Vegan Restaurant Review: Burritoville at 72nd St.

I complain often and loudly that New York has no decent Mexican food. That doesn't prevent me from eating New York Mexican food, though, because my need for salsas and fried beans must be met somehow. Thus: Burritoville, a New York City Mexican chain.

Burritoville is an omnivorous restaurant, but only barely. In a refreshing inversion of the norm, vegetarian fare seems to be the standard there, with vegans amply accomodated and meat on the menu as an afterthought. About three-quarters of the menu is vegetarian (complete with a crossed-carrot symbol to indicate the absence of meat), plus the counter is littered with posters advertising daily specials, none of which contain meat.

Moreover, they put a lot of thought into their vegetarian menu items. A lot of times the vegetarian options at an omnivorous restaurant are meat items with the meat left out (my favorite example of this being the Veggie Whopper at Burger King, which is a regular Whopper with no meat, and nothing to replace it. So, a lettuce and ketchup sandwich). Burritoville's vegetarian selections use a variety of meat substitutes that ensure the end product is both flavorful and substantial. You'll find options that use marinated tofu, chorizo-flavored TVP, seasoned tempeh and seitan.

Burritoville also cares about vegans. Dairy-free menu items are highlighted, and every item that includes dairy on the menu can be made dairy free; they'll substitute soy cheese and soy sour cream for their dairy analogues.

Since this is New York, and since vegans are used to paying high prices for restaurant food that accomodates them, you'll pay through the nose for Burritoville's fare. A burrito and a soda comes out to about $10.

I can't speak for Burritoville's other locations, but the 72nd street location is a little small for the customer traffic they get. The interior design is also a bit much for the size; I found myself bumping my head on some of the wall decorations as I maneuvered my food to the table. Service was notably slow, with a single burrito when I was the only customer waiting taking about ten minutes to make.

I was disappointed in their chips and salsa. They've got an awkward set-up by the counter with a basket of chips, some jars of salsa, some paper plates, and some cups. The cups, they insist, are not for salsa. This leaves the customer to pile chips on a plate then put salsa in pools next to them. The trouble with this, as I discovered, is that the plates they use are not quite hearty enough to withstand their highly liquid salsa. Some of the salsa had leaked through the plate and pooled on the table before I finished with my chips. The actual chips were decent enough, they had a good corn flavor and were crunchy without being hard. The salsa was adequate; a mild tomato salsa and a spicy tomatillo, both of which did the job but neither of which were particularly noteworthy.

The burrito, on the other hand, was excellent in the way that only greasy mexican food can be. You don't realize how much cheese and sour cream enhance a burrito until you have a burrito smothered in them after a long period of abstinence. Sure, it was soy sour cream and soy cheese, but a burrito isn't exactly the place for subtle distinctions in flavor and texture. My burrito was awesome, and its veganity made it all the more so.

Burritoville is now my favorite mexican place in New York City. The atmosphere sucks, the service is bad, and the prices are high, but they offer a variety of vegan burritos that I can't even get in Southern California and a quality that makes it well worth the trip. Highly recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on April 22, 2007 12:07 AM.

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