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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2pinos

The Last Frontier – the Burrito Factory

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We welcome back to the program Mabeuf for part 2 of our Alaskan Burrito series. Buen provecho! -Mase

Our tour of burritos in the “Last Frontier” continues at the Burrito Factory. That’s Alaskan for “bewildered contiguous Americans thirsty for reality shows.”

Yes, the Last Frontier (aka Alaska to the rest of you), mistakenly known for penguins, bobsleds and sobriety, so isolated it’s nearly impossible for avocados to travel further for the construction of guacamole. Decades ago a guac-hungry barrel chested lumberjack would have to chase an avocado like the Lions searching for a Superbowl appearance. (Editor’s note: You mean with Joey Harrington and 2 terrible wide receivers in tow?)

Pictured above: not Alaska

In modern times… Said lumberjack can hop in his jacked up F-350 with 28 inch chrome rims and a rear-windshield decal worthy of a dirty magazine and find a burrito with ease. Stopping at a local Chevron to fill up his metal stead and grab the latest discontinued flavor of Mountain Dew, the lumberjack can score his burrito.

Yes. This is a review of a burrito place in a Chevron station. And it’s not the microwave burrito you can find this author eating at least twice a week for his “Fourth meal.” PS… as a sub-review… the shredded chicken and green peppers microwave burrito gets 1 out of 5 sombreros.

To drop some history on you, Burrito Factory was not named after all of Bon Jovi’s relationships between 1982 – 1986. It was originally burrito Joe’s. While I did not have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Joe, I discovered the ‘Factory’ still uses his original recipes for all the ingredients, including the homemade salsa.

One more time… Say it with me… Homemade Salsa.

So… After dismounting your vehicle, tossing the premium diesel into the gas tank and flipping the self dispense switch you wish existed on all soft serve ice cream machines, you head inside. Getting to the counter at Burrito Factory is rough. You have to navigate past so many hunger quashing items. It’s still a miracle that I walked past the two foot long Slim Jims which could easily have been slammed into a makeshift hotdog with a slice of wonderbread. Eating one of those bad boys would make you forget why you came to Burrito Factory to being with.

At the counter the staff is friendly and all the ingredients are laid out infront of you. The assembly is quick and easy. You have four decisions to make.

Artist rendering of Mabeuf

What type of meat? Chicken, steak or pork?

What type of beans? Black or refried?

What type of salsa? Mild, hot and verde?

Cheese?

That’s right there’s no veggies in this place. This burrito is a meat torpedo. (Hope that doesn’t get blocked by your work firewall) I considered asking them to crack open one of the gas station chef salads. But the day’s mission was writing a burrito review, not spending the day on the toilet after mixing shredded chicken with a hard boiled egg.

Meat only, bitches. Wolf, moose, or caribou.

For the record, I went with Chicken, black and tan, and both salsas.

The chicken is impressive. Instead of being diced, it’s finely shredded and allowed to marinate in juice all day. My theory is traditionally that flavor and juice are inextricably connected. I will continue to subscribe to this theory, but Burrito Factory has added a caveat: There’s a clear line between moist succulent proteins and a burrito gusher.

Like a compromised dental dam… juice rushed forth. No combination of floral print napkins or quilted brawny paper towels could keep this beast from sharing its flavor with my tabletop. Consuming the rest of the burrito was a careful balance of managing the water table and actually drinking. While the phrase ‘burrito aquifer’ sounds entirely appealing, it’s forgettable when experienced.

Open the flood gates!

Aside from the burrito’s faucet-like qualities the salsa hit the spot. It obviously ended up diluted, but you could tell that the staff makes it fresh on a regular basis. They obviously avoided the urge to take the Pace Picante off the gas station self. Instead they’ll leave that for us unwitting patrons.

In the end… this burrito was desperate for two things: 1. a crisp element and 2. a moisture absorbing adhesive. Without peppers, onions, lettuce or Golden Grahams this burrito had no crisp refreshing elements. The black and tan beans and the wet meat gave this burrito a yogurt like consistency. Like every Linkin Park album since Hybrid Theory, this didn’t deliver. (Editor’s note: Did Linkin Park ever really deliver? I was plenty angsty in my formative years, but they never did it for me. Too whiney)

You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus. Not even drippy burritos.

Without rice the aforementioned juice was allowed to flood out the meal. Much like the Dude needed his rug to pull the room together, Burrito Factory needs a few more frames at the alley to respectably “fuck with the Jesus.”

2 out of 5 sombreros


Burrito Factory
c/o Chevron Station
2801 Boniface Parkway
Anchorage, AK 99504-3130
(907) 333-3663