That fact makes the existence of a place called New York Burrito here in Tucson, a mere 50 miles away from Mexico, somewhat perplexing. What in the world are New York burritos, and why in the hell would we Tucsonans want to eat them?
After investigating, I was unable to answer that first question, but have the answer to the second question: We'd want to eat them because they're pretty good--no better than Mexican-style burritos, but fine nonetheless.
New York Burrito is actually a chain of franchises, two of which are located in Tucson. I checked out the one at Swan and Grant roads with my significant other, Garrett, on a recent Saturday afternoon. New York Burrito is just one of a handful of restaurants, many of them chains (Chipotle, Panda Express, Starbucks, The Good Egg, etc.), at the bustling intersection, meaning that hungry folks in the area have plenty of options.
At first, New York Burrito was hard to find--we were heading west on Grant, and New York Burrito's located on the Swan side, away from the intersection, in the shopping center on the southeast corner. When we found it, we walked in and were pleasantly greeted by the women working behind the counter.
The restaurant occupies a narrow space, with the wrap prep area on one side and tables on the other. It isn't much to look at--one of the main design elements is a huge New York Burrito logo on the back wall, and various New York-themed art (such as prints of New York buildings) hang here and there. It feels like a fast-food place in a strip mall, which it is--a meticulously clean one, on the plus side.
We stared at the menu on the wall and tried to figure out what to order. Almost 30 different kinds of wraps are offered--various kinds of chicken, shrimp, steak, beef and even tuna salad are all options, and there are a couple of vegetarian choices as well. There are also seven different tortillas to choose from (flour, jalapeño, spinach, whole wheat, tomato basil, chipotle chile and garlic herb). Breakfast burritos are for sale from 8-10:30 a.m., and delivery is available in a limited area at lunch.
Garrett finally decided on the Staten Island ($5.95), featuring seasoned beef, vegetarian pinto beans and Spanish lime rice "smothered" with lettuce, cheese, tomato, sour cream and chile sauce. (Garrett got his without beans and on a jalapeño tortilla.) I ordered a Thai peanut wrap ($5.25) on garlic herb; mine came with marinated chicken, white rice, pinto beans, tomato, lettuce and onions on the inside; it wasn't "smothered," meaning I could pick it up and eat it. We also decided to check out the deluxe nachos with chicken ($4.95; steak or seasoned beef are also available along with the standard lettuce, tomatoes, onions, black olives, jalapeños and guacamole).
Garrett had neutral feelings on his wrap. He felt the seasoned beef was somewhat bland, and after he took a bite of my Thai peanut wrap, he was wishing he'd ordered differently. I enjoyed mine immensely--the Thai peanut sauce gave it a unique taste that mixed well with the subtle garlic taste of the tortilla.
Our nachos were an altogether different story: They weren't good. The chips were hard and slightly stale, and the sauce--the processed, warmed cheese food euphemistically called "nacho cheese"--was administered in glops from a machine in the back. The chicken and vegetables were fine--but when the chips and cheese are substandard in nachos, the ballgame's pretty much over.
We left New York Burrito with mixed feelings. The Thai peanut burrito wrap was a winner; the nachos were a loser; the Staten Island burrito was a no-decision. In order to break the tie, I returned for lunch on the following Friday, this time to try a chicken Caesar salad wrap ($4.95), with romaine lettuce, chicken, dressing, parmesan cheese, onions, tomatoes and olives on a tomato basil tortilla.
I am happy to report that it was delicious. The lettuce was fresh--considering how much wilted lettuce I've been finding at Tucson restaurants lately, I consider this to be noteworthy--and there was just enough of the salty dressing, well distributed, to complement the vegetables and the tender chicken.
With that, I can recommend New York Burrito. There are plenty of options, and the ingredients are fresh (tortilla chips aside), so if you order properly, aren't expecting anything more than a fast-food atmosphere and don't mind non-Mexican burrito fare, check it out.