Munchin’ with Michael: which burrito reigns supreme?

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

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Man’s greatest invention: the burrito. A perfect blend of taste and mobility is what makes it so unique and so beloved. Though the issue that arises from the greatness of the burrito is the plethora of restaurants opening up claiming to rule the industry. So naturally as a burrito lover, I felt a moral obligation to sift through the number of burritos in Evanston in order to truly find the best.

For this competition though, I had to set some guidelines. First off, there is no such thing as a “perfect” burrito. No perfect scores. Second, all burritos tested will be the vegetarian option. This study is not exclusive to the meat eaters. If a vegetarian burrito is good, odds are the meat option will be equally as good. Finally, all my opinions are my own. If you do not agree, that is fine, just do not feel offended if your favorite place does not get as high of a score as you want.

Okay, enough talk. Let’s get to munchin’.

The Supreme Burrito #1

An Evanston staple. The Supreme Burrito #1, known by most simply as “Supreme,” came into this investigation with high expectations. After all, this is debatably the most popular burrito in Evanston, and certainly is for ETHS students.

The big question was: How does the vegetarian option, which substitutes meat for a mixture of guacamole and their classic beans and rice, hold up? Does it live up to the astronomical expectations that the carne asada or chicken tinga hold?

For the most part, the burrito was able to hold its own. The array of flavors is something that works masterfully together, not to mention the differing ingredient textures. The creaminess of the cheese and beans works in unison with the crunch of lettuce and tomato. To tie it all together, there is the sour cream, which adds a sharp flavor and is necessary to keeping the burrito moist.

The salsas provided are nothing to sleep on either. The red salsa is not something I am a fan of, as the smokiness and heat it provides can become overpowering. The salsa verde on the other hand is exquisite. It is able to combine a mixture of acidity and jalapeno flavor, all while having a subtle kick to it.

Despite these positives, this burrito is certainly not perfect. Many of the issues revolve around the distribution of ingredients, as many times with both the cheese and guacamole, you end up getting a bite or two that is solely that flavor, which nobody wants.

On top of that, the guacamole appears to be only avocado, which I found odd, and the beans, while still a good alternative, felt bland and overpowering for the most part.

Score- 8.1/10

Tomate Fresh Kitchen

This was the highest anticipated review for me. I have been to Tomate before and every time it has impressed me. Just like with every other place though, I had never had the vegetarian option, the black bean burrito, before, so there was a chance for disappointment. Tomate entered this competition with the highest expectations, and they blew them out of the water.

BE WARNED: Tomate is very small. There is no seating inside, be ready to take it to go.

Unlike Supreme, there is no issue with a clumping of flavors. The dispersion of each ingredient is superb, and you are able to taste every flavor in every bite. This burrito is not dry either, a major plus. A dry burrito is a terrible burrito, it is as simple as that.

The black beans are seasoned perfectly, and rather than overload the burrito with beans to account for the loss of meat, Tomate keeps the emphasis on the bean flavor modest. This combined with the Mexican rice they use establishes a perfect base of flavor, opening it up to a variety of complementary ingredients.

Tomate uses an array of spices in their burrito, and you can taste it. There is a subtle spice in every bite, and combined with the chopped onions, provides a boost in flavor.

The one major downfall I saw was the cheese. While some may love this, personally I am not hugely into cheese being grilled.

For the most part the flavor worked, adding a hint of smokiness and cheese flavor, but as you get to the end of the burrito, the tortilla became lined with cheese and got to be all you could taste. I have only seen the cheese in the black bean burrito, and it was not the best surprise.

Overall, if you have not tried Tomate, get up right now and go. This place IS something to write home about; it is that good.

Score: 9.2/10

Chipotle

I was not sure how to approach this one. I, just like millions of others, have had Chipotle a countless number of times. For the most part, I am never expecting to be surprised by what they have to offer. While it is one of the higher quality and better tasting fast food chains, it is still a chain.

The biggest fallback of Chipotle is definitely the fact that major ingredient clumping occurs. One bite you get a mouthful of guacamole, the next you get a bite of lettuce, hopefully not contaminated with E. Coli.

On top of that, Chipotle is one of the messiest burritos you will ever eat. This could just be simple poor burrito folding, but it seems to be because the burrito is beyond wet. Once you get to the final bites, it feels like you dipped the tortilla in the ETHS pool.

Despite these negatives, the flavor is there. The corn salsa is simply sublime. It gives a necessary sweetness to the overall flavor and the chopped pepper adds a nice spice.

The rice and black beans are classic. They work so well together and are a Chipotle staple. These combined with the fajita vegetables are a dynamic duo.

The guacamole perfectly contrasts other flavors. It is some of the best guacamole you can find from a chain, and maybe in general. The creaminess and pure flavor of the guacamole works perfectly to bind together all the different flavors and textures. Overall, super solid, nothing insane.

Score: 7.2/10