As many of you know (and for those of you who don’t), Burrito Eater has become a prominent voice in rating the quality of burritos throughout San Francisco. He meticulously rates every aspect from burstage abatement to sauciness while keeping you interested with his sarcastic comments and moustache rating scale. Whether it's a Mexican food chain or a hole in the wall taqueria, Burrito Eater has seen and rated them all.
If you have ever seen his website, thoughts begin to brew about what kind of person it takes to commit their life to burritos. His website has some great features including a Newsletter and, of course, his 600 burrito ratings from all around the city. But who is the Burrito Eater? Metrowize got a chance to sit down with the man behind the burrito to find out what motivates him to reign as burrito master.
MetroWize: In your lifetime, how many burritos do you think you have you eaten?
Burrito Eater: In my lifetime? Who knows. I've published around 600 reviews of burritos I've had in San Francisco since 2003, and I sneak in a few off-the-record burritos here and there. People sometimes ask how much longer I plan to keep this up, eating 8-12 burritos a month and producing the site. There's no grand plan. As long as it continues to be fun, I'll keep it up and make the time for it. I'm certainly not contemplating retirement from taqueria visits at this point.
MW: Have you always been passionate about burritos?
BE: Passionate -- perhaps. Terminally obsessed -- only since I started working on Burritoeater. I got the bug when I was 19, on a trip to San Luis Obispo to visit a friend from high school attending college there. He took us to T.A.'s (known then as Tacos Acapulco, and now as Tio Alberto's, I think) in town there, and it ruined me for life. On future visits, I'd return to the Bay Area with bagloads of burritos to freeze and gnaw on as days went by. They even became cheap birthday gifts for friends for awhile there.
MW: What drives you to keep trying different burritos?
BE: I enjoy covering the San Francisco taqueria scene thoroughly, so I always look forward to when a new shop opens. Whether it turns out to be excellent right off the bat, gets better with ensuing visits, or just sucks the chrome off a trailer hitch time and time again, it's fun to go around to different neighborhoods for something that commonly links many of them. It's enabled me to learn a lot of about the city, which is an endlessly interesting place to me. And since so many people here eat burritos so loyally, it's a subject that crosses all sorts of barriers: fine-dining chefs, people who've never heard of Michael Mina, and the rest of us in between all have a few favorite burrito shops in and around town.
MW: What other foods/things are you this passionate about?
MW: Ever thought about going national?
BE: Not really. Burritos are fast becoming a nationally loved comfort food on the level of pizza and burgers, but I have my hands and belly full enough with the 170 or so taquerias in San Francisco alone. Anyway, when I travel I prefer to eat foods known for wherever I am. If I go to New York, for instance, the last thing I'm getting is a lousy $11 burrito. I spent some time in New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California this past winter, and while I ate an inordinate amount of Mexican foods along the way, I didn't feel the need to have a burrito until I got to San Diego toward the end of the trip.
MW: Do you have a pad-wan (eater in training)?
BE: Nah, I'm nobody's sensei. Maybe I just haven't gotten the right offer, though.
MW: What's ham sandwich eater?
BE: It's a Web site that someone (not me) should get off the ground. But nobody's made the move yet. Come on, people -- the URL's still available.
MW: What is the most important element of a great burrito?
BE: I don't think there's one single-most important element. Like any food that relies on a broad range of ingredients, a great burrito is an ensemble working together, like the cast of Monty Python's Flying Circus. A poorly realized burrito reminds me of what we had to endure during certain lean years of Saturday Night Live.
MW: What was the worst Burrito eating experience you ever had?
BE: In San Francisco, it was my first visit to La Placita on San Bruno Avenue in Portola, in 2003. Just awful, all the way down to the unmelted slices of Borden cheese-food inside the burrito; the review's on the site. Outside of San Francisco...for some reason, what's jumping out to me at the moment is an ill-advised trip to a fast-food place called Taco Time in Roseburg, Oregon. Even by my palate-deficient college student standards at the time, it was an abomination.
MW: Do you ever get emails from pissed off Taqueria owners about bad reviews?
BE: Once I did. So of course I went back to the place (Taq. Miraloma) on my regular rounds, and the second burrito earned an even lower rating than the one before it. Thing is, neither burrito was awful, so of course, neither were the reviews. Just kind of sub-mediocre. I don't get too concerned about what taqueria managers think. I'm one person reviewing a new burrito shop in Crocker-Amazon or South of Market; I'm not hundreds of Yelp users thronging to a trendy new lounge or restuarant, where the business' future may be affected by what they write. Everything's on a much smaller scale with taquerias.
MW: When you first started out, did you ever expect to become the guru of Burritos in SF?
BE: I'm happy that people use the site and get a little bit of entertainment from it. I certainly get a lot out of producing it. It's great fun. Everyone needs an outlet; otherwise you just end up watching reruns of SNL's lean years on Comedy Central.
There you have it, some insight on the man the people of SF simply refer to as Burrito Eater. So the next time you and your friends are thinking about trying out that questionable looking taqueria around the corner, make sure to consult Burrito Eater first.
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