462 Topsail Rd.
Ph. (709) 747-3332
Since Red Rock Bar and Grill slipped quietly below the waves, it seems the only restaurants still bobbing along the surface in the West End are, for the most part, chains or small cafeterias. The latest cafeteria to appear with all flags flying is Burrito’s Mexican Grill – formerly a Subway – next to Our Pleasure and Marie’s Mini Mart, in a building on Topsail Road fronting Walmart.
Burrito’s looks very much like a chain, or a chain wannabe. In fact, there’s a place with the same name in Valdosta, Georgia. The two aren’t linked. One has a logo employing a donkey, the other a chili pepper. Still, both seem to be set up the same way, with a service counter where customers point out the ingredients they’d like in their taco or enchilada. Having just opened, the Topsail Road Burrito’s could be a derivative.
Burrito’s is the kind of café I like to visit when it’s so grey and foggy here that an eagle would be hard pressed to find its beak. The walls are luminous yellow, the perfect antidote for any funk brought on by execrable weather. Vivid, electrified menu screens across the top of the wall behind the counter help as well. Not to mention tray after tray of radiant ingredients – perhaps two dozen – displayed on the service counter.
Here’s how dining at Burrito’s works. When it’s your turn in line you place your order for, say, a burrito. The cook brings a warmed, flat tortilla to the edge of the counter. He or she then asks what you’d like on it. You choose from vegetarian, meat or fish fillings and a variety of toppings. As you select, the fillings and toppings are placed on the tortilla. Next the burrito is rolled, folded and placed in a cooker or heating appliance. When it’s sufficiently heated, you grab a drink from the cooler, pay for your meal, sit and eat.
Essentially, everything at Burrito’s is made from the same selection of ingredients, which makes it possible to have a burrito, quesadilla, taco, or tortilla salad that tastes the same. Sure, the texture of the wrapper will be different – crisp tortilla shell versus soft – but everything else would be the same, if that’s what you wanted.
One exception is Burrito’s very good chili. (Oh, by the way, don’t expect fancy crockery – actually, don’t expect crockery at Burrito’s. My chili was served in a white Styrofoam container with a plastic lid.) It was made with ground beef, tomato, onions, beans, corn, green pepper and Tex-Mex spice. However, what really marked this potage for me, apart from nicely developed flavours, was its palatable smokiness. I suspect this came from a drop or two of liquid smoke.
Spouse began with a tortilla salad. It looked a bit like the taco bowl Donald Trump had in that famous tweet on Cinco De Mayo. Except, I can guarantee the Trump Tower Grill creation cost considerably more than Burrito’s $6.50 bowl. More like $20 Canadian. (I did have a sandwich at the Trump Tower Café once that cost about $12 Canadian. And, yes, it was good. Bigly.)
Much like the effect of the smoke in the chili, I found the salad dressing – a straightforward vinaigrette – gave the tortilla salad a definite boost. Ever helpful, spouse did a splendid job of proving that Burrito’s edible tortilla bowls are, in fact, edible – down to the last crumb edible.
I ordered a quesadilla and I confess that I found it difficult to decide on fillings and toppings. When faced with so many options I either order way too many things, or hold back. It was the latter on this occasion. My tortilla was filled with pulled beef, cheese, tomato, and corn. Enough, but I missed out on things like cilantro and hot peppers. Unbidden, I was handed two small containers of sour cream and salsa. This carnivore’s quesadilla, dominated by the almost pungent aroma and flavour of braised red meat – partly tamed by the sour cream and salsa – was a satisfying meal.
Spouse saw that fish with rice was a filling. The subsequent fish burrito was brimming with cod, rice, tomato, pickled turnip, olives, lettuce and green pepper. Spouse liked it very much. It was a perfectly good burrito. But, I didn’t like it. Something registered on my palate that made the entire burrito unpleasant for me. I think it may have been a flavouring in the rice.
The experience was a welcome reminder that we all taste things differently. It was never about the integrity of a burrito. It was about two people tasting the same thing and having opposite reactions. Differences become even more pronounced between people of different cultures and cuisines. Some fermented foods from Asia, for example, are appreciated and loved by Korean or Chinese people; but they can be difficult for Westerners.
Burrito’s Mexican Grill scores well on three important points. On our visit, every service counter ingredient was very fresh, the server/cooks were prompt and efficient, and, across the board, prices were fair. It’s possible for one person to enjoy a generous, nutritious meal at Burrito’s for $15 or less. Burrito’s is a welcome addition to a growing and varied crop of small cafés in our city’s West End.
Price Lunch for two with soft drinks and tax costs approximately $30.
Service Friendly and fast.
Ambiance Typical small cafeteria.
Sound level Moderate.
Open Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Reservations Walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major, plus debit.
Parking Building’s parking lot.
Beverages Jarritos Mexican soft drinks, soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, water, tea and coffee.
Best bets Chili, tortilla salad, beef quesadilla.
Wheelchair access Yes, but assistance may be required at entrance.
* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional