The February vacation week ate up most of our dining budget. But I still didn't feel like cooking. So we went for a healthy option I knew we could afford: budget-friendly burritos.
"Welcome to Boloco" is how the friendly manager behind the counter greeted us on a recent Friday night. "Are you familiar with our menu?"
Five heads shook.
Gesturing at the huge menu suspended over his head, he said, "Start by picking a flavor, then choose a filling: chicken, carnitas, steak, tofu, veggies ... then any extras."
Flavor? I thought we were getting burritos — meat, rice, beans, salsa.Options included Buffalo, with spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing; Cajun, featuring Cajun spices, corn salsa and black beans; and Memphis BBQ — barbecue sauce, coleslaw, rice and beans. And there were more where those came from.
The flavor choices overwhelmed my twins and the friend they'd brought along, so we let the college student behind us go ahead. Then my son's friend, clearly annoyed at our indecision, strode up to the counter and ordered.
I nudged my kids forward, telling them, "They will put whatever you want in a burrito; just order."
The manager presented more choices. White or wheat tortilla? Size? White rice or brown? Black beans or pinto?
Just to make things more confusing, I asked about the kids menu.
The manager sized up the three 10-year-olds standing before him. His expression implied the kids meal — mini burrito, healthy side and drink — probably wouldn't be enough for them.
We all ordered original-size burritos for $6.25 each: Buffalo, Summer, Bangkok Thai, Classic Mexican and a Goloco, aka choose your own ingredients.
The boys snagged a booth in the casual but clean dining area, while my daughter and I watched our burritos being made with our noses pressed to the glass. The speed and efficiency of the assembly line was impressive. I could have watched it a lot longer, but our order was up within minutes.
We marveled at the well-engineered wraps. Ones I've had in the past have fallen apart the moment I picked them up; these tightly rolled burritos held together, from the first chewy bite to the last.
"This is really spicy," my son said after biting into his Buffalo chicken and guzzling half his lemonade.
I tried a bite.
Holy cow, it was spicy. But he was a trouper, leaving only a pile of buffalo sauce-soaked rice that my husband finished off.
The only thing we didn't polish off was a cup of bland salsa. We ate every made-on-site tortilla chip, and I wiped the guacamole container with a finger. The only miss in the order was our guest's Summer burrito: The steak was chewy and the ingredients were poorly distributed.
Overall, the meal was good and inexpensive. The functional dining room — with no décor to speak of — was the ideal setting for three exuberant 10-year-olds.
Boston-based Boloco works hard to please with a menu that includes hormone-free chicken and steak, all-natural pork, vegetarian, vegan and allergy-sensitive and gluten-free options. Their use of compostable cups speaks to the company's values, as well.
The only possible trouble for parents? A "loco" number of good choices. I think we'll try them all over time.
St. Johnsbury, VT
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