When you first walk into the Flying Burrito Company, you are immediately struck by, well, a burrito! After all, it's called "flying burrito" isn't it? OK, OK. Enough sick humor.
So you might be thinking, "You've been to one build-your-own burrito place, you've seen them all, right?"
That's what I figured. Well, not quite. The Flying Burrito Company on South Peoria is a neat little place.
Housed in the building that has been home to such establishments as the Crusty Croissant, it is now set up as a build-your-own burrito store. Of course, they had me the second I walked in, and there was an old Led Zeppelin tune playing overhead, and I noticed the "real deal" Orange Crush on the soda machine. After that one-two combination, everything else is just gravy. But beyond that, the food is really tasty.
They pretty much have the standard options available as far as what you can put on your burrito. Pinto, black and refried beans, grilled peppers and onions, corn, jalapenos, olives, cheese, you get the picture.
The meats are very, very good. My favorite is the carnitas. This is an awesome, slow-cooked pork shoulder that's then shredded or "pulled" as it's called in the south and the Caribbean. It has great flavor, and both my wife and I love the taste and texture.
Also a winner is the steak that's available for any item you choose to put it on at a small up-charge. It makes a good burrito -- a really good burrito. Round out the choices with chicken two ways (hot and regular), fish (although I didn't see any during several visits), ground beef and a veggie mix, and there is something for everyone.
As a matter of fact, that's where these guys stand out. With their meats and their homemade salsas, including a really good sour cream sauce and a house made pico de gallo. I tried a chipotle sour cream drizzled on my meal that was killer. And I asked for the salsa that would set me free, and sure enough it did. I'm still sweatin'.
The term "pico de gallo" literally translates to beak of the rooster. It generally consists of things such as jicima, onions, peppers, oranges, tomatoes, garlic, corn, black beans, cilantro, Mexican oregano and other ingredients. The content is actually less critical than the fact that everything should be chopped fairly small and uniformly to resemble a rooster's beak.
In this country, it is more traditionally made with tomato, onions, peppers and garlic and dressed in an oil and vinegar bath. The Burrito Brothers have a great version. (I don't know if they're brothers, but it fits with the '60s band theme.) These guys do a really good job on theirs.
They also offer a white queso in addition to the yellow, which is made on premises and is quite good as well if you don't mind a little heat.
The burrito boys do offer a nice variation of preparations as well. Obviously, they offer the standard burrito, about the size of a really large hoagie bun, or if you are absolutely insane, they have a double. This is two 12-inch tortillas steamed together end to end and rolled into a burrito the size of your leg. It's called a MOAB or, "Mother Of All Burritos." Wow, it's crazy big!
More sane offerings include a rice bowl, which the line boss told me was "best described as an open-faced burrito in a bowl," a perfect description and a great meal.
Your tortilla choice lines a bowl and is then filled with rice and whatever else you want on it. The guy apologetically asked me if I wanted rice in my rice bowl. And what is really scary to me is, it made perfect sense.
After 40 years in this business, you just never know. It's a great meal, and it has to be better for me because I was eating it out of a bowl, right? Yeah, right. This trip, my wife ordered the triple taco plate, thinking that she would get three little tacos to fit her dainty appetite. Instead, these were very nice sized soft tacos with lots of fillings and were very substantial. (One went home for her lunch.)
A good sized "Panini style" press grill makes quick work of quesadillas. Brown, crispy and gooey, they looked and smelled great.
Nachos and taco salads fill out the rest of the menu, and the most expensive thing on the menu is well under $10.
They even have an "El Cheapo," a bean and cheese burrito for $2.50, for those nights when you are cruising the couch cushions for quarters and dimes. And parents: For a couple of bucks you can get a bean and cheese burrito, cheese quesadilla or simple taco for the flying little ones.
When you walk in, you are almost immediately standing in line for your burrito experience. Regardless of how long the line looks, the wait is always short.
They move you along quickly with a good "zone system." The tortilla, rice and bean guy hands you off to the pepper, corn and cheese guy and so on. It's a well-oiled machine.
Old-style movie posters from the cheap "B" movies we loved as kids adorn the walls: The Burrito That Ate New York and War of the Tortillas. Just kidding.
Flying Burrito Company is actually a small chain with just a handful of units. Opened seven years ago in Fayetteville, Ark., they have expanded to Springdale, Little Rock and Bentonville, and now the one in Brookside. Owner and founders Archie Schaffer IV and Mike Rohrbach decided on Brookside because of their affinity for "colorful areas" of a city in a neighborhood setting. Brookside fits the bill perfectly. If you live close by, it's a pleasant, easy walk.
I first went into Flying Burrito with no idea of whether it was a chain or a local place, and when I asked the guy who was obviously in charge if he was the owner, he answered "something like that" with a big grin on his face.
He and every other employee we have encountered act like they own the place, which makes for pleasant, enthusiastic customer service. There are very few places in this town where one gets that feeling, but this is one of that handful of operations where it is obvious that everyone has had personal ownership instilled in them during training. It's great to see.
A catering menu is available as well with burrito bars or taco bars available, too. Everything is provided -- down to the plates, napkins, senoritas and mariachi band. OK, maybe not the band, and OK, maybe not the senoritas, but everything else.
That's worth something isn't it? Even those events are generally under $10 per person. It's pretty hard to beat for a casual family reunion or office picnic. While minimums apply for the burrito bars because they are manned, it's pretty easy to round up 35 hungry friends around the pool and leave the work to someone else. Based on how we've been treated every time we've been there, I'm sure they will be happy to accommodate.
It's a great place to go for a quick bite, just make sure you duck on the way in.
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