Lime to me, baby!

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When I moved to DC, Chinatown/Gallery Place had already transformed to most of what it is today. Sure, there wasn’t a multi-floored Walgreen’s yet, and the Wizards were a long shot from winning a playoff series, but the stories like the one my former boss, a 6’6″ ex-power forward at Catholic University, told me about breaking beer bottles on the ground to have a weapon on your walk home in the 90s were definitely a thing of the past.

No, Gilbert, not that kind of long shot

No, Gilbert, not that kind of long shot

In most of my travels, I’ve found the local “Chinatowns” to be pretty dirty. This goes for Boston, SF, Sydney, and NYC… where many of us have stood in between fish heads on ice and ducks in a window while waiting for a shoddy but cheap bus back to whatever city we actually live in.  Granted, it’s not as dirty as a literal town in China, but that bar isn’t exactly high. (NSFW)

In our little DC version of Chinatown, we have some big golden Chinese arches to compliment our golden big fat American arches with a variety of Asian cuisine and Chinese letters below store names. But beyond that, I would not say the Irish bar, Hooters, or Legal Seafoods count as Chinese.

And in this Asian-fusion hot pot, there is a small Mexican joint. Oh wait, make that two… no… three! That’s right, in the shadows of the John Wall’s palace there are three chain Mexican places: Chipotle, California Tortilla (aka Cal Tort to the die-hards), and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill – the subject of today’s post. At some point, someone looked at the burrito density of Chinatown and thought, “You know what this area need? Another burrito place!” taking a page from the Starbucks Business School of Strategic Density. 

Although I have been to Cal Tort before, and I promise to go back there again with my roommate, WAFC significant other, and frequent commenter under the pseudonym “Cal_tort_4_lyfe” Hustle Russell, but today was not the day for the revisit. And despite the constant long lines at the Chipotle in Columbia Heights, the Lime across the street on 14th wasn’t able to get enough spillover business to stay afloat and abruptly closed at the end of December last year, which meant this was my only shot at some Lime in the mouth.

Looking at the menu, I noticed all the real burritos (sorry, I do not count a bean burrito as a real burrito; vegans and vegetarians… I do not approve of your lifestyle choices) were the same price, $7.25, and I narrowed it down to Queso or Big Cali. I was pretty hungry and the description described it as “An XL burrito” and told me I “Better have a spotter ready.”

I also had my shirt unbuttoned

The Big Cali came with my choice of “chicken or ground beef, cilantro-lime rice, guacamole, salsa asada, cilantro, black bean corn salsa, tortilla strips, cheese, and our signature sour cream.” I selected chicken then made my way to the salsa bar to fill up my to-go containers. The selection was not as great as District Taco’s, but still hit most of the biggies – salsa verde, pico de gallo, salsa asada. In the emptiness of the mid-afternoon work day, the friendly staff came up to me to double check what I ordered and asked if I had any questions. The exchange went something like this:

ron swanson i know more than you

I took my burrito to the National Portrait Gallery, one of my favorite museums with a sweet atrium to enjoy this burrito around some culture. Like the Art of Video Games exhibit, the current special American Cool, or some college kids playing arrangements from… video games. I personally love the permanent exhibit on the US Presidents. Although Bill Clinton’s portrait really could go in the American Cool as well.

I sat down and unwrapped my burrito. I was taken by it’s lack of XL-ness. Hell, it was barely even “L.” This thing wasn’t going to stand a chance. I was afraid that I wouldn’t even be able to take notes because I’d get through it so quickly. The pleasant surprise (ie I didn’t read the menu carefully) was that the burrito came with chips! Huzzah! The salsas for the aforementioned chips were all solid, but none blew me away. The cilantro was fresh but hastily chopped with lots of big chunks and stems. Salsa verde was… fine, and salsa asada decent flavor but not hearty enough.

The tortilla was grilled, not steamed, and dry (surprise!). Here’s a lesson for all you young budding burristas out there, you need to do one of two things, either: a) steam your tortilla so it is moist and delicious, or b) grill it with some oil so it is moist and delicious. Straight grilling is a recipe for failure.

When I dug into the burrito itself, the rice immediately jumped out as flavorful. A cilantro-lime rice that actually has flavor? My word! The guacamole on the other hand… not so much. You know how good Whole Foods and Chipotle guacamole is? Well, it was nothing like that. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think it had too much cumin. There were little hints of cheese here or there, but I guess at Lime if you want real cheese on your burrito you have to order the one with the word in the name. The chicken was plentiful, had above average flavor, and was impressively not dry at all. The salsa asada was nearly undetectable as was the sour cream. The black bean corn salsa provided texture and little else.

After this experience, I can see why people would rather wait 20 minutes for Chipotle than 5 minutes for Lime. A burrito that lacks so much character than repeated trips to the salsa bar is no bueno. And did I mention that despite being billed as “XL”, I felt ready for a few tacos for dessert at the end? Totally could have; too bad it wasn’t Taco Tuesday. If this was a yelp review, it might get 3 stars, but since this is a burritocentric review, they’re getting a big ol’ 2.5 sombreros.

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Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

726 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-638-4770
@limefreshmex
25pinos

Delisias – Bethesda, MD

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Welcome to Cinco de Mayo with Pino de Gallo! Now, contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican independence day. (You can’t be independent when you’re still sucking on America’s teet) Cinco de Mayo is the day in Mexican folklore when the Great Burrito in the sky rolled us, folded us, crafted us in his image and put us down on the Earth in the place where all civilization originated: Mexico. (I think somewhere in Guadalajara) While the evil Chupacabra is constantly trying to corrupt us and get to our juicy, meaty innards, on Cinco de Mayo, Quetzalcoatl protects us and we celebrate in the warmth of the Great Burrito. True Story.

But, I must apologize for my extended absence. “Real” life got in the way (which is my way of saying I’ve been too morbidly obese to type. The last three posts I’ve drafted have looked like something Hellen Keller would type because my fat fingers just mashed all the keys). So I figured Cinco de Mayo would be a perfect time to toss up another post. Here goes:

Is it someone's name? Is this the Spanish version of a pun? I have no idea

Busy day at work, but like the junkie that I am, I realize a quick fix would calm my rattled nerves. Thanks to the wonders of smartphone internet technology, I used the Yelp app to find burritos in the area. What came up? Well, Delisias Carry Out! Just a 10 minute walk north of the Bethesda Metro stop, it seemed it would be an easy place to hit up on the quick.

The name says “carry out” and that’s not a suggestion or an option, it’s a requirement. A tiny shack off the main Wisconsin drag, there are a few benches out front, and little else. Inside, there is about 4 feet between the door and the counter, and only enough room for 3-4 people to stand comfortably. Thankfully, when Ry-guy and I entered, there was a large, portly man with the crazy eyes who was breathing heavily taking up most of the room. He kept asking for additional sides of this and jars of that, and had extra salsa made for him on the spot. It didn’t seem like he was buying for an office (or that he had a job), but he must have spent over $15 on various Latin cuisine. The poor Salvadorian women were probably just terrified and were willing to give him whatever he wanted.

In the small queuing area, you can see directly into the kitchen. The large fridge is to your right, and the pots and pans are just farther back. The two short and chubby women combined with the several Salvadorian flags, specials written on the back of styrofoam plates, and a small TV playing telenovelas on Telemundo screamed authenticity. There is no Gringo of Oz behind a curtain secretly pulling all the strings (or stuffing the burritos in this case).

Sharpies + Styrofoam plate + overuse of one adjective = Authentic!

Being the manly man that I am, I of course ordered the Super Macho Burrito ($7.00) – “Filled beef, chicken, rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and hot sauce.” Although Egon said to never cross the streams, I thought it would be a bold and different choice to grab the old double meat (I know a few sluts girls in Boston who are salivating at that phrase right now). Due to the cramped  cozy layout of the burritoria, I had the joy of watching my little Salvadorean burrista assemble my meal. It’s always a delight to see them at their craft. It’s like watching a surgeon work, but instead of taking out a tumor, the doctor is putting in deliciousness.

The resulting burrito (and the seventy five cents they gave me in nickels for change) was hearty and heavy. It had a nice girth to it that I think I could probably have used to fend off a mugger. Thankfuly I had Ry-Guy at my side, so I wasn’t worried (it was also 1 pm in Bethesda, so not really a dangerous time or place).

The tortilla had a great texture and was impressed with its quality. One of the best I’ve tasted in the Metro DC area to date. As I worked my way through the burrito, the tomatoes (which I saw the burrista freshly cut) added nice moisture and the lettuce provided a solid crunch and texture. The rice was hearty, but not particularly flavorful.  The mix of beef and chicken I found to be really complimentary relationship. I found the chicken much drier that I would have liked, despite the fact that it was marinating in some sort of grease sauce. I had heard reports of the beef being exceptionally greasy, but I only had minimal drippage, which I attribute to the balance between the beef and chicken. I could see getting only beef being too greasy, and getting only chicken being very dry.  The hot sauce, which was never visibly noticeable, was nonetheless felt throughout the burrito. It added a very distinct and significant kick to the burrito. Ry-Guy got the Super Vegetarian, which he enjoyed but said it seemed to be missing something.  We concluded that both burritos would have been much better if there was another flavorful salsa added like a guacamole (which didn’t seem to be an option, even for extra) or a pico de gallo.

Colorful, just like the rich history of the Mexican people!

I loved the authenticity and the homey nature of the little burrito shack. While just a few blocks from my place of business, I don’t see myself frequenting there. I will definitely go back and try more (their menu was fairly extensive and certainly reasonably priced), but probably will only make it once in a while. A hearty filling meal for a decent price that doesn’t knock your socks off. Perfect for those times when you’re too lazy to put your socks back on after a meal.  A deceptively respectable 2.5/5 Sombreros.

Delicia’s Carry Out
4708 Highland Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
301-654-7887

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

El Tamarindo!

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When I was growing up, weather changes were simply known as weather. Now, it’s “climate change.” O-M-Fing-G, a few months ago it was snowing, and now it’s hot! Climate change is real! Al Gore was right! It’s a left-wing plot to undermine the sanctity of marriage! The President can read my e-mails! The government put fluoride in my water! What a bunch of conspiracy BS.

Why did I start with a rant on “global warming”? Is it because I’m fed up with politics and happen to live in the political center of the country? Possibly.  Is it because I’m bitter that I used my life savings to buy a large block of ice to keep my family cool during the hot DC summer? You damn right I am. Am I just crazy? Haven’t ruled it out. Is the over-use of the rhetorical questions a gimmick to hide my clearly weak writing style? Let’s just say $120,000 doesn’t buy the education you’d think it would.

The District has been crushed by a brutal heat wave this summer rendering the outdoors nearly uninhabitable (yeah, that’s why I’ve avoided outdoor activities…right), but on this one night, this night of nights, it was not just bearable, but dare I say… it was nice out. So what better way to take advantage of nice summer weather than to sit outside with some friends and eat a burrito?

How I prepare for every blog post...

I met up with the always charming, beer brewing, rugby playin’ Chicagoan Jimmy-Jims and the ever classy, future high-powered attorney (sadly a BC alum, but I’ve come to terms with it) E-Vol.  We were formerly slaves to the man paralegals in Boston together, but got the hell out of there to pursue higher education. Thankfully the economy is better than ever and the investment (aka crippling debt) is totally paying off. Psh, it’s not like I took this girl’s advice and started crying over my master’s degree to pump myself up for going to work in the morning or anything….

El Tamarindo (Spanish for The Tamarind… which is a tree with funky looking seeds; and yes, I did have to look that up. Thanks Google!)  is not like many of the other burrito joints that are on the go/carry out establishments where the burrito is assembled in front of you. Call me a traditionalist, but I like to see what goes in my food. If I’m going to put something inside me, I want to sure of its contents so I don’t get any surprises. Crazy, I know. This “Authentic El Salvadoran and Mexican” restaurant had a very extensive menu.  Enormous even. It’s so big that they decided to break it into 4 separate pdfs on their website. Needless to say, we frustrated the waitress with our lack of decision making skills, while she frustrated us with her lack of English speaking skills, so it was more or less a wash.

I ordered the Santa Fe Burrito which was described in the menu as “Chuck Steak and beans rolled into a flour tortilla, topped with enchilada sauce, tomatillo sauce and melted Monterrey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Served (sic) guacamole, sour cream, and fresh fruit.” All for the low, low price of $13.99. Wait, what? Hmm, that is expensive, but like I said, this is a real sit down restaurant. Maybe the fruit jacked up the price?  I decide to roll the dice because, as we all know, the higher the price, the better the quality… right? I’m sure that’s why David Kahn gave Darko a $20 million contract.

I'm mauling this burrito because it was made inside out, not because I have no semblance of table manners. Ok, maybe both.

When the burrito arrived, I was excited but frustrated. The presentation was quite good, but I thought the slices of orange were superfluous and the sauce being on the outside of the burrito goes against the idea of the burrito. The beauty of the burrito is the delivery mechanism. Wrapped in a single tortilla, it should be easily edible and portable with no utensils and one hand if necessary. The sauce being on top of the burrito forced me to attack this thing with a fork and a knife… completely blasphemy that I am ashamed to admit even happened. About halfway through, I decided to give that up and just dive in with my hands like nature intended.


The chuck steak had a very good grill flavor, but I could taste that it was a cheap cut of beef. This degraded the experience because I never knew when I would get a chewy or fatty bite of poor beef. The rest of the burrito was mixed together well that each bite had an array of tastes and I never had that “Crap, that last bite was just lettuce, and this next bite will be just chicken” experience. The rice, beans, cheese and salsa weren’t particularly notable, but were not bad at all. They were there to simply compliment the beef and sauces without being distracting. The whole burrito was grilled, not on a steamed tortilla, as is my preference, but it was not over grilled so the tortilla did not dry out. This was probably affected by the enchilada sauce and tomatillo sauce (pretty much salsa verde) that was on top. While these sauces were actually quite yummy, they don’t belong draped on top of a burrito. At that point, it’s just a half-assed enchilada. It was great that sour cream and guacamole were included, but they were on the side, which as I said earlier, is on the wrong side of the burrito. What’s the right side? Say it with me children… The Inside!

Dive in, don't be shy!

El Tamarindo is a very good sit down restaurant in a great location. They have an extensive menu (although like many ethnic restaurants, it’s really just the reassembling of 3-5 main ingredients in a bunch of different ways). Either way, there were no complaints from my companions on their food. I would definitely return for a good Mexican meal, but if you’ve got a hankerin’ for a burrito, there are many faster, cheaper, and better places for that job. I’m sure if I was reviewing the restaurant as a whole, their rating would be higher, but this is after all a burrito blog, and must be judged as such. Would be a 3 sombrero, but price bumps it down to a 2.5 out of 5 Sombreros.

El Tamarindo
1785 Florida Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20009-2657
(202) 328-3660

What’s mostly white with specs of color?

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The answer? It’s two-fold my friends. A Qdoba burrito is the more relevant answer, while the neighborhood of Georgetown is the more racist answer. Today, we are going to tackle the former although our adventure takes place in the latter.

Skipped out of work a bit early to beat the traffic (and by “beat”, I mean travel directly with), met up with MR Stone, AV, and Jolly to head down to grab a burrito in the least diverse area of Washington DC other than GOP headquarters…. you guessed it, Georgetown.

A few important notes before I get into this: 1) I had eaten Qdoba before, but it was a few years ago since I had last eaten it and tried to forget any preconceived notions I had about it; 2) one of the big draws to going all the way to G-town to go to a chain was their student special…. 50% off for “students” every Monday!

Helping out those poor Georgetown students... wait a minute...

(they didn’t ask for a student ID, but if they had, I still have my Boston University ID that has no expiration date)

That’s a good value; in other words, pretty much the opposite of the contract the Atlanta Basketball Hawks gave to Joe Johnson. Of course, when reviewing the place, I couldn’t let that low price affect my ultimate rating because it is only at this one location, so my loyal readers in other places will not be so fortunate. But now I’m rambling as usual….

The Qdoba menu is fairly diverse but definitely has the feel of a chain restaurant. It’s not as streamlined as the Chipotle menu, which has its trade offs. On the one hand, a few more options, but on the downside, the assembly process, especially when it’s busy (and I heard it gets much more crowded than when I was there), feels rushed, disjointed, and out of order. I did not like having my options so poorly laid out in front of me.

My order: 3-queso burrito with chicken ($6.25), “cilantro-lime” rice, black beans, cheese, pico de gallo (mild), salsa verde (medium), and guacamole ($.99, for a Qdoba guac ordering tip, see MoJo in the sidebar!), all of this wrapped in a steamed flour tortilla. The 3-queso sauce is described on the Qdoba website as a “creamy three cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes and jalapeños. ” Sounds pretty good, right? I can certainly get on board with those mixture of flavors.

Sassy Jolly says, "Order guac on the side, because they give you a ton more!"

After flying through the line,  and stammering out my order, I get my food and we sit down. AV and Jolly both get burritos, while MR Stone gets taco salad.  Nothing really stood out at about this burrito. The rice was bland, the salsas lacked any distinguishable flavor, and the beans did little more than take up space. The chicken was moderately flavorful, as was the guacamole, and the 3-queso sauce was quite good and added a unique and zesty flavor to the burrito. My complaint here was the underrepresentation of the good ingredients.  The quality of the meat often makes or breaks the burrito, which is why it’s generally the focus and why we order by saying “a chicken burrito” and not a “sour cream burrito with chicken” or something along those lines. There was minimal drippage from the burrito, which means that the ingredients blended fairly well together and the salsas weren’t too wet. I guess they weren’t as excited to be there as we were.

The inside of a 3-Queso chicken burrito

I did have one negative experience that I had never had before, and I am not sure if it’s indicative of this Qdoba, this batch of ingredients, or of Qdoba as a whole, but the tortilla became stuck in my teeth after every bite like a piece of cheap Wonderbread. Jolly experienced this sensation too and we spent a minute or two after every bite just picking the low quality tortilla out of our teeth. Qdoba steams their tortillas which, as my loyal readers would know, I love, but the tortillas must have been cheap because they did not hold their integrity the way I would have liked.

In the scheme of the burrito universe, this is at the bottom end of the scale. It doesn’t have too many redeeming qualities or a particular niche in the market that some restaurants or chains may have. What it goes for is completely middle of the road. Give the customer a few different options, aim for the middle in terms of flavors and ingredients, and keep the prices reasonable. If that is the goal, then it generally succeeds. I would not go out of my way to go to Qdoba, and it will probably lose a head to head with most other places, but if you’re itching for a burrito without dropping a lot of dough (or maize) for something that will fill you up, then Qdoba is convenient because it is a chain and you can find them all around.

Mase in Georgetown camouflage

By being on the east coast, Qdoba is playing in the Division III of burrito leagues, so it’s able to stay afloat. Also, if you can get it on the 50% off day or with one of their buy one-get one specials, then it’s definitely a very good value.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 sombreros.

Qdoba Mexican Grill
3303 M Street NW,
Washington, DC‎
(202) 342-3360