Burritos are, arguably, a perfect food. Meat, rice, beans, and other add-ins, all rolled up snugly in a warm flour tortilla… What’s not to like? Well, one thing, actually. And for some of us, it’s so annoying that it can be considered a fatal flaw.
Think back to the last time you ate a burrito. You peeled away the foil, chose an appropriate point of entry, and took your first bite. And what did you end up with? A big mouthful of rice, most likely. As you make your way through a burrito, getting an even distribution of ingredients in each bite is a herculean, often impossible task. You have to take small bites across the top of the burrito, like a typewriter, to achieve anything approaching a balanced mouthful, and sometimes all of the meat is hiding on the bottom, out of reach. And that’s a problem.
“The whole point of a burrito is that you taste lots of different things in one bite. If you don’t, it’s a letdown,” Oliver Kremer, the co-founder of New York’s popular Mission-style burrito purveyor Dos Toros, told me when reached by phone. “Ultimately, it comes down to proper construction, and a lot of burritos aren’t properly constructed. You can tell just by looking at them.”[related]
As Kremer sees it, a proper, Bay Area-style burrito has all of its ingredients laid along its length, so you get a little bit of everything in any given bite, resulting in a cylindrical burrito. He notes that one major chain doesn’t follow this rule.
“Chipotle doesn’t know how to roll a burrito,” he said, bluntly. “Everything is just plopped into the middle of the tortilla, and the end result is more cubic. There’s no interaction going on. They have no regard for making cylindrical burritos.”
The obvious solution to the Chipotle-style lack of ingredient distribution? It’s actually already in use at many popular salad chains: bowls. If all the ingredients are added to a big metal bowl, mixed together, and then spooned into the tortilla (instead of just plopped down into the center of it, one at a time), then each bite will contain all of the components, just like a salad from Chopped.
This technique isn’t for everybody, of course. Some people like to take one bite that’s just rice, another that’s just meat, and another that’s maybe a combination of cheese and beans. For those of you, there’s Chipotle. For the rest of us, we can keep dreaming that someday a fast-casual burrito concept that tosses all of its ingredients together will come around. Or, you know, people can just start making burritos properly.
“If you’re getting integration, you don’t need the ‘Chopped’ method,” said Kremer.