The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Following is the excerpted text of March 21's column:

Big Burrito measures up
to its billing

-- Food
-- Service
-- Atmosphere
-- Value

STAR-BULLETIN readers Stephanie and Carol are so sweet. Last week, they delivered The Big Burrito's menu to me, with the notation, "Do not waste your time & money at this place," along with their item-by-item critique.

Wow. Sniff. Nobody ever worried about my welfare like that. We working folk gotta stick together in our pursuit of value, but last time I checked with our accountant, a handful of items under six bucks isn't going to destroy our vast publishing empire, and somehow, blowing $6 is a little more palatable than blowing $20 or $30. So off I went.

ONE of Stephanie and Carol's main criticisms was that the eatery, with locations in Kailua and Mapunapuna, serves "Haole-ish Mexican food." That's not an indictment in itself because dozens of other eateries have become popular using the same Mexican-American style sort of formula.

There's no way a burrito can compete with a plate lunch of the same cost, but if there's any truth in advertising, this is it. The burrito weighs in at a hefty pound up to 24 ounces. A scale behind the counter provides the proof. Luckily, the stomach can stow one-fourth cup to a gallon of foodstuff.

The Big Burrito's base is a plate-size 10-inch tortilla. If you pick a burrito off the menu, you'll get no choice of tortilla, but custom burrito builders may choose from flour, whole wheat, red chili or spinach tortillas.

The Mexican Burritos are filled mostly with Spanish rice and re-fried beans (it's a full meal, remember?), then your choice of ingredients such as basic Ground Beef ($5), Char-Broiled Steak ($5.50), or Steamed Vegetables ($4.50), which were limp at the Kailua store but vibrantly crisp at Mapunapuna.

International versions such as a peanut-sauce flavored Thai Chicken ($4.50) and plum-sauce Mu Shu Chicken ($4.50) burrito are available as well. It's a great concept, but like the first Chinese pizzas, the recipes need a little fine tuning. For the price, some cost-cutting measures are to be expected, such as using a Velveeta-like substance instead of cheddar cheese, or something like an avocado aioli in place of chunky guacamole, but they shouldn't try to pass off bay shrimp as the headliner in a Cajun Prawn burrito ($5.95). Why, that's like a film promising Antonio Banderas, but delivering Rick Moranis.

A Sumo Teriyaki Chicken ($4.50) version tasted one-dimensional, lacking in garlic, green onion and ginger, part of the essence of teriyaki.

Still, teens love the place. As someone who watched an 18-year- old housemate ooh and ahh over two-for-one fast-food specials, I realize that for some, quantity is everything, and The Big Burrito certainly fits that bill.

The Big Burrito Co.:
287 Paa St. in Mapunapuna, 834-0110 or
572 Kailua Road, 262-8872
Hours: Call individual store
Prices: About $10 to $12 for two


Since this review ran, the company's general partner Michael Weiss informs me that they've improved on their teriyaki recipe, and in response to customer requests, they have introduced a Korean Spicy Tofu and Kim Chee Burrito. A Kalua Pork Burrito is also in the works to satisfy cravings for a Hawaiian burrito. Expect it to premiere the same time The Big Burrito's Kahala store opens.

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail

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