Bushwick Pita Palace

As a burrito connoisseur, people often ask me what my favorite burrito around Boston is. It is better than the “Qdoba vs. Chipotle” question, which I respond to with a blank stare and follow up with a positive aspect and critique about both. Asking this question implies that you are confined to the boundaries of Boston University. Five minutes east is Boca Grande, ten minutes, Boloco or El Pelon, and ten minutes west, Habanero’s. Cross the river on either side and bam, Felipe’s on the west, Anna’s, followed by Beantown Taqueria, east. I could go on burrito mapping, but that’s not what I’m here for. Anyway.

I draw a blank when I am asked to select my favorite burrito in Boston, which is where I’ve had most of my burritos. The burrito that has my heart is four hours south of my current home in everybody’s favorite hipster haven, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.

On a visit home, a friend and I went out to Williamsburg for an afternoon. After sunbathing in McCarren park, we were ready for lunch. She wanted a falafel, I wanted a burrito. We had this crazy idea of googling a place that might have both. Magic beans planted in our smart phones brought us to Bushwick Pita Palace, a modest Mediterranean eatery. I scanned the burrito menu and came across the ultimate jackpot: falafel burrito.

falafel burritoIt’s something we can both enjoy. Falafel, tahini sauce, wrapped up with rice, beans, hot sauce, and presented in a burrito form. The real magic happened after the first bite. We simultaneously fell in love. Not only did I bite into the best damn falafel I’d ever tasted (and I’ve been to Israel), it was in burrito form! The falafel is flawless. Perfectly smooth, creamy, and chunky at the same time. Incredibly cohesive, yet not a morsel of flavor is lost, only words to describe it. Further description would not serve it justice. As if this heavenly concoction wasn’t perfect enough, there’s tahini sauce! And the way it sinks into the rice and surrounding ingredients will make your tastebuds tremble. The hot sauce that reached the tahini sauce mixed into this impressive, Mediterranean chipotle-like twist. It is smooth, flavorful, and tastes authentically Mediterranean, and totally blows Garlic n’ Lemons’ sauce out of the water.

Speaking of Garlic n’ Lemons, let’s talk about the shawafel I got the chef to make me on my second trip to wonder burrito Bushwick Pita Palace. I knew that the falafel burrito had my heart, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the shawarma burrito on the menu. The chef recognized my internal struggle, so he offered my friend and I the shawafel burrito option. I’m not quick to proclaim my love for people, but it almost slipped out.

The falafel burrito half won me over for the second time. The shawarma half was great, but my true love is the falafel. The shaved beef is top notch. Juicy, hearty, and filling, it is complemented with yogurt sauce that gives it a kick and caramelized onions that add additional flavor. Tomato and cucumber salad danced around beef carvings in a fresh, neutralizing way, also graced with yogurt sauce for flavor.

Towards the falafel half, cucumbers faded out and tomatoes flourished. In this particular combination, fresh tomatoes worked better than salsa. Pinto beans were in both halves, as well as rice. The beans were distinct from the rest of the tasteful madness as the most regular aspect of the burrito. They were the ultimate neutralizer, which can be appreciated in this sort of flavor blasted concoction. The rice had a unique, filling texture. It was smoothly clumped together, and while also serving as a neutralizer, it had a faint flavored taste.

Finally, the hot sauce options. They have my absolute favorite hot sauce. This is sounding redundant, as it appears that Bushwick Pita Palace has my favorite everything, but I kid you not – it is heavenly. Red habanero is my go to, but they have green and chipotle, among others! Try them, your tastebuds will either love or hate it.

Ultimately, Bushwick Pita Palace is perfect and it should come to Boston. They nailed the falafel and the burrito. If you are in a burrito/falafel mood around Williamsburg, you have to see for yourself. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Moe’s

Back in high school, there would be a borough-wide weekly holiday called Joey Tuesday. All day every Tuesday, there would be a special at Moe’s Southwest Grill where you could get a burrito, chips, and soda for a whopping FIVE DOLLARS ($5.45 after tax). My high school happened to be a quick 10 minute walk from this discount burrito temple, and by senior year, everyone and their mothers observed Joey Tuesdays religiously.

It was my first memorable burrito experience. It was something to look forward to every week, and after I left for college, on breaks. Unfortunately, when I returned from college and was around on a Tuesday, I went to Moe’s to discover that they had raised the price to six dollars. And an extra 30 cents for steak. I was not amused, but I stayed faithful. I preferred it to Chipotle and it was still a kind of place to run into everyone you know on a Tuesday – be it a positive or negative experience. I’m not sure if it was the price increase or it came time for the end of an era, but the spark died out. Joey Tuesdays aren’t the same anymore. I mean, I’ve only been on Staten Island for one Tuesday in a little over a year, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s over it.

I recall Joeys (the actual name of the burrito) being glorious. The best damn burrito I’d ever tasted. I laughed in the face of Chipotle and Qdoba after Moe’s tasty treat. After a year of avid burrito nomming, I’m not so sure about the status of Moe’s Joeys. Perhaps Joeys were not as glorious as I recalled.

When I was a burrito newbie, I requested ground beef as my filler. When I made the transition from ground beef to steak, my life changed (in the burrito world). Returning as a burrito connoisseur, I must say that I’ve had better. The steak was a bit too transparent. It had the consistency of tofu, and mostly tasted like it, too. Did I really have to kill a cow for that? It was kind of soggy, with some chewiness, and the flavor was lost in the sog(giness). I could taste hints of smoky flavor in select bites, and I appreciated those hints, but it wasn’t quite the hearty steak that I had anticipated.

The rice and beans were regular. I could have made them, and I’m not capable of cooking much. I distinctly remember a good blend of shredded cheese from the ancient burrito days, but they cheaped out this time and there wasn’t much queso to enjoy. When there is a generous helping of it, it complements the steak very well and adds pizzazz to the core rice, beans, n’ steak medley.

Pico de gallo did not stick around for much either. The hint of it that was there had a decent tomato kick that complemented the mediocre rice. I can’t complain too much because Moe’s has a superb sauce bar, comprised of six unique sauces, and you are free to have all the salsa you wan’t.

Speaking of extras, Moe’s has many options behind the counter, too. If you’re a big spender, they even have bacon that they could throw on your burrito upon request. I added on some lettuce, cilantro, jalepenos, onions, and olives. The lettuce wasn’t a big deal, but it wasn’t a buzzkill; not bad, no regrets. Cilantro was fresh, but not much flavor. At least not the regular kick you get from cilantro. The onions were fun to have around. They were diced, so you get a little onion crunch every couple of bites. I appreciated the olives, especially because most burritos don’t have olives and I personally enjoy the neutralized flavor they contribute. The jalepenos would have been great, had there been more than two. If I order jalepenos, I clearly enjoy their spicy flavor, please do not refrain from sprinkling them around my burrito. The quick affair was good though. It was actually hot with the enjoyable aftertaste and something between crunchy and soggy.

Now I really went all out on this last burrito and got sour cream and guacamole because I got a free birthday meal voucher and I’m too cheap to pay for it otherwise. That’s another great thing about Moe’s, if you sign up to be a member, whatever that means, you get a coupon for a free entre for your birthday week every year! I’m glad I had this experience because the guac was thoroughly enjoyable. It was chunky, yet smooth, and had a delightfully flavorful avocado taste. Good going, Moe! The sour cream was a cool slap in the face, in the best of ways, but I could have done without it.

I cannot, however, do without chipotle sauce, but I actually forgot it on my belated birthday burrito. I was enraged, but luckily, I attended Joey Tuesday the day before and was graced with chipotle charm. Have you ever had chipotle sauce? If you answered no, then you don’t know what love is. This particular experience was good, but not like I remember from the good old Tuesdays. It was less creamy, more diluted than in the past, but still a treat for your tastebuds.

Moe’s has a bunch of other fun mexican dishes, too: fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, and the like. But come on, I obviously go for the burritos. Although I do hear their nachos are quite swell, I suggest giving those a try.

Baja Betty’s “Burritos”

A Critique of an All-American Attempt at Preparing BurritosImage

When I take a trip to a burrito eatery, especially one that is notoriously known for their burritos (and has “burritos” as part of its name), I expect, say, a burrito? Well folks, I regret to inform you that that is not what I found over in Brookline Village at White Betty’s Baja Betty’s Burritos. Maybe white people should not attempt to make burritos.

Before I even go into the concoction they call a “burrito” over there, allow me to critique the basis of this establishment. First of all, Betty is an all-american name. Image“Baja Betty’s Burritos” is a contradiction in itself, but okay, it’s worth a try, why not? If you examine the photo to the right, this mural on the main wall of the establishment has a Native American man (with blue eyes that are not visible in this photo), holding a gypsy who is swinging a sombrero, and a little white girl (perhaps Betty?) in the central bottom area. Also, note the three American flags hanging proudly as the clock nears noon. What is this mural trying to say? Is it an attempt at cultural decor in a non-ethnic burrito eatery? I don’t plan on going back to find out, but fill me in if you do.

I should have sensed the disappointment after my first trip. On a pleasant afternoon, a friend and I trekked over to Brookline village to visit what we heard was a pretty good burrito place only to find that it was closed. It was one in the afternoon on a Saturday. It was not a special weekend. There was no sign, no explanation. When I called to make sure it was open another time, I voiced my dissatisfaction about my failed trip the week before. The owner responded to me as if I were crazy. I should have taken this as an omen.

I returned on my birthday, excited to try a new burrito place. The options were pricey for a decent combo, but I didn’t want to get stuck with a wrapped up mess of rice, beans, and meat (read: sad excuse for a burrito). Unfortunately, that experience was inevitable.

I thought I came to a burrito joint, but clearly I was mistaken. What I actually got was an all-american wannabe burrito wrap. What could go wrong with guacamole, yogurt sauce, and a variety of hot sauce options on the side? Gosh, where do I begin? How about the tortilla wrap. Fatal error. After the first bite, I almost expected crispy chicken and honey mustard to be in the next. McDonald’s snack wrap wraps taste more like tortillas than Betty’s. I got a nice big bite of lettuce and wrap.

In the next bite, I got tomatoes and shredded cheese. Again, totally wrap-like. The tomatoes were fresh, and I guess that’s great with the right burritos, but not when the burrito you ordered is actually a wrap. Let’s get this party started with some pico de gallo. No? Guess not. The cheese didn’t help; it tasted like shredded mozzarella. Can you get any less mexican? I don’t think so.

Oh, but you can. Betty can. There was a pocket of guac. I love guac. But in this “burrito,” it tasted kind of like the new guac at Subway (which isn’t very good, don’t try it), but oh, I’m sorry, I forgot I was eating a turkey wrap from the white people store.

Speaking of meat and fillers, I got a choice of two with my wrap “burrito” option. Normally, steak is my go to, but that was not an option. I chose chicken and grilled peppers and onions. The chicken was dark meat and had the consistency of pulled pork. I did not enjoy it. I didn’t like it as chicken or as part of the disguised wrap. It didn’t flow with the other fresh ingredients; it was very awkward. The grilled vegetables were better, but they taste just like grilled peppers and onions at a traditional Fourth of July barbecue. Can you say America?

The rice and beans core followed the pattern of an americanized attempt at preparing mexican food. Tasteless white rice and beans. There was talk of yogurt sauce in my particular burrito selection, but I tasted none of that. I think it got lost in all the whiteness.

I guess I’ll commend Betty’s hot sauce and jalepeno bar. The jalepenos managed to be soggy, even though they were served on the side (they tasted like they came out of a can in the back of your pantry that you forgot to donate to the last Thanksgiving food drive). There were three different types of hot sauce that you could help yourself to and a bottle of hot sauce waiting for you at the table. Thanks for the options, Betty.

Overall, I did not enjoy my birthday burrito experience. Baja Betty’s is a completely white washed burrito joint. Amy Winehouse was even playing the whole time. Nice try, but I think they should stick to wraps. “Wilma’s Wraps” sounds far more suitable for this establishment.