Way back in November the Food Dude, Jesse McRae, reviewed the three downtown burrito restaurants. The articles were great, but some restaurants felt left out. “Why are burrito-only restaurants being covered exclusively when our burritos are good too, better even” they asked. Furthermore, as with any good review, the outcome was highly controversial; McRae concluded that no one place could win out over the others.
McRae’s burrito reviews, of all things this paper printed, quickly became the most controversial topics of 2012. To settle the score once and for all I have temporarily ousted the Food Dude from his illegitimate role of food review dictator and I have replaced him with myself, a slightly different and even less legitimate food review dictator, the Meal Man.
The places covered by this review are The Planet, The Ritz Deli North, Taco Bell, and La Hacienda. For restaurants with several burrito options I’ve specified which burrito I have reviewed. For consistency purposes I am reviewing the burrito only, not the restaurant itself. More comprehensive reviews of these locations will likely come when the Food Dude reclaims his throne. But for now…
Breakfast Burrito (reviewed), Bean and Cheese – $12
Truthfully, this burrito was the one that gave me the idea to do this review because when I ate it, hungover, one Sunday morning in December I was instantly struck with how it was better than any burrito I had tried at the three previous burrito restaurants. I then contemplated this subtle takeover during the holidays and disembarked upon the Planet once more to finalize it.
The burrito itself is extremely simple—just eggs and spiced refried beans in a tortilla. This is topped with salsa and a few avocado slices, and served with homemade toast. Though it’s a fairly basic combination, the egg and beans complement each other extremely well and provide a great intermingling of flavours that is unique to this burrito. The beans could be spicier for my taste, but this is likely intentional to accommodate all kinds of palates and is easily supplemented by the readily available Tabasco sauce stationed at every table.
The portion size leaves nothing to be desired. I cannot fathom eating this burrito and having room for more after. I can barely believe that I managed to finish it. Though the $12 price tag is steep, the size alone justifies it to me. You also drop less of it down your face and chest, as you would with a typical burrito, because it is possible (and recommended) to eat this one with a fork and knife. Less of the burrito is lost, and your clothes are preserved.
The Ritz Deli North
Basa Burrito – $11
Given its size relative to the other sandwiches on the menu, $11 seems an outrageous price to pay for this burrito. That is until you consider the uniqueness of the meat—Vietnamese catfish. No other place has this option on the menu, and fish is generally more expensive than other meats, so the price does make sense.
The burrito is also not served alone as it is accompanied by your choice of daily soup or salad. My concern here is that it is possible to order this meal on a day in which the soup does not compliment the burrito very well. Thankfully this was not the case during my visit.
But this is a burrito review! The Basa Burrito (or fish taco as some refer to it) is an interesting mix of flavours that can be best described as “light.” The most noticeable flavours are the fish itself, mangoes, cilantro, and cucumbers. It’s quite a disparate mix, but they manage to pull it off. The fact that it’s light certainly does not mean that it isn’t flavourful. However, I think that it could also use a bit more of a kick as regards spiciness.
Perhaps because of its relatively small size this burrito has almost no filler; it’s all about the flavour. Every bite will include all the flavours you want, but most importantly the catfish. However, due to the portion size, I was hungry only a few hours after this meal. I would recommend it for lunch as opposed to dinner.
Too many to list – $ varies
Chicken (reviewed), Pork, Beef, Veggie – $15
For some reason La Hacienda happened to be playing the exact same music that was playing when I visited the Ritz Deli North. The music was quite clearly Spanish, specifically Mexican, and was a better fit in La Hacienda. The same can be said about the burrito itself. La Hacienda is the only authentically Mexican restaurant covered by these reviews (the rest being either Tex Mex or just places with a burrito on the menu) and the difference shows.
My burrito was pre-empted by complimentary tortilla chips and two types of salsa, one mild and one hot. The hot salsa was not merely the mild but with more peppers—it was clear that the two salsas were made from entirely and fundamentally different recipes. Along with these, the burrito was served with sour cream, guacamole, refried beans, salad, and still more tortillas. In other words, each bite of burrito was fully customizable.
In addition to this, the burrito itself was fantastic on its own. The contents were fairly simple—spiced rice, refried beans, shredded chicken—but the combination of flavours was expertly planned and worked together perfectly. While rice and beans often work as filler in other restaurants, here they were an integral and necessary part of the burrito’s flavour and texture.
It was the most expensive burrito, but the portion size and diversity more than justify this, in my opinion. I was full for many hours after this burrito, making it a perfect dinner…except I had it at around 2pm. Make this the last meal of your day, not the middle one like I did.
This should come as no surprise given the above, but La Hacienda is the winner with The Planet coming in a close second. Both restaurants had fantastic portion sizes, but La Hacienda’s expert spicing and flavour diversity put them ahead of The Planet for me. The Ritz Deli North comes in third not because the flavour left something to be desired but because the portion size did. I also didn’t like their lack of a vegetarian burrito option (although there are many vegetarian sandwiches available). It’s more of a sandwich place than a burrito place and it shows. That said, none of these places provide a lacklustre burrito, and you wouldn’t be wrong ordering a burrito from one of these locations…except one. Let’s be honest here, Taco Bell was only included as a joke.