leave your inhibitions at the door
This month brought some traveling for yours truly, with the two main excursions being to Chicago for Lollapalooza and New York for Panhead’s birthday. So, in my constant quest to bring you news of burritos near and far, I ate a ton of ‘em. Probably not a wise idea when you sprain a knee and can’t exercise, thus expanding the wasteline.
Are there actually Mexicans there? YES, there are! Except they’re Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. As I mentioned in my first New York post, there wasn’t much in Soho and Greenwich Village. If I had a better knee and the hurricane wasn’t knocking on the door, I may have ventured to other burroughs.
One of the burrito’s reviewed here is the famous Taco Burrito Palace #2. To this day, we still don’t know if the existence of Taco Burrito Palace #1 has ever been confirmed. This place is a Chicago legend. There was a stretch right after college where Micker and I went out every night. For 30 straight nights. And I’m sure 29 of those nights ended up at TB#2. It got to the point where the guy with the Wolski’s Tavern mesh baseball cap knew our orders by heart. We were the sultans of the palace. In fact, we were in the exclusive club of people that they let use their bathroom – right past the counter, through the kitchen, avoid the sack of potatoes on the floor, and then turn left. The other mystery from that time was what the hell they made that had potatoes.
How does it hold up in sobriety and after years of burrito exploration? To quote Fred Nietsche (or maybe it was Prince in Purple Rain) – You can’t go back home.
The other notable event to the Burrito Guide is the debut of Chicago-based burrito connosieur (and cousin’s kid) El Douchebag. He’s responsible for the scores for Angela’s Burrito Style, one of his favorite places.
Taco Burrito Palace #2
Restaurant Description: Independent, open late. It used to have only 4 booths and a formica counter. Now there’s a long granite counter and enough modern-looking tables to seat 50.
Price: $6.50 for Super Grande, $1 extra for avocado, pre-tax
Atmosphere =2. Boooooooo. You turned a classic hole-in-the-wall into a yuppie haven.
Taste = 2. Not a lot of spice to the meat and the hottest sauce was pretty weak. There was something that didn’t taste right with the lettuce and beans, but overall package was better than parts.
Heft = 5. This maybe a little unfair because it’s the super grander size, but this thing was huge. It’s more Lexington Steele than Shane Diesel. Either way, you can barely fit it in your mouth. Even better considering there’s no rice to take up space.
Messiness = 4. Well-rolled. Dripping grease bumps up the score.
Intangibles = 4. Shell was nicely toasted. I went in really unsure what it would be like after all these years. I had memories of this being a top-notch burrito, but wasn’t sure if that was the alcohol talking. Outside of missteps with décor and funkiness in the lettuce, a really good burrito experience.
Overall Score = 17
Restaurant Description: One of three burrito places in a row on Western and Armitage. Breakfast!
Price: $4.95 +$1 for avocado, pre- tax
Atmosphere =4. True dump. Combination of counter service and tables.
Taste = 4. Steak was finely chopped, giving more texture and surface area for charring and spice.
Heft = 4. Dense, solid burrito with no rice.
Messiness = 4. Tight, but juices were flowing.
Intangibles = 3. Atmosphere is great, but I have to limit the score to 3 because of the very weak sauce. It was like Taco Bell’s Medium, if that.
Overall Score = 19
Taqueria Los Comales
Restaurant Description: Independent, family-dining type place. Big place to accommodate late-night crowds from the Congress Theater.
Price: $4.95 +$0.50 for avocado, before tax
Atmosphere =4. Pure shithole. Broken gumball machines and stuffed animal claw machine for the kids. Glass windows so you can see the kitchen, like some fancy place.
Taste = 5. Toasted shell, a little heavy on the lettuce, but the bursting flavors more than makes up for it. Hot sauce had a smoky aroma that gave additional depth to the flavors.
Heft = 3.
Messiness = 4. Nice and juicy.
Intangibles = 5. What’s not to like here. Only one employee spoke any English. Big tubs of spicy pickled cauliflower, jalapenos, and carrots on the table. And full bar including an all-Mexican line-up of beers.
Overall Score = 21
Restaurant Description: Chain, given furniture and décor it’s slightly upscale. The biggest hook for this place is that they have a machine that will freshly press the burrito shell for each order. It then goes straight to the grill for a light toasting.
Price: $6.99 before tax
Atmosphere =4. Nice looking place, lots of room, comfortable booths. Maybe a little too clean, but I’m in a good mood.
Taste = 3. Meat was a little lacking in flavor and the beans were average. But the fresh-pressed shell was light and crisp. The sauce, while not scorching hot, had a great flavor to it.
Heft = 3.
Messiness = 3. Not a lot of grease, but it was well-rolled, even after being lightly toasted.
Intangibles = 4. I thought the shell thing was just a gimmick, but the freshness elevated the burrito.
Overall Score = 17
Angela’s Burrito Style (El Douchebag’s scores, my words)
Restaurant Description: Small, little hole in the wall with minimal seating. I was absolutely starving after hours at Lollapalooza. El Douchebag insisted I try the Cali-style, which includes French fries inside. In an effort to maintain integrity in the HBI, I ordered a “normal” full-sized steak burrito. In an effort to kill the munchies, I also ordered a Cali-style with al pastor (marinated pork). It didn’t matter as both of them came out Cali-style anyway. As far as scoring, the fries take the place of the rice, so I guess that’s OK.
Price: $6.75 or grande Cali, before tax
Atmosphere =3. Owners were friendly, a little bit of a dump, but you can tell they care.
Taste = 5. Really hearty meat, well spiced. Guacamole was best I’ve had so far in a burrito. Maybe it’s a little unfair to have fries inside. I’m not sure I would’ve given it a full 5 as the sauce was hot but had a funky tasted to it.
Heft = 4. Slightly bigger than normal. Really not much of a difference between large and small.
Messiness = 4. Juicy, however my burrito was loosely wound. Others were ok, so maybe they had a bad day.
Intangibles = 5. Consistency, open late. Fries were a nice touch. It’s like when high-end restaurants do fusion and shit like that. But this place is nowhere near high-end.
Overall Score = 21
Restaurant Description: Small, traditional family-owned near Easter Michigan U’s campus. Full menu with offerings from different regions in Mexico.
Price: $8.50 before tax, but that was for a platter
Atmosphere =4. Small, homey, crappy décor everywhere. Very comfortable.
Taste = 2. Not much flavor at all. Hot sauce had great smoky flavor, but guacamole looked fake – like colored mayo.
Heft = 2. It looked like a good size, but there was a huge overlap in the shell – like the rolled it a few times. Beans and rice were on the side, but they still put refried beans inside of it. Fucking cheapskates.
Messiness = 2. Shoddy.
Intangibles = 3. This place was like the DeLorean of burrito joints. Nice looking place and food, but zero under the hood.
Overall Score = 13