In last week’s review, we took a trip to the newly-opened Jimmy Guaco’s Border Town Burritos and found the fare to be fair indeed. But what about the other two burrito bistros already ensconced in Peterborough’s public consciousness? This week, we pit Dante’s Gourmet Burrito and El Camino’s against each other and JG’s to name the victor Heavyweight Champion of the Burritos.
Occupying a smaller space right across from the bus terminal, Dante’s has been around for over a year and a half and has garnered a devoted following in that time. There isn’t much to impress in terms of aesthetics here, and that may very well be due to an investment in some top-of-the-line kitchen hardware.
Only partially visible from the ordering counter, Dante’s boasts “some of the best ovens money can buy”, according to owner Doug, in addition to a blast chiller used for reducing time the meat spends at temperatures conducive to bacteria growth and increasing shelf life.
The latter is mostly a fringe benefit, as the meat (which is mostly local) is never kept around longer than half a week. The veggies are also local with the exception of the chipotle, Mexican oregano and ancho chilies, which are all imported from New Mexico. Pat and I are told that our burritos, the braised beef again for me, and the pulled pork for him, come from Mexican recipes, while the others are in-house creations, as are the sauces.
This take on braised beef is markedly different from the last. This time it is the sauce and rice at the forefront of flavour, the cubed beef taking a close second in prominence. Topping quantity can of course be tailored so, depending on how saucy you like your burrito, you may want to specify. A noticeable downside was the temperature distribution; my burrito had microclimates. The meat was warmer than most of the rest of the burrito’s filling, which may sound trivial, but definitely doesn’t taste trivial.
Pat’s pulled pork, called the signature meat option, and “it only took me one bite to understand why. The meat was incredibly moist and was seasoned in a way that I had never tasted before. It truly was a different take on a burrito. The pulled pork burrito on its own, as far as I’m concerned, puts the ‘Gourmet’ in the restaurant’s title. To be honest, it’s arguably the best pulled pork anything I’ve had in this city. Yes, I said it. The pulled pork at Dante’s is better than any pulled pork in Peterborough I can think of off the top of my head.”
Dante’s also boasts non-burrito menu choices, but its greatest strength (for the broke-ass) is the pricing. All regular burritos are $6.69, and larges are $7.99 (each veggie is ¢50 less). Guacamole is included here as well. Students get 10% off purchases, stamp cards are in use, and certain days offer deals like 2 regulars for $10.99. This is the place to go on a lighter wallet night.
Almost across the street from Guaco’s you can find El Camino’s, which also has taken up residency at the site of a bygone restaurant; Gator’s Subs. The layout was barely altered when the space changed hands two years ago, but the decorations certainly were. A desert-style paint job underpins a formidable display of automotive, western and Mexican cultural memorabilia, consisting mainly of framed posters on the south wall. There is always one of a set of films playing, from Zorro to Back to the Future III to Ghostbusters (forgot to ask about that one).
This is the kind of place for people who want to get food and go, although some seating is available. The staff begin each day with new ingredients, which include Canadian cheeses, mostly local vegetables, in-house sauce creations and even gluten-free taco shells from the Main Ingredient. Management had wanted to stock tortillas made by Stickling’s Bakery, but prices led them to a continuing search for more a cost-effective local option.
For consistency’s sake, I ordered a third braised beef burrito. I’ll be honest here: I had mediocre memories of Camino’s burritos and expected this one to perform the worst out of the three. Holy hell, was I ever surprised. While the first two bites were almost all bean, the placement and amount of particular ingredients was damn near perfect. Everything was heated to an equal temperature. A sweet pineapple-like sauce complimented everything in a heavenly way; definitely ask for it. Comments from editor Matt Jarvis, who joined me this time, can be found on Arthur’s website.
Camino’s braised beef burrito left the other two behind with its ability to perfectly encapsulate delicious, balanced flavour of justice in almost every individual bite. They too have a more-than-burrito menu, but there are some drawbacks here, and they’re mainly monetary.
Matt and I had large-size ‘ritos here, but they were barely bigger than the other restaurants’ regulars. The average cost of this size was over $8, meaning Camino’s ranks worst in cost-to-portion ratio. Additionally, there were no stamp cards or student deals in sight, the first establishment to offer neither.
All things considered, I cannot wholeheartedly declare a single burrito champion. Guaco’s boasts good quality niche ingredients at a fair price. Dante’s has unbeatable prices, and was the only one of the three to use local meat. Camino’s created my favourite burrito, but they also created my least favourite prices. Contemplate the pros and cons I have shared with you before your first step on the path to burrito bliss.