Burrito elitist: Move over for Chipotle

On the one end of the spectrum, there’s Chipotle, which offers anarray of upscale, fresh flavors, including corn relish, chipotle-spiced steak and rice with cilantro and lime juice. All in all, it’s the burrito restaurant for the gourmet in each of us.

Of course, burritos haven’t always been haute cuisine, and that’s the attitude conveyed by a meal at BTB, the Ann Arbor-based chain. The burritos are simple: rice, beans, meat, cheese and salsa, packed tight into a tortilla. There are no overburdening flavors here, just a rich blend of well-cooked ingredients, and they’re perfect for a late-night meal on the way back from a house party or the bars.

The light, distinctive flavors made it easy enough to distinguish the Chipotle burrito from the rest, while the BTB offering’s heavy, rich flavor set it apart. Though each has distinct merits, both stood apart from the other two I tasted.

The burritos from Panchero’s and Burrito Joint were easily identified by their dominating ingredients: in the case of Panchero’s, the beans and salsa, and in the case of Burrito Joint, the rice. The meat in both burritos was dry and overcooked, lost in the mix without any distinctive flavor.

Those restaurants do have their advantages. Panchero’s grills its tortillas fresh on the spot, which Burrito Joint offers wraps big enough to feed a small army. But it’s not enough to overcome their other faults. Chipotle and BTB win joint control of Ann Arbor’s burrito title.

BLIND TASTE TEST: Nelson correctly guessed all four
#1: BTB
“This one’s BTB and it’s good. The meat had a good flavor. It was tender. Nothing stuck out too much. It had a nice texture.”

#2: Panchero’s
“I always hate on Panchero’s, but this one is pretty good. Normally, I think the ingredients are really dried out. I can’t really taste anything but the beans though, that’s a problem.”

“The steak is really the best part here — the chunks are really big. I can tell the meat is pretty good quality. You can definitely taste all the flavors in here, much more than BTB.”

“This is a big one. This is by far the heaviest … It’s pretty bland and the meat’s tough and it’s too rich for my tastes.”

Convenience store pizza patron: bell’s is best

Diag Party Shoppe is also a contender in the cheap slice category, but just their variety of toppings can be a virtue, it often means they don’t even have regular cheese pizza to offer. Of the other places that sell quickie slices — Bell’s, Backroom and In-and-Out — Bell’s is the best.

Even though slices come off of the same kind of heated rotating pan, you can tell a Bell’s slice comes from an authentic pizzeria. The crust is flakier and less uniform, and the sauce a combination of sweet and spicy. The cheese is also of a higher quality than these other places.

To compare, Backroom pizza has a plainer crust, saltier cheese and sweeter sauce. Backroom is nice because you always know what you’re getting, that patented Backroom consistency.

Backroom slices are often the hottest. But there’s a flip side to fresh out of the oven, which is burning your tongue.

In-n-Out must be eaten rather quickly after it comes out of the oven, or else you risk a gooey crust and overall disappointing dollar-slice experience. If, however, you catch a good pie, you’re certain to enjoy the slightly spicier offering.

BLIND TASTE TEST: Gruber correctly guessed all three

#1: backroom
“It’s Backroom. It’s very consistent.The sauce is a little bit sweet. The cheese is a little bit salty. It’s good.”

#2: In-and-out
“The sauce is a little bit more sour. The crust is better than the first.”

#3: bell’s
“I like that it has a lot more cheese. The sauce is sweet but not too sweet. And good thickness on the crust.”

cheap beer connoisseur: Stroh’s, a step above

There’s no escaping cheap beer. It’s the first drink you were handed during Welcome Week, and it’s at the top of the grocery list in your off-campus house. By the time you’re buying it regularly, you probably know there are better options than Red Dog and Natty Light.

So which lowbrow brew is most worthy of your parents’ hard-earned dollar?

There’s bad beer, and then there’s good bad beer. Stroh’s is a markedly good bad beer — much more flavorful than the others. On the other end of the spectrum are watery brews like Busch.

The other two, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Blatz, are close to indistinguisable, with PBR seeming the more carbonated of the two. Even though I prefer Stroh’s, I purchase PBR more often. It can be found in any beer store and it always goes down easily.

Of course, at the end of the day, you’re spending $5 a six-pack on this stuff, so don’t overthink it. But if you haven’t tried it, do give Stroh’s a chance. If nothing else, the distinctive blue-and-red can adds a touch of class to your budget suds.

BLIND TASTE TEST: Fresard guessed two of four correctly, mixing up Pabst Blue Ribbon and Blatz Beer

#1: Blatz beer
(No response)

#2: pabst blue ribbon
“The second one is highly carbonated.”

#3: busch
“The second and third are really watery. They don’t have as much flavor.”

#4: stroh’s
“The fourth one is my favorite, I think that’s Stroh’s. It was more of a full flavor, it was tastier.”

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