By Whitney Elfstrom
I once ordered a burrito for lunch, took a nap, woke up and ordered another burrito for dinner. So yeah, you could say they’re my favorite food.
But here’s the catch: I’m a vegan, and finding a good vegan burrito is tricky.
To save my fellow vegan bulls the trouble of hunting down the best place to grab deliciousness, I took it upon myself to find the best vegan burrito near campus.
Nueva Cantina: $21.24
1625 Fourth St S
Distance from campus: 1.1 miles
Going out to eat as a vegan is stressful.
I never know if my server will understand my dietary restrictions, let alone if the menu will have anything I’ll be able to eat.
However, when I sat down at Nueva Cantina and asked for no cheese and substituted the Mexican rice and refried beans for white rice and black beans, my server said, “So you need it to be vegan?”
Ordering chips and salsa as an appetizer was an excellent decision. They were warm, fresh and perfectly salted. The salsa was authentic with the right mix of chunky tomatoes, onion and cilantro.
Spanish music radiated through the restaurant and different colored lights danced across the ceiling. Studying the different murals on the wall kept me busy as I munched on chips and waited for my meal.
My burrito arrived and from the first bite I was hooked by the flavor from the vegetables as it danced across my tastebuds. I don’t normally eat cooked bell peppers, but these ones made it hard for me to put my burrito down.
As for the other ingredients, I wasn’t impressed. I found the guacamole side portion bland and not worth $4.95. The rice and beans weren’t anything spectacular either.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Nueva Cantina. My server was attentive, the atmosphere was inviting and the chips and salsa were delicious enough to get me to visit again.
Burrito Boarder: $9.73
17 Third St N
Distance from campus: 0.6 mile
With a fast-casual setting, Burrito Boarder can be comparable to Chipotle. Surfboards and skateboards hang from the ceiling and the whole restaurant has a southern California feel.
I ordered from a line cook who then made the burrito in front of me, but from that moment on I was less than impressed.
The employee didn’t press my tortilla even after I asked him to because he insisted it was already warm. The portion of rice and beans that he used was tiny and he rolled my burrito before I finished telling him everything I wanted in it.
I ate the chips and salsa first. The chips were cold and stale, and the salsa had little to no taste. My burrito was ice cold, lacked flavor and fell apart in my hands.
I could barely taste the guacamole and the vegetables were soggy. Somehow, despite having little flavor, the burrito was spicy. I finished hungry and displeased with my meal.
Red Mesa Mercado: $12.43
1100 First Ave N
Distance from campus: 1.4 miles
When I walked into Red Mesa Mercado I was met by a line that stretched to the door.
I studied the menu and eventually decided on the grilled veggies specialty burrito before adding guacamole, rice and beans to it — a choice that brought the price of my burrito from $5.95 to $9.
Despite being so busy, my food was ready at the pickup window in under five minutes.
After taking a bite, my mouth was met with zest. Unlike the restaurants before, the beans were vegetarian refried helping keep the burrito warm.
The vegetable melody also differed from the prior restaurants. Instead of including squash and mushrooms, Red Mesa also included poblano peppers and carrots which gave the burrito a little crunch.
The chips and salsa were better than Burrito Boarder but they still didn’t hold a candle to Nueva Cantina’s. I didn’t find the addition of guacamole to be worth it as I could barely taste it among the other flavors.
And the winner is…?
Red Mesa’s rice and beans truly carried the entire burrito and left me dreaming about them hours later. Nueva Cantina was a close second but the price was double the other restaurants, which is a big college kid no-no. As for Burrito Boarder I most likely won’t be returning unless I’m in dire need of a quick service burrito or one of my friends drag me there.
Instead of looking the at the burrito as a whole I decided to break down the deciding factors by the rice, beans, vegetables, chips and salsa, guacamole and price.
The scale consisted of 1-5, with one being the worst and 5 being the best. The price was graded from 1-3; 1 being cheap, 2 being midrange and 3 being expensive.
In the end Red Mesa Mercado beat Nueva Cantina by three points and Burrito Boarder by a whopping 13 points.