No Photography, Please
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.
Welcome To Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill
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.
Happy First Birthday To Burrito Blog
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.
Code Name: S-CH 3
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.
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.
Welcome To El Toro Taqueria
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.
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?El Toro Taqueria.
Quick! Where's The Mop?
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 Benitos Taco Shop meal was rated: .
Best In Its Class: El Pollo Loco
While many establishments defy classifications, there is a clear distinction between 'fast casual' and 'fast food.'
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.
A Taco Bell Rip Off
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.
Welcome To Taco John's
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.Taco John's.
Fish Tacos From Benitos
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.
Pu-Pu Platter Of Tacos
From left to right: Al Pastor, Steak, Chicken.
That's like the whole farm.
He gives the highest marks to the Al Pastor.
The Grease Rises To The Top
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.
Best Condiment Couple Ever
If any chefs are reading this, please take note.
Como Se Dice...Huevos Blancos?
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.
With A Side Of Radish
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.
Welcome To Pili's Tacos
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.'Pili's Tacos.
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.
Benitos Menu Highlight: Carnitas
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.
Torta! Torta! Torta!
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.