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I have eaten the best chicken burrito in town at El Vez. I have also just eaten the most disappointing burrito in town at El Vez’s new burrito hut side restaurant that opened this week. The two items could not be more different.
In the large sit-down restaurant, Chef LaForce spent months perfecting the properly toasted burrito with savory sauces that smacked the palate. No detail was overlooked (see photos below).
Over the last many months, the Starr crew has been tasting and tasting, meddling and meddling, to come up with the burrito hut items. In what should be a Harvard Business School case study in group-think, they decided in all their wisdom to not go with the perfect burrito that they were already serving, but rather copy the disgusting burritos that all of the chain restaurants offer. Just brilliant.
Rather than toasted shells that hold up well when cut in half, the corporate crew went with pale limp steamed tortillas that spill the guts of the burrito. Rather than the same savory sauces used by LaForce, the burrito hut versions have bland rice and beans as fillings, with some overpowering jalapenos.
The burrito hut versions are wrapped in foil, which makes the tortilla even more mushy and gelatinous. However, Chipotle does this too, so it must be the way, thought the group-thinksters.
The chips and salsa at the sit-down El Vez are superb: warm chips, tangy salsa. Over at the burrito hut, in a cheap attempt to copy Chipotle, they sell cold nacho chips in brown bags. Making matters worse, again stealing from Chipotle, the items are all served on bare aluminum trays with no paper lining. If one looked closely, the germs could be seen by the naked eye (or maybe it was our imagination).
Chef LaForce was clearly demoralized by the group-think committee decision to go with this disaster of a burrito. His body language on opening day spoke volumes.
If you don’t like burritos, you can get a bowl that has the same proteins and carbs as the burrito. However, these were all wrong too. The proteins were buried underneath the toppings making it impossible to tell what one was eating (For some reason, this group likes to bury the proteins. They even cover up the steaks in the restaurant with corn).
The burrito hut also serves soft-serve ice cream, with some attempts to make it “Mexican” with clever toppings. Why? WHY!!??
The sit-down El Vez has some of the best real ice cream Downtown that could be served from a nice ice cream cart, and be the only ice cream within miles. But instead, the group-thinksters must have thought, “Shake Shack has soft-serve, so will we.”.
The El Vez burrito hut is like a good movie at Sony Pictures being ruined by Amy Pascal’s nervous corporate meddlers. The potential is there if the chefs are allowed.
Even with the current Chipotle-clone burrito style, the lines should be long at the hut because there is a big demand for this perfect lunch item. The old Blockhead Burritos (ten times worse than El Vez, to keep things in perspective), made more than $1 Million a year. But that does not mean this burrito hut is not a waste of potential in its current form.