Qdoba Craft Two

Qdoba Mexican Grill Marches Into The Fair Lawn Promenade

Qdoba LogoI know I might catch some flak for writing this review because it is on a chain restaurant, but as the Yolo generation says, Haters Gonna Hate! The truth of the matter is that I believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and as long as they are serving food that doesn’t look and taste like it fell out of an animal’s hind quarters, I am willing to pay them a visit, especially when one moves in down the street from my current homestead.

When the luxurious Fair Lawn Promenade was erected, not only did this new construction provide high end apartments located in the wonderful town of Fair Lawn, it also brought with it several dining establishments. If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I have already visited and reviewed the Habit Burger Grill which is located in the Promenade, and now I have decided to review Qdoba, in the same plaza. For all of you that are not familiar with Fair Lawn the actual address that can be placed into the googles is 23-31 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

To clarify my aforementioned comment, I do sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants as they provide casual dining at an inexpensive price point in a quick and efficient manner. I am not talking about the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the food world, I only eat there when I have had a little bit too much to drink, and I assure you, I regret it more than most people regret their one night stands. I am speaking of franchises that still care about the quality of food they are providing to their customers, and I feel that Qdoba is truly one of those establishments.

First and foremost, what drew me into the Promenade to experience all that Qdoba had to offer actually had nothing to do with their food. If you are a Bergen County resident like me, you know that avoiding Route 4 and Route 17 is more important than eating, sleeping, and on Saturday you can add breathing to that list too. So the addition of a causal dining Mexican Grill like Qdoba moving into what is basically my backyard, thus allowing me circumventing the need to travel on those above-mentioned horrendous parking lots that Bergen County calls highways, was a gift from the Traffic Overlord ConeZilla!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Since my commute was five minutes, and I was only cut off once on my way to Qdoba, when I entered the restaurant with Kat, my foodie partner for the evening, I was much calmer than I have ever been at those Burrito shops located in the 7th ring of traffic hell known as Paramus. To add to my elation, as soon as I walked into the building, I noticed a sign that simply read, “Extras Aren’t Extra!”   Could this be true? Is this a Dream, I thought to myself. They can’t just give stuff away for free, right? Or could they?

Qdoba, Extras Aren't Extra!

If it is free, it is for me, I’ll take three!

Since Kat and I are experienced restaurant reviewers at this point, we knew to peruse the online menu prior to our arrival so we were prepared to order the perfect meal. Qdoba is set up like most of the Casual Dining Mexican Grills that are sprinkled throughout our fair land, so the actual procedure of ordering was simple. When you enter, you walk into the queue and wait for an employee to assist you in constructing your epic meal.

This is my favorite part of the experience people; you literally get to build a custom Burrito, Taco, Quesadilla, Burrito Bowl, or Taco Salad that is chock full of everything that makes you happy. I know this method of serving customers has been around for quite some time now, but every damn time I venture to an establishment that uses this system, I can’t help but smile like an infant that has just farted!

As you can see from the menu, Qdoba offers quite a few entree options that can be fully customized, but I decided to go big and order the Craft 2 which is two perfectly sized portions of Qdoba’s most popular dishes. My two choices were the Mexican Gumbo with chicken and a steak taco and a pulled pork taco, one hard and one soft. (TWSS) Kat on the other hand was trying to maintain her girlish figure and opted for the health conscious burrito bowl with shredded beef. Since we both love guacamole and Queso, we made the decision to both order chips with a side of each. We rounded out our order with two medium sodas and called it day.

Our creations were assembled by a very helpful and cheerful employee that explained each step in the process making sure we did not miss any of the delicious ingredients we could add to our dishes. I could list all of the yumminess that can be added to your meal, but it would be about as boring as watching Seabiscuit, a movie about a freaking horse that does not even talk!

Once our concoctions were finalized, we paid, filled our soda cups from the awesome Coca-Cola Freestyle machines which dispenses 146 different flavors of soda, and sat our keisters down in a nice comfy booth ready to begin our feast.

Qdoba Chips

I love Queso more than most people love their significant others!

In hindsight, we may have ordered with our eyes and not our stomachs. The amount of chips provided with a single order would have been more than enough for Kat and I to share, and we will remember that for next time. Although some establishments provide free chips with your entree, Qdoba’s chips do seem to be better than the free ones, and the Guacamole and the Queso were much better that the competition’s offerings. The Guacamole is bursting with flavor, and the hint of garlic makes it very pleasant on the palate. The Cheese Sauce is also flavorful, but unlike most Queso, there is not an abundance of salt, so when the chips come into play, it is the perfect marriage.   We had to muster up some serious willpower to stop dipping these crunchy bits of corn into these enjoyable sauces.

Qdoba Craft Two

A Mexican Food Marriage Made in heaven!

When I was finally able to force myself to stop demolishing the giant pile of chips that was in front of me, I turned my attention to my main course. The Mexican Gumbo, which is described as a unique dish that combines tortilla soup, cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, and cheese, intrigued me, so I tried this first. I fell in love with this cardboard cauldron of savory goodness at the moment that spoonful hit my mouth. I made Kat try this dish immediately, and she confirmed that it was rather amazing. The slight smokiness of the tortilla soup and chicken mixed with the heat from the salsa and the calming effect of the cheese and rice combined forces to create a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve.

Qdoba Gumbo

Gumbo is not just for swamp people anymore!

The tacos were on par with the rest of the Mexican Grills that I have visited with the added bonus of the Queso Diablo sauce, which I found extremely tasty. I do recommend eating the Hard Taco relatively quickly because the juicy awesomeness that the no cost extras provide is no match for the structural integrity of the shell. In other words, eat the hard taco first or it will crumble faster than a game of Jenga being played by a T-Rex, The Incredible Hulk, and Mike Tyson.

Qdoba Burrito Bowl

YAY!!!! It is Nakey Burrito time!

Weighing in at just under 700 Calories, Kat’s Burrito bowl was not only tasty but somewhat health conscious. Is it a side salad and a fruit cup? No, but this bowl O’ burrito was also much more filling than your common diet fare and tasted delicious to boot. The fajita vegetables were the star of this dish as they appeared to be fresh cut and sauteed in house and treated with a very pleasant spice profile.

I am not going to tell you that Qdoba is the next Orale in Jersey City, but as far as Casual Dining Mexican Grills are concerned, I feel they are a strong contender for the leader of the pack. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of choices Qdoba offered when I was creating my perfect meal. I also have to say I was very surprised that the Extras were actually not extra. I was almost sure that when I reached the cash register the receipt tape was going to start to fly as the cashier nickled and dimed my meal way up past the regular price, but they didn’t. Furthermore, the ingredients that were served to us seemed fresh and were seasoned quite well.

Qdoba Smothered Burritos

Smothered Burritos + The Blue Collar Foodie = One Happy Tummy!

If you need another reason to visit Qdoba, they just introduced their newest permanent menu item, The Smothered Burrito! These are dubbed, “Smothers,” and include one of three sauces that each offer their own unique flavor. The Tangy Verde is the Mild version, The Bold Red Chili is a robust toasted chile sauce with a dash of sweetness, and the Smoky Chipotle Cream is the hottest variety which is said to pack quite a wallop. I just missed the release of these alluring sauce covered bombshells and can’t wait to head back over to Qdoba to taste test these bad ass burritos.

Overall, I would recommend checking Qdoba out if you have not done so yet.   If you do plan to visit this location, I suggest signing up for their rewards program to earn free swag and coupons!

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

One Small Bite for Me, One Giant Leap for My Foodie Street Cred

I am not the type of person who believes in fate. You see, I feel that the rudimentary idea of fate makes people lackadaisical and unmotivated. If I thought that no matter how hard I pushed myself I would end up in the same place in the end, I probably would not burn the candle at both ends and wake up each and every morning physically and mentally sore, ready and willing to fight the day once again. I prefer the word consequence to that of fate, kismet, or destiny. The term, consequence, has a negative connotation for many, but for me it merely means the reward or punishment for an action that you committed, thus taking back the ownership and responsibility for one’s daily decisions.

Sure, sometimes you must take accountability for the monumental fuck up that occurred seconds after you put your big boy pants on and made a choice, but conversely you also get to claim your achievements, with a big fat smile and a specific finger held high toward everyone who doubted you. This feeling of accomplishment is why I battle through each day and strive to be the best at everything I do, even if sometimes I fall flat on my face.

I am sorry for the philosophical tangent, have no fear, I did not change my blog to The Blue Collar Buddha, although… (The Blue Collar Buddha is now a registered trademark of the Blue Collar Foodie, and other such legal mumbo jumbo so no one can steal my slightly catchy and pretty damn silly idea.) As I was saying before I went on a tangent from apologizing about my tangent, this theoretical debate about destiny and consequence is one that I think about a lot. I want to be the logical, scientific, type that never, not once falls down the rabbit hole, that is believing in fate, however sometimes I can’t help but think, “Was this supposed to happen?”

I had one of these occasions back in February when I was writing an article for this very blog about a restaurant that I had visited. I love words, as you can see from my verbose posts, but I mean, I love words like Tebow adores Jesus. (Yea that was a Tebow reference, it is a throwback joke, if it is good enough for your Facebook feed on Thursdays, it is good enough for my blog, deal with it!) I ain’t talking about just the same mundane words that anyone can spew forth from their talking hole either, I want, no I crave, a diversity of linguistic linguine. Unfortunately, I spell like a baboon clutching a crayon, so I am constantly searching the googles for the proper spelling of words that I mangle so much, even the fine folks in the spelling department at Microsoft can’t decipher what the hell word I just typed. The word I was forced to hurl into the Googles on this particular day was Gastronaut, and the results that I got were foodie life altering.

Gastronauts_LOGO

I stumbled upon a website for an adventure eating club known as The Gastronauts, and they just happen to convene in the greatest city on the planet, NYC! I immediately abandoned my writing task and scoured their webpage to learn more about this group. What I found made me instantly get a food-on that lasted long enough that if it was produced by taking a small blue pill, I would have had to go to the hospital.

The Gastronauts is an eating club that was founded by Curtiss Calleo and Ben Pauker back in 2006 when they organized a small get together in Chinatown. Their vision was to allow people to gather at one location and enjoy the outlandish and authentic food that New York City has to offer.   We are not talking about disgusting food either, but rather somewhat eccentric food that is out of the normal American Cuisine comfort zone.

Curtiss and Ben’s small gatherings rapidly began to develop into something that was bigger than they expected. Soon enough they found themselves inundated with press requests and applications to join their now growing club of adventure eaters.   Today, The Gastronauts boast more than 1,300 members and are the largest club of this kind in the world.

The moment I followed the link to the Gastronauts site I knew I had a new goal in my foodie life, and that was to become a member of THE GASTRONAUTS! Lucky for me there was an application link on the homepage. Since this is a slightly exclusive club, their application process is not as easy as getting a Facebook page, one must put actual thought into applying to be a Gastronaut.

I put my writing hat back on and clicked and clacked at the keys like a chicken hopped up on Vitamin C and Cocaine. When I finished my application, I read it and reread it, edited it and reedited it. I wanted to make sure that it was perfect. I did not want to be rejected!

I was rejected… Within minutes of hitting the send button, I received a prewritten robotic message that stated that The Gastronauts exceeded their maximum limit of foodie rocketeers and were not accepting new members at this time. This news saddened me deeply, sadder than all these dogs in this video.

My sorrow however was only short lived, because several days later I received a follow-up email from the ‘Nauts. This time, the message contained wonderful news. Apparently, they reviewed my application, and I was accepted into the foodie cult of my dreams! Furthermore, there was an upcoming dinner in late February that I could attend thanks to my new status in the Gastronauts!   I have to say, I think I might have squeaked a little bit like these sloths when I read the news.

With my new credentials in hand, errrr, phone, I did what every 30 something year old American would do, I immediately posted about my triumph on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. I not only posted this foodtastic news to boast, although it was my primary reason, I also posted this to see if there was any interest from my friends in joining me on my first Gastronautic adventure.

You would be surprised how hard it is to find people that want to volunteer for an adventure dinner at an undisclosed location, that costs somewhere between $65.00 and $75.00 without seeing a menu, knowing that the food could potentially make them rethink the possibility of becoming vegan.   Fortunately, I have at least one friend that did not lose his testicles in the war, and he was on board with only a few questions asked. As soon as he agreed to accompany me to this experience, I bought two tickets before he could change his mind.

Taco Santo

Taco Santo here we come!

A few days before my first Gastronaut event, I received an email which contained the location, time, and price of this affair.  I have to admit, the clandestine, somewhat secret agent like aspect of this dining club only adds to their allure. The menu for this epicurean escapade was also attached to this email and it looked nothing short of Epic.

Menu line

A Dinner at Taco Santo

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje
Homemade tortillas and chips
Mashed avocados topped with roasted crickets and guaje seeds

Stewed cow stomach menudo

Tacos Surtidos:
Goat head
Cow tongue
Pig skin
Assorted organ meats

And lots and lots of:
Micheladas
Pitchers of Beer
Flight of Five Mezcals

 Menu line

On the day of the event my comrade and I embarked on our train ride from New Jersey to Brooklyn with a few road sodas in hand in preparation of the drinking and eating that was soon to commence. We traversed the rivers that separate New Jersey and Brooklyn like Lewis and Clark and arrived at Taco Santo, located at 669 Union St, Brooklyn, NY with plenty of time to spare.

Skull Lights

Skull Light, Skull Bright, First Skull I Have Seen Tonight!

As we entered the venue, I noticed the decor immediately, shortly followed by the astonishing smell that was wafting throughout the quaint eatery. The Gastronauts had procured the entire restaurant for this event so we were asked for our credentials, again I was happy to show them off, and shortly after we were seated, the evening began.

Micheladas

Micheladas, making bad beer taste wonderful since the 1940’s!

Right off the bat I could tell I was going to enjoy myself being a Gastronaut, considering the first item that came to the table was a Micheladas, which is basically a beer mixed with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, and peppers and was served in a chili-salt-rimmed glass. My friends, there comes a time and a place that everyone must admit when they are wrong, and for me, that time was the moment I drank my first sip of this Micheladas. I always thought that beer was perfect, a diamond encrusted golden flower that simply was the pinnacle of excellence. The spice and delicious flavor of the concoction that rested in the bottom of my glass when mixed with beer that I normally stay away from because it is bland woke my taste buds up and delivered the perfect pre-meal slap in the face that one needs just before they eat a feast. This delightfully spicy, effervescent cocktail, was the perfect beginning to the food orgy that was about to go down!

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

Since this is a dining club and our table was full of food loving strangers, I took this opportunity, while we imbibed our Micheladas, to begin conversing with our table mates.   While we were waxing poetically about foodie related topics ranging from the food we have eaten to the food we were about to, the staff was busy in the kitchen preparing our first course. Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje, which roughly translates into homemade chips, with mashed avocados topped with roasted crickets and guaje seeds, or really roughly translates into a whole big pile of awesome topped with some tasty bugs!

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

Rabbit Season! Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Bug Season?

Not only was the guacamole prepared expertly and had the perfect texture, the roasted crickets brought this already remarkable green goo to a whole other level of amaze-balls. The crunch that these bouncy bugs added harmonized nicely with the homemade chips and led to one delicious bite after another.

Mezcal

All spirits distilled from the agave plant are Mezcal, which are made in seven states throughout Mexico. Tequila, the most popular variation of Mezcal, can only be distilled from Weber blue agave.

After our table devoured the bowl of Guacamole, I guess that the fine staff at Taco Santo along with The Gastronaut administration were under the assumption that we may have become to sober while eating the delightfully fried chips, and once again went to the well to add more social lubricant to the party. This time however, they were not messing around! They dropped an inhibition destroying bomb, in the form of a Flight of Five Mezcals.

Mezcal Flight

Goodnight room, goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon, goodnight light and the red balloon, goodnight bears, goodnight chairs, goodnight kittens, goodnight mittens,
goodnight clocks and goodnight socks, goodnight little house and goodnight mouse,
goodnight comb and goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush, and goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”,goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.

Now, Tequila and I get along about as well as me and Mezcal, which is to say that we like each other about as much as Itchy loves Scratchy, but you know what they say, when in Rome…errr… Mexico … err… Brooklyn. Even though I am not usually a huge fan of these intoxicating spirits, the flight went down somewhat smoothly, and I could tell this was not Jose Cuervo I was drinking.

Tripe Soup

This Menudo is so much better than the boy band from the 70’s!

Next up in the procession was Stewed Cow Stomach Menudo, A.K.A. Tripe Soup. Most people shy away from tripe because, well they know what it is and where it came from, but to that I say, Lobster! If you only ate things that looked and sounded appetizing, your meals would consist of the same 7 ingredients over and over again. I finished every last drop of this wonderfully aromatic meat gum stew, and I am proud to say that I would do it again.

TACOS!!!!!

TACOS!!!!!

After we polished off the tripe, it was time for the Main event, the moment all of us foodies were waiting for, the TACOS!!! By this time, I have to admit, my judgment may have been slightly impaired by the flight of Mezcal, but according to my notes, “Holy Hot Damn, these bitches were straight up fanfuckingtastic.”

Another Taco Santo Taco

These Tacos bring all the Gringos to Brooklyn
And they’re like, it’s better than ours!

The Goat Head surprised me and was not only chock full of flavor but amazingly tender. However, the fact that I loved the Cow Tongue Taco was no shock at all, considering my heritage, and the fact that I feel everything tastes better when wrapped in a shell. Furthermore, each and every one of these pouches of tacoey goodness acted as a canvas to the variety of sauces Taco Santo provided, and of course, I had to try them all.

What is a Taco without some color!

What is a Taco without some color!

Just when I thought that the caliber of this meal could not get any higher, Taco Santo took me to a place that only Cheech, Chong, Shaggy, and Scooby have ever been before. I rode to this whole new level of foodie enlightenment on rocket ship while holding a Pig Skin Taco in each hand thanks to my new foodie family The Gastronauts.

Pig Skin Taco

Holy UnKosher Taco Batman!

While all of us at our table began to hit the food wall that eaters and runners know all too well, we began to slow down our masticating and began to talk to each other once more. While we were discussing the finer points of the foodie culture and finishing up our cocktails, the last plate of Tacos arrived, and I was not about to let them go to waste. A few of us, “took one for the team,” and consumed the last few Tacos which were just as good as the first.

MORE TACOS!!!!

I really could not get enough of these things!

Even though I don’t believe in fate, destiny, or kismet, I do believe I was meant to be in that room surrounded by foodies just like me, all looking to not only taste food but to experience it. Groups like The Gastronauts and visionaries like Curtiss and Ben make events like this possible and should be applauded. I highly recommend putting in your application to become a Gastronaut, and if you know me personally, let me know when you want to go, as this will most definitely not be the last event I attend! If you do plan to attend a Gastronaut event you will need to know the ‘nauts golden rule, you have to at least try to try everything they serve you. I hope to see you all in the foodie stratosphere soon!

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

 

Taco Santo on Urbanspoon

Orale Mexican Kitchen Makes The Blue Collar Foodie Say OMG!!!

As a wandering gourmand, my passion for the epicurean spirit has led me to establishments near and far. I have always said that good food is worth traveling for, and I have been known to embark on a gastronomic voyage, simply because of a fellow foodie’s recommendation.   These adventures have brought me to places that I still dream about today and conversely these excursions have been responsible for numerous night terrors.

I thoroughly enjoy the anticipation of driving to a restaurant that I have never been to before. There is a certain Schrödinger’s cat like perception, because as I am in transit the restaurant is both bad and good. This is why I continue doing this wild and crazy hobby turned damn near full time job, that and of course, I freaking love food like Kayne West loves being a douche.

Orale SignWith that said, after hearing some great things about a relatively new restaurant located at 341 Grove Street in Jersey City called Orale Mexican Kitchen, Kat and I decided to leave our comfort zone of Bergen County and head to Hudson County to give Orale a whirl. As stated above, I will travel for food, and even though Jersey City is not far, I rarely find myself in that neck of the woods, but if the internets were not lying, Orale was a must hit eatery in the ever evolving Jersey City Foodie Scene.

Not sure what to expect as we fought our way through traffic to make our 7:30 reservation, we decided to peruse the menu. While we did the New Jersey traffic dance which consists of accelerating to 75 miles an hour, braking the instant you get to a good cruising speed, traveling at 4.5 miles an hour, honking at the idiot that is texting and changing lanes without using his signal, dropping several F-bombs, throwing up so many hand signs that everyone around you thinks you are in the bloods, and then accelerating once again to 75 miles an hour only to rinse and repeat, Kat and I realized that Orale was not your typical taco joint.

First off, Orale’s menu is based on the following principle, “It is our belief that the best meals are those that are shared. It is in the passing of plates amongst friends and the communal savoring of multiple small-bite dishes that the true spirit of our cuisine resides. All items will arrive at the table as they are prepared.”  Meaning that Orale Mexican Kitchen is all about the shared experience that food can convey to a table of friends. This pseudo communistic outlook on eating a meal is making a comeback as more and more people begin to embrace the epicurean sub-culture, because it allows everyone that is involved to experience more than just one of the chef’s culinary creations.

Orale Crispy Pork Guacamole Furthermore, as we participated in our New Jersey Highway Hoedown, we noticed that the food that Orale was offering was not your ordinary Mexican fare either. Since I enjoy living, Kat read the menu to me because if texting while driving is dangerous, menu reading while bobbing and weaving through rush hour traffic is about as safe as jumping into a car with Lindsay Lohan after a night of twerking and pill popping. Every dish that Kat verbalized made me want to commandeer a police car and head to Orale with the lights and sirens blaring. Menu items like Crispy Braised Pork Belly Guacamole, Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos, and Empanadas Made with Green Masa Filled with Shrimp, Cilantro, Chipotle and Lime were just some of the highlights of the extensive menu that Orale Mexican Kitchen offers on a regular basis.

When we arrived, Kat and I were lucky to find a parking spot within walking distance of Orale, and we headed to our dinner destination. As we entered the dining area, I fell in love with the décor. From the brick walls, to the graffiti that adorned them, the entire restaurant gave off an excellent modern vibe that was a welcomed change to the hum drum atmosphere that some restaurants create within their walls.

As soon as we were seated, we were met at our table by Christian, our server who discussed the extensive cocktail and food menu with us. Christian’s knowledge of what Orale served was extremely helpful and he guided us as we perused the menu. Thanks to his expert suggestions, I decided to go with a classic yet always refreshing Margarita while Kat set her sights on the White Wine Sangria.

Once our beverage order was in, Kat and I turned our attention to the food menu which we had already engaged in some serious foodie foreplay with in the car. Thanks to our traffic induced tryst with this drool inducing carte du jour, we already had a vague idea of what we wanted to sample at our first visit to Orale Mexican Kitchen. With a few more glances at the menu, we had made up our minds and as soon as our drinks arrived, we were able to place our food order.

Guacamole TrioFor our appetizer, we decided on the Trio of Guacamole which allowed us to choose three different guacamoles to sample. We chose the Casa, or house, the Chipotle, and the Crispy Pork Belly. As for our entrees, Kat being a taco fanatic decided to try the Chicken Tacos that were described as Shredded Chicken Tinga Topped with Soy Pickled Serrano Chiles & Yellow Tomato Pico, whereas I chose the Bone in Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind Chili Glaze paired with a Jicama Slaw and Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash.

Orale DrinksAfter ordering our food, it was time to taste the beautiful cocktails that were brought to our table. Kat’s white sangria was topped with fresh fruit and tasted remarkable. The flavor of the fruit was apparent but not overbearing allowing the wine to still be the star of the drink. My Elite Margarita was appropriately named as it was one of the best margaritas I had tasted in quite some time. It walked a fine line between refreshing and strong while delivering a tremendous flavor.

It was not long after we ordered our meals that our trio of Guacamole arrived at our table.   As I took picture after picture of this culinary masterpiece, I could feel Kat’s glare, burning a hole in my forehead. Kat is normally a very patient person when it comes to my overzealous food photography but standing in between Kat and fresh Guacamole is tantamount to stealing a polar bear’s baby and then taunting the mother by making the new born cub do the Cha-Cha Slide instead of running for your life.

After all the photographs were taken, we dipped a chip into each of the guacamoles before we discussed any of them. We then compared and contrasted these delicious concoctions like Bill Belicheck dissects film on a Monday morning. What we came up with is that each of the varieties we chose was good in its own right. The house guacamole had the perfect texture and for the traditionalist, it was the perfect guac. The chipotle was basically the house guacamole with just the right amount of kick that would satisfy the spice seeking guacamole lover. Then there was the extremely impressive Crispy Pork Belly guacamole that literally made me sound like a porn star upon first bite, due to the unintentional moan that I released. The salty crunch of the pork belly combined with the subtle yet flavorful guacamole achieved in my opinion guacamole Nirvana.

Eye of Orale To top it off, the Trio of guacamole was served with house made sauces that took these wonderful creations to a whole other level of scrumptiousness. These sauces were once again described by the knowledgeable Christian, and we began to experiment with them. All three of the sauces were fantastic when paired with the guacamole singularly, but as if I were Bill Nye the Foodie Guy, I did not stop there. We continued this hedonistic food experiment by mixing the sauces together.  After we tasted two of the sauces together, we decided we were going to be forced to move to Utah and become sauce polygamists, that is until we tried all three combined with the guacamole on a chip, and realized that we were actually going to have to move to Texas and create a sauce cult.

While we finished off our amazing appetizer, we did what every couple that is out to dinner does, discuss the finer points of our crappy day and how much the food we were eating was doing to make it better. During our conversation, we noticed something spectacular about Orale. There was enough music to drowned out the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant but not too much to stifle conversations. I have been to way to many “hip” eateries that pump in music at an obnoxious level forcing their patrons to yell at each other like Howard Wolowitz and his Mother, and I was extremely happy with Orale’s decision to not give into this annoying trend.

Orale Lamb RibsOnce we were done hating on our day like Grumpy Cat hates on this Smiley Cat Compilation, our entrees arrived.   Both plates appeared to be two parts food and one part art, thanks to the dutiful and noticeable attention the chef paid to presentation. With a small sense of guilt as if I was drawing on the Mona Lisa with a crayon, I cut into my Lamb Ribs, and I was amazed at how tender the meat really was. My knife fell through the meat, as if it was a Honey Badger’s claws ripping through, well let’s be honest anything that is not a honey badger.

These Lamb Ribs were not only tender and juicy, but they tasted incredible. I was slightly nervous when I ordered this dish that the gaminess of the Lamb would be too strong but that was not the case. I was informed that they marinade these fantastic bone-in ribs in yogurt in order to extract most of the gaminess before applying the tamarind sauce that paired perfectly with the lambey goodness.

Orale Butternut SquashAfter tasting the lamb ribs, I was under the impression that the side dishes of this meal would be nothing more than an afterthought, but I was dead wrong.   The sweet & spicy butternut squash was the most remarkable seasonal side dish I have ever had, and I am a huge fall food fan. The duality of this dish was expertly created by the chef, and I could have eaten a bucket full of this brilliant vegetable side.

After tasting each portion of my meal, I assure you that I was skeptical to share even one morsel of it with Kat, but when in Rome right. I followed the Orale Mexican Kitchen’s guide to karmatic communal food sharing, and I was met with a welcomed dose of instant karma, of the rare good variety. Upon taking my first bite, I could not hold back a smile. These mini-tacos may have been small in size but they packed a mighty flavor punch.   Not to mention Kat decided to follow the Boy Scout motto and saved some of the guacamole to pair with her tacos which only added to the awesome sauce that these tacos were pouring all over me. (TWSS)   Furthermore, Kat’s chicken taco dish was designed for sharing as it came with six mini taco shells stuffed with yummy goodness.

Orale Chicken TacoAs we finished our meal, we made the fatal mistake of glancing at the dessert menu, and even though we were absolutely full, we simply could not pass up the opportunity to try the Helados Domingo described as Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream, Cajeta, Chocolate Sauce, Crumbled Cookies, and Caramelized Bananas. If an alcoholic, nicotine addict first tasted this dessert and was then given the option to give up booze and cancer sticks or the Helados Domingo for the rest of their life, 99 out of 100 of them would choose to give up the former as opposed to the latter. Yea, it is that kind of good. Don’t believe me, I guess you will have to bring your ass to Jersey City and try it yourself; careful though, just like cigarettes and heroin, it is habit forming.

Orale Helados DomingoI know this review was rather verbose and if you made it this far, you deserve a Helados Domingo, but when I walk into a restaurant that gets it like Orale gets it; I can’t help but sing its praises. But believe me, you do not want to hear me sing, I sound like an auto tuned cat in heat participating in a duet with Justin Beiber, so instead of singing, I will use the clickity clack of my keyboard and the vastness of the world wide web to get my message out. After reading this review that message should be clear, Orale Mexican Kitchen is a must try establishment for anyone that fancies themselves to be a food connoisseur.

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The Blue Collar Foodie Eats His Way Through Bean Town

Every once in a blue moon the neurons in my brain fire just right, and I have a good, no, great, no, fantastic idea.  This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when I found out I was going to Boston on a business trip.  I began searching the googles for the best foodie finds the city of Boston had to offer, and after about 45 minutes of dredging through one commercial advertising driven site after another, an idea popped into my head, one that was so damn prodigious that a freaking light bulb should have appeared over my head and shined brighter than Lil’ Jon’s grill.   This idea I am speaking so highly of was to forgo the internet search that is riddled with paid advertisers and subpar eateries and go to the heart of any great foodie scene, the blogosphere.  I aimed to contact the food bloggers of Boston that patrol the city night and day in search of the finest fare that THEIR city slings, and then take the time out to write poetic verses about these establishments so others will not be led astray by the likes of Bing and AOL.

With this thought in mind, I had only one problem, where the hell do I find a list of food bloggers from the Boston Area.  I once again fired up my internet browser, but this time I switched my search criteria around and was able to find that UrbanSpoon.com had just the list I was looking for.  Armed with the best of Boston Food Blogger List courtesy of UrbanSpoon, I began to contact the bloggers that seemed to match my style of epicurean adventuring.  I trusted the foodie community and the food bloggers of Boston would come through for me, and even though I did not know what to expect as far as return e-mails, I ended my research that faithful afternoon.  Shortly after sending the first message my inbox was inundated with responses from Boston’s finest foodies.  At that moment I knew just how Tim Tebow must have felt after being picked up by the New England Patriots, proud and excited to go to bean town.

Welcome To Boston

Welcome To Boston

The amazing food blogging community of Boston welcomed me with open arms and helped me compile a list of Boston’s Best, Blue Collar Foodie Approved, restaurants and watering holes. Considering I was in Boston for my actual nine to fiver, I was only able to hit up a few of the great suggestions these gracious gourmands had provided but the ones I did visit were absolutely amazing. Due to the tremendous out pour of assistance I received from the helpful blogging community of Boston, I will be doing this from now on, and I suggest you do the same. Not only will you be happy with the results, but I assure you it will make a food blogger smile when they receive your e-mail, so it is a win, win for everyone. Without further ado, buckle up gastronauts and prepare for the Blue Collar Foodie’s voyage to Boston’ belly!

Sweet Cheeks

Sweet Cheeks BBQ

The first stop on my gastro tour of Boston was a rather easy choice, as damn near every food blogger I spoke to, agreed this establishment was a must visit, and it was in walking distance of my hotel. This highly touted, often blogged about, and relatively new restaurant is none other than Sweet Cheeks BBQ in the Fenway area of Boston.  Now since it was the only BBQ joint I ventured to during my brief visit to Boston, I can’t proclaim that it is the best BBQ in the city, like most Bostonians, but I will say that anyone attempting to compete with this Texas style BBQ spot is in for quite a battle.

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks’ offers all of the staples that you would expect a BBQ place to provide, such as Pulled Pork, Ribs, Chicken, and Brisket for the carnivore in you, and hot and cold sides featuring coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, and collard greens. They also throw in some not so standard options for the adventurous foodies like yours truly, including their Berkshire Pork Belly, and Great Northern Short Rib. Furthermore, Sweet Cheeks allows you to create a combination tray of their offerings so you can create a custom metastatic mixture that is sure to please.

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

What further separates Sweet Cheeks from the BBQ spots that I have visited in the past, is their extensive and impressive craft beer list that adorns the back of their menu.  Even though I fancy myself to be somewhat of a novice cicerone, Sweet Cheeks offered more than just a few beers that not only have I never tried, but some that were not even on my radar.

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

After eating at Sweet Cheeks I fully understand why the foodie scene in Boston is all about this local eatery. The food was fantastic, and if you find yourself in Boston, you must at least go there for a cold craft beer, an overstuffed meat sandwich, and a biscuit with honey butter. If you do not, unfriend me on Facebook immediately before you return, because I will publically shame you until you cry. Although I highly recommend grabbing a fat cheeks tray and knocking down three of their righteously smoked meats paired with two sides like I did.

Citizen Public House

Citizen Public House

With happy bellies full to the brim with meaty goodness, my partner in crime and I decided to walk to our next destination, The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar.  According to the locals that I spoke to the food here is really good, but what they are known for is their far-reaching whiskey menu that is a must see for travelers who enjoy a good stiff drink.  Since an entire pig was resting nicely in my gut and food was out of the question, I decided to take a gander at their spirit selection, and I was impressed.  After perusing the menu for a short period of time, I was overwhelmed by the enormous selection of Bourbons, Scotches, and Whiskeys that decorated the Citizen’s menu, so much so that I had to enlist the assistance of the bartender to aid me in this daunting task.

Hirsch Whiskey

Hirsch Whiskey

This was a fantastic decision, because the bartender was like a whiskey shaman from the isle of knowledge.  After speaking to him for about five minutes not only did I know what Whiskey I wanted to order, I felt as if I could write a Wikipedia article on whiskey and simply use him as the source.  The clientele was great as well, and as I sipped my Hirsch Small Batch Bourbon, I conversed about all things sports with a few delightful local Bostonians.  Sadly, as my glass ran dry, I had to call it a night, as I had to be responsible in the morning, so I walked back to my hotel in preparation of the morrow, so I could dream of the next Boston food adventure I would embark upon.

The Tip Tap Room

The Tip Tap Room

After a long day of work, I was extremely excited to hop on the T near my hotel and make my way to the Government Center stop, where my next eatery would be found.  The Tip Tap Room was recommended to me by a few of the food writers that I contacted and described as a place that was known for exotic meats and craft beer.  Friends, you had me at exotic meats, TWSS.  The moment I arrived at this eccentric eatery, located in the center of the bustling Government Center area of Boston, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.  Their vast tap menu was proudly displayed on the wall and due to the beautiful weather the large front windows were open allowing the pleasant breeze of the fledgling evening to whisk its way throughout the dining area.

Antelope Meatloaf

Antelope Meatloaf

It took me seconds to realize what I wanted as my meal, Antelope Meatloaf, but as for the beer list that was a horse of a different color. I had some bad luck in the beginning, as I chose two beers that had literally just tapped seconds before the waiter had taken our order. Fortunately though, our server was well versed in the art of beer drinking and selected three small samples of beer that were similar to the ones that I had ordered so I could try them before I made my final selection. This small, yet greatly appreciated service elevated my appreciation for this trendy eatery immeasurably.

Beer

Beer

I would highly recommend that everyone hit up the Tip Tap Room while they are traipsing down the Freedom Trail or visiting Faneuil or Quincy Market, which are all very close. The food divine, the service was wonderful, and the location simply can’t be beat. Furthermore, where else can you eat succulent Antelope Meatloaf, while sipping on local craft beer in the city of Boston?

Regina Pizza

Regina Pizza

Another one of Boston’s restaurants that almost every foodie that wrote me back included on their list of must eats was the original Regina Pizza located in the North End of the city.  Being from the land of great pizza, the words best and pizza in the same sentence without being combined with the phrase, “other than in New Jersey,” is like uttering the phrase the Mets stink, without adding the caveat “because of their owners.”  With that said, I was not willing to ignore the endorsement of almost a dozen food writers because of my own New Jersey centric, pizza related hubris.

When we arrived, we soon found out that Regina Pizza is not a secret in Boston, as was evident in the fact that there was a line out the door to score a table in this famous pizzeria.  While waiting for our table, I researched the menu online and decided that I was going to partake in the most sought after pie Regina’s serves, The Giambotta, which consists of pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, peppers, onions, anchovies, and Mozzarella cheese.

The Giambotta

The Giambotta

Once seated which did not take too long, our order was in and a beer was in my hand in no time, thanks to the speedy service that is provided at Regina’s. Shortly after we ordered, our Regina’s masterpieces were delivered to our table, and I was ready to try what everyone was telling me was Boston’s best pizza. Now as I said, Pizza and Jersey are like Guns and Texas, Hockey and Canadians, or Lies and Politicians, so I know pizza, and Regina makes damn good pizza. Now I am not saying that Jersey pizza is not better in some places that I have been, but if I ever had to move to Boston, I could surely get my Pizza fix within the confines of this North End staple.

Mike's Pastry

Mike’s Pastry

If you read my blog regularly you know that I am infatuated with the cannoli like Courtney Love, well, loves her some crack cocaine.  So when multiple foodies tell me that Mike’s Pastry is the place to get a cannoli in what is basically Boston’s Little Italy, I had no other choice but to venture down the street from Regina’s and give one of them a try.  This decision was almost as good as the decision I made to marry my loving and supportive wife.   Mike’s offers a myriad of cannoli, filled with everything from the traditional cream to specialty cannoli such as peanut butter or pistachio.  To add to their appeal they also serve a wide array of other Italian indulgences that would make Kirstie Alley fall off the diet wagon once again.

I chose to treat myself to a Peanut Butter Cannoli topped with powdered sugar. Judging from the looks of this pastry shop and the fact that it was crowded at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night, I assumed this decadent, overstuffed phenomenon was going to be good, but I was not ready for the shear awesomeness that this shell full of heaven was going to deliver. With reckless abandon for my shirt and pants, I could not stop eating this bliss wrapped in a flakey shell as powdered sugar rained down on my clothes like hell fire. Afterword, I not only looked like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan after a night at the Roxy, but I was just as happy as them as well.

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar

There was only one thing left to do after treating ourselves to a wonderful evening in the North End of Boston, and that was, return to the Fenway area and drink a cold beer at the coolest bar in town. Once again my fellow foodies came through in the clutch and informed me of a place called Bleacher Bar that is located literally under the bleachers of Fenway. These Uber sports bar not only have a decent selection of draft beers, but they have something that no other bar in town can boast. This sport’s enthusiast’s mecca has an enormous window that overlooks Fenway Park on the field level. Not only do they have the greatest view of any bar in the city, check that, the country, they don’t charge a freaking cover! That is correct, you heard me right, NO COVER.

The Church Of Boston

The Church Of Boston

Considering that I am an Ordained Reverend with the Universal Life Church, when a few of my blogging cohorts suggested that I visit the Church of Boston for a pint and a meal I could not resist.  This chic Boston Eatery boasts a gourmet gastro pub menu combined with a notable selection of adult beverages.  Adding to the appeal of this epicurean sanctuary, The Church of Boston offers several choices of seating types for their patrons to enjoy, including booths, high top tables, and even couches for a relaxing place to rest your rump while imbibing a cold after work cocktail.  Boston’s holy bistro also has a separate room for live music where the area’s top local bands perform their unique hymns seven nights a week starting at 9 P.M.

Church's Noodle Bowl

Church’s Noodle Bowl

Church delivers a truly unique design premise with an accompanying relaxed ambiance that I have not yet to experience in any other bar that I have been to.  The stained glass windows that adorn one full wall of the bar are an additional luxury, which enhances the already chic interior of this amazing eatery.  To top it all off, their menu had so many delectable choices that it took me quite some time to decide what to have.  Furthermore, their drink selection is quite substantial and formidable in its own right.  When visiting Church, it would be a sin not to indulge in their specialty cocktails appropriately labeled the Four Horsemen and the Seven Deadly Sins.  If beer is what you’re after to pair with your amazing food, I suggest trying the always original and tasty Pretty Little Things Offering, which is basically whatever crazy concoction that four Massachusetts beer obsessed hop heads created that week.

El Pelon

El Pelon

 

After eating at the Church of Boston, we made our way to one of the last true Baseball Churches left standing, Fenway Park to catch a game and drink some beers.  After the game I was a little bit hungry and was in need of a midnight snack.  I checked my list of foodie approved eateries in the area and stumbled upon a place called El Pelon Taqueria.  Not only was this well-known Taqueria on our way back to the hotel, but honestly, nothing quenches a nighttime craving like a burrito.

El Guapo Burrito

El Guapo Burrito

After a quick look at the menu, I decided to go with El Guapo Burrito stuffed with pork, Mexican rice, black beans, fried plantains, Jack cheese, fire roasted Salsa, romaine lettuce and sour cream. Upon ordering this utterly tantalizing Burrito, the very cordial waitress simply uttered I hope you’re hungry. She was not kidding; the Burrito she handed me was so hefty that I could have done curls with it, and its girth would make Ron Jeremy blush. Not only was this burrito gy-freaking-normous it was bursting with such immense flavor that my taste buds decided to do the Mexican hat dance. This was the perfect ending to my culinary globetrot through Boston, and I went to bed that evening not only full but awestruck by the Boston Foodie Scene.

I have to thank all the wonderful foodies that helped steer the Gastro Express that I rode through Boston during the course of this week. Without them, my trip would have been filled with dirty water dogs and hot pockets. If you are ever thinking about going to Boston, I suggest visiting their blogs, liking them on Facebook, or following them on Twitter before you go so you too can get their expert advice on where to go in their magnificent city. The following is a list of their sites so you can find them:

A Boston Food Diary:  http://www.abostonfooddiary.com

Pig Trip:  http://www.pigtrip.net/

Blog and Tweet Boston:  https://twitter.com/BlogAndTweetBos

Peace, Love, and Food:  http://peaceloveandfood.com

Foodology (Actually from Vancouver but has visited Boston):  http://foodology.ca/

Hidden Boston:  http://hiddenboston.com/

The Economical Eater:  http://www.theeconomicaleater.com/

Chow Down Bean Town:  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/blogs/chowdown/

Just Add Cheese:  http://www.justaddcheese.com/

 

The Blue Collar Foodie goes South Of the Bergen County Border and visits Tito’s Burritos in Morristown, New Jersey

As a foodie blogger and all around food fanatic, when one of your friends says you need to try, fill in the blank food, at, fill in the blank restaurant, you only have one option.  That option is to plan a date, and make it happen.  If I did not listen to peoples suggestions I would be sitting at the same 15 restaurants all the time, scouring their menus for something that I have not yet tried.  So with that said, while out at a bar one night when my friends told me I had to try Tito’s Burritos located at 26 Washington St., in Morristown, NJ, without hesitation and much like a 1970’s movie star, I replied sure enuff’.

After talking about this establishment for damn near 30 minutes at the bar, making our entire group famished and craving Mexican Food, I could not resist doing some research on the internet when I got home.   The Googles informed me that not only was there a Tito’s in Morristown, NJ but another location just down the street from me in Ridgewood, NJ.  Once I found out this tidbit of information I knew I was going to have to attend Tito’s Burritos as my alter ego The Blue Collar Foodie and not as the mild manner Clark Kent, so I could inform my readers all about my gastronomic adventure.

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After planning a date that fit into both of our calendars, Kat and I met up with Brian and Kristen in downtown Morristown, New Jersey to check out this trendy burrito spot.  Unfortunately, dinner time in Morristown, NJ is as crowded as Times Square on a Saturday afternoon, when it comes to finding a parking spot.  After we completed our search for a parking spot and scored a decent one thanks to the eagle eyes of our friends, we proceeded to walk towards Tito’s Burritos which about a five minute walk from our car.

Upon approaching this establishment I got a vibe that I have not felt since I visited San Diego, California and ate at a local burrito joint that was highly recommended in the downtown area.  From a distance you can tell, that Tito’s Burrito’s is not all about flashy decorations and flair like other restaurants trying to lure you in with bling only to break your heart with sub-par sustenance.

When you enter Tito’s there is a small eating area and a counter that is designed to make ordering quick and easy.   There menu is posted on the wall in giant letters so everyone can read it while the wait on line.  Gracing that menu is a myriad of Mexican dishes that would make Speedy Gonzales’s grandmother drool, and from what I heard that lady can cook.  The menu is broken down into categories for ease of use, and lists Burritos, Tacos, Salads, Nachos, Quesadillas, Kids Dishes, Sides, Wings, Chicken Strips, and Desserts.

                 First and foremost, there is the Burrito list and considering that this spot is named Tito’s Burritos and not Tito’s Tacos I think Tito knows how to rock him some yumminess wrapped in a tortilla.  The highlights include the Mac Daddy described as being filled with grilled grade A steak with black beans, yellow rice, Tito’s cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa & fresh guacamole for $9.50, or for those looking for something slightly different they offer the Hang Five Shrimp Burrito which is chock full of Sautéed garlic shrimp, with shredded cabbage, yellow rice, pico de gallo salsa & cilantro/lime sauce for $9.25.  You can also find out the Special Burrito of the Day by calling, checking the chalkboard, or by checking out Tito’s Facebook & Twitter feed to be informed.  When I visited Tito’s the special of the day was a Jamaican Jerk Burrito with jerk flavored chop meat and all the fixings.

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The rest of the menu did seem intriguing and almost tempted away from the Burrito list with offerings such as the Steak Taco, the Classic Quesadilla, and a boastful statement next to the wings that reads “THE BEST IN NEW JERSEY.”  I was tempted to stray from my first instinct, but as in life decisions like that almost always end in heartbreak and despair.  So instead of wishing I stuck with my gut, when I reached the counter I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Burrito which set me back $9.50, while Kat went with the Mac Daddy, which as stated above was also $9.50.  As for Brian and Kristen, they ordered another Mac Daddy and two steak tacos respectively.

After we ordered, I wandered around the establishment to get a feel for the restaurant.  It was obvious by the décor that Tito is into long boarding, surfing, and hanging out hippie style.  All the Tito’s swag that is for sale has a retro southern California feel to it.  Even their slogan, which is, “It’s all good,” can’t be uttered without conjuring an image of a surfer giving you the hang ten sign.  Furthermore, in the back of the restaurant there is a wall of pictures submitted by loyal customers and famous people that have all, “Shown Them Their Tito’s,” which includes flicks of Tito’s favorite customers, exotic and interesting locations where Tito’s stickers have been sighted, special events, Tito’s staff and more!  The Tito’s stickers are free with any purchase by the way.

As our order came up, I ventured to the condiment cart to dress my burrito in style.  This cart is jam-packed with all of the necessities to make your burrito ready for the gala.  Fresh made Pico De Gallo, Pickled Jalapenos, Salsa Verde, and over a dozen different hot sauces are at your fingertips to garnish your selection however you please.

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At first glance I was slightly disappointed in the overall size of my Burrito which was defined as HUMONGOUS burritos.  Now if you follow my blog, you know I have already reviewed a spot  called Blue Moon which offers burritos the size of my forearm, so I was sad to see that Tito’s did not measure up to Blue Moon’s gargantuan fare.  But as many ladies have told many men, many many times size sometimes is not all that matters.  After the first bite of this large, but slightly not HUMONGOUS, burrito, size did not matter.  The flavor that was contained in this 12 inch tortilla was all that I cared about, and it was tremendous, especially when topped off with their fantastic Guacamole.  As Kat stated by the end of the meal, I just want it to last forever because it tastes so damn good.

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The Burritos seemed to have the right balance of ingredients swimming in the proper quantity of sauce and cheese, which is a hard thing to find in a world of mass produced burritos that are put together with caulk guns and ice cream scoops with about as much care as a third rate doctor at a clinic is Botswana. These Burritos seemed to be judiciously constructed by some sort of Zen burrito master with a fifth degree black belt in yummy.  My only complaint was that according to the menu, we were supposed to offered free homemade tortilla chips with the purchase of our burritos but we never received them, nor did we ask for them because I did not realize this menu side note until as we were about to leave.

While we were finishing up our meals Brian decided to order a classic Chicken Quesadilla for  all of us to share, which of course I did not complain about because then I would get to try one more item on the menu.  The Quesadilla came with Tito’s Guacamole and Sour cream and tasted so good that even though we were all filled almost to capacity, we did not waste one bite of it.  The chicken inside was plentiful and grilled just right and when combined with the sauce and cheese made for a gooey masterpiece.
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Thanks to Brian and Kristen, Tito’s Burritos has earned a coveted spot in my regular rotation of pseudo fast food joints, and I can’t wait to try the one located on East Ridgewood Ave, in Ridgewood, NJ.  From the relaxed bohemian atmosphere to the serious eats that are served, Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 9pm and Sunday: noon to 8pm, Tito has made this Blue Collar Foodie very pleased.  As an added bonus, if you work in the area of Ridgewood or Morristown, both Tito’s Burritos locations offer to-go orders and delivery which can save you some valuable time on your lunch hour.

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Judgment:

Overall:                  3.5 out of 5

Taste:                    4.5 out of 5

Presentation:         3 out of 5

Value:                   3 out of 5

Tito's Burritos on Urbanspoon

Blue Collar Foodie Gets His BIG Burrito Fill at Blue Moon Cafe

Although I am actually an omnivore by definition, my true passion lies within the flesh of our animal brethren. With that said, I do have friends that dabble in the dark arts of, dare I say it, vegetarianism, and even more blasphemous vegan-ism.  Now, as a foodie, I do believe it is paramount to keep an open mind in regards to any and all foodstuffs, but no meat is hard for me to wrap my head around.

I would be remiss if I did not inform you, the readers, that I once tried to be a vegetarian, way back in the day. I lasted a total of two weeks in this endeavor and epically failed when I walked into a McDonald’s and succumbed to the temptation of the classic Big Mac. This adventure, although short lived, taught me an interesting lesson about being a vegetarian, vegan, or having any other dietary restriction that one must live with.  That lesson was and still is, unless you are preparing all your meals yourself, dietary constraints are tremendously inconvenient for everyone involved.  I always remember this factoid, when veggie heads roll through and join us for a meal.

Luckily for our friend Lorin, my wife Kat, and I happen to know a place that not only caters to the carnivores of foodie nation but makes equally delicious dishes for the foodies of the herbivore persuasion.  This establishment that I rate as the best Mexican joint around is known to the world as The Blue Moon Café.  Blue Moon offers more than a few selections for vegetarians, as well as a full menu of tantalizing fare for us “face eaters.”

There are a few different Blue Moon Café locations and a full list of them can be found on their website, as well as a full menu, and other pertinent information as well. Although we have been to other locations, on this occasion we decided to go to our regular Blue Moon Café in Woodcliff Lake. We did not have to wait for a table, but we did arrive slightly later than usual.  On a Friday or Saturday night a short wait is to be expected.  As soon as we took our seat a waiter brought over a basket of fresh tortilla chips and a bowl of some of the best salsa that I have ever eaten and took our drink order. The salsa is tangy but not too spicy, just the right amount to get your taste buds bouncing in preparation for the meal to come.  I know, most Mexican restaurants offer free chips and salsa as an appetizer, but this salsa is really spectacular and needs to be given the props that it deserves. Most places try to pass a bland, drab, soupy salsa that looks and tastes like it came right out of a five gallon bucket.  Blue Moon’s Salsa is anything but, with big chucks or vegetables and a taste that always has is asking for another serving.

Unfortunately, this is not a, “bring your own bottle establishment”, which hurts their value score a bit, but they do offer a full bar which will create any cocktail you could wish for. I suggest one of their many specialty margaritas, which are served in a large glass with a decent amount of alcohol and a large amount of flavor. The good news is that although they will charge you per alcoholic drink, the non-alcoholic beverages are endless, which comes in handy after you pour a bunch of hot sauce on your meal and dig in.

While chowing down on some tortilla chips, we perused the menu and after some group discussion we all decided on what we should order.  Lorin, went with a special from the Burritofest menu called the Santorini Burrito, which was described as a giant burrito stuffed with sautéed fresh spinach, black beans, rice and feta cheese served in a whole wheat tortilla with sour cream or guacamole for $13.95.  Ms. Kingsley, decided to dine on the Fajita Moon, which was described as marinated grilled strips of steak with sautéed peppers and onions, sliced avocado, refried beans and Mexican rice all wrapped in a flour tortilla then smothered in melted cheese all for just $16.95.  I ordered a burrito that seemed to be calling my name the second I opened the menu, the Triple Play, which was described as steak, shrimp, chicken, black beans, pepper jack cheese, tomatillo sauce, pico de gallo and flour tortillas for $16.95.  I could just not say no to the baseball word play as well as the fact that I would be enjoying three different types of protein in one giant burrito.

As you were reading the descriptions, I could hear your thoughts of disbelief.  As a foodie, I to have been lied to by a menu’s description that promises portions using adjectives that are not quantifiable such as giant, huge, gigantic, or massive, but this is not just another white lie by the Mad Men. I know this is a cliché, which I really try to use in my writing; The Blue Moon Café serves colossal burritos that are literally the size of my arm. (Seriously look at the attached picture, I am not joking.)  Due to this fact, it is very hard for me to order anything else when I eat here.  Occasionally, I force myself to switch it up, but if you are going to eat here for the first time, do yourself a favor and make the first thing you try one of their many different  burritos, I assure you, you will not be sorry.

Our food, took a bit to cook and we ordered more chips and salsa to pass the time, which are free and endless, which is awfully generous of them.  When our food arrived at our table, I was once again, taken aback by the girth of the burritos.  Some ladies may tell you that size does not matter, but gentlemen in the art of burrito making that simply is not the case.  These overstuffed behemoths were cooked just right and were giving off an aroma that a cartoon character would float through the air for.  Forkful, after forkful, after forkful seemed to merely put a dent in these delicious Mexican treats. All of the ingredients not only tasted fresh but they married perfectly in their flour tortilla beds. The addition of the house blended hot sauce that comes in four different flavors and the freshly prepared guacamole propels these burritos to the top of my list of Foodie Favorites.

Kat is a Mexican food addict, and she would be the first one to admit that.  We have Taco Bell at least once a week to quench her cravings in order to keep it economical.  For close to 7 years, we even had a set day of the week that we ate at Taco Bell, called Taco Bell Tuesday, which only ended recently due to other obligations.  Even though, we can quell Kat’s hunger by thinking outside the bun, what she really is longing for is a trip to the Blue Moon Café.

Lorin, requested that we hit this spot when he came to visit because of the large selection of tasty vegetarian options that Blue Moon Offers. Sure, there are a dozen places in Bergen County that I could take him to get some sprouts or tofu but none would compare to the satisfaction that one gets when you are so full that might burst, but you keep on eating because you just can’t say no.

We all got defeated by The Legendary Blue Moon Burritos that day, which is no small feat for any food going against my gullet.  With boxed leftovers in hand we left Blue Moon that day for a total of $58.42, which is just under my target price of $20.00 per plate. The Blue Moon Café is a must for any Mexican Food Junkie in Bergen County!

Judgement:

Overall:                       3.5 out of 5

Taste:                          4 out of 5

Presentation:             3 out of 5

Value:                          4 out of 5

Location:

Blue Moon Café

42 Kinderkamack Road

Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677

Phone: 201-782-9500

Hours:

Monday -Thursday 11:30AM – 10:00PM
Friday & Saturday 11:30AM-11:00PM
Sunday 11:00AM – 10:00PM

Blue Moon Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon