In the past 15 years a new religion has swept through the United States. It has outpaced even the boldest of movements wishing to convert the masses with gesticulating, gyrating shouts for salvation.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m talking about Burritoism; rice, beans, some kind of protein, salsa, cheese and of course the messiah of all ingredients, guacamole. Fortunately, an abundance of options exists for pious pilgrims seeking this holy deliverer of sustenance.

In Ann Arbor, students travel far and wide, or perhaps two blocks from their houses, to sample the burritos BTB cranks out at a prolific rate until the wee hours of the morning. Then there’s Chipotle, where the burritos are baby-sized and the guacamole is undoubtedly always worth the nearly $2 extra.

At Panchero’s … the food is not good. In fact, it’s really bad. Step away. Likewise, the burritos at Bandito’s on South Fourth Street are just plain weak.

On the high end, the Prickly Pear on South Main Street offers the most sumptuous southwestern game in town, but it’s hard on the pocketbook.

One establishment stands alone as the appropriate middle option between the burrito joints and the dimly lit ambiance of the inaccessible Prickly Pear — Tios Mexican Café on East Liberty.

The greatest thing about Tios is that it doesn’t try to be anything but itself. Yes, it calls itself a “Mexican Café,” but that’s just an overarching theme. The café is not Mexican, California-Style Mexican or Southwestern — it is a solid mix of all three with some seriously strange add-ons.

Inside, reproductions of Picasso’s The Old Guitarist (who is wearing a Tios T-shirt) and Dali’s Meditative Rose (which is replaced by a bundle of chili peppers), as well as a couple of large southwestern murals, playfully pepper the café’s mustard-colored walls. These are just the preliminary symptoms of the contagion of multicultural confusion that makes the Tios experience infectious.

More signs include the illogical combination of gimcrack adobe and Spanish artifacts seated behind the hostess stand. If you’re not already baffled as to the restaurant’s identity, its schizophrenic menu seals the deal. The café offers an array of burrito joint mainstays with a few outright outliers.

For example, it may seem strange that there is a Jamaican Jerk Chicken salad on the menu at a supposedly “Mexican” restaurant. Then it pops up again in taco form alongside an edamame taco. Silly Tios, edamame is what you eat before sushi, not what you put in a taco! Another abnormal offering, sweet potato hush puppies, can be found in the appetizer section. Then there is the Tijuana cheese steak. Crazy never tasted so good.

You’ll also find the classics you’d expect out of just about any Americano Mexican mainstay: burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas. The massive “wet burrito,” drenched in sauce and covered in cheesy goodness, provides an excellent homemade alternative to compete with Chipotle’s version down the street.

If the burrito drowning in sauce in front of you isn’t soaked enough, along the wall to the right of the entrance sits Tios famous collection of sauces and salsas, more than 365 of them.

Two summers ago, Tios relocated to East Liberty from its original location on Huron after a controversial debacle with its landlord. The move to Liberty was unanticipated, but Tios added a full bar in the process. As a result, an all-over-the-place drink menu matches the restaurant’s unorthodox take on Mexican cuisine.

The “Bloody Maria,” made with Ann Arbor’s own Clancy’s Fancy Hot Sauce, is a perfect pairing for the huevos rancheros. Diners might even venture to try some South American favorites by sampling an Argentine Malbec or Brazil’s best, a caipirinha!

But lest you be misled, this place stays true to its Mexican roots in some sense, offering a wide array of tequilas for your consideration. A sign outside advertises the “Best Margaritas in the State.” This statement is false. The margaritas are good. They are not the best in the state. Keep your hopes at an appropriate level.

What the margaritas are is huge, as are the portions. The prices are moderate. The happy hour is bumpin’ and the place is a stone’s throw from campus. It’s definitely worth a try!

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