“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?
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?).
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.
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.
Bad Bean Baja Grill
3105 N. Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948