New York City Baja Fresh Nails the Baja Chicken Burrito

Baja Fresh

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.

Baja Fresh

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.

Baja Fresh

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.

Baja Fresh

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


  • Chipotle ain’t worth it. If I wanted natural/organic, I mgiht as well eat Pret more often.

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    I completely agree that Baja Fresh is the king of fast food mexican. I grew up with Baja Fresh in AZ and it’s wayyy better than Chipotle – New York is just lacking good mexican so people here don’t know the difference.

    This is the best news I’ve received all week. I am damn excited for that salsa bar!!

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    Baja Fresh may be the best Mexican in Midtown, and this may be a site dedicated to accessible lunches in this area, but to say New York City has “Terrible” Mexican food is ignorance at best – having eaten tons of Mexican in Cali, throughout the Southwest and – of all places – Mexico, I can say that you just have to broaden your search a bit to find some of the best Mexican food outside of Mexico here in NYC. Try Roosevelt Ave in Queens, or any number of neighborhoods in Brooklyn from Red Hook to Bushwick, or just go back to your flourescent-lit cubicle and die.

  • @kfat – You are absolutely right. I guess what I really meant to say was Manhattan. There are a few good options, but most Mexican places in Manhattan are complete garbage. And that’s the difference between Manhattan and the other areas you mentioned in your comment.

    90% of the food that passes for “Mexican” in Manhattan, would be considered garbage in L.A. (which is where I moved here from.) I guess what I was trying to say (and what most people will agree with) is that in NYC, the percentage of terrible Mexican food to good Mexican food is much higher here than on the West coast.

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    I can tell you that even in Bushwick the Mexican isn’t all that great–there are a couple places that I’d say compare to a very middling west coast taqueria, but that’s about it. (Admittedly I deduct a lot because neither of them seems to know how to wrap a burrito, or has carne asada on the menu.)

    Sunset Park is definitely worth checking out for tacos and burritos, though, and people do seem to rave about the Red Hook ballfields.

  • Finally went to Baja Fresh after following Zach’s perverse love affair with it (not saying that’s a bad thing). Would have hit this spot sooner but i’ve been out of town.. umm.. simply out of MidTOWN that is.. but back (shoot me). Main point, very tasty, and as you put it Zach, this is a fast-food joint and expectations should match accordingly… and I put it on the high-end of the scale. Fresh and Fast.. those are the key components to fast food (clean?? who cares.. we all know that when you eat fast germs can’t catch you (just like the concept of the 5 second rule ;P But yeah, Baja was very clean).

    Even with all his reviews of this place, i think Zach was a little off his game in the sense that he was too much of a Baja Fresh Pro… the first-times (aka, “morons” like myself) need to be warned about a few simple thing:

    1) Be prepared for ordering off the menu. I didn’t realize how used to the prison cafeteria style ordering (like at Chipolte) I’ve become… i needed someone to hold my hand and walk me through each ingredient. I was lost at the actual concept of order a food item by name and {bam} being given that food item. And hey, the concept actually works (or should i say STILL works)

    2) Salsa bar is awesome. Heck, probably loaded up on over $10 of salsa alone between all the varieties (that mango salsa could be a meal in itself.. tell that guy who did the Free Samples/Garbage Picking review for lunch). As a first-timer I naturally wanted to view all they had first, once i got down the bar to the mango, I began my fill-up there.. YIKES.. bad move… as now i could not go in the other direction to retrieve the first few salsa styles. I had to get back on the salsa line which was piling up and my order number just got called.. so now i had my hands full.. too late to return to the line… arrrrggg!! So know what you want, and take it the minute you see it.. heck, take it even if you don’t want it. (by the way, they could use more serving spoons… just one in each salsa bowl is a handicap)

    3) Free Chips as a bad thing. Naturally fantastic that they include chips (reminds me of our dearly departed BurritoVille… RIP) but just be careful if you do take-out.. they have just enough grease to cut through the thin paper bag (umm, if you see any of my chips laying around Lex ave, like a trail of breadcrumbs, please return them to me, I’m the good looking guy with the mango salso all over his face)

    One last thing to note (not so much a warning) don’t miss the free lime wedges. More and more Chipoltes have not been displaying limes (i’ve needed to ask and they seem relectant to even give me). Is there a lime shortage? are they that expensive? Limes really are a necessity these days.. nothing else balances out the chemical pollutants of a Diet Coke better than sweet, fresh lime juice. And blanace is key people.

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