Target vs Wal-Mart – the battle of the bargain brands. Some people are very loyal Target shoppers, others are die-hard Wal-Mart veterans. I’ve come to the conclusion that the preference toward either store comes down to location and branding, since for the most part (and according to recent writings) they offer pretty much the same discounted products – give or take a few cents.
Really, it’s about atmosphere and impression.
This same preference for certain bargain fast-casual restaurants comes down to atmosphere and impression – because for the most part – they offer pretty much the same discounted foods. With some exception, rarely is it fresh and flavorful, and most of the time you’re just there to eat on the cheap. Priorities are stacked as price – atmosphere – taste.
This is what I thought about while eating at Tios Burritos. It’s the same level of quality as you’d expect to come from cheap eats, but with locally-owned flair. I felt like it was comparable to a bargain shopping burrito with price being the most important factor and flavor being a bottom priority.
Tios Burritos opened in mid-March of 2011 in the Rain Tree Athletic Club shopping center, right next to Pizza Hut. There have been a few failed restaurants in this location before. It’s somewhat hidden, making it even more difficult to market a restaurant than it already is. We are in this area countless times during the week, but I can say that after eating at Tios for both breakfast and dinner, I’ll pass.
The staff is certainly friendly and kind, and you can tell they genuinely care that you are there to order. But, it’s not a comfortable place to eat with four sparse tables and echoing walls. There are two menu boards – and the chalkboard is a million times easier to read than the dry erase board – if you’re not looking over someone sitting at the table trying to eat directly underneath that.
But – all of this really doesn’t matter that much. You can always take your food to go – which would be the preferred choice because of the environment.
However, what does matter most, is the quality of food. For your protein, you can choose cheese, chicken, or beef. No carne asada, no carnitas, nothing specifically “Mexican.” While choices are very limited, they taste pretty average. Better than Taco Bell, but not better than any other Mexican restaurant in Fort Collins (and they are a dime a dozen). Outside of tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, you can find chili cheese fries smothered in green pork chile, Frito Pie, and (what I appreciate most on the menu, and it’s only available on the weekend) – menudo. That seems to be about the only “real” Mexican dish available, while everything else is typical American-Mexican fare, or New Mexican.
For dinner, the family and I had a round of tacos – all assortments of beef, chicken and cheese. They were average at best, with the exception of the shredded chicken – that was tender and tasty. But, the tortillas really stand out – soft, doughy and without that lard slick on the roof of your mouth, like when eating fast food tortillas. I don’t believe they make them in house though, because from a peek into the kitchen (which you can clearly see from the dining room), it looks like everything is pre-made and then just put together and warmed by microwave before serving. Eating on floppy paper plates and flimsy plastic utensils – just like you’d get at Wal-Mart for a cheap picnic – only reinforced that belief.
We also ordered the chili cheese fries, which was nothing particularly special. The fries had the soggy frozen packaged flavor still, even after cooking, and the slathering of cheese and green chile didn’t help mask it. The green chile was very mild without any depth to it.
We were there on the weekend when they were offering menudo, and considering it was one or the more interesting and authentic menu items, I had to order it. Menudo – for those not in the know – is a traditional Mexican soup with tripe (beef stomach) that is very similar to American chili. And just like American chili – it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. This is one dish on Tios Burritos menu that you know they made from scratch and unlike other menu items, it’s not drowning in cheese or chili for flavor.
The tripe in the menudo was soft with a slightly chewy texture. It was a red menudo with hominy at the bottom, and I was given chopped onion, a lemon wedge, and dried oregano and red chili flakes to add to it. Sadly, while this was one of the better menu items they offered, it still wasn’t that appetizing.
We also decided to try one of their desserts – a “sweet burrito.” It was canned pie filling wrapped up in a tortilla and fried, then dolloped with whipped cream. You can choose between apple pie filling or peach pie filling. We chose peach.
This was probably the best thing on the menu all together even though nothing was exactly fresh – all prepackaged/canned food.
I came back again on another day for breakfast to try their breakfast burritos. The kids wanted quesadillas (go figure. I had the egg, cheese, potato, and sausage breakfast burrito.
As with all of the other meals I’ve had there – the best part was the tortilla. My burrito was pre-made that morning, and popped into a microwave before serving it to me. The ingredients – especially the cheese – just screamed “cheap food”, and not in a good way. Runny, thin, yellow cheese that was just steps away from Velveeta, mushy potatoes that were sparsely hidden in tasteless egg with speckles of fatty sausage. Not good.
I’m all for bargain shopping, and even cheap eats. Any way to save a buck, right? But I’m not willing to sacrifice flavor and quality for penny pinching. The atmosphere, the impression that came with being served on cheap paper plates, and most importantly for me – the quality of food – I’m not that desperate for cheap, mediocre, Mexican food that’s comparable to a Wal-Mart burrito.
2567 South Shields
no website available, but they do have a facebook page
Kid-Friendly? No kids’ menu, no high chairs, but there are plenty of small plate options.
Parking: Shared shopping center lot
Healthy Options? A few small plate options, few vegetarian options.
Budget-Friendly? Absolutely – most meals are under $6
Recent Health Inspection: Excellent