El Sarape

El Sarape is a place you don’t want to find yourself, but you repeatedly will. That’s life, what with the number of its ilk around the world. You know the type, where the menu is the size of a book, proudly proclaiming suspect dishes like the Mexican pizza. I’m not saying there is no such a thing as a good Mexican pizza; I just have never had it, and I’m fairly certain I never will.

It’s not a book to inspire much excitement either, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up at the ever prevalent burrito section, where maybe, just maybe, you‘ll find something to at least soothe the most basic of your cravings.

And the carne asada burrito might not have been wholeheartedly horrible, as much as it was offensively average. The same type you get at any of these generic Mexican restaurants.1 I’m not expecting every burrito to jump up and dance the foxtrot in my mouth or anything, but come on… A bland tortilla wrapped around flavorless carne asada… Would it take that much to do something a little biy different? Kick up the guacamole a notch? Add something, remove something? Something, anything to differentiate yourself?

The problem isn’t you, of course. Or maybe it is. Maybe tortillaphiles have ourselves to blame, with our impossibly high tortilla standards? There aren’t enough of us out there, and thus the purveyors of Mexican food cater only to the proletariat.

El Sarape is another dull face in the crowd, a concept our friends at Arrested Development many times have touched on.

1 And there are many of them.

Egg tortilla breakfast taco

Touché, Taco Bell, touché.

Thumbnail for Egg tortilla

I’ll admit I had expected the bacon taco shell to be the most breakfast-y of all tortilla offshoots, but I’ll be hell if The Bell didn’t one-up it. A fried egg «tortilla»? Points given for creativity.

There is no way I would actually go to Taco Bell and try it, mind you. I have my doubts they would use anything close to even an egg substitute, but still… I was intrigued enough to try making one myself.

The ingredients

  • An egg.

The steps

  1. Fry the egg.

I mean, good grief, it’s a fried egg—there really isn’t much more to it.

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty, one thing you need to keep in mind is that you’ll need a spatula to stop the egg from spreading out to all sides. Make sure you adjust the egg into a circle while it is cooking. The size should be something akin of a traditional corn tortilla.

And despite Taco Bell’s promo shots of beautiful, over-easy eggs1, this really needs to be done over-hard. Don’t cook it until it’s rubber, but you don’t want the yolk running all over your fingers while eating, either. You’d look like a freak!

Top it with some steak, bacon, guacamole, pico de gallo, and cheddar, and you got a pretty legit breakfast taco going. The «shell» should hold up just fine, and will only be as greasy as the butter you put in the pan.

Eat, safe in the knowledge you once again beat The Bell at its own game.

1 Which I’m too lazy to find a link to.

Cheddar cheese taco shells

It’s a special and intimate, the relationship between you and your tortillas. Maybe you’re a traditionalist who goes with the classic corn variety, or maybe you travel the flour route. This is a safe space—we do not judge!

Thumbnail for Cheddar cheese taco shells

The Tortillaphilia™ Syndicate, too, like to get saucy now and again, and we have no issues trying «something out of the ordinary». Example: cheddar cheese taco shells.

The concept might sound wrong in most every way, and it kind of is, but the end result is actually not too far from a more traditional American taco shell. It’s kind of rubbery, but not as much as you would think.

The recipe for one «tortilla»

  • 1/2 cup grated medium cheddar. We recommend Tillamook.
  • Any spice you might want to add. A bit of paprika works great—Simply Organic is our go-to.

(Yes, those are Amazon Affiliate links—support your local tortillaphile!)

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spread cheese into a six inch circle on a baking sheet. Make sure to at least use parchment paper, though a Silpat works better. You really do not want the cheese to stick.

Bake in the oven until the edges start to brown. About 8-10 minutes.

While tortilla is baking, put two glasses upside down on a towel, and bridge a spatula between them. (See illustrative photo above.)

Let tortilla cool for about 3-5 minutes. Then carefully pick it up, and hang it over the spatula. It should take the shape of a taco shell after about five minutes.

That’s it—fill the shell with whatever your heart desires, and you’ll have one hell of a taco going. And dont’t deny yourself anything. Adding extra cheese is perfectly acceptable.

Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar

Give Barrio this—and I am about to give them a lot: they truly know how to keep the riffraff out. Here you have to search for a wooden door the size of a city block, one that is pretty much a CrossFit workout1 to open. Hey, Barrio is not a place for just everyone.

Image of burrito

The food, meanwhile, is quite stellar, and a testament to what good corporate restaurants2 actually can be. Don’t get me wrong, there are things on the «eh» side of things. Particularly the slow service will slap you around, Sean Connery style, but in the end, it’s all worth it.

Getting a truly stellar burrito is a rare thing, but I’ll be damned if Barrio doesn’t get it right. Unnecessary plating aside, the flank steak variety hit it home nigh perfectly, with flavors both deep and subtle. A paradox? Not really. The habanero salsa is something one might expect to be gut-punching, but here it just adds to the flavor. That is particularly impressive, seeing I rarely find myself in support of the habanero pepper. Sure it adds heat, but flavor-wise it usually is… eh… Whatever was mixed into it at Barrio kept the heat balanced, while adding some niceties to the palate. As importantly, the steak was both well-spiced and tender.

On the side, the pickled onions (and there was a lot of them) were perfect companions. Nice and fresh, tangy, with just a bit of a kick… It’s what someone like you would want, someone who truly «gets» the tortilla.

And Barrio gets the tortilla. Take the time to find that door—it’s not just for decoration despite what one might think—and you’ll have yourself one good time.

1 One can’t help but wonder how a slim hipster can get in, mind you…

2 The spot is operated by HRG, kind of a «restaurateur’s enterprise» if you so like. The «H», by the way, fittingly stands for «Heavy».

Dirty Oscar’s Annex

Dirty Oscar’s is doing Kirk Cameron’s1 work. This is a spot where some sort of mad genius took a look at the hangover staple, the burrito, and asked themself: «How can one make this even more hangover-food-y?» The answer? Drop any kind of traditional sauces, and toss on the gravy.

Image of burrito

Simple, right? And isn’t that what makes things great? Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Execution wise things go a tad more shaky. As far as being hangover food, there’s little to complain about, but for being just food, the burrito is not completely up to snuff.

The overall palate is way too salty, to the point the burrito fails to be something I can put a blanket recommendation upon. You probably won’t notice it after a shaky night with libations, but the mix of ham, braised pork, bacon, and gravy… That is a lot of salt. A lot of protein too, but surely there is a middle ground.

Dirty Oscar’s is kind of a cool place, though. Upscale dive, if you so like. I also thought the ads on the champagne glasses were great: «Pop the bubbly… but enjoy responsibly!» In other words, call the advertiser if you didn’t enjoy it responsibly. Who is the sponsor? A law firm.

1 For new readers, I have given in and acknowledged him being right: He is god.