For the most part, the burritos served by independent places in the city are grilled not steamed. So for most, this means they’re not good. Rather closed minded in my opinion it’s like blaming chocolate for not being vanilla. I have no idea why people can’t just like something for what it is and not dislike it for what it isn’t. So I will deal with what some in these parts call a "Toronto Style Burrito.” Stuffed, rolled and placed on a flat top until golden brown and delicious on both sides.
I’ve made no secret about my love of the flat top so as you can imagine, I’m a big fan of anything that has a date with it. The result of this flat top grilling is a nice crispy "Skin" and another dimension of flavour not found in a steamed burrito. The wrappers maintain a certain chew that I enjoy. Contrasted that with the more tender and (in my mind) less interesting shell that results from being steamed. I personally have plenty of room in my heart and my stomach for both styles. As I’ve said in the past, taste trumps all and if it’s tasty I’ll enjoy it for what it is.
One of the GTA’s finest examples of this culinary bomb is Big Fat Burrito. Now 3 locations strong, they began life in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood and where Mrs. Sippi and I paid a lunch visit.
Much like all burritos you choose your flavour and then garnishes. BFB offers steak, chicken, pork and their signature filling, yam. One of the things that make them stand out is the use of refried beans rather than whole pinto or black beans. A substitution that works extremely well as far as I’m concerned. They also have 5 levels of spiciness with a simple 1 – 5 choice that’s right there from which you choose.
Enough with the small talk, let’s get on to the food.
Our lunch consisted of a burrito and a root beer each. We also sampled a taco.
BFB serves Boylan’s products. This family owned company has been in business for almost 125 years and serves up one of the best root beers you can find from their old family recipe.
The taco was pretty simple and tasty. A hard shell with a typical cumin based seasoning for the ground beef. Tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and hot sauce round out the filling. The thing that made it was how the sour cream and hot sauce blended to form their own sauce. I’m sure the purists will lament the use of a hard shell but I liked it and that’s all I care about. It's like a better version of the taco kit you buy in the grocery store.
Now the big question, how were the burritos??
Mrs. Sippi’s yam burrito was very good. The sweetness of the yam balanced the hot sauce very nicely. She opted for medium hot (2) and that was hot enough. The filling was rounded out with lettuce, tomato, cheese, burrito sauce and refried beans. There’s a rumour that you can order off menu and get yam and pork that’s incredible.
My steak burrito was fantastic. The marinated cow meat was very tender and the “Regular hot” (3) heat level added a really nice kick without being overbearing. I love the use of refried beans as they give the whole thing a nice earthy tone I don't find from whole beans. I also find that RFB's play nicely with hot stuff.
All in all, having never been to San Fran and tasted one of their Mission style burritos it's somewhat unreasonable to make a fair assessment of which is best. I will however say that having had a burrito at Mission Burrito here in TO and a few of the chain offerings (Chipotle, Moe's, etc.) which are Mission style as well, I think I'll take the Toronto style myself. As I said above, I'll take either way if it's well executed.
So check your burrito prejudice at the door and give Big Fat Burrito a fair shake. You may prefer your burrito Mission style but you can’t disregard this tasty treat. Enjoy it for what it is.
You can find BFB’s original location a 285 Agusta Ave. in Toronto, Ontario.
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They can also be found at 112 Dundas St. W. and 529 Bloor St. W. inside Lee’s Palace.
Well that’s all for now burrito fans. We’ll see you again in the food court.