"[C]ritics Casey Deeha, Chipp Oatlay, Sal Savirdy and 'El Presidente Mole' promise to provide 'not merely a description of burritos, but a more writerly experience that gives the attention to burritos that they deserve.' Yep. You heard it here, folks. - Jay Barmann, SF Grubfest

"[Casey Deeha] also thinks it could be a matter of cultural heritage and sense of place why a Mission-style burrito is thought to taste the best in San Francisco." - Tamara Palmer, Zagat

"Bay Area Review of Burritos -a must read for anyone remotely interested in foil-wrapped tube food" - Kevin Montgomery, Up Town Almanac

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Burrito Shop, Lakeshore Ave, Oakland

In about circa 1300, the the Old English word scoppa came into being and meant 'booth or shed for trade or work'. Many argue that this word was taken from the Old French eschoppe meaning 'booth or stall.' It was not until the late 17th century that these words finally evolved into what we now call a shop. In all instances, the word indicates a common place where common goods were 'made' or 'sold'. Of course, being a verb, it drives our world as the capitalist machine that it has become - but that would be an entirely different review.

To describe a taqueria as a 'shop' -I thought - was intriguing; going from the etymology of the word, the burrito would be considered more of a common good, made in a shed like habitation for the common person. This maybe so, but I would like to think that the almighty burrito is no common 'thing' despite its ubiquity not only in the Bay Area or California, but nation, if not the world (without sounding a bit fascistic). And for all intents and purposes, I hoped that the 'Burrito Shop' in Oakland would become an ironic gesture in its own naming.

Would the Talapia Fish Burrito raise itself beyond the common thing? I would certainly find out. The menu set out to promise this, as there was a slight higher level of specificity of the ingredients - there tends to be a positive correlation between specificity in ingredients, with regard to burritos, and quality. If one were to walk into a 'shop' and see a veggie burrito described as having 'beans and veggies' rest assured that you should not expect much. In this instance, the Grilled Fish Burrito was described thus: Sauteed with green onions and red bell peppers in garlic lime or Cajun sauce. Served with Romaine lettuce. 'Garlic lime or Cajun sauce' was promising for, if there is one essential quality of a fish burrito, the fish must and should always take center stage in what may become a cacophonous calamity of alliterative jargon wrapped in a tortilla. In other words, I want to savor the fish and have the additional ingredients compliment a fishy burrito delight.

In short, this simply would not be the case and despite the suggestion of Havenero sauce at the start, along with an anticipation of a good blend of green onions with garlic, the burrito was bland. At times, I found myself wandering through both my mind and the burrito looking for the taste of the fish in the first instance and the sight of the Talapia in the second. I was awash in mediocrity, much like the decor of the 'shop' for which, sadly, was aptly named - bland walls with bland murals - bland fish with bland sauce. Coming in at $6.95 a cool two dollars more than La Calaca Loca's exquisite veggie burrito at $4.95 (see Sal Savirdy's review), I was disappointed.

It was filling nonetheless - but it was merely a filling 'thing' made in a eschoppe. I might as well have been consuming household products - a broom perhaps. With Chipotle having just opened across the street on Lakeshore Ave (see my review on Chipotle Oakland), I fear only the more tenacious locals will come to the 'Burrito Shop' out of a sense loyalty to their brethren, for which I say sally forth. Between the two, it would be much like voting for any political leader - a lesser of two evils.

Moving forward, I shall never let myself think of my burritos as 'things', but perhaps states of mind?

Salsa Rating: disappointingly mild

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