Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Battle of the Burritos

I like burritos as much as the next person, but Nabiscoman really loves them (but I like blogging more, so I'm doing the post). For the past few years he has made a point of seeking out burritos wherever he goes, from Vancouver to New York and everywhere in between. According to him, the best burritos are found at Chipotle. However, until quite recently, there was not a Chipotle within driving distance, and so it was not an option. Other burrito places were springing up left and right in the area, though, so we made a point of trying them all.

The first place we tried was another chain, Moe's Southwest Grill. We both had "homewreckers," which I found to be acceptable, but Nabiscoman assured me they were nothing compared to the burritos of Chipotle. Certainly quantity was not an issue, and chips and salsa even come with the burritos there.

Next we were excited to try a local chain, Bomber's Burrito Bar, which opened recently in downtown Schenectady. We prefer to patronize locally owned businesses, and any business that attempts to make a go of it in Schenectady certainly deserves our support. Knowing it would be crowded, we waited a few days after the grand opening to go. It was doing a brisk business and the menu and decor seemed promising. I had the chicken burrito and NM had the ground beef. We were surprised that they contained mostly rice and very little meat or beans. We figured the rice ratio was due to lack of experience, but in fact, that's how the workers are instructed to make them. Also the workers were incapable of rolling the tortilla because it was overfilled and had to try several times, dumping the filling out onto a new tortilla. The chicken was rather tasteless and required the use of much dental floss later.

We didn't want to give up on Bomber's, so we returned a second time. This time we carefully instructed them to limit the amount of rice, and that definitely helped. I had the BBQ pulled pork and that had more flavor than the chicken. NM had the chicken and found it flavorless and stringy, too. Undaunted, we tried a third time. I had the "Red Stripe" jerk pork, which sounded better than it was, and NM had the BBQ chicken (chunks, not shredded). It wasn't great, and we decided to give up.

Our third burrito experience was at Hot Harry's Fresh Burritos, a more or less regional chain. I had the chipotle barbeque pork burrito, and it was fine, but nothing special. The staff was very pleasant, though, and did know how to roll the burritos. Again I was assured by NM that no place could hold a candle to Chipotle.

Then the moment we had been waiting for: a Chipotle opened within driving distance with 2 or 3 more restaurants in the works. So we made the 25 mile pilgrimage to the new Chipotle in Wilton (in our Honda Civic hybrid that gets 45 mpg, so it's not as bad as it seems). NM advised me to get the barbacoa, spicy shredded beef. I'm not a big beef fan, but I took his suggestion. I also had black beans and the chili-corn salsa (and the proper amount of rice). I must agree that it was the best burrito I've had. Everything was fresh and flavorful. We've been back twice, and I haven't tried anything new. I did have pinto beans instead of black beans on the most recent trip. They didn't add anything, and I'll definitely return to black beans the next time we go. And there will be a next time, maybe even this weekend.

While I would prefer to frequent a locally owned restaurant, in this case Chipotle definitely beat out the competition. We'll look forward to more Chipotles opening in the area. Maybe the other burrito places can get some pointers from Chipotle.


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