Bad Bean Baja Grill – The OBX Vacation Burrito

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Bad Bean baja grill front

“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?

12″ or 15″… tortilla?

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?).

Slowed down to 1/10th of actual speed so humans can see it

Slowed down to 1/10th of actual speed so humans can see it

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. 

How to finish the devil's inch

How to finish the devil’s inch

 

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.

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Bad Bean Baja Grill
3105 N. Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
252.261.1300
4pinos

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Mase vs. El Toro

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In late May of Twenty Aught Eleven, Mase battled EL TORO at Pica Taco. I had previously stopped by the Pica Taco on Columbia Road and detailed the experience here. This time I was stopping by the other location at the taint between Columbia Heights and U St. at 14th & Florida Ave. At this juncture, Pauly and I were still young and foolish (Pauly even had hair!), and had decided that it was a good idea to make fools of ourselves by trying out for DC’s “elite” men’s ultimate frisbee team: Truck Stop Glory Hole.  Why did we do this? I’m not really sure, but I’m going to retroactively say it was just to work up a good burrito hunger.

Once a month, Pica Taco hosts its El Toro Challenge. What is the challenge exactly? It should be obvious from the name because El Toro is Spanish for…. the Toro. (RIP Farley) It’s 4 pounds of burrito in 45 minutes and costs $14.99 (if you don’t finish). If you finish it in the allotted time, you earn “an exclusive El Toro T-Shirt, gift certificate, and bask in eternal fame on the Wall of Champions.” My appetite was so whet you could drown a toddler in its panties, and I was ready to grab le taureau by the horns (that means “the bull” in French. I don’t know why I know that, I took 6 years of Spanish!) and make this burrito my bitch. And as we all know, if one pound of something is great, four pounds of it must be at least four times as great, right?!

It's a metaphor... but it actually happened.

It’s a metaphor… but it actually happened.

We entered the small restaurant that really has an authentic feel complete with either soccer or a Spanish telenovela on the TV, a case full of Tecates, Modelos, and Jarritos, and a couple of tiny adorable Latina women behind the counter. My options today were chicken or steak, and like the greedy (half) white man I am, I chose both. Into the 4 or so large tortillas went hearty helpings of rice, black beans, and the 2 meats (separated). This is still technically a burrito by the barest of definitions (or purest, if you’re really into the Mexican style), but as I’ve previously discussed, I prefer my burritos to be Missionary position style and with all the bells and whistles of cheese/salsa/guac on the inside, because it is what’s on the inside that counts, right? (At least to ugly people)

I absolutely demolished the first quarter of the burrito. I’m more of a sprinter than a marathoner in just about everything I do in life (except for drinking, there I’m a try to sprint the marathon). Estimates put it at about 6 minutes, so I’m at a good pace. I attack from the steak side of the burrito, which turns out to be a big mistake, but we’ll get to that later. With my beloved Dan Pauly cheering me on (and by that, I mean eating his food like a normal human whilst occasionally glancing my way and chuckling/photographing), I dove mouth first into the next pound. This one took me noticeably longer, probably closer to 12-15, but I’m still on a fine pace to finish in time.

Then… I start to slow. I hit the Heartbreak Hill of the burrito… the unreasonably dry chicken. Each bite was agony as I struggled to make it swallowable through arduous chewing and fruitless efforts in saliva generation. I grabbed the bottle of spicy salsa verde and began slathering it on every bite to lubricate it down my throat. Anyone who has eaten through the point of pain, aka like an American, knows that you need to trick your body into fitting more down there. You’ve got a 20 minute window before your body knows it’s full to shove as much crap down your gullet before it taps out. The dry chicken was slowing  my pace in this precious window.

The 3rd pound took up about 20 minutes, until it was just me and the last quarter of this behemoth staring at me with its dark dead eyes. With each agonizing bite, my body continued to breakdown. Salsa flowing through my veins, rice floating in my brain, beans bombing my intestines… it was all too much. What little joy that was in this burrito was long gone… and I was but a husk of my former self. Finally, the timer went off, the 45 minute limit was up sending a wave of simultaneous frustration and relief over me…. frustlief if you will.

In this instance, my sprinters training did me no good as I was defeated by El Toro and he stuck a 3.5 lb horn deep into my body, mixed it around, and left me to die… or in the very least attempt to kill my toilet. I would say I’m going to get revenge on Señor Toro, but it’s unlikely. I don’t like making $15 bets that I will likely lose, unless it’s fantasy football.

Since a picture is worth a baker’s dozen words or so, I’ll let the gallery really illuminate the experience.