Part One of a five-part series this week on tacos, burritos, and salsas...sorry, hungrymomma!
Us editorial Weeklings always steal food whenever the paper's ad side order mass lunches during a special issue sales push, whether Best of, Summer Guide, or some other such blockbuster. Sometimes, the chow impresses, like whenever they choose Philly's Best; other times, not so much. Especially whenever it was Chipotle, which I came to loathe like few other chains. It wasn't a question of authenticity; I will praise Jack in the Box's tacos until God calls his wayward wab. Chipotle's burritos just plain sucked, its rice pointless, beans unremarkable. And the meat! Mush worthy of a spittoon in a barely cooked flour tortilla.
Thankfully, the Weekly ad folks stopped ordering Chipotle some time ago, and I didn't have to bemoan their choice of crap. I wouldn't even try the restaurant after they left McDonald's, after they announced the use of grain-fed, cruelty-free beef, chicken, and pork. But last week, the mysterious Ben Dayhoe, the man behind the eminently readable, too-infrequently-updated blog Life at the Santiago Lofts, posted that a new Chipotle was to open in SanTana. Dayhoe gushes over Chipotle like a little girl over Miley Cyrus, per his own admission, and he invited me to try his culinary muse at his expense. I agreed, always open to revisiting a restaurant I might not like (there's hope for you yet, Lola Gaspar, if your owners ever get over themselves).
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
We met last Friday, braving the rains to find a Chipotle buzzing with buyers. Dayhoe's wife was there, along with a Cuban friend whose relatives own the Fiesta Mexicana grocery store in Anaheim (little-known fact: Cubans also own the Cacique brand of Mexican cheeses. Oh well: wabs will always have Northgate). I entrusted Dayhoe with his usual, and so he ordered a steak burrito with rice, sour cream, sautéed peppers, and mild, medium, and hot salsa mixed in. Did I miss anything, Ben?
Scout's honor this burrito was good, and it was all about the meat. I appreciated the salsa's tang, the pepper strip's slight bite, and the sour cream's cooling effect, but the meat sung with the souls of cows that didn't die a horrid death. Maybe the allure of organic tricked my taste buds into trying to make the meat more than what it was, but I doubt it, especially given that the choice Dayhoe went was one I had maligned to friends almost as much as Armenian genocide deniers. This meat was as distinct in taste difference as the grass-fed steaks at Manhattan Supper Club in Orange are to what they grease out at Norm's.
Will I return to Chipotle? Probably not. Their flour tortilla needs more cooking than a quick trip to a flat iron (and let me trot out my cultural authenticity card and note that the French press is for a Cuban media noche, and a comal is mandatory for a true tortilla, and never the twain should meet), tasteful rice is better left to the Persians, and the price is a bit much given you can get a better-tasting burrito for about two bucks left with the same heft at Taquería Tapatía about 10 minutes away (more on them tomorrow). But no longer will I trash Chipotle--except for that Mayan figure on their walls. Hey, corporate: burritos have as much to do with the ancients as closed borders have to do with Mexicans.
Chipotle, 1945 E. 17th St., SanTana. Tomorrow: Taquería Tapatía's OG second location...