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Battlefield NYC: The Great Burrito Wars of 2010

Battlefield NYC: The Great Burrito Wars of 2010

I like burritos.  More accurately, I fucking love burritos.  I probably consume more of them than anyone in the United States.  (To clarify: I’m suggesting that burritos make up a higher percentage of my meals, not that I consume a higher gross tonnage of burritos than anyone else in the US – that would be foolish.  Also, I’m lumping tacos in the “burrito” category because soft tacos are effectively the safe thing.  I prefer to get the semantics out of the way early.)  Roughly 82% of my meals are burrito-focused; if you want to consider slight variants that are essentially the same thing (halal food: gyro, rice, hot sauce, pita; vindaloo: spicy chicken, rice, naan) then I’m running on something like 96% burritos.

I wanted to firmly establish my burrito cred, because what I am about to offer is going to be controversial: the burrito situation in New York has gotten out of hand.  Burrito shops are springing from the ground like the buzzards in Joust.  A Chipotle just opened that is three streets down from my apartment.  There’s a Qdoba that’s zero streets down from my apartment.  There’s an auxiliary Chipotle two avenues and zero streets from my apartment.  There’s a double redundancy spare auxiliary Chipotle four streets and one avenue from my apartment.  The recently opened Baja Fresh in midtown has a delivery range so massive that I suspect they’ve deployed the corporate helicopter fleet to participate in the burrito market share grab.  A recently opened taqueria was profiled in the New York Times.  Burrito shop proprietors: you can cool it with the NYC expansion for now; there is currently about a 1:1 person : burrito shop ratio here.

An all-too-frequent sight

Back when I was among the working elite, I’d frequently organize treks to the nearest Chipotle.  Back in 2007-8, it was a revelatory experience, walking roughly two miles there and two miles back, mingling with the other working stiffs, and savoring a lovingly prepared burrito.  It felt like a treat, a little escape from the numbing grind of the finance world.  Now, I would be astonished if there wasn’t a Chi-pot located right in the Tribeca lobby, manned not by a team of passionate burrito-assembling associates, but by mindless drones who don’t listen to the words emanating from your mouth as they slop some shit together haphazardly.  Were the lessons of Boston Market, Krispy Kreme and others lost on the management of these establishments?  Preserve the experience.

Take a look at Anna’s Taqueria in Boston – that’s the perfect model.  A handful of locations throughout the city, uniformly excellent staff well-equipped to handle the throngs of customers, who are happy just to be there and  to enjoy something special and delicious.  A shoddy Qdoble Fresh on every corner does not a Burrito Mecca make.  And, the pool of talented burrito assemblers is only so deep.  The fuckers at Qdoba are eschewing the traditional cylindrical shape of the burrito in favor of some square looking nightmare guaranteed to turn into a huge fucking mess.  Chipotle once benefited from a trip there seeming special – almost Anna’s-like – but they and their compatriots  are diluting the shit out of the burrito experience.  (If you have about three hours to kill, you can check out the Chipotle difficulties this crazy fuck is experiencing in Orlando.  Tremendously entertaining, but  then again, I have a lot of time on my hands.)

The new Chipotle right in the heart of Chelsea has its work cut out for it.  The guys in Chelsea spend about the same amount of time mulling their salsa choices as they would going through the sweater rack at a Barney’s sale.  Read this if you don’t know how to fucking order.  This new Chipotle also appears to serve mixed fucking drinks?!?  I’ve always seen “margaritas” on the menu but have never seen anyone order one.  Yesterday while checking out the new place some douche ordered an Izze and Absolute (after taking about 17 minutes to order his six fucking tacos).  If you are getting drunk at Chipotle, you are doing it wrong.

Here’s how I would rank the burritos available in NYC right now (not including actual sit down restaurants):

1.  Chilly17 homemade burritos (not widely available)

2.  El Sabor Del Taco truck – 6th Ave and 19th Street, spicy carnitas are fucking divine

3.  Dos Toros Taqueria – The NYT review was pretty spot on, need to do a little more work here but the carne asada was probably the best I’ve had outside of SoCal and the chicken was legit as well)

4.  Chipotle – I’ve eaten so many that I’m getting a little burned out, plus they’ve diluted their talent pool so much that the quality pales compared to even two years ago

5.  Qdoba – I’ll prob come back around fellas, and I’m sure your senior management is looking at my Qdoba card in astonishment pondering Vegas-level comps to keep me involved, but the lackadaisical attitude of everyone involved and resultant shitty square burritos has put you in the doghouse.

Burrito or dumpling? Hard to say at Q

Not ranked: Taco Bell, because it’s a pain in the ass to get over there and no one ever wants to go with me and it makes it easier to justify going overboard when I’m home.  Baja Fresh, because if you get delivery from an area that would be a $16 cab ride to get to, your food is gonna be pretty cold and the order likely fucked up.   BF is pretty solid in person but I can’t make go that far for a burrito and delivery is a poor choice for burritos even if they don’t fuck it up and it doesn’t take three hours to get to you.

I’ve gotta run, somebody’s trying to put a Chipotle in our half bath,

Chilly17, wasted potential