Eat! Lansing

June 28, 2008

Famous Taco

Filed under: Burrito, East Lansing, Lansing, Mexican — dkastner @ 10:22 pm

Famous Taco
Various Locations 

Famous Taco occupies the space between fast-food burrito joints like El Oasis or Taco Bell, and sit down restaurants like El Azteco, Chevy’s or Chi Chi’s.  It’s the typical northern rendition of Mexican food that features plenty of unseasoned meat, cheese, and lettuce.  If you want spice, you can dip into the salsa on the side or have a bite of Spanish rice.  Famous Taco is nothing spectacular, but if you want a quick, sit-down Mexican meal, it’s a good place to start.  Sort of like the Denny’s of Mexican food.  $10 for a larger than average burrito with beans and rice.

June 17, 2008

El Oasis

Filed under: Best of, Burrito, Lansing, Mexican — dkastner @ 8:15 pm

El Oasis Antojitos Mexicanos
Michigan Ave & Francis St 

Authentic Mexican in the middle of the Great Lakes State?  Yes, it’s true!  In true Taqueria fashion, El Oasis is in a trailer at the corner of Michigan Ave and Francis St.  Curiously, the trailer has Ohio plates.

The chicken burrito is very tasty.  The flour tortilla is very soft (extra shortening!) and is filled with spanish rice, refried beans, lettuce, queso fresco, and chicken.  There wasn’t much in the way of spiciness, but there was plenty of flavor.  Two tubs of Empanadas (caramel or apple) sit on the ordering counter.  The Empanadas are coated in sugar and cinnamon and the crust is flaky, almost like phyllo dough.  

El Oasis is perfect for a quick meal and it’s in a pretty eclectic neighborhood.  Some of the best Mexican food in town!

May 12, 2008

Burrito Chain Blowout

Filed under: Best of, Burrito, East Lansing, Lansing, Mexican, Okemos — dkastner @ 8:28 pm

Once Chipotle stormed onto the American dining scene, many “me too” burrito joints joined into the fray.  Here we will determine, once and for all, who makes the supreme burrito!

Let’s have a look at the contestants:

Chipotle Mexican Grill
East Lansing and Lansing Mall
www.chipotle.com
 

No, it’s not pronounced, “chuh-poll-tay” but it is the joint that sets the standard.   Without any real advertising this Denver-based company threw up restaurants in every major city, focusing on trendy “town centers,” yuppie neighborhoods, and upscale malls.  The menu is simple and the ingredients are above-average.  Diners are presented with an array of Tobasco sauces (one of which is chipotle flavored (flavored like the smoked pepper, not the restaurant)) with which to smother their food.  The guacamole is above average and the chips suit it well.  The meats are spicy and, if eaten freshly off the griddle, are great.  I think what puts it over the top is the rice with a bit of cilantro mixed in.  They also serve beer!

The high quality food and simple, yet clean atmosphere raises the bar for fast Mexican food.  Be sure to find a Chipotle staffed with Central/South Americans, if you can, as they tend to spice up the meat a little more.

But, are you willing to sell your soul to a national chain brought to you by McDonald’s investment?

Qdoba Mexican Grill
Various locations
www.qdoba.com 

If Chipotle is the Mercedes W463 of burritos, then Qdoba is the Ford Festiva.  Pretty basic, and gets you where you want to go (face stuffed full of meat and spices).  No gimmicks, just meat, veggies and maybe some movie theater-quality nacho cheese thrown in.  The MSU Union location was recently closed, presumably due to its substandard fare.

Panchero’s Mexican… You Guessed It, Grill
Various locations
www.pancheros.com 

I can just imagine the marketing meeting.  “How can we compete against Chipotle?  I know!  Let’s make the tortillas right in front of the diner!  That’s so much more fresh! And fun!”  Well, sadly, the wait for a tortilla to finish frying is quite a negative experience.  Especially when the other ingredients lack in quality.  The Guacamole, while fresh, is uninspiring and the chips don’t do much to help it out.  The ingredients are slightly higher quality than Qdoba, but don’t match Chipotle.

BTB Burrito (formerly, Big Ten Burrito)
403 E. Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI
www.bigtenburrito.com 

A burrito joint started in Ann Arbor, located here in East Lansing.  Unique, modern atmosphere with basic seating at long picnic tables.  Skinny burritos.  Quite cheap.  A decent meal for the price.  There are also plenty of other offerings here, but I haven’t ventured beyond the burrito.

New York Burrito
216 S Washington Sq, Lansing, MI 
www.newyorkburrito.com 

New York City?  That really chaps my hide!  There is a New York Burrito combined in an unholy marriage with a sub shop in downtown Lansing.  Just finding the correct line to stand in is initially confusing.  The burritos here are comparable to Qdoba.  Don’t waste your time.  Oh wait, that’s easy because, like every other downtown business, it closes at 6pm, so you’ll never have a chance to visit!  Fun fact: New York Burrito is headquartered in Utah.

And the Winner Is…

As a Mac fan, I have to say that Chipotle is the Apple Computers of burritos.  They’ve set an innovative standard and have managed to keep the quality up.  In a strong second I would put Big Ten Burrito and Panchero’s in a distant third.

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