Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Green Chile Burrito First Round Results...

Category Winners

Tortilla Category Winner:  Carolina’s
Average Tortilla Score of 9.1 (El Charro Close 2d)

Green Chile Sauce Category Winner:  Rito’s
Average GCS Score of 8.5

Round 1 Ranking
1. Rito’s 8.3
2. Carolina’s 8.2
3. El Charro 6.9
4. Burrito Express 6.5
5. Burrito Shack 6.3
6. Matta’s 6.2
7. Lulu’s 6
8. La Fonda 4.8 (Ouch! Sorry, had to include her
as she was a law school love)

Final Round
Final Round will be January 25, 2013 at the Huber Barney office
(4915 E Baseline Rd., Suite 105, Gilbert, AZ 85234) 12:30 to 1:30 pm.
This is an on site tasting and rating. You are all invited.
The brackets were fun and a great way to organize; however, because
Carolina’s and Rito’s were so close in score and because El Charro had no
competition, the Executive Committee has decided to have the top two scores
meet in the final; therefore, the final will be Rito’s vs. Carolina’s. Our precedent
for this decision is the BCS college football system. Essentially, downtown
phoenix neighborhood dive restaurants are the SEC of Green Chile and the
East Valley is the WAC or MT. West.
Please RSVP by responding to (we need to know
how many burros to order).


Sunday, January 6, 2013

T. Dennis Barney Memorial Green Chile Burro Tournament

This year, some good friends invited me to participate in their first annual Green Chile Burro Tournament.  It seems they have all been arguing about which Valley restaurant has the best Green Chile Burro.  Everybody has their favorite and the competition was on.

Eight restaurants were chosen and will go through three rounds, bracket style, to crown the champion.  We start with eight, then four, then two and then the Champion.  March Madness only with Mexican food.

Each burro is rated using three criteria on a scale of 1-10:  Green Chile Sauce itself (20%); Tortilla (10%) and Overall Taste (70%).

Here are the chosen restaurants in our competition in order of seeding:

1.  Rito's (Phoenix)
2.  El Charro (Mesa)
3.  La Fonda (Tempe)
4.  Carolinas (Phoenix)
5.  Matta's (Mesa)
6.  Lulu's (Gilbert)
7.  Burrito Express/Bad Burrito (Gilbert)
8.  Burrito Shack (Gilbert)

This blog constitutes my official ratings and scores for round one....  I think I am five pounds heavier after this competition!




I had heard about Ritos for several years but hadn't ever tried their food.  They have a great reputation in the valley and they did not disappoint.  This small little 'house' in South Phoenix is right next to a school and at the end of a normal residential block.  Hard to find unless you have GPS or know it is there.

Think "Soup Nazi" Seinfeld episode while you order, only in Mexico.  Very small inside.  Cash only and three or four lines - one to order - one to pay - and one to pick up your food.  Only they really have no coordination to them.  It adds to the experience!

You eat outside on some makeshift picnic tables with a swarm of bees accosting you.  Again, great ambiance for this type of competition.

Cutting to the chase, their GCB was INCREDIBLE!  Spicier than the rest.  Wonderful tortilla.  Excellent salsa.  Really a perfect entry.  Chunky meat.  Something I could eat every day.

Green Chile Sauce:  10
Tortilla:  10
Overall Taste:  10


I admit, I am biased.  Carolina's is by far, my favorite Mexican Food in the valley.  Perhaps in the world.  When we recently did our estate planning with our attorney (Aaron Huber, Esq.) I stipulated that Carolina's Salsa be served at my funeral - I am hooked and it is that good!  Homemade tortillas are the best I have ever eaten.  Incredible tamales and tacos, too.  This place is a DIVE in S. Phoenix, by the way.  Stray dogs always hovering nearby.  Bathrooms you have to take a picture of to believe.  Still, every day, Mercedes, BMW, Police Cars, Fireman, etc. flock from Downtown Phoenix to eat here.  It is the Barrio but you feel very safe, surprisingly.

I had never had tried their GCB but I was looking forward to it.  Again, no disappointment.  It was incredible!  Not as messy as Rito's but every bit as good.  Not quite as spicy but with the salsa included (I could drink that through an IV) it puts this one over the top!  Delicious.

Green Chile Sauce:  10
Tortilla:  10
Overall Taste:  10


Burrito Express (Bad Burrito)

This was a surprise on the list, for me.  Right down the road from my house.  A small shack next to a gas station.  It took me 15 minutes to find it as I was expecting some sort of a real restaurant.  Anyway, I understand this was a late entry onto the original 8 list so I hoped for the best.

I was very surprised!  Excellent burro.  I tried it with the red salsa they gave me and it was very tasty.  The green salsa, however, really surprised me - it came in a neon green color that looked scary but it was incredible!  I brought some home to my wife (she is from Tucson and has great taste in Mexican food) and she also enjoyed it.

While not as good as the others, this is a place I will return to.  The burro was very good and a real surprise.

Green Chile Sauce:  8
Tortilla:  7
Overall Taste:  7

Burrito Shack

I drive by this place almost daily.  Close to my house and on a main thoroughfare.  It always looks closed and the road is under construction so I have never stopped to investigate.  By the way, The Burrito Shack is literally a shack.  It looks like something you would find in the back of some ranch or farm where the seasonal workers come to get lunch.  The eating chairs and seats are outside, dusty and with no air conditioning.  Still, as you can imagine, all of this is very positive for this competition!  The more strange and divey the place, the better the food seems to be.

Burrito Shack delivered a great GCB.  I was surprised.  It was quite large - bigger than the others.  So big I cut it in half and ate the rest the next day.  The meat was shredded and very tasty.  Salsa was OK and tortilla was OK but both worth eating again.  My wife loved this one, by the way.

Green Chile Sauce:  8
Tortilla:  7
Overall Taste:  7


El Charro

Talk about nostalgia and being around forever...  El Charro has been a mainstay Mexican food joint in Mesa for decades.  I think the location and building were built in the 40's.  I think the last time I ate here was in High School.  The inside has been redone (I remember some ugly orange booths) but it is still a dive trying to look respectable...  As police sirens howled down the road, we ordered.  I got a beef GCB.  My wife got an enchilada.  Bottom line was she LOVED her enchilada and I just thought my burrito was OK.  It's hard to describe what was specifically wrong with it.  In the end, all I could say was it just didn't have 'it'.  If I were to refer friends to a restaurant for this one dish, the Green Chile Burrito, it would not be El Charro.

Green Chile Sauce:  6
Tortilla:  4
Overall Taste:  5

La Fonda

La Fonda comes highly recommend from my friend Aaron Huber.  I have eaten here a couple of times with him and, while the food was always good, I never really saw what he did in this place.  A more established restaurant in Tempe, this one feels like a place you would eat Mexican Food at anywhere in the nation.  Not the dive like some of the others, which had my spidey sense going before I ordered.

I must say, I was disappointed with this GCB.  Couple of things made it different.  First, it was beef instead of pork (like most of the others).  It just didn't taste as good.  The salsa was not very good either, although it was deceptively hot, which I like.  The tortilla was the worst of the competition.  I found myself drowning the burro with salsa, some lettuce and anything else to try to make it taste better.  Not the kind of champion GCB we are looking for in this competition...  (Sorry, Aaron).

Green Chile Sauce:  5
Tortilla:  4
Overall Taste:  5

Lulu's Taco Shop

Believe me, I have a lot of love for Lulu's.  This is one great taco shop.  If this were a taco competition, these guys would be serious contenders - Tucson style and been in business for years.  Excellent salsa bar, etc.  Tucked away in a corner in Gilbert, I have eaten here a lot.  But never the GCB.  Thus, I was disappointed when I started to devour this in hopes of something very good.  Alas, it was just OK.  They butter the tortilla, for one, which I thought would be good but I found it distracting to the taste of the overall meal.  Also, the chicken (beef is your other option)  and the sauce were not very spicy and didn't have a lot of taste. I found myself adding all kinds of different salsa to try to get the full flavor of the meal.   Unfortunately, not winner, in my book.

Green Chile Sauce:  5
Tortilla:  5
Overall Taste:  5


Matta's has been around since way before I was born. 1953 to be exact.  I remember going to the downtown Mesa location many times as a youngter.  Usually it was to take our "out of town" guests to go get some Mexican food.  This is key because "out of town" guests were typically not used to hot or real Mexican food!  Matta's has been successful because they have been consistently 'average' with their food, appealing to the masses with food that is 'pretty good.'  Their GCB fit this model to a T.  Tortilla was not very good - felt like it was store bought.  The salsa was the worst of the competition, in my opinion.  The green chile sauce itself was pretty good and so was the pork.  But nothing in this meal jumped out to me as a 'winner.'  This was fun for old time's sake but not a place I will be going back to soon.  Too many other better options.

Green Chile Sauce:  5
Tortilla:  3
Overall Taste:  4


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Greatest Hits

There are some bands that just transcend a particular album or work.  They have so much good work that waiting for a 'Greatest Hits' package is the best way to go.  I love all of these artists and I listen to them a lot - I haven't used them in any of my previous lists - not because they don't have great music but because they are best experienced, in my opinion, by compilation!  Enjoy.  DT


Bob Marley & The Wailers:  The Very Best Of

Absolutely great music.  The unique combination of cool, laid back and relevant.  Full of political statements and heartfelt emotion.  You hear this music all over the world - it transcends borders and boundaries because it is that good.  "Could you Be Loved" and "Waiting in Vain" are my favorites.  Tight, tight reggae.
George Michael:  25

Call this a guilty pleasure or whatever.  This guy generated some of the best music in the 90's.  This one has some leftover Wham! tracks (the good ones) as well as his top hit catalog.  I mostly prefer his faster songs but some of the slower ones work too.  Listen to "Hard Day" which is a lesser known hit. Great music to put in your iPod for a run or a workout.

Journey Greatest Hits

The world seems to have come back to this seminal 80's band.  These guys were part of the soundtrack to my High School days.  They put out several great pop albums.  Steve Perry has an incredible voice and the band is so tight together.  Just a great group of hits from a great band.  "Only the Young" is a lesser known hit and probably my favorite on this CD.

The English Beat:  The Very Best Of

I had a Best Of compilation of the English Beat when I was in High School.  It went out of print and they replaced it with this one this year.  Such a talented New Wave/Ska group.  When they broke up, they spawned General Public and Fine Young Cannibals - both excellent groups themselves.  Key influencers for No Doubt and a real leader in their movement.  "End of the Party" is a hidden gem.

The Sound of the Smiths

One of my favorite all time bands.  Melancholy but fun.   College rock and jangle pop at its best.  I have listened to their music so much my iTunes can't count that high.  They have influenced so many bands and have so many incredible songs.  "There is a Light that Never Goes Out" is my favorite.

Led Zeppelin Mothership

What can you really say about Led Zeppelin.  This one is a beast from start to finish and they even left a few of their best off this CD!  If you just want to jam for a while and feel the heavy beats of good rock and roll, put this one on.  I have to be in the mood for these guys and that is usually a snowy day in the winter!  "Over the Hills and Far Away" is one of my favorites.

Smashing Pumpkins Rotten Tomatoes

Prior to iTunes, I remember going to the store and trying to figure out which Smashing Pumpkins CD to buy.  I really liked several songs on several albums but they were on different releases.  When this CD came out I bought it right away.  I have since bought a lot more of their music but this particular one is now on constant rotation and has been for years.  "Stand Inside Your Love" is a lesser known favorite of mine.  John Durant will think this is taking the easy route but I don't care!

A Decade of Steely Dan

Sometime after we were first married, we visited a friends house (Ted & Sheila) and they were playing this.  I was hooked.  I had heard of Steely Dan for years but something clicked.  I have picked up a lot more of their music since, including solo stuff from Donald Fagan.  Never disappointing and some of the tightest best music played anywhere.  Sophisticated.  "F.M." is awesome!

The Singular Adventures of the Style Council

Very quirky, to most.  I really love these guys.  They are light and fun.  Somewhat sophisticated with layered rhythms and lots of strings, etc.  Real musicians.  Paul Weller is very quirky but that makes it interesting.  The fashion sense was unique and I tried to dress like these guys in High School (embarrassing).
If I have to pick one song, it would be "You're the Best Thing."

Tears for Fears:  Tears Roll Down

These guys are timeless 80's music, in my mind.  I never get tired of their music and I play it a lot.  I can't really put my finger on it either.  They are part of the soundtrack of my youth, I guess.  "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is the most played song on my iTunes.  Period.  "Woman in Chains" is a hidden gem.

The Cars Anthology

I have often wondered why these guys don't get more respect.  Tight New Wave.  The godfathers of New Wave.  Crammed full of hits and then some extras.  I really enjoy these guys.  "Dangerous Type" just rips.  "Double Life" is a hidden gem.

The Cure Greatest Hits

Another soundtrack to my younger life.  I remember when I first heard Lovecats.  What was that??  What a strong influence these doom and gloomers have had on so many bands.  Seems like every Fall I play these guys non-stop.  "Just Like Heaven" is probably #2 on my iTunes most frequently played list.  

The Eagles Complete Greatest Hits

These guys may seem out of place, given the above, but I am still in my Desert Island mode, really.  These guys remind me of driving from Calgary to Montana, or Idaho or wherever there are mountains.  Country.  Rock. Pop.  All of the above.  Timeless music and some of the best road trip music ever.  "One of These Nights" is incredible.