I have been spoiled. Burrito spoiled. I am well aware that this sounds weird, but it is true.
Working on the east side of Cleveland, my first burrito after moving to this fantastic city was from Chili Peppers Fresh Mexican Grill on East 185th Street. It is a popular lunch spot for our staff, and co-workers swore by this little (cash-only) restaurant from the moment that I started. For good reason...
The "build your own" bar contains such a wide selection of toppings and choices that it can be a little overwhelming at first. But then you get the hang of it, and you find your perfect combination that keeps you coming back. For $5.99, you can build your own burrito with selections like: rice, 2 (maybe 3) types of beans, onions two ways, and at least 4 different meat choices and steamed veggies for the non-meat eaters. Then you move on to the toppings. Some of my favorites, and clearly unique options, include: fresh cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, jalapeno peppers prepared three different ways, corn, house-made chunky guacamole...and I'm not even mentioning your standard toppings such as cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. You can top it all off with two different salsa options and three different sauces! The food is fresh and authentic, and the staff expertly moves you quickly through the line.
We didn't have Chipotle in Upstate NY. In Cleveland, the billboards are hard to miss and I heard a lot of people talk about how great their burritos are. I will never forget my first time at Chipotle. I walked in and took one look at the limited toppings and choices, and shot a look of horror and shock at "R". Before you Chipotle-lovers out there yell at me, I'm not saying that it was a bad burrito. I was just expecting more after getting used to having so many selections available. I know that I shouldn't even compare a chain to a locally owned and operated business, but I think it just goes to prove my point that our local independent restaurants know how to do it right!
Now, here is where I just get picky and I fully admit that I have turned into a burrito snob. We don't live very far from Ohio City, and we dine out there frequently. I've heard nothing but rave reviews of Ohio City Burrito since it opened a few months ago, and we'd been looking forward to trying it. Actually, "R" bugs me on a weekly basis to go. Last night, we were looking for a quick and cheap dinner option so I suggested that we swing by. The restaurant is fun and playful, with lots of vibrant colors and artwork. The staff was chatty and helpful as I built my burrito. They start by swirling house-made guacamole on the tortilla. Any time someone swirls guacamole, heck does anything with guacamole- I'm happy! The price is very reasonable ($6.15 for a burrito), and we did enjoy our meal. I just have two words of wisdom for the restaurant- consider increasing the number of topping and choices (very Chipotle-esque with the options), and don't call your hottest sauce "fiery" if I can barely taste the heat. I want it HOT baby, bring it on! Leave the mild for the faint-hearted. Don't worry, I'll be back- it was good.
So I am happy that I have another good local burrito joint to patron in our area, but I still dream of Chili Peppers cilantro, lime juice, and other fabulous toppings when I am faced with a limited bar of options. Chili Peppers- you've officially spoiled me.
Dining Deals Alert- Almost all of the menu at Chili Peppers and Ohio City Burrito are under the $10 price point.
Chili Peppers Fresh Mexican Grill
869 East 185th Street
Cleveland, OH 44119
Ohio City Burrito
1844 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113