Señor Taco & his truck of misfits

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(In case you don’t know by now, I’m going to ramble on in story form about something only tangentially related to the actual burrito review. If you don’t feel like getting to know me better, scroll down a ways to just below the “Señor Taco” picture. I won’t be that offended.)

When I was 17 I moved from the comfortable suburbs of Connecticut, which comes from the Pequot word for “Land of the WASPs,” to Sugar Land, Texas, whose city motto was “Just like that movie Pleasantville… except fatter and with less personality.”  At the time I had dreams of being recruited to play lacrosse at some small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere New England to study a worthless major like history, poli-sci, international relations, or some combination of the three.

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Those flowing locks! The early aughts were a simpler time

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130 lbs of awesome – Somebody recruit this guy!

Unfortunately, my dream was shattered, not by the realization that I am a terrible athlete (average sized white dude with a slow first step, no ups, and a mouth that won’t quit), but by the first time someone in Texas said to me, “Lacrosse? Is that the sport with the spoons?”  My hopes were dashed, my best friends (including the first girl that ever let me kiss her in a scenario that didn’t involve a spinning bottle) were 2000 miles away, and my new neighborhood was a repeating pattern of generic houses alternating with strip malls of chain retailers and restaurants. At this point, I did not know that my future held a city school, playing a stupid made up sport like Ultimate, and… a couple of worthless liberal arts degrees. (In the words of KG, “ANYTHING IS POSSSSIBBBLLEEE!!!”)

After driving the ~32 hours straight from CT to TX with my father immediately following my midterms junior year, I was exhausted, dejected, and cranky. My dad and I went to my new high school to register me for classes. The school, apparently designed by the same guy who designed Shawshank, had no outward facing windows and was bigger than many of the small liberal arts colleges I had thought I would be attending. By now it’s mid-morning and the guidance counselor says, “Would you like to start today?”, to which I reply, “Maybe it would be best to start fresh tomorrow.” Then my dad chimes in, “You should start today.” Great, glad I could be a part of this discussion.

Back when we had REAL leadership

I made my way through the torrent of Texan students, wading around them lost, confused, and probably looking like Hellen Keller participating in a spelunking competition, to find a mostly empty classroom. I sat down in a desk near the entrance. Slowly, other students began to trickle in, hanging out and chatting amongst themselves. “Hey, what’s your AIM screen name?” “Have you seen that new video on the Music Television channel?” “I love that new song by Crazy Town.” And so on.

Eventually, a flustered middle-aged woman comes running in, throws her stuff on her desk and gets right into it, jabbering on about some US presidents in the mid-19th century. I timidly and politely interrupt her, “Excuse me… I think I’m in your class…” She looked at my schedule, and says, “Ok, grab a seat back there,” and pointed to the back of the class. (racist much?!) By now, the class is silent and staring at me, understandable since I interrupted the class and am standing there… a strange man in a strange land. As I started to make my way to my seat, a girl a few rows back pipes up and says, “Oh you’re new? Where did you move from?” to which I respond, “Connecticut.” I figure that’s a fair question and our small talk is now done, but boy was I wrong…so so wrong.

Without missing a beat, this young lady then queried, “What religion are you?” A million things raced through my head, “What the hell kind of a question is that? Where the hell am I? This is a public school right? Should I lie? Do I make a bad joke here about religion and see how it lands? Hmm, ok let’s lie.” To which I then replied, “Uhh…Catholic,” and took my seat. I guess I hadn’t shaken the real foundation of Catholicism yet: guilt. I was shaken and the rest of the day was a blur of awkward small talk and Texas twangs.

How pretty much every event started in Texas

And who was that girl that made me uncomfortable all those years ago? …Albert Einstein. Wait, no, that’s not right. It was my future dear friend Attorney Angela… Lawyer at Law.  Despite our awkward initial introduction and my new found bitterness to the world, Angela and I became friends. After college, grad school, etc. we both found ourselves in DC and reconnected. Most of the time she’s jet-setting around to fancy destinations like Pittsburgh to lawyer things, but on this particular day, she was in town at her office in Farragut. We met for lunch in the food truck square, and under the suggestion of Pino de Gallo, she went right for Far East Taco Grille. Although I’ve made it known I’m a fan, I had to try something new. And there it was, an inauspicious white truck with a picture of a sombrero and a real sombrero hanging on it. ¡Si señor!

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A simple menu for a simple truck. Taco, quesadilla, burrito, and sopa del día options. Steak, chicken, and veggie were all the same price ($7.99) so I figured I’d go hearty and grab the carne. Each burrito comes with “Lettuce, Pica de Gallo, Cheese, sour Cream, Rice, Bean & sauce.” I ordered my steak burrito with everything on it, but inquired as to what the “sauce” was, to which I received an unintelligible response and felt too awkward to ask him to repeat it in a heavy accent a third time.

After the adorable hard working people inside the truck gave me my burrito, Angela and I grabbed a bench where I unwrapped my meal while longingly stared at her awesome Far East tacos. I began to dig into señor’s burrito (phrasing!) and got four or five bites of bland and possibly under cooked rice before even getting a hint of meat. It tasted like al dente Kraft macaroni had a one night stand with the least interesting white person you know in the back of a taco truck and gave us this bastard love child. Occasionally I would get a bite of the sour cream, which had a hearty texture (in a good way!) and may have been the highlight of the burrito. When the sour cream is the highlight of the burrito, you know you’re in trouble; like a movie that spent too much money on the wrong things.

“That movie was poorly acted, made no sense, and was generally awful but at least it had a great soundtrack!” (I’m looking at you 1998 Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick; but it did give us a Puff Daddy-Jimmy Page collaboration so it might have broken even.)

 

As I slogged through this burrito, there was nary a hint of cheese or pico. Every few bites I would find a scrap of steak, which made me feel like the poor I currently am. (The Mexican version of Oliver Twist maybe? “¿Puedo tener un poco más, por favor?”) Our friend from another post, Pamnado, turned me onto the phrase “The Devil’s Inch” to describe the final bit of a beer that is warm and backwashy; the devil’s inch could certainly apply to burritos as well – that weird mix of drippings, tortilla, and whatever other scraps have made their way to the bottom. Somehow in this burrito, the devil’s inch contained some of the actual ingredients I ordered, namely the meat and the pico.

I have no idea what Señor Taco’s tacos are actually like, but stay the hell away from their burritos. Apparently, I’m not the only to have this experience with them as Hustle Russell had nearly the same thing happen once near this work. Just hope Far East Taco truck is parked nearby. 1.5 Sombreros.

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1.5pinos

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Burrito King – Anchorage Alaska

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There's no democracy in the Great North

Editor’s note: We welcome back to the program Mabeuf! This was a review he wrote while stationed in a campaign in Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Thankfully he took time out of his busy schedule to set a distance record for Pino de Gallo. – Mase

Burrito King’s status as an actual ‘King’ is ambiguous at best. Your author is uninformed about the Trademark status of the phrase. At last check, 15 male porn stars had competing claims on the phrase and our benevolent judicial system has yet to weigh in on the dispute. A harder case for judicial reform would be difficult to erect.

Burrito King is a newer establishment. Its claim to the throne of burritos was clear from birth. After all it was conceived by Alaska’s undisputed royalty of Mexican take out chains, Taco King. Hereditary rule is clearly the only system of governance fit for the Mexican fast food industry. RE: Enchilada King, Emperor Tacos, etc.

We are all witness... to your douchery

Ordering is straightforward. The Burrito King menu features an uninspired variety of plate style burritos.

As a quick commentary on the flat-top burrito… These things are despicable. What could you possibly put on top of a burrito that you can’t put inside it? This is like putting a duvet cover on your limited edition Jeff Gordon coffee table. Using some hexagonal trash granny knitted to cover a crooked smile built by years of motor oil powered white knuckle thrill rides and smooth cheeks with a texture found only in a fresh pack of Hanes A-Shirt’s is a crime. Straight up criminal.

You should immediately judge every flat-top burrito you ever see on a menu. Judge them like the dude who wears a LeBron Heat jersey while giving a speech about ‘sticking with the team’ to the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.

If your red/green/pico/hollandaise sauce/Chris’ World Famous Tomatillo Chipotle sauce does not belong inside the burrito, then it does not belong on the plate. If you respectfully or disrespectfully disagree with me, order the enchiladas.

Back to the story… Despite being burrito royalty, ‘The King’ only served up five burritos (Chicken or beef): Deluxe, Veggie, King, Small Soft or Taco.

Blackberry: the new meter stick

The difference between Deluxe and King appeared to be onions and cilantro. Astounding.

Your author got the signature King Burrito, within his awkward dietary restrictions of course.

Years of buying nothing at the supermarket but pretzels and Peeps left me unprepared for what I experienced next… heft. Straight up heft, this plastic bag felt like carrying a Harry Potter book and its attached 13 year-old reader.

For readers,

Pictured: Mabeuf waiting to get his burrito

I was disappointed with my trip to Burrito King and was not particularly excited about consuming it. However a combination of a 10 minute side-trip to buy Civilization 5 at Fred Meyer’s and Anchorage’s first 30 degree night left me feeling like Charles Barkley at the craps table… insatiable.

To start the burrito I took the guac off the top and tried to eat this bad boy vertically. Instant failure. The burrito is poorly wrapped and clearly meant to rest on the styrofoam like a beached whale. Forced to resort to my plastic fork and knife (place did not have sporks, I asked) I dug in.

The results were off-putting. The chicken is dry. Likely the result of a batch made early in the day and left to bake under the heat lamp all day. The red sauce in the burrito was reminiscent of ketchup. The burrito had no veggies. Zero. It was packing nothing but beans, dry meat, some onions and sauce. We are talking Sunday morning flea market style.

My favorite part of any burrito, the guac, was uninspired. It had a fleck of tomatoes in it and no spice. Green foam is an adequate description.

I built an armada of sauces from the salsa bar, but these failed to save this beached Wright Whale from a sandy demise.

Much as the Sacramento Kings have never ascended to the NBA’s proverbial throne, Burrito King will never be invited to Burrito All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. They may be given a booth at the fan-fest, but only if they provide their own insurance.

Ultimately, burrito King can stake the same claim to royalty as the UNC frat boy who stood on his balcony this past weekend bellowing “I am the King of the Party.”

Verdict: 1.5/5 Sombreros

Burrito King
111 West 38th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99503-5652
(907) 569-2900

Ahhhhh! Screamin’ Burrito (California Tortilla)

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On a crisp evening, after seeing a minor league basketball game… (I’m sorry, hold on; I’m getting word that the Wizards still play in the NBA! How bout that?), it was time for a Mexican night cap.  Because no tequila could be procured in Chinatown, we had to settle on a burrito… and settle we did! Welcome to chain restaurants everybody!

The limited time only special was the California Screamin’ Burrito (regular size: $6.89). There was nothing screaming about it… unless it was screaming “I’m Mediocre!!!”, which is generally my job and I would have kicked its ass if that was the case. Ok, that’s not true, I just would have gotten passive aggressive and cranky that the burrito was stealing my mediocre thunder, but alas, I digress. 

Cover your ears! And probably your mouth!

 According to this stylish advertisement, the California Screamin’ Burrito includes “our signature blackened chicken, queso, California screamin’ sauce, grilled peppers and onions, Mexican rice, and salsa.” These ingredients intrigued me… queso is often a great addition to a burrito but is rare, the peppers and onions could compliment it nicely, and this doesn’t just have rice…. it has Mexican rice. Let’s see if this is as exciting as when I became old enough to distinguish between an “open bar” and a “cash bar.”

The California Screamin’ Burrito was much like the state of California’s economy: great in principle but terribly flawed.  The rice was saturated and mushy, for lack of a better word. I enjoyed the grilled onions and peppers being included, but from time to time they were somewhat over-powering. I barely noticed the queso, and the “salsa” was little more than a few chunks of tomato in the burrito. And like a male stripper, this burrito’s meat was hidden until the end. Buried at the bottom of it was generally bland and dry chicken. And while dry, this was not amusing in the way a Brit’s dry humor regarding parliamentary procedure inevitably leads to a good laugh; no, this resulted in many trips to the variety of sauces that are available at every California Tortilla location.

Burrito Autopsy

The one redeeming quality about California Tortilla’s fare is the expansive array of sauces that are available (called the Wall of Flame). This includes a variety of interesting hard to find brands and flavors like BBQ Mango, Green Bandit Cilantro, and…. Colon Cleaner (which was really convenient since I don’t have health insurance). Unfortunately, this is not enough to really make it worthwhile. The sauces are like the white guys at the end of an NBA bench. Yeah, I’m sure they’re great guys and great for chemistry, but they’re not winning you any basketball games. And we’re here to win basketball games… I mean eat good burritos.

So maybe you’re doing a walk of shame back from Gallery Place on a Sunday morning, and you want your insides to feel the way your outsides look, then this is probably the place to go.  But if you’re in the area, there’s a Chipotle across the street anyways, but we’ll cover that another day….

The Verdict: 1.5/5 Sombreros

California Tortilla
728 7th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 638-2233