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The Big Daddy steak burrito ($6.50) looked impressive — staff estimate a fully dressed BD averages about 1.5 pounds — but it failed to deliver on several counts. For starters, the supposedly jalapeno-flavored tortilla, which bumped the price up 50 cents, was bland.
The steak, while adequate, was almost totally muted by the combination of Mexican rice (so-so) and refried beans (wonderfully rich). The jack cheese was a snoozer, and the pico de gallo much too tame for our taste.
VERDICT: total has-been
205 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-543-6835
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
The new kid on the block has been getting a lot of love from cash-strapped college kids and zeitgeist-chasing food scribes since it opened in February. And with good reason.
Founder/owner Won Jin Chong, a seasoned chef with a penchant for daily shopping runs, insists his recipe for success is more about scratch cooking than secret spices. “We treat it as if we’re feeding our family,” he said of his affinity for fresh ingredients.
Our carne asada burrito ($7) — Chong estimates an average one can tip the scales at 2 to 3 pounds, depending on the enthusiasm of the customer — definitely proved his point. The interior was a mouthwatering mix of exquisitely seasoned and tender steak (Chong marinates his beef for up to 12 hours in a proprietary pepper-steak-style sauce loaded with fresh pineapple and soy sauce), zesty tomato salsa and sharp cheese.
Each order can be accentuated with a handful of intoxicating homemade salsas. According to Chong, his spicy chimichurri, crafted from fresh cilantro, lime, onion, garlic, jalapenos and black pepper, is the runaway favorite, while a custom wasabi-lime comes in at a close second.
“You can’t find that anywhere else in the country,” he said of his citrusy fire starter. We’re still stuck on the XXX super hot sauce, a punishing preparation requiring a full case of habaneros (roughly 7 to 10 pounds) per batch.
The Gomez is named after Gallaudet grad Carlos Gomez, who bowled Chong over by ordering a burrito filled with every single ingredient, devouring it in the store and returning 45 minutes later for an encore. While whipping up the second kitchen-sink feast, the incredulous Chong told Gomez that if he was able to finish it, he’d pick up the tab and name a food challenge after him.
Chong said aspiring gluttons come specifically to tussle with the now-standard menu item. Contenders who consume a burrito filled with all 15 toppings (average weight: about 4 to 5 pounds) in less than 15 minutes pay nothing. Those who fall short of the challenge must foot the full bill (about $20.)
“We do at least one Gomez a day,” Chong said, although he is fairly certain burrito enthusiasts now more often than not share the surreal roll-up. To wit, at least one gentleman attempted to showboat by ordering a Gomez contained by three overlapping tortillas pushing the 9-pound mark.
“He didn’t even make a dent in it,” Chong said of the supersized fail.
VERDICT: best quality
635 Florida Ave. NE; 202-544-4447
Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.