Gringo Maniac

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What drives a man to brave heavy rain and freezing temperatures? Love. Love for the tortilla. Love for the taco truck. And love for you, the fellow tortillaphile.

I also wanted to love Gringo Maniac — still do — but they aren’t making it easy.

There are a lot of things to respect about this taco truck at least. The menu truly is out there, with Thai satay tacos, Southwest Philly tacos, and egg foo yung burrito being just a few examples. The proprietor is friendly and gave good recommendations on which hot sauce — there are about fifteen to choose from — to use in my burrito.

So that is all good. This is clearly a shop run by tortillaphiles. Execution-wise, though, I can’t say the burrito did it for me.

I tried the tri-tip with garlic-butter rice which sounded like it could have some potential. You don’t see basmati rice in burritos too often after all. Maybe there’s a reason for that, at least if this was anything to go by. The rice was a mushy mess, with no trace of any garlic.

The preparation of the vegetables, too, left a little to be desired. There were multiple cilantro stems thrown in with the stuffing, which isn’t exactly pleasant to chew on. On a more positive note, the steak was tender and cut into proper sizes.

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The true nail in the coffin was the lack of flavors. This would have been pretty tame had I chosen not to go with a sauce. The purveyor’s recommendation was Porki, a very good sauce, but not something that should be the only flavor.

Adding insult to injury, the burrito wasn’t particularly well wrapped and proceeded to leak almost straight away. Oi.

But you know what? I’ll be back. I am hoping this was just an off-day. This is a place I want to love. The menu is inspiring and the service friendly enough for Gringo Maniac to deserve a second chance.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!

Ramirez Mexican Store

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Everybody needs a safe space, and for a tortillaphile, that space is Ramirez’s Mexican Store. Ramirez takes care of you. Lets you offload. Unwind. Eat a burrito.

And oh does Ramirez know its burrito.

You get your regular choices here, and there certainly is nothing wrong with picking the basics. Carne asada, carnitas… They’re all good. But if you want to try something actually spectacular, we’d be hardpressed not to recommend the chile relleno.

Should you not be familiar with that dish — and don’t worry if you’re not; Tortillaphilia is an inclusive society — it’s simply a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and fried in egg batter. A straightforward dish, and a tasty one at that. Making it handheld is just the added bonus we’ve come to expect from Ramirez.

The simple things in life are often the best, and there is nothing overly complicated with this burrito. It’s not a pretentious attempt at being haute cuisine. Instead, you get a lightly fried pepper with no signs of grease, mildly spicy, and a cheese — presumably Monterey Jack (or of its ilk) — as smooth as a Frank Avalon tune. Ramirez lets the chile relleno be the chile relleno.

And with Ramirez being the tortilla factory it is1, it goes without saying the relleno is suitably wrapped.

There are so far only two burritos I deem worthy of four stars in the Olympia area: this one and Don Juan’s. They are notably different, with Ramirez taking a decidedly simpler route. That is just fine. Olympia might not be an all-out burrito town, but when you have the choice between rustic perfection and ornate excellence, you can still live the tortillaphile lifestyle you deserve here.

1 We have previously awarded the tortillas four stars.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!

The Ruby on Johnson

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That Mexican food is a world-spanning phenomenon might seem like an obvious fact these days, but it was far from always the case. Outside of the Americas, one could charitably describe what one found to be of Taco Bell quality.

Things have improved over the past few years, and even Canada has gotten in on the action. This spurred Tortillaphilia Editorial Board™ to send an exploratory committee to Victoria, BC to feel the temperature on its tortilla scene.

Any town with respect for the tortilla will have a good breakfast-taco spot. That is just a fact. Our sources pointed us in the direction of Ruby on Johnson, which has garnered a reputation for being a good brunch spot. With four types of tacos to choose from, they’re serious about their tortilla-based offerings, too.

I sampled the Migas, a simple assembly of eggs, beans, avocado sauce, pico de gallo, and cheddar. The pièce de résistance, though, was the topping of tortilla chip strips. Tortillas on tortilla? Most impressive.

Importantly, the tacos did not fall into the trap of being too heavy. To me, a breakfast taco is taco first, breakfast second, whereas many spots tend to go with quantity over quality. Don’t get me wrong, three of these will fill you up, but they weren’t loaded. You can pick them up and eat them with one hand. (Rule of thumb: A taco that can’t be picked up, is a bad taco.1)

The tacos themselves weren’t overly exciting, but they held a good quality. Particularly the avocado sauce added a zing of zest to the palate. I do wish they would have used two tortillas for the base, as the tacos did go a bit soggy. Plus tortillas on tortilla on tortilla? The mind boggles of what could have been.

So Ruby might not have revolutionized the breakfast taco, but what they delivered was good. Fresh, not too heavy, and the tortillas were tasty. Ruby represents its country admirably.

Next in the Canada investigation: Fast-food quesadillas.

1 Note that these are migas tacos. Traditional migas are served on a hardened tortilla, more tostada-style.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!

Quality Burrito

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Longtime Tortillaphilia followers will fondly remember our maiden post, a review of Quality Burrito’s tacos. Exaltation was hoisted upon the QB, with superlatives like loving and respectful strewn throughout.

Then there is their eponymous burrito. We came in with high expectations, which for the most part were met. There were some disappointments, but none so dire that we can’t wholeheartedly recommend a solid burrito.

We tried Jezebel’s Big Soft Taco1, the pork edition. Eclectic as QB’s menu is, this is a fairly conventional entry, with pico de gallo, cotija cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and romaine. The latter is the outlier, and downright healthy as far as a burrito goes.

Sadly, it’s also its one downfall.

I certainly have no issues with romaine, be it in a burrito or otherwise. If anything, it’s a refreshingly fresh addition. No, the issue wasn’t the romaine itself, but rather there being too much of it. We’re talking about half of the fillings, and during certain bites, it was the dominant flavor. Take a gander back at the ingredients, and you’ll see how that is pretty impressive.

During other bites, everything was as it should. The pork was delicious; soft to the chew without being mushy. I’ll also stake my considerable reputation on QB having the best guacamole in the region. It was pungent, with a good kick of what I will assume was lime2. A balanced pico de gallo closed out the party in a fandango with the cotija.

These were top quality fillings, most prepared freshly in-house3. Had only some restraint been shown with the lettuce, this would have been a top-rated burrito. Close, and thorough as researchers we are, we’ll be back for another check soon.

1 Despite its name, it is a burrito.

2 You’d be shocked, shocked if you learned how many places use lemon. One day we might have an exposé on it.

3 I can only assume the sour cream was not, but feel free to correct us on Twitter.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!

Northwest Cuisine Creations Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto

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al desko /al ˈdɛskəʊ/While working at one’s desk in an office (with reference to the consumption of food or meals)1

Ah, the wrap. The burrito’s straight-edge and often bland sibling. Cold2, too. But give it to Northwest Cuisine Creations: They are not afraid to sneer conformity in the face. A Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto makes for a bold statement. Bold, but ultimately empty.

This wrap is a bit like the anonymous kid in high-school who all of a sudden shows up dressed in a leather jacket. Yes, it makes a statement, but unwrap the layers, and you find the same bland kid.

The Pizzeria Style… is neither as bold nor as edgy as the name would suggest. I would not have associated it with a pizza had it not been for the label. It’s not uncommon to find olives and pepperoni in a wrap these days — they have already served their duty. Cream cheese is the staple it has always been, and in that sense, the wrap is just another face in the crowd.

I suppose bland doesn’t always have to be bad, and in its defense, the cream cheese did give the wrap a mild oomph. It was the one respectable showing in an alarmingly long ingredients list consisting of preservatives and lower shelf fixings.

Yeah, I get it. I’m being unreasonable. I doubt Northwest Cuisine set out to change the world with Pizzeria Style…. Their marketing got to me, and I was expecting something that was not to be. It did fill me up at least. I’ve had worse.

Throwing together a wrap for yourself in the morning is as always the better way to go, but you could probably do worse than grabbing a Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto from the grocery store if you’re in a serious fit of tortilla desperation.

1 Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

2 Most of the time, at any rate.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!