Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Burrito Battles: California Tortilla

I absolutely adore the Cleveland Park location of California Tortilla at 3501 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Formerly home to half of Pizzeria Uno (the other half is a tanning salon) it's easily the most comfortable place to eat anything in a otherwise quietly upscale neighborhood, void of traditional fast food offerings. They make a mean fajita, and some great speciality burritos; but today's custom order left me wanting.

For the record, nobody (on this planet, as far as I'm concerned) offers a better salsa and chips than Cal Tortilla. I used to buy some 2-3x a week, especially after a long day at work (Yes, salsa & chips makes a great dinner at 9:55 PM.) But today was all about burritos. My favorite signature version, the Honey Lime Burrito is a great choice; but I went with a simpler Grilled Steak burrito with rice and salsa only. A great value at $7.09, I got mine for just over $2 after redeeming $5 in Burrito Bucks. Talk about a great start.

As is always the case, service is exemplary; and I lucked out in beating a line of fellow diners, so I only had to wait a couple of minutes for my order. My burrito was HUGE, a lot bigger than its competition (Chipotle is across the street.) Where Cal Tortilla failed was in the execution of said burrito. Not the assembly so much, but the distribution. I understand a shortage of steak (after all, it's the most expensive ingredient) but salsa? I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that more than 90% of my burrito was filled with rice... rather flavorless rice. This wasn't a single instance either: This is at least the fourth burrito I've had with similar shortages in meaningful ingredients.

Trust me when I tell you... this is a sore spot for me. Rice burritos taste like ****. Salsa adds color and flavor, both of which were sorely missing. It's obviously standard operating procedure to "water down" or "rice up" the product at this particular franchise. The result is a subpar product that weighs heavy in your stomach, and DOA in your taste buds. It's to the point where I won't order burritos here anymore. That's pretty severe.

It's a shame really. I remember more than a year ago, stellar burritos that were actually on par with Chipotle. Not anymore. Cal Tortilla still gets points for a roomy dining area (indoor and out) great 80's music, fast, friendly service and to-die-for chips & salsa; but this burrito marks my last one for the foreseeable future. Call me when you make some changes.