Tuesday, May 29, 2012

McKnight Road Burrito Throwdown

 In the stretch of a 1/4 mile on Mcknight Road in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, 3 titans of faux Mexican cuisine compete for your gringo dollar. Well its time for me and my select panel of burrito specialists to find out which of these joints has the best burrito. Like Tina Turner said in Mad Max III Beyond Thunderdome, "3 burritos enter, 1 burrito leaves" (or something like that).
From left to right, Taco Bell XXL Steak Burrito, Qdoba Shredded Beef Ancho Chili Burrito, Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito

From left to right, Taco Bell XXL Steak Burrito, Qdoba Shredded Beef Ancho Chili Burrito, Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito
  From a size standpoint, the Qdoba burrito was the biggest. Followed closely by the Chipotle burrito, and finally the Taco Bell burrito. The Qdoba and Chipotle burritos are very dense and have to weigh over a pound. 
 As far as prices go, the Qdoba burrito was also the costliest at $8.12. The Chipotle burrito was next at $7.12, and the Taco Bell burrito cost $5.71.

Taco Bell XXL Steak Burrito $5.71
 Taco Bell or Toxic Hell as it is know in some circles, is known for dirt cheap food (don't want to call it Mexican food that might start an international incident). This XXL Steak burrito is the Cadillac of the Taco Bell menu, and was put specially on the menu to help Taco Bell compete with higher end restaurants Chipotle and Qdoba..
A  thing that I have noticed at the Taco Bell on McKnight Rd is that you really have no idea what the hell you are going to get after you place your order Sometimes you get what you order, sometimes you don't. The fact that I appeared to actually get a XXL burrito was promising. 
 Taco Bell did not have anything equivalent to Chipotles barbacoa or Qdobas shredded beef, so I settled with the steak. The first thing I noticed when I bit into this burrito was the amount of sauce. Way to much of their Avacodo Sauce and Sour Cream. Funny thing was, when I had this burrito in the past they used real guacamole and the burrito was not near as saucy. The steak was tender to the point of not adding any texture to the burrito, and its flavor was drowned out by the excess of sauce. The burrito itself is grilled which adds nothing besides a slightly crispy outer crust.  Truth be told, this burrito despite the negatives was not all that bad for what it is, a cheap substitute for Chipotle or Qdoba. Hell one of my tasters (soon to be fired) thought it was the best burrito out of the three. 

Chipotle Burrito $7.12
  Chipotle has been my go-to burrito joint for a while now. They make everything in house and use local organic produce, animals raised without hormones and antibiotics, etc. They are big on promoting "Food with integrity". When you order your burrito you have a few choices to make. Steak, chicken, barbacoa (shredded beef), or carnita (shredded pork). I've found the barbacoa to have the best flavor out of the bunch with notes of cumin, garlic, and other Mexican spices.You also choose what type of beans, black or pinto (I usually go pinto). What type of salsa, hot, medium, or mild . Also whether you want cheese and sour cream. Guacamole can be added for $1.80, and is excellent with it also being made fresh daily.
 The Chipotle burrito did not disappoint. Everything tasted fresh. The medium salsa was tomatillo based (green) which gave it a nice tang and heat level. The barbacoa was also moist and flavorful. For those watching their weight you can also get the whole thing in a bowl and eliminate the carb heavy tortilla. Brown rice and fajita veggies are also available.

Qdoba Ancho BBQ Burrito $8.12
 This was actually my first time to Qdoba. The set-up is pretty much the same as Chipotle with you dictating what to put in your burrito. The burrito I ordered was pretty much the same as the one I ordered at Chipotle, but with the addition of Qdoba's Ancho Chili BBQ Sauce. The sauce was pretty tasty,  adding a slight sweetness and smokiness to the burrito. The shredded beef however I did not find nearly as flavorful as Chipotles.  In actuality this and the Chipotle burrito were nearly identical except for for the different sauces. As this was my first visit to Qdoba, I cant really comment on the consistency and quality of their food.

So who is the one burrito to leave victorious from the burrito throwdown? 
 Chipotle wins by a smidgen over Qdoba, and a lot more over Taco Bell.
 The Chipotle burrito tasted slightly fresher and tastier then the Qdoba burrito, and was much better in all aspects than the Taco Bell burrito.
 However I would not hesitate to go to a Qdoba if there was no Chipotle around. Comment and let me know where your favorite burrito is. 

Taco Bell XXL Steak Burrito: 5/10
Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito: 8/10
Qdoba Ancho Chilli BBQ Shredded Beef Burrito: 7/10

Taco Bell on Urbanspoon Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon Chipotle - McKnight Rd. on Urbanspoon