Here’s a tip you will want to keep to yourself: Don’t go to Don Juan’s new-ish Olympia location. Instead, make the pilgrimage to the original Tenino spot. It might not have the fun bar and quirky ambiance of its counterpart, but it also does not have a one hour wait. Calculate in travel time, and you’ll still be in and out of Tenino before you’re seated in Olympia.
What stays the same in both locations is the overall quality and professionalism. Many maintain Don Juan delivers the region’s best Mexican food, something I largely agree with. This is how a tortillaphile deserves to be treated.
Don Juan’s take on the California burrito — the focus of this dissertation — combines traditional flavors with a fairly unique twist on CaliMex. A burrito with French fries? Potatoes can be a staple in the California burrito, so I’m sure fries aren’t unheard of, but it’s an appreciated touch all the same, and not something you see every day.
The flavor profile works well, and the fries aren’t too soggy, even when snuggly wrapped in a blanket of beans. Flanked by rice and cheese, you get a clean base palate, with none of that unseemly mush we so often have thrust upon us.
It makes for a good foundation for the carne asada, but that can be irrelevant if the main attraction is bland and improperly prepared. That is not the case here. The meat is nicely charred with a good bite, and the flavors are — and I don’t care if this brings me to hyperbolic levels — exceptionally deep. Everything melds together in harmony, each note crystal clear by themselves, but angelic when brought together in crescendo.
This is why the Tenino tip is important. You don’t want to wait around to experience a burrito1 powered awakening. Put on your expedition pants, and venture to what could be Tortillaphilia’s regional temple. You just might end up becoming a Tenino convert
1 FYI — on the happy hour menu, though every other item holds the same quality.