Who doesn’t love a good burrito? Burrito places seem to be sprouting up around Houston like mushrooms after a summer rain. With the success of large chains like Chipotle, you knew there would be a host of imitators. However, there was one burrito chain in Houston long before Chipotle came to town. Mission Burrito was cranking out huge, delicious burritos for over twenty years. A friend of mine lived across the street from the original Mission Burrito on West Alabama in the late 90’s and I remember eating there for breakfast, lunch and dinner one day. It was that good. Alas, Mission Burrito lost its name and strong brand in 2014 when Gruma Corp., the maker of Mission-brand tortillas, chips and other food products sold in grocery stores sued the owners of Mission Burrito (Mexican Restaurant’s Inc.) for trademark infringement. Mexican Restaurant’s Inc. then rebranded the chain as Uberrito. Cool name, but I hope the famous car service doesn’t get into the burrito delivery business and sue them. I have not been to Uberrito since the name change or since I went Paleo. After a friend of mine went to work for Mexican Restaurant’s Inc. I decided to give it a try again. Could it live up to the old Mission Burrito and more over how does it rank against it’s big competitor Chipotle?
My family and I went to the old school location on Durham near I-10. The covered patio had lots of burrito lovers enjoying their meals, and the line inside was pretty long, which gave me an opportunity to look over the menu. I saw some items I didn’t remember seeing on the old menu, and some things you can’t get at Chipotle. In addition to the proteins you expect at a burrito joint, chicken, beef steak and pork, they also had Ropa Vieja, a Cuban-style shredded beef, vegan picadillo (I’m guessing some sort of tofu concoction), and they also had shrimp and tilapia. They also added white rice to the menu, and that was one of the things my wife liked about Chipotle over Mission. Of course, neither white or Spanish rice are on the menu for me since I went paleo. They also have added tacos since my last visit. The ten tacos on the menu all looked really tempting, but I was there on a mission to eat a burrito. There were some new surprises on the toppings side of the menu like mushrooms, red cabbage, sautéed spinach, and the most intriguing for me was jicama. What the heck is jicama, you ask? Well, it is a root vegetable native to South America. Normally root vegetables are carb-dense foods, like potatoes, and aren’t paleo-friendly. But jicama is different. It can be served raw, and it is crunchy like an apple and tastes sweet like a sweet potato, but it has half the carbs of a potato, and one tenth the sugar of an apple. It is also high in Vitamin C and contains B vitimins. But the really interesting thing about it is its high inulin content. Inulin is a prebiotic type of fiber – it helps feed your gut flora, which has all kinds of other health benefits.
At Uberrito you order at the counter and go down the line adding your ingredients like other burrito joints, the thing about Uberrito that is different is the people behind the counter are really friendly. Mission Burrito’s staff was always very friendly, and I am glad to see that is still the case since the name change. I requested my burrito in a bowl to help keep paleo. It isn’t nearly as convenient to eat a burrito in a bowl, but a 13 inch tortilla has 59 grams of carbs and 2 grams of sugar. Once you get used to eating burritos tortilla-less you really don’t miss it. Let’s face it all the taste comes from the things you stuff in the tortilla, and I don’t mean the beans and rice. Beans and rice taste ok, but adding black beans to your burrito ads 19 grams of carbs and adding rice adds another 18 grams. Those ingredients help fill you up, but they really don’t offer much in the way of nutrients or flavor. Skipping the tortilla, beans and rice saves you nearly 100 grams of carbs.
I went with the beef steak as my protein. For me, beef is the standard by which I judge a burrito. I am a native Texan after all. I also had them add sautéed spinach, mixed greens, grilled bell pepper and onions, (they call it fajita mix) pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, and of course jicama. Another nice touch is they ask if you would like a squeeze of lime on your burrito, and I opted for it. I find that lime juice adds a refreshing quality to Mexican food. Where things really get interesting is when you work your way down the serving line to the sauces. They have a whopping eight different sauces to choose from, Pico de Gallo, Zesty Tomatillo, Raging Habanero, Spicy Avocado, Smoky Chile de Árbol, Serrano Ranch, Tomatillo Tomato, and Totally Tomato. I couldn’t choose between the Spicy Avocado and the Serrano Ranch, so I got both. The weather was great on the night we went, so we hauled our burritos out to the large covered patio.
My burrito was heaping over the edges of the bowl. The ingredients were all very fresh and tasty. The beef was tender and the mixed greens and jicama were crispy and delicious. Also, there guacamole was excellent—much better than Chipotle’s. But what really puts Uberrito over the top for me is their house-made salsas. The Serrano Ranch is the same recipe they used at Mission Burrito. (think Chuy’s creamy jalapeño with a bit more kick). But I was especially impressed with the Spicy Avcocado. It is loaded with that rich earthyness you expect from avocado, but they add tomatillo and I think I detected a touch of habanero. It has just the right amount of spice and a rich complex flavor.
Uberrito is uber good. I am pleased to see that the parent company is investing in the concept. They have recently opened some new restaurants in the Houston area with contemporary interiors. Their newest location is on Westheimer near Hillcroft. I’ll check it out when I’m on that side of town and in the mood for a burrito (which is pretty much any tine). And when I do, I’m going to try the shrimp burrito bowl with the Spicy Avocado sauce.