New York City Baja Fresh Nails the Baja Chicken Burrito
Apparently Monday at 1:30pm is the time to hit up the new Baja Fresh on Lexington btw. 45+46th. 5 people in line. Nobody at the salsa bar. Got my food in five minutes. (A stark contrast with… I don’t know… say… opening day.) Finally, the chance to enjoy one of the things I really miss about living in Los Angeles: the Baja Chicken Burrito. Since this chain opened up their first Manhattan location last Monday I’ve heard a lot of words thrown around. Overrated, overhyped, meh. To those people I say… you may be right.
Expecting Mexican food greatness from Baja Fresh is like hoping for rare roast beef on your Arby’s Sandwich. And complaining that it’s not real Mexican food is like wishing that In N Out Burger served thicker patties. You don’t compare In N Out to JG Melon; you compare it to McDonalds. In other words, in the world of fast food pseudo-Mexican corporate chains (Chipotle, Qdoba, Taco Bell), Baja Fresh is the king. And in a terrible Mexican food city like New York, any decent addition is welcomed with open arms.
Of course I base that opinion entirely on the Baja Chicken Burrito, which is pretty much the only thing I order at Baja Fresh. But after hearing negative things about the New Jersey locations of Baja Fresh, I was concerned that this NYC franchise wasn’t going to be able to pull it off.
I could be crazy, but I think the burritos are slightly smaller here than in L.A. It’s also ridiculous to pay over $8 for a burrito. But those are pretty much my only complaints. The flavor was spot in, down to the grill flavor on the chicken. Chicken, cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo. Simple. Clean. A great lunch. You still get free chips (praise jeebus!) and the salsa bar is in full effect. Their salsa verde is actually green (take notes Chipotle), but not that fake neon green that plagues so many terrible NYC Mexican restaurants. It’s green because it’s made from tomatillos, the way it should be. I even liked the mango salsa, which is a new addition from my California days.
Based on the Baja Chicken Burrito alone, I’m happy to say the NYC franchisees pulled off a version of Baja Fresh that is as good as what you get in California. Now, whether or not that makes you personally excited is all a matter of personal taste. I, for one, am pretty damn excited. It’s not going to replace El Rey Del Sabor (two carts, one on 60th and 3rd, the other on 49th and 3rd), or Las Poblanitas (on 38th btw. 8+9th), or Tehuitzingo (on 10th Ave. and 47th), or Tucingo del Valle. But at least I never have to consider eating at Chipotle again.
Baja Fresh, 465 Lexington Avenue (btw. 45+46th), 212-599-2252