was also quite delicious and tasted as if it and the chicken were perfect for each other, just like Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin. This was a theme for ThreeJ as well, and they all agreed that both the rice and chicken were the best parts of their respective meals (for the TwoJ that had rice, at least). (I think we hit our Palin joke quota again)

The only flaws I could find in this burrito were that the guac and pico were mediocre and a bit runny, causing for a bit of a mess on my hands, and not the Tobias Funke kind. And although they were sliding downwards faster than Lindsey Lohan’s career, I still found them tasty. ThreeJ pointed out that the avocados tasted particularly fresh, but unfortunately the lettuce was moderately less fresh (pictured right).

Being that the flaws in the Viva! Burrito burrito were marginal, its overall quality was fantastic. I really can’t say enough about the chicken and the rice. They were simply delicious. ThreeJ reassured me that the sensation in my mouth was normal and indeed, quite enjoyable. And to top it all off, it’s in a great location and will look especially nice when the renovations to the sidewalk outside of it are done.

All in all, the quality of the burrito was superb, and at the price and setting there is no way you can go wrong with a Viva! Burrito burrito. While I feel it was not quite as good as El Pelon, it’s certainly nippin’ at its heels and also gets some cheap points for actually being in Boston (unlike a certain ‘Chestnut Hill College’ of Eagles) and being close to my work. Viva! Burrito gets a very respectable 4 sombreros. (Thankfully there is no limit to allowed number of cheap shots at BC)

And maybe now that I have a second review under my belt, Mase can call me “Slightly-below-average Peen,” or he can just come up with a better nickname all together. (Not happening.)


Viva! Burrito
66 Staniford Street
Boston, MA 02114-2525
(617) 523-6390

Everything’s bigger in Texas… except Little Peen

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Editor’s Note: This is the Pino de Gallo debut of Mase’s brother that I decided right now to call Little Peen. He’s a college student in Boston, is (naturally) tan year round, and spent most of his youth in Texas. I sent him on a mission to that far off land. This is his report.

As most people know, Texas is known for making/having things bigger and less efficient (pretty much the exact opposite of the Japanese). This includes, but is not limited to: Cars , Stores People (in extraordinary fashion), and yes… the burritos, although not so much on the less efficient part…since it’s a burrito. Mission Burrito is located off one of the enormous highways (HWY 59) and is next to a “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” and about 5 other fast food chains.

When I entered Mission Burrito, there was a pretty long line, but it gave me time to look at a decently sized menu. Like most burrito places, they have other typical “Tex-Mex” (as it’s called here in Tejas) dishes like tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. Their selection for burritos was pretty good, allowing a choice of chicken, pulled pork, fajita beef, and the like, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. I appreciated having multiple options in what type of tortilla. They had flour, wheat, red pepper, and spinach; all of which were steamed, which definitely added to the structural soundness of the (rather large) burrito. They only had one size for their burritos, and it was roughly comparable to a Chipotle burrito. It was a little bit longer with about equal thickness (insert penis joke here… all puns intended).

I decided to keep my order pretty typical and ordered a chicken burrito on a flour tortilla. I had the choice between Spanish (red) rice and regular white rice with cilantro, but I went with the Spanish because it looked particularly delicious. I went with black beans from the normal choice of black, pinto, and refried.  Then they added the chicken breast chunks. I got the usual amenities like lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa verde.  They didn’t have much else to add besides that, a few other salsas that didn’t look particularly appetizing or well made, but the salsa verde looked good. I was very pleased that when they added the guac and sour cream they gave me quite a hefty portion, considering I was paying $1.50 extra. (I really hate when places skimp on the extras when they charge an arm and a leg for it….but then again, who doesn’t?)

I'm just layin' on the table for ya

When I checked out, the total came out to just over $9, so naturally I thought that this burrito better be pretty damn good. The first couple bites were pretty good, although I hadn’t even touched the meat yet. That’s where the problems began. From the moment I tasted the chicken, I noticed how dry it was. I even bit into a chunk where I could taste how burned it was. The guac and sour cream helped moisten it a bit, but that only does so much. It’s like when you are hung over and in a pool – just because you are surrounded by water doesn’t make you any more hydrated, and just because dried overcooked meat is surrounded by moist things doesn’t make the inside any less dry.  However, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds because of all the other ingredients around it. The rice was probably more delicious than it looked which was great and was easily the most enjoyable part of the burrito. Unfortunately, having the rice be the most enjoyable part is like having a house’s foundation be the best part. Sure, it’s crucial, but it’s not the game-breaker.

The lettuce was okay, but probably came from a bag (a la Subway).  The guacamole was also very good. It had a very fresh taste to it, and was very close to the rice in enjoyability. The beans were also middle of the road and clearly it wasn’t given the same loving touch that a priest gives to an altar boy. Although the preparer did a nice job on not having too much of the bean juice (?) get into the burrito, which can ruin any burrito’s structure as quickly as a Sarah Palin endorsement can ruin anyone’s chance of being taken seriously.

Look at that cross-section!

All-in-all the burrito was pretty average. It could have been above average had the chicken not been so dry. The rice and guac definitely picked up the slack for the chicken. However, it does get a minus for being a bit pricey. I hope that I just caught the chicken on a bad day. Unfortunately, I pulled an “Alaska governor” (like a certain Parah Salin) and was not able to finish the meal as Mase absolutely would have, so they have to get some credit on “fill-up ability” (that’s what she said!). Editor’s note: We have successfully met our Sarah Palin and “that’s what she said!” joke quota.

So on my first (and hopefully not last) review on Pino De Gallo, Mission Burrito gets 3 Sombreros out of 5. Arriba!

Mission Burritos
http://www.missionburritos.com/
15810 Southwest Freeway
Sugar Land, TX 77478-4090
(281) 325-0033