In Atlanta there used to be great little restaurant called Tortillas, where a person could buy tasty and gargantuan burritos, literally the size of a Nerf football. It was located in a questionable neighborhood, the sound system was usually blasting some kind of gravel in a blender punk music, and the clientele was, um, colorful.
I loved it, and ate there roughly a million times. My apartment was within walking distance, and I’d often hoof it over there after work, order my Land of the Giants dinner, and polish off a Rolling Rock (from their self-serve coolers) while a team of hipsters built my burrito.
They served up “Mexican” that wasn’t anywhere near Mexican – without apology. And was I looking for authenticity? No, I was not. I was looking for really good food, in outrageous quantity, for little money. And that’s exactly what those folks provided.
After we left Atlanta Tortillas was at the top of my list of things I missed most about the city. It had become a comfortable and reliable part of my life. When I heard they’d closed, a couple years later, it seemed impossible. A world without Tortillas? It just didn’t compute.
In California there was a Baja Fresh a couple miles from our house, and we thought it was pretty good. We considered it a commercialized Tortillas rip-off, which was a little irritating, but begrudgingly enjoyed their burritos. We didn’t go there often, but enough to long for it when we moved to Scranton.
“I wish someone would put a Baja Fresh in this town,” was something Toney and I said repeatedly, while considering our options for a quick and cheap lunch.
When a place called Panchero’s opened, we were excited. It was clearly of the same concept: gigantic Americanized burritos in pseudo-hipster surroundings.
But I didn’t like it. The rice and chicken were tasteless, and everything was about 20% too expensive, according to my inner sensor. Yeah, the burritos were large, but there was no flavor. It was like eating a sack of dry cornbread mix. And who wants to do that?
We went to Panchero’s exactly twice, and never returned.
Now we have another contender near us: Moe’s Southwest Grill. They opened on Thursday, and we had lunch there on Saturday – hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.
As we passed through the door the entire staff hollered, “Welcome to Moe’s!” from all corners of the restaurant. This caused the other customers to turn on their heels, and look directly at us. Already, I was irritated.
Their menu featured wacky names for things, like the Joey Bag of Donuts burrito, and the Overachiever taco. This was not starting well…
Toney went with a vegetarian burrito, called the Art Vandalay (I shit you not), and I opted for the Homewrecker, which seemed to offer the approximate lineup of ingredients I prefer. Including grilled chicken.
While we waited for the woman to steam our tortillas, or whatever she was doing, I realized the Homewrecker burrito and the Triple Lindy are exactly the same thing – except one has lettuce on it. Come on! They just wanted another opportunity to be wacky.
Once the tortillas were lying flat on the serving board, it was a lot like Subway. They just shoved them down the length of the thing, and we told them what to pile on the sumbitches. In addition to chicken and rice, I went with cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, lettuce, and cilantro.
During the building process the manager (I presume) repeatedly screamed “Welcome to Moe’s!!” at a volume level usually reserved for drunken spectators at bowl games. And the staff would follow a beat or two behind, with much less enthusiasm. I watched their faces during all this, and it looked like they were dying a little inside.
There was a bottleneck at the cash register, and I don’t really like waiting in line for the opportunity to give my money away. But the restaurant was just-opened, so I was willing to give them a little more leeway than usual.
We (finally!) paid for our food, and stopped at the drink station/salsa bar. They’d included nacho chips with our meals, and each of us chose a salsa from five or six options. I went with something relatively mild, because I have nothing to prove.
At the table we unwrapped our burritos, and they were indeed sizable. Like cannonballs, really. And now we were at the moment of truth… Would it be a keeper, or another two-times and we’re out? Would it remind me of the late, great Tortillas, or bag o’ pencil shavings Panchero’s?
And I’m happy to report it was very good indeed. I could actually taste every ingredient, it wasn’t just a big wad of blandness. Everything seemed fresh, and the burrito didn’t collapse at the halfway mark. In fact, it wasn’t messy at all, which is fairly miraculous considering the circumstances.
The chips weren’t the greatest in the world; they were kinda thick and Triscuit-like. But the salsa was really good, which almost made up for it.
Overall, I thought it was excellent. Nothing will ever take the place of Tortillas in my heart, of course, but I’m happy to have a decent facsimile in the neighborhood. I have a feeling I’m going to be logging considerable time there.
In six months, I predict, I’ll walk in and everyone will yell, “WELCOME TO M-! Oh, it’s just that weird guy again…”
I do, however, have one tiny moral reservation about the whole thing… In this article from 2003 the former owner of Tortillas blames Moe’s for the demise of his restaurant, and actually challenges “Moe” to a fistfight. So, in my hunt for a Tortillas alternative I’ll be supporting the very people who killed it off!
It’s like a friggin’ O. Henry short story, or something.
“Exit Only” Dude stickin’ his ass out? Come on, y’all got to try a little bit with the bunker cam.
Since you like large burritos, I have a feeling you also like large subs. Not the bullsheet Subway or Quiznos subs, but real northern subs. If you are ever in Maryland, near Delaware, go to Big Elk Liquors in Elkton and get a sub. You can’t close it for all the meat and veggies inside, and is delicious. Since moving to Virginia, the one thing I miss more then anything is real subs. Everytime we go North we’ll pick up a few subs and bring them home with us.
Fuck school, fuck Christmas!!
huh i’m drunk
i know this is completely unrelated to “mexican” but i was unable to comment on the fast food reviews. i think a life of fast food consumption is incomplete without the experience of eating at a Cook-Out. Even though I have never been to In-N-Out Burger, I can imagine that Cook-Out is to North Carolina what In-N-Out is to Cali.Find out more about it here.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cook_Out_(restaurant)
I currently live in Korea and I am constantly craving an amazing burger…and it just doesnt measure up here. Whenever I go home one of my “Must Visit” places is Cook-Out.. The burgers are made to order and are just like the burgers my mom would make on the grill when I was a young girl. Plus they have a bazillion flavors of milkshakes…YUMMMMM
To me, Moes is bland and tasteless. The meat has one flavor (salt) and the free chips are not that good. There is no way to get the good salsas in the burrito.
Chipotle is my favorite local burrito place and Qdoba is pretty decent also.
If you ever get to Fort Collins, CO or thereabouts, you must try “Big City Burrito”. They have awesome, fresh burritos, great fillings, tons of flavor. They have a “potato burrito” which has cheddar, onions, home-fried style potatoes, ranch dressing, and salsa. Maybe it doesn’t sound good but it’s outstanding.
Oh and if you’re really hungry get the gutbuster.
I prefer Qdoba personally. The burritos are good but I hate them yelling at people coming in and the wacky names on the menu. I was a bit peeved that the salsa bar had wacky names too with no clue whatsoever what it was or how much heat they had.
My sister says the founder gave some sort of motivational speech at her job and she vowed afterward that she would NEVER patronize that man’s restaurant.
Jeff, if you ever venture down 81, check out Neato Burrito in Harrisburg. I’ve not had Moe’s or Chipotle, but I can’t get enough NB!!! Plus, they don’t yell or sing or anything–they just make your burrito the way you want it and send you on your way.
(This is only the 4th post of yours I’ve read–got the link for the Alli translation from CakeWrecks via Twitter a bit ago and laughed so hard I almost had a “treatment effect”. 😉 This site is hilarious!!!)
Mary D says
No WAY I was ever going to go back to Moe’s after they yelled at us the second time (thought it was a fluke the first time). Once we actually turned around and LEFT after they yelled at us. Too 1980’s.
Ran across this by accident.
I eat at Moe’s as often as eight times a week. The staff on every dinner shift knows my burrito order, and one nearly had a fit of hysterics the last time I ordered a quesadilla. The unique opportunity of Moe’s is you can get a very substantial burrito with a decently wide nutritional spread. Really expensive, though, with the best deal being on Mondays when you get a basic burrito and a drink for $5.
There are about six Moe’s locations local to me – only one of them shouts “Welcome to Moe’s!” more than once per hour, and most don’t shout it at all. The “bottleneck” at the cash register mentioned never happens at our locations, but rather just before the initial point of service, as the back end (veggies and cashier) are pretty quick compared to the tortilla steamers.
Moe’s should never be confused for an attempt to be Mexican food – it’s a Southwest Grill, not a Mexican grill, and they stay true to American cultural tastes in the end. When I want something approaching real Mexican food quick, I go to Qdoba, but Moe’s is good for what it is – a place to put a bunch of crap on a tortilla and enjoy the flavor party in your mouth.
Also – difference between Homewrecker and Lindy is H has BOTH sour cream and guacamole, where TL has just one or the other. You can get lettuce on anything. Seriously, I know someone who gets it on her cheese quesadillas.
Being from Atlanta, I remember Tortillas! Moe’s is just about as good. I absolutely LOVE that place. We live in Mobile, AL now and I was tickled to death when I discovered that Moe’s had just opened here just when we got here.
The tasty not-real-Mexican-burrito angels were shining down on us!
Moe’s is good. If you’re ever in TX, check out Freebirds World Burrito: http://www.freebirds.com. (Spinach tortilla and Death Sauce…YUM!)
I lived near Tortillas for many years and like you, I was in there at least a million times a week. I moved to NC for a while and Tortillas closed while I was away. When I returned to ATL to visit, I headed straight for Tortillas, only to find it closed. I cried.
@ Jeff, glad somebody else eats Moe’s as much as i do lol. the staff know’s my order by heart. Large Triple Lindy combo with queso, ground beef ,black beans, rice, cheese, heavy on the pico and sour cream. Ok now i;m gonna have to go there for lunch today lol.
Wow. You guys must have gotten a hold of the best Moe’s there is because every time I’ve gone the burritos were absolutely flavorless.
Figured the first time may have been a fluke. Moe’s were popping up all over the place a la Starbucks, so I must have had a rare bad experience. I went back and it was the same. Wet newspaper wrapped up in a glue to the roof of your mouth tortilla. Nasty.
I got a buy one get one coupon and was trying to save a few bucks so I went back. Again, a nasty burrito. Lesson learned. Pay for flavor.
I’d rank Moe’s at the bottom of the burrito totem pole. There are no shortage of burrito places around here, and I can easily say that Moe’s is the worst of them. After reading a few of the other comments I’m convinced that the Moe’s in your region must be better. They definitely charge extra for chips here.
Triple Lindy offers your choice of guacamole or sour cream, whereas the Homewrecker you get both. So to say they’re the same is just not reading the menu correctly.
Love love love Moe’s food. Great selection, varied menu. Something for everyone. I found the service fast, the food good, and prices reasonable.
I want real Mexican food made by real Mexican families in their neighborhood. Thank God I live in So Cal and can have good Mexican, sit down or fast-ish food (fast food Mexican is Taco Bell, Del Taco, etc. only after yer drinkin) Baja Fresh is OK, at least they have different salsas to flavor their food. There is a place called Sharkey’s – owned by BFresh I think, better, organic, fresh… A few things on the menu are really good to me, a weird twist kind of thing, like something you’d create at home; a giant sundried tomato tortilla, topped with fresh, crumbly cheese, grilled chicken, stuff like that-yummy. Also their nachos are great, steak or chicken, avacados, fresh crumbled cheese, mmm….