Review: Burrito Bowl at the Rattlesnake

By: Tanya Pai and Anne Vickman

Burrito Bowl winners Alex Galimberti and Jose Duarte of Taranta

History. Sports. Seafood. There are many great things about Boston – but to some of us who have transplanted from the western half of the country, Mexican food is sadly not among them. We’re about as far away from our southern neighbor as you can get in the continental U.S., and we’ve discovered that our chances of unearthing a truly tasty fajita or chimichanga here are as good as the Bruins’ for making the playoffs, a theory supported by our outing to the Burrito Bowl at the Rattlesnake this past Saturday.

The vaguely NFL-themed event pitted seven local chefs against each other to create the ultimate burrito bowl, which was then served at the restaurant’s Super Bowl Sunday fiesta. Attendees voted on their favorite, while a panel of judges (The Boston Herald’s “Burrito Boy” Josh Walovitch, UrbanDaddy Boston editor Dan McCarthy, and TV Diner hostess Jenny Johnson) chose the winner.

Let’s be clear here: We are all about burritos. But these offerings left us full yet craving more – more spice, more flavor, and more authenticity. (And why is it that no Mexican restaurant we’ve found around here so far seems to have a clue what green chile is? Find it! Use it!) Perhaps most revealing of the local palate were the winners of the competition. The people’s choice recipient was Gargoyles on the Square’s Jason Santos, who served up barbecued pork sprinkled with blue cheese on a bed of crunchy corn chips. Yep, you read that right: The customer favorite at a burrito competition was basically Frito pie. While we admit we might be biased because Santos’s response to our request for a veggie option was a derisive laugh, we still firmly believe that anything you can find in a vending machine has no place in a real Tex-Mex entrée. The judges’ pick was Jose Duarte from Taranta, whose suckling pig, red onion, and fried yucca bowl was indeed delicious…but still not quite burritoriffic.

But it wasn’t all for naught. Chef Erwin Ramos of Inman Square’s Olé Mexican Grill served up a classic concoction of rice, beans, peppers, onions, and enough spicy salsa to make our brows sweat a bit – the only one with enough heat to feel legit – while the Rattlesnake’s Brian Poe concocted a chicken-and-guacamole version with crispy onions that was good enough for seconds. Maybe thirds.

So what lessons did we learn for managing our burrito cravings? We’ve come up with three options: One, find a cheap flight to Cabo, ASAP. Two, start sneaking in our own salsa. Or three, say screw it and go out for sushi.