137 Fourth Ave, 212-677-7300
Price Range: $8-$15 Rating: 3 out of 5 L's
As a former Angeleno of 23 years, let me lay it down for you: Californians take their burritos seriously. Sure, New York City has been making great strides when it comes to tacos (see La Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, Xochimilco, Pinche Taqueria) but when it comes to burritos, it's still pretty much amateur hour in this city. Bay Area brothers Leo and Oliver Kremer have decided to try and change that with their new burrito joint just south of Union Square.
The menu is fairly short: burritos, tacos or quesadillas are available with your choice of carne asada (steak), carnitas (pork) and pollo asado (chicken). Ask for a carne asada burrito and they'll steam a handmade flour tortilla in front of you, place a slice of Jack cheese on top, pack it with toothsome cubes of savory marinated beef and then smother that with rice, brown or black beans, salsa, hot sauce and sour cream before folding it all into a chubby little package.
So, if on paper it looks so good, how come I wasn't whisked back on a Proustian journey to the Mission District at first bite? Let us first consider the rice. It was mushy and bland and came off as filler instead of something you might want to eat on its own. A few other elements were off: slightly runny salsa, soft tortillas that lacked the lard-laden, buttery mouthfeel of real good flour tortillas and, most of all, inconsistent construction. During my few visits, assembly of the burritos and tacos seemed haphazard and lackadaisical at best, which is fine for Qdoba or Chipotle, but not for a place reaching for greatness, as it ultimately resulted in unbalanced proportions and flavors.
There were many bright spots to be found. The steak was stellar, the chicken delightfully charred and smoky, and the guacamole perfectly creamy and piquant. But it's the little things that prevent this place from achieving its full potential. The carnitas were flavorful but the texture was too one-note, all solid and soft instead of a mix of crispy and fatty. Tacos (available in either soft or fried corn tortillas) were overstuffed afterthoughts, like burritos simply packed into different skins. Beverage choices were disappointing as well: Mexico's most mediocre beers (Tecate, Corona and Pacifico) and fountain soda. Where is the Bohemia or the Jarritos or the horchata? The decor was nice enough, pairing industrial concrete with rustic wood reclaimed from an upstate barn, but in a tiny takeout spot where most people get their meals to go, food is paramount. Dos Toros is tasty, for New York anyway, but each visit only served as a reminder that California was still almost 3,000 miles away.