Burrito Bliss At Calexico, If You Can Get Past The 30 Minute Wait
There has been much talk on how sub-par the burritos are in this city, with places like Chipotle drawing long lines with their weirdly flavored rice and dry meat. And then there’s Calexico, which has carved a niche for itself with its carts manned (and frequented) by hipsters, making California-style burritos. So far they have won a Vendy Award in 2008 and opened a brick and mortar store, yet they have never been graced by a Midtown Lunch review. I know those in Midtown got their hopes up that a cart was coming their way, but sadly that did not materialize. Downtown is a comparable wealth of Calexico riches with two carts in Soho, and I hit up the one on Broome St. (at Crosby) to see what all of the fuss was about.
Let me just get this out of the way – this cart is popular, and they let you know before you order how long the wait is. When I got there a little before 1 p.m. the wait was 30 minutes. By the time I left (almost precisely 30 minutes later), the wait had stretched to nearly an hour. Despite all of this, it only took me a little more than an hour to get my food and be back at my office in the FiDi for a little desk dining.
My pollo asado burrito ($7) held up well in transit. It was a well-wrapped bundle of grilled chicken, black beans, white and yellow cheese, yellow rice, pico de gallo and avocado crema. They also have carne asada ($8), chipotle pork ($7) and a vegetarian black bean burrito, as well as tacos and quesadillas.
I spent most of my time waiting for my food both watching in fascination as the three guys working the cart kept up with the constant flow of people. At one point the guy manning the grill was flipping meat while talking on his cell phone and another putting the food together was doing it with such finesse and speed that it was like watching a never-ending cooking show.
But back to that burrito. By the time I got back to my office, it was maybe a little less hot than if eaten immediately, but I didn’t care. This was the tastiest giant burrito I’ve ever eaten…not that it’s hard to beat out Chipotle or Qdoba. The Vendy Awards do not lie.
And lest you think I’m lame for getting the chicken, it was so good I started picking bits of it out of the burrito and eating them solo. You can’t see it in the photo, but the green avocado crema sauce was good and applied sparingly so it didn’t make the tortilla all soggy. I know not everyone is able to spend an hour procuring a burrito, but I felt like this was worth my time. Plus, they had good music blasting from the cart while I waited.
A testament to the popularity of the cart was that I only saw one person walk away when told the wait was 30 to 45 minutes. A police officer walked up right before I got my food and asked how long the wait was. She was told one hour, and walked off, but was back a few minutes later with a piece of paper full of orders.
I really want to try the tacos and maybe one of the specials. Or I might just go for another awesome burrito and risk a second afternoon at work spent in a food coma.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- They make some really tasty burritos without any weird ingredients (I’m looking at you Chipotle).
- They won a Vendy Award and I always go with the winner.
- I am a hipster, and therefore must eat here at least twice a month to keep up my street cred.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- An hour wait for a burrito? No way.
- I like being able to pick out my ingredients from bins behind a sneeze guard at Chipotle.
- I don’t work near Soho and can’t justify taking a train to get Mexican food from a cart.
Calexico Cart, Prince St. (at Wooster), Broome St. (at Crosby)