October 7, 2017

The Fast "Mexican" Restaurant Debate

The debate over which fast food or fast casual national chain (and one that is very similar) Mexican themed restaurant is the best continues! I've only been to and heard of 9 places that are setup in a similar fashion. This is just how I feel and, quite honestly, I think is a pretty solid and accurate ranking. 

Some of these have numerous locations while others are hard to find or you just sorta of run into them while you're out an about. They each are different in their own ways and some really should never be revisited ever again. While a couple of these I could keep eating, I would still much rather have something authentic going in my belly. So, lets stop blabbering and get to it! 

#1 - Chipotle
Should be no surprise to anyone, but Chipotle is definitely at the top of my list. Every single one of the meats is worth eating and it doesn't matter if you get a burrito or a bowl, everything always tastes good. That rice is one of the best things since sliced bread. And, while some Chipotles aren't as solid as others, all-in-all, Chipotle still rocks! Plus, they're very charitable! Oh, and we need to try that new queso they offer...

#2 - Zantigo
I think there are only 3 within the Twin Cities area, but this place has some of the best tortillas you can get. Meats are pretty decent, but nothing like Chipotle. What makes this place so awesome and sitting the #2 spot really is their cheeseritos. Absolutely love these things! 

#3 - Costa Vida (Wife's Pick)
This is the newest chain to hit the Twin Cities Market and the reason why I decided to write this blog in the first place. Their set up (meats and extras) is very similar to Chipotle or Qdoba, but they make their tortillas in house and warm them on a giant spinning hot wheel. If you order a burrito or bowl, they your rice, meat and cheese together first, melt it in their mini pizza oven, then have you put all your extra stuff on. My wife really enjoyed her meal, a bowl (similar to Chipotle's) with shredded beef and all her extras she decided to get and she really enjoyed it. I went for a burrito with their sweet pork and the extras I like and it was quite large. I actually brought it home. While the sweet pork had pretty good flavor, I wouldn't order it again. It is too close to something I would get at a BBQ joint, not a Mexican restaurant. Queso and chips were also solid as well. 

#4 - Qdoba
Basically a knock off of Chipotle (let's be honest) and still serving decent food. I've never really had a bad experience while visiting a Qdoba, but it's just not Chipotle. 

#5 - Literally, anything else but the next few that I'm about to list, but they need to be listed and shared. Is there anything else?

#6 -  Pancheros
Stopped in on a whim while in the Golden Valley area and the service is also, very similar to the setup like Chipotle. I went for a bowl with chicken which was pretty boring and their cilantro lime rice is just as boring. I know you have to be different from your competitors, but you still have to make it taste good.  Plus, for the money, you get a very small portion compared to my favorite place and others on the list. Looked like a child's portion...

#7 - Taco Libre
Not a chain, but it's already growing to a couple of locations in the Twin Cities and probably more. I gave this place 3 opportunities and each time I walked out unsatisfied and disappointed. Meats are really nothing to brag about and I tried each of them. Tortillas were always dry tasting (as was the meat) and the flavors weren't the best either. Everyone brags about the machete, but it's not all that exciting.

#8 - Cocina Mexicana inside Hy-Vee stores
Had it once, will never eat it again. The rice was gross, dry and cold. The meat wasn't as bad and the extras that you get to choose from really didn't much either. I'll stick to grocery shopping during some of their specials. 

#9 - Taco Johns
The only thing I can stomach here are their potato rounds. 

#10 - Taco Bell
Do I really need to say anything about this place? 

So, what are your thoughts on my rankings? Are they consistent with your taste buds? What would you change? Hopefully, it's not putting my bottom 2 at the top.......


Not My Kind Of Rainforest

Ecosystems that are so complex, they're like a place out of time. Rainforests all across the globe provide some of the most amazing sites most humans have not seen and will never see. Just the small tribes that live within these lush environments, those with a little extra money to venture into them and scientists from all over the world studying a whole new world.

Sounds like a magical place that should be added to my bucket list of places to visit some day, but I've got a rainforest that should go extinct and should never be on anyone's bucket list. The Rainforest Cafe is the place I'm referring to and the one at the Mall of America, should have just stayed closed when it closed its first floor location a couple of years back.

It was our little guys' birthday and he spent the day at the zoo with mommy. We figured, why not eat at a place that's like a zoo, he would love it. All kinds of things to look at and the food can't be that terrible. I mean, it was about our little guy having some fun...

Boy, were we wrong! After I ordered my $11 Summit Oktoberfest (I just about fell over when I saw the bill), our little guy went for a cheese pizza, my wife went with their chicken salad croissant sandwich and I decide to go with their "house favorite" BBQ bacon cheeseburger and I left out the BBQ.

As our food arrived at our table, it appeared to look pretty delicious. Looks are deceiving! My wife's chicken salad sandwich was bland and flavorless with dryer than dry chicken inside a croissant that was just as bad. She struggled through even half her sandwich and pushed her plate off to the side.

As for my burger, I've had A LOT of cheese burgers from all over the place and this one was definitely not something I would send my enemy to go check out. For starters, when you ask for your red meat to be prepared a certain way, a good chef can pull it off perfectly. Not here! They overcooked a burger that was asked to be prepared to medium and they simply threw a couple of slices of cheeses on it, just before the lettuce, onions and 'mato. It wasn't even melted! REALLY!

I would have rather ate my sons pizza (which was still blah), but I looked at my wife and said, "I need another beer to wash what I just ate down!" Something I wouldn't have said once I saw the bill. The mall really doesn't have the greatest options for solid cuisine experiences and often times way over priced as well. If you're curious where to get a solid burger - check out Burger Burger. The only place in the entire mall worth getting a burger at!