Archive for August, 2011

Chipotle (US)

If you have read about how this blog began (and if not, WHY NOT?) you’ll know that it’s all Chipotle’s fault. After going to New York and having a burrito more delicious than any other burrito ever, I decided to find its equivalent in London. Then went on to put on a stone – the things I bloody do for you, eh?

So you can imagine how excited I was to land a press trip to Florida, which is simply bursting at the seams with Chipotles. During the course of the trip, I fell off a Segway while travelling at around 0.005 mph, went to a circus show called Grandma and Friends where a man with a nice bottom did some trampolining, and discovered how I measure up to a manatee:

Mullies: Definitely not as big as a manatee.

Yet despite these delights, I was most excited about going back to Chipotle and checking that I hadn’t been hallucinating when I decided they were nice enough to warrant a blog which has cost me time, money and my sex appeal.

Brilliantly, when the press trip organisers found out about my blog, they actually adjusted our itinerary to allow time to pop into a branch on the way to the airport. Maybe in doing this I missed finding out how I measure up to a giraffe or an otter or something, but I feel this was a small price to pay.

The branch we went to was surprisingly empty, although maybe it wasn’t all that surprising at all, seeing as Americans have constant access to yummy burritos and don’t have to make the most of it when they finally find one that doesn’t taste like a baby robot only a mummy robot could love.

Chipotle: rhymes with Segway but a lot harder to fall off

I ordered the usual (chicken, black beans, no bloody guacamole), and practically swooned to see them heaping ingredients onto a huge wrap, rather than dribbling them onto a tortilla the size of a jam jar lid like they so often do over here. Plus it was only about £5. Cashback! (Literally. I got $2 change from $10).

Due to time constraints, I had to eat my burrito in the car on the way to the airport. @Dinehard was a bit unhappy about this, being a big fan of not sitting in a confined space next to someone eating a big stinky burrito. So, apologies to @dinehard.

I was a bit nervous – what if it was rubbish? The single branch of Chipotle which graces the UK is really rubbish. Maybe the glamour of New York had blinded me to the averageness of Chipotle’s offerings? Maybe it was all for NOTHING. But no, I was right all along. Of course I was. 

It was amazeballs with awesomesauce, where amazeballs are actually lots of very nice chicken and tasty rice and awesomesauce is juicy beans, pitch-perfect hot sauce and a portion the size of a manatee’s wang.

Proof, were it needed, that I AM ALWAYS RIGHT.

In fact, in the UK, only Daddy Donkey and Chilango have come anywhere close to being as nice. Although interestingly* this** comprehensive US burrito blog only gives Chipotle a 4.1 rating. Which means that in the land of the free and the home of the burrito, what I’d consider an exceptional burrito is, over there, merely below average. In which case, imagine what a 10/10 burrito would taste like. IMAGINE. Mmm. I am imagining.

Mood before: Smaller than a manatee.

Mood after: Bigger, but still smaller than a manatee.

Ratings: Food: 9/10, Ambience: 6/10, Staff: 7/10, Value: 10/10

Where: AMERICA, BABY!

Recommended?: Yes. I insist you fly there immediately.

*If you don’t find this interesting, what on earth are you doing here?

** This blog also was the way I discovered burritos are up to 1,300 calories each. Goodbye skinny jeans, hello moo-moo! *chubbysadface*

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Chilango

A wise owl once wrote, ‘HIPY PAPY BTHETHDDTHNTHUTHDA BTHUTHDY’, explaining that this meant, ‘A Happy Birthday With Love From Pooh’. And it was birthdays and owls which lead me to Chilango, the burrito joint which has had more recommendations than OJ’s lawyer.

To be specific, it was @Wowser’s birthday. Although he insists he’s not an owl, and in real life has arms and legs and stuff, when he tweets things like ‘I am having a haircut,’ I still can’t help imagining a small feathered bird with its poky feet sticking straight out from a barber’s chair, having its feathers trimmed.

So for the purposes of this blog, an owl was having a birthday, and he wanted a burrito for dinner. Along for the ride were @Themanwhofell, @MandrewB, @TheAzzo and some absolutely torrential rain.

I’d already been to Chilango previously, on a date with @Fitzyrichard for his 52 Burrito Dates blog. Despite the presence of a mariachi band on that occasion – inexplicably billed as a ‘special treat’ – I remembered that through my red-faced agony, the burritos were actually delicious, so I’d saved this one till almost-last.*

Like most burrito joints, the decorative theme was ‘early 90s fluoro legging,’ with orange and lime green being the predominant colours. It was airy and modern with bench seating downstairs and tables upstairs and it was crammed with lots and lots of people. Although maybe that had something to do with the monsoon season that seemed to have descended on Islington.

I had the usual (chicken, black beans, yada yada), for £6.30, and a limitless soft drink for £1.60 (Diet Coke – although with burritos coming in at about 800-1,000 calories a pop, having diet anything is a futile nod towards robust health).

I usually eat my burritos alone, so it was nice to have someone to talk to and to see debris gradually piling up in the centre of the table. Although the friendly birthday chit-chat and laughter meant I didn’t focus on the actual burrito as closely as usual. Damn the merriment’s very eyes!

Look, no beak!

I suspect, however, that whatever the situation, a Chilango burrito is a good burrito: nay, a great burrito. It was huge, thanks to the double scoop of great-tasting chicken heaped onto the tortilla by my burrista, with lovely flavour and not a hint of dryness.

Because it was so podgy and squodgy and fat, there wasn’t much tortilla overlap, which can get tedious if you’re in it for the filling (fnar). The rice and beans were well-cooked, the ingredients were evenly distributed, and the whole thing was a proper juicy treat. KABLOOEY!

I was also delighted to note that they offered TWO types of hot sauce: the ubiquitous wooden-topped Cholula, and Chilango’s own Habanero sauce, which I was disproportionately impressed by. One day, I will have my own hot sauce, so help me.  With my face on the label, like Paul Newman.

Just out of shot: Mullies' Own Hot Stuff

Obviously, this blog is only my opinion, so I asked the others what they thought of their burritos. Their verdicts are as follows:

@Wowser: “The rice should be long grain, not basmati. But I liked the mildly flirtatious service.”

@TheAzzo: “The salsa verde isn’t nearly verde enough. And the pork isn’t as good as Benito’s Hat.” **

@MandrewB: “It’s fine”

@themanwhofell: “I enjoyed it.”

More than anything, this proves that you should be grateful it’s me writing this blog, because I couldn’t get much more than that out of them. And none of them said anything interesting about fluoro leggings or monsoons or owls.

Happy birthday, Wowser.

Mood before: Like a nervous lover about to ride a man-stallion

Mood after: *Smiles smugly, smokes fag*

Ratings: Food: 8/10, Ambience: 8/10, Staff: 7/10 (the flirtation didn’t work on me, but the double helping of chicken did), Value: 8/10

Where: 27 Upper Street, Islington; 142 Fleet Street; 76 Chancery Lane. Also, Bluewater in Kent and Meadowhall in Sheffield. Opening times vary, but the Islington branch is seven days a week.

Closest tube: Angel, Blackfriars, Chancery Lane, grown-up trains to Kent and Sheffield.

Web: Find them here / @Chilango_UK

Recommended?: Yes, especially if it is an owl’s birthday and it’s raining.

*I’m running out of burrito joints which are either near work or open evenings / weekends – I’ll be taking a couple of days off soon to visit some of the places that only open 11am-3pm on weekdays. And to stock up on stretchy trousers.

**There followed a debate about pork vs chicken which I settled myself by going back to Benito’s Hat a few days later and having a pork burrito. It was as uninspiring as their chicken ones, but at least I’m thorough.