The Hungry Man Eats

Tag Archives: Tex-mex

Chili’s Burritos and Procrastination

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We have reached the point now though where I have let nearly five months slip by without posting anything, which is a crazy long time to go between posts in the blogosphere. Now I am resisting the temptation to half-ass this post because right now I feel that posting just about anything is better than letting another day go by where I have posted nothing. This is actually a good way for me to feel surprisingly, but given the depression I have been fighting for a while now, for the longest time I had zero interest and motivation in posting anything, let alone half-assing it.

 
A while back I wrote about dining at Chili’s and how I had high hopes that their other main dishes would be an improvement on the one I had. Since that occasion I have let nearly ten months and about a half dozen trips to Chili’s occur. An interesting recent development that also had me deciding to wait just a bit longer to write again about Chili’s was the late summer addition to their menu of burritos.

 
Up until this point, one of my knocks on Chili’s was that they didn’t have as much of a variety as I would have preferred on the “Mex” side of the “Tex-Mex” continuum, though that may just be my personal complaint as they have things like tacos, quesadillas and fajitas on their menu already.

Their burrito offerings include:
• Grilled Smoked Chicken Burrito
• Smothered Prime Rib Burrito
• Smothered Smoked Chicken Burrito
• Smothered Carnitas Burrito

 
Of these choices the only one I have had is the Smothered Smoked Chicken Burrito. Now the elephant in the room of a question when it comes to discussing burritos is: “How does it compare to Chipotle?”

 
As I did not have the grilled option which would be the only option you could pick up and eat as you would with Chipotle, I can’t really compare with them. A better comparison would be how it measures up against an Enchilado style burrito from Baja Fresh. Now none of the burrito options from Baja Fresh really match this burrito from Chili’s, but the Burrito Ultimo and this burrito both contain rice, so they would be the closest in similarity.

 So let’s dive in and compare and critique:
• The Chili’s burrito was more generous with the chicken than the Baja Fresh burrito, but the pieces of chicken in the Baja Fresh Burrito were bigger.
• The Chili’s burrito has little in the way of veggies, they add pico de gallo as one of the fillings, but Baja Fresh includes green peppers and onion.
• Spiciness: Not much with the Baja Fresh burrito, but you can add as much or as little of their sauce options from their sauce bar to compensate. The Chili’s burrito has more kick to it with their smoky pasilla-honey chile sauce not just included as one of their fillings, but also as one of the ingredients they top it with.
• The Smotherings: Not a fan of the Baja Fresh sauce they use to smother it with or the cheese they use, it almost has a burnt bitter flavor. The Chili’s toppings taste much better (“Smothered with sour cream sauce & melted cheese. Topped with pasilla-honey chile sauce & chopped cilantro.)
• Sides: The Chili’s burrito comes with a cup of black beans on the side, the Baja Fresh burrito comes with a side of pico de gallo and some tortilla chips (that are usually a bit soggy from the sauce and cheese they smother it with). Personal preference here, I like the black beans from Chili’s myself, but sometimes they come out rather watery and it is more like a bean soup.
• Price: The Chili’s burrito as ordered cost $11.69, the Baja Fresh burrito with chicken usually costs under $7.00 and making it Enchilado style is usually $2 more.

 
My summary to all this is that the Baja Fresh burrito is a good bit cheaper and you can customize your sauce options more, but that the Chili’s burrito tastes better, almost exclusively because of the smoky pasilla-honey chile sauce. I think it tastes better than any of the sauces you can get from Baja Fresh.

 
So to wrap all this up, if you are in a Chili’s and want a burrito instead of the other Mex style offerings, by all means go for it! If you are not in a Chili’s and have a craving for a burrito, you can likely find something you will enjoy that costs less from some other place, go there instead…

Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food

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I recently had the good fortune to have dinner out with friends at Uncle Julio’s. Uncle Julio’s describes themselves as a “border style Mexican food” restaurant. It’s a chain, but not a very big one with only 19 locations, most in Texas, Virginia and Illinois.

Their website states ”The combination of Mexican cooking expertise with fresh, locally grown Texan ingredients created a new style of fare that is far from what you find elsewhere as “Tex-Mex.” Uncle Julio’s is proud to stay close to its Mexican heritage by offering high-quality fare that mirrors the original cooked up by cowboys on the plains a century ago.” Okay Uncle Julio’s, we will take you at your word that you are a “border style Mexican food” restaurant, but your description basically screams that you are a “Tex-Mex” restaurant. Perhaps that is just your fancy way of telling us that you would prefer to be called a “Mex-Tex” restaurant? Or maybe you’re just disappointed that “On the Border” was already taken.

Enough discussion about the name and how they describe themselves, let’s talk about the food.

In my opinion, the standout dish they serve at Uncle Julio’s is their fajitas. They include beef or chicken (or both with the combo) sautéed peppers and onions, guacamole, pico de gallo, Mexican rice, frijoles a la charra and cheese and sour cream (which cost extra). The fajitas for one cost $19.79 for the combo plus cheese and sour cream. The same combo I the fajitas for two costs $34.99, but the serving size on the fajitas for one is actually plenty for two people, especially if you have been partaking in the free chips and salsa they provide. I strongly recommend getting the beef only version as the chicken has a tendency to be a bit gristly and it is also cooked with the skin on. That will help with keeping it moist, but it is not so good to eat. Also, the beef is just that good that it is well worth choosing over the chicken because it is really tender and flavorful beef. If you get the combo you will just find yourself wishing you had more beef and fighting your tablemates over the last strip of beef.

I mentioned the chips and salsa, and they serve one of the top salsas I have had, it is not a chunky salsa and some people may find it to be a bit on the runny side, but it has one of the best flavors of any salsa I have tried. Be warned that one of its main flavors is cilantro, so if you are not fond of cilantro, than you will not be a fan of this salsa.

I usually get the fajitas and share them with whomever I come with but this trip I ended up getting a soup and an appetizer and calling it my dinner.

I started with a bowl of shrimp and lobster soup. This was their soup of the day on the Friday I was there and it is not clear if they serve this soup everywhere or not as they made no mention of it on their main website. They were generous with the seafood and the soup had some nice spicy kick to it that would be especially great on a cold winter day.

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For my main dish I ordered the Ceviche Royale (pictured above) which contains shrimp, scallops and tilapia, along with tomatoes, onions and cilantro marinated with lime and lemon juice. It comes with some large tortilla chips to pile the ceviche on. Unfortunately I am no ceviche aficionado, as this dish is the only place I have had it, so I can’t really say how it measures up compared to other recipes and restaurants, I just know that I find this dish to be a delicious alternative to the fajitas.

Uncle Julio’s also has some fine drink choices, they are known for a drink called the Swirl which is a frozen margarita/sangria combo. Their margaritas are also good, either on the rocks or frozen and they have a reasonable selection of Mexican Beer (I chose Pacifico the evening I went)

If you find yourself equidistant between an Uncle Julio’s and an authentic Mexican place, go to the authentic Mexican place. But for a chain restaurant, Uncle Julio’s more than holds their own and they are usually rather large (and noisy) and can easily accommodate large groups. They also have outdoor seating (at least at the locations I have been to) and if you can score an outdoor table on a nice day that alone makes everything taste that much better.

Hungry Man Eats Score 82/100

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