The city of Peterborough is currently experiencing something which I have heard referred to as a “burrito bubble”.
When I arrived at Trent just over three years ago, burrito buffs were hardly as well-off as they are today. In that many years, just as many burrito-centric restaurants have opened in the downtown core, all of them within a roughly one-block radius of the others.
The restaurants, in order of seniority, are El Camino’s, Dante’s Gourmet Burrito, and Jimmy Guaco’s Border Town Burritos. For this two-part special edition of Food Dude Reviews, I have selflessly devoured offerings from each of these establishments in order to find out which one most deserves your business. This week, we take an in-depth look at the new kid in town, Jimmy Guaco’s.
Readers who have been in Peterborough for a few years can find Jimmy G’s at the former site of City Lights, a once-popular late night (i.e. drunken) eatery. In the spirit of their predecessor, JG’s is open late—until 3 a.m. from Tuesday to Saturday—but there seem to be few similarities beyond this.
The space had been undergoing renovations for months, and the fruits of the labour are evident. The large storefront window gives a preview of the spacious overhauled environment, featuring high ceilings, simple décor and the lovely touch of exposed brick along the northern wall. The length of the space is also striking, which is important to me because unlike my burrito fillings, I do not experience maximum utility in enclosed areas.
The staff at JG’s are a friendly bunch, and, as owner Anton Zupancic told me, this is a critical component of operations. He aims to bring exemplary customer service to the burrito game to elevate the dining experience above that of other faster food-oriented foes.
Your burrito builder will offer suggestions for your order instead of leaving you helplessly adrift in a sea of possibilities, of which there are a lot. The main menu consists of 22 varieties of burritos, 12 of which are combinations of the main ten’s base ingredients. These range in price from a $6.50 small veggie to a $12 large baja fish & shrimp. Other options include nachos, tacos, quesadillas and a behemoth three pound burrito for $18, the menu’s priciest item.
For this taste test, I was again joined by writer Pat Reddick, and we were lucky enough to try three burritos between the two of us. I ordered the braised beef, we split the baja fish and he tried the Jimmy G. I’m starting to salivate already, because this was one of the juiciest burritos I have ever had. The shredded beef was a step away from being liquid; it could practically have done double duty as a drink. The other ingredients were good too, but the melting meat is the most prominent memory I have of this sample.
Pat chronicles his Jimmy G thus: “Part ground beef, part chorizo, and for some reason part corn chips, I loaded it up with all the vegetables available to me which included habanero peppers. Needless to say, I like food spicy. The meat was spiced in a way such that the burrito was indeed hot, but not so much so that it overpowered the rest of the flavours. The rice was not the plain white filler rice one typically finds served north of the border, but was instead also spiced and contributed to the overall flavour.”
The fish burrito was something different altogether. It was another kind of delicious, in that all of the fillings worked together in a way that was absent in the braised beef (I hadn’t even noticed the presence of the corn in the first go). Of course, this is to say that fish flavour was not at all overpowering, which can easily and unfortunately be the case when it is used.
If you were around during the summer or have visited JG’s early enough to see a menu displaying a noticeably altered mascot than that which now hangs above and inside the place, Anton informed me that the reason for this change is the former incarnation (a “drunk fat guy”) wasn’t in line with the health-oriented direction he wishes to pursue. The franchise grew out of his mother’s desire to feed generous portions of good-quality food to those who like to eat a lot, and that spirit lives on here: the vegetables are local, the sauces are home-made, and the meat is cooked fresh every morning (and in the case of the fish, right before your eyes).
At the excursion’s end, Pat and I were given a stamp card each, which nets a free burrito after you collect ten. The guacamole comes at no extra charge here at JG’s, as does fountain pop if you are a student. This experience will be hard to top. In the next issue, we’ll “wrap” things up by trying the two other burrito bars in town, Dante’s and Camino’s. Which one will reign supreme and claim the title of Eternal Burrito Sovereign? Will I survive to write about it on such a burrito-centric diet? Tune in next week!