The Burrito Blog

March 2006

No Photography, Please

After skating past the Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill on Wilshire day after day, it was only a matter of time before I would make an official Burrito Blog visit.

I packed up my camera, and stopped by for lunch.

For the first time in my burrito journalism career, I was asked to stop taking photos inside the restaurant. I had taken only one.

Well, please make that burrito to go.

I got the chicken especial, which comes with black beans, sour cream, and guacamole, but I got mine with no crema. It was pretty solid for a chain - a nice tight wrap but poorly mixed.

Given the ubiquity of Mexican food in Los Angeles, I might not be back, but Rubio's wasn't bad.

This Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill meal was rated: 5.9.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for No Photography, Please

Welcome To Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill

Rubio's has 152 locations in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon. They're publicly owned, and are traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol RUBO.

While they are seeking franchisees, 147 of their 152 restaurants are corporate owned, the vast majority of which are located in California or Arizona.

After searching for some information about the history or founding of Rubio's, I found only this:

Founded by a fish. I don't believe it.

You can find the menu on the official site, here.

This entry is filed in Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Welcome To Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill | Comments (9)

Happy First Birthday To Burrito Blog

It's been exactly one year since Burrito Blog's first post. What a great time we've had so far.

We've traveled the country, ate a few hundred tortillas, appeared in major newspapers and on television, and shared our work just shy of 500,000 times. That's not bad for a website dedicated to tortilla cylinders filled with rice and beans.

This entry is filed in {News}.

Monday, March 27, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Happy First Birthday To Burrito Blog

Code Name: S-CH 3

Initial impressions of Taqueria El Toro: Impressive.

The place was very clean inside, and during normal lunch and dinner hours, pretty busy. The menu board was huge, and professionally done. I looked around for a minute and decided there was nothing left to do but step up to the counter. I ordered a super chicken burrito, no lettuce, and no tomato. No tomato does not mean no salsa; it means no additional sliced tomatoes.

An attentive lady who took my order got to work fixing my burrito alongside other hardworking, burrito-fixing ladies, all wearing matching uniforms.

What she produced was a pretty large, tightly wrapped burrito that I like to refer to as S-CH 3, in reference to the code she wrote on it to identify it to the cashier. I assume the "S" stands for super, and the "CH" for chicken, but I admittedly have not figured out what the 3 stands for.

In any event, the burrito was pretty darned delicious. It filled me up, no question, and all the ingredients seemed pretty fresh. I was quite pleased to know I had El Toro at my doorstep.

However, I do have two complaints about the burrito, which keep it out of the category of outstanding. First, there was something slightly off about some of the vegetables that were in there. I tried to figure it out and to the best of my ability, I think there were too many onions for me. It seemed a bit acidic. Second, these burritos are not cheap. I'm not saying they're not worth what they cost, but a super burrito at El Toro Taqueria will run you just shy of $8.00 That seems to be on the higher end of the burrito cost spectrum.

Still, El Toro receives very good marks.

This El Toro Taqueria meal was rated: 8.5.

Saturday, March 25, 2006 by Phil. Permalink for Code Name: S-CH 3

Welcome To El Toro Taqueria

Reporting from San Francisco, Phil.

As you may know, I have recently relocated from sunny Miami to the cooler, foggier, yet burrito-rich San Francisco in hopes of achieving my dreams of never being more than a five minute walk from a great burrito joint.

My new living arrangements far surpassed my expectations.

Situated in San Francisco's Mission District, I was overjoyed to see a Taqueria less than one block from my apartment.

Located at 17th and Valencia, Taqueria El Toro is hard to miss, both because of the location, and the word "TAQUERIA" painted in huge letters on the side of the building. I knew a lot was riding on my first visit to Taqueria El Toro. Either I would happen upon a jewel of the Mission, thus having an awesome taqueria a mere stone's throw from my door, or I would discover an overzealous yet underperforming disappointment that I would see every time I walked home.

Check out the menu page 1 and page 2 (opens in a new window).

Which would El Toro prove to be? Where would it fall in the hierarchy of the great taquerias? How would El Toro shape my life as a San Franciscan?

And why did all the ladies working inside wear funny little uniforms? Let's find out.

This entry is filed in El Toro Taqueria.

Saturday, March 25, 2006 by Phil. Permalink for Welcome To El Toro Taqueria | Comments (7)

Quick! Where's The Mop?

My words and pictures paint a kind picture of the truth.

This burrito literally exploded. I've never seen anything like it. John was right. Never eat here. I must warn the world. This was the worst burrito I've ever tried to eat.

As John and I fled the scene, we spoke:

John: I'm really glad you decided to stop eating that. There was no reason to keep going.
Jonah: I couldn't keep going.
John: 'Cause the thing fell apart?
Jonah: Two factors brought that burrito to a point that prohibited further continuance of the meal. Massive structural flaws made consumption tactically impossible. And it was f-ing disgusting.
John: Dude write that down.

This Del Taco meal was rated: 0.0.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Quick! Where's The Mop?

Machaca Revisited

The same delicious Machaca as before, slathered with hot sauce. This time I took a little of my own advice and ordered at night. Delicious.
This Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: 7.8.

Monday, March 20, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Machaca Revisited

Best In Its Class: El Pollo Loco

Burrito Blog has covered over fifty restaurant brands that sell burritos. Not all are within the same class.

While many establishments defy classifications, there is a clear distinction between 'fast casual' and 'fast food.'

The big chain hitters in the 'fast food' category are Taco Bell, El Pollo Loco, Taco John's, and Del Taco. Of these four, the nod goes to El Pollo Loco.

It's pretty hard to ensure quality when your price point is under $4.00 and you're trying to keep track of over 100 locations.

El Pollo Loco, congratulations for being the best at mass producing food I would rather not eat.

This entry is filed in El Pollo Loco.

Saturday, March 18, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Best In Its Class: El Pollo Loco

A Taco Bell Rip Off

Taco John's has the genuine feel of a Taco Bell rip off. Taco bell is 7 years older than Taco John's (1962 vs. 1969), and I think I know with which brand people are more familiar.

However, Taco John's distinguishes themselves on one key point: Potato Oles. Jen raved about the Potato Oles. In fact, many of the burritos on the menu came with Potato Oles inside them, though they are also available as a side dish.

It turns out, Potato Oles are tater tots.

I elected not to order any, but to instead sample someone else's. They tasted like tater tots.

I had a Chicken Quesadilla which was good, and a Super Burrito (pictured) in homage to Anna's Taqueria. This will be the last time I use Anna's and Taco John's in the same paragraph.

For being what it is, Taco John's made a decent lunch.

This Taco John's meal was rated: 3.0.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for A Taco Bell Rip Off

Welcome To Taco John's

Reporting from Minnesota, Phil. Redwood Falls, population: 5,200. Home of my girlfriend, as well as 1 of the over 400 Taco John's franchise locations, a restaurant I had never heard of aside from her continually saying "Taco John's," when she meant to say "Taco Bell." When I would question her about it, heard tales of the wonder that is Taco John's, and that I didn't know what I was missing.

Apparently there are still 23 states that don't know what they're missing since Taco John's is now in 27 states in the US, none of which are in the Northeast or California. You can find a list of their locations here. Taco John's is independently owned.

However, while visiting her here in Redwood Falls (RWF, as the kids call it) there was no doubt that I had to check the place out. Fortunately, it was not hard to find, as you can spit from one side of Redwood Falls to the other.

Note: Though it might be reasonable to assume that Redwood Falls has not yet entered the electrical age and as a result I was unable to charge my camera, the truth is that I forgot it in Miami.

This entry is filed in Taco John's.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Welcome To Taco John's | Comments (23)

Fish Tacos From Benitos

The fish tacos from Benitos, or almost anywhere in Los Angeles, it seems, come with an incredible amount of shredded vegetables on top.

I'm not crazy about that, but who am I to poo-poo the highly varied presentation of the fish taco?

Oh wait, I have poo-poo'd the fish taco before. Looking back, the aesthetics of the fish tacos at El Pelon soar past those of the fish tacos I've seen on the west coast. In fact, I get a lot of hate mail for the bad rating of the El Pelon fish taco.

Now that I have a better measure of comparison, I think I should return to El Pelon for a second try.

This Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: 3.1.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Fish Tacos From Benitos

Pu-Pu Platter Of Tacos

John decided to take advantage of the $1.25 tacos at Pili's and get himself a sampler.

From left to right: Al Pastor, Steak, Chicken.

That's like the whole farm.

He gives the highest marks to the Al Pastor.

This entry is filed in Pili's Tacos.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Pu-Pu Platter Of Tacos

The Grease Rises To The Top

I'm a big fan of the burritos at Benitos - that's not much of a secret. But you've got to order with knowledge. Don't go into this place blind.

For example, take the plates. They are greasy in a way never before seen by Burrito Blog. Stay away.

Also a surprise was the Californian burrito. Many establishments make their Californian burritos with avocado. Not Benitos. They use potatoes instead. Some people like that, some people don't.

That choice is yours to make. Now that you've got all the facts, choose wisely.

This Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: 1.9.

Monday, March 13, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for The Grease Rises To The Top

Best Condiment Couple Ever

Allow me to present lightly fried members of the pepper and onion families. Similar to the famous pair that appears on pizzas (maybe even at Romano's Pizza), this couple is served as a free garnish along side your burrito at Los Primos.

If any chefs are reading this, please take note.

This entry is filed in Los Primos Cantina.

Friday, March 10, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Best Condiment Couple Ever

Como Se Dice...Huevos Blancos?

After an evening out, Paul, Kristin, and I headed down the hill to Benitos for some late night snacks. Kristin and I skated, and Paul has some real hustle.

Kristin was craving a huevos burrito filled only with egg whites. After a brief lapse in communication with the cashier, she found the lingo: huevos blancos.

That accent was all our new friend (at right) needed to hear before embarrassing Kristin and her Español skills.

She got the egg whites, and we all got a good laugh.

This entry is filed in Benitos Taco Shop.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Como Se Dice...Huevos Blancos?

With A Side Of Radish

I've complained in the past about the unwelcome presence of the radish. I'm just not up for an unannounced radish invasion.

However, in this case, the radishes were unassumingly placed outside my burrito with a jalapeño. Thanks for being so considerate.

Hey, you know what? A radish on the side isn't so bad.

This entry is filed in Pili's Tacos.

Monday, March 06, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for With A Side Of Radish

Welcome To Pili's Tacos

Benitos was just so close. We never really explored as we should have.

After a bad Benitos experience (sadly went unmentioned on Burrito Blog) where John and I got beef tacos after midnight, we decided it was time to look for new sources of tortillas.

We spotted Pili's on Santa Monica Blvd. What a find. We have a new home (Map).

Pili's is a little on the dirty side, but that's nothing new. Every restaurant in California has a card in its window indicating its cleanliness, A, B, or C. Most everywhere has an 'A.' If you get a 'C' the state closes you down. Pili's has a 'B.'

Well, well, well, 'B' is for Burrito.

This entry is filed in Pili's Tacos.

Monday, March 06, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Welcome To Pili's Tacos

Technical Difficulty

Due to a critical lack of focus on behalf of my camera, you'll just have to pretend that this burrito looks better than the picture suggests.

I had the regular carnitas burrito (which gets made with a steamed tortilla!) with refried beans.

While the technical failure ruined the photo, my meal was unharmed.

This Los Primos Cantina meal was rated: 7.8.

Sunday, March 05, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Technical Difficulty

Benitos Menu Highlight: Carnitas

This is not to be missed by carnitas and guacamole fans, such as myself. The carnitas burrito at Benitos costs only $3.89 - the same as the veggie.

That alone is a deal. Oh, but there's more. It comes with guacamole, which ordinarily costs extra. Bonus.

Carnitas is usually hit or miss. In this case, it's a hit.

This Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: 8.3.

Friday, March 03, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Benitos Menu Highlight: Carnitas

Torta! Torta! Torta!

All of 2006 has been super productive, but this day everything seemed to go wrong in one way or another.

I'll spare you the details of my Internet woes.

In an effort to bring some joy to my day, I got the carne asada torta from Benitos. This one was smaller than some tortas I've seen in the past, but no problem. Overall, it was pretty good, but the dark cloud on my persevered. I was overcharged, no refund was issued, and the flaws in my day continued.

Benitos, I hold you responsible, but forgive you.

This Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: 5.1.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 by Jonah. Permalink for Torta! Torta! Torta!