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June 1, 2011

The Taste Bud: Avocado — Almost as good as meat

My friend Amy told me about the avocado burrito at Lolita’s Tacos for months. And she kept on telling me.

Hey, I’m a fan of Lolita’s, but in the times I had been there, there was always meat involved with my burrito or taco. I’m a guy, right? Guys eat animal flesh — it’s just our thing. But it was the avocado burrito at the tiny Mexican eatery on Poplar Level Road about which she raved.

“It’s orgasmic,” she said, and she didn’t sound like she was being dramatic or hyperbolic.

Avocadorgasmic? I thought. So finally I said I would forego my craving for tasty animals and try it. And darned if Amy wasn’t right.

One of the fun things about Lolita’s is sitting outside, but on this particular day at lunchtime it was rainy, so we had to sit inside at one of the seven or eight small tables. But it’s also kind of fun that most of the tables clearly are old Wendy’s tables with the old-timey newspaper design. I almost wanted to order a double hamburger with everything. (Again with the meat.)

Instead, I plunked down a reasonable $5.95 for this much-ballyhooed burrito, plus a side of Lolita’s delicious, signature hot sauce in which to dip my accompanying tortilla chips. When Juan, the owner, served up our burritos and I brought them back to the table, Amy was immediately cautionary.

“This isn’t nearly as big as normal,” she said. But as I stared down at this 8-inch (give or take) burrito that looked nearly as big around as my forearm, well, I wasn’t sure I really needed much more than that.

That said, when I bit into the thing, I was met with a crisp garden salsa of diced onions and tomatoes and plenty of fresh cilantro. It actually took me three or four good-sized bites to see what all the fuss was about — I was even about to call the experiment a bust, but when I hit that first real bite of avocado … well, I’m not going to use Amy’s word, but it was damn good.

From that point on, every bite was filled with thick slices of ridiculously fresh avocado. And I’m not talking guacamole here — I mean just straight-up avocado.

What made it work was that the familiar bite of cilantro and flavors of fresh onion and tomato all came through in the overall medley of this concoction — the minimal number of ingredients also allowed for each ingredient to have its say, and there was no heavy-handed sauce standing in the way. And, of course, that unmistakable flavor of avocado burst through it all, especially when you got to the — if you’ll pardon my phrasing — meatier parts of the burrito. Meanwhile, the creaminess of the avocado worked to balance the crunch of the vegetables.

And for a veggie lunch? Yeah, it was plenty filling.

“I bet it has the same amount of fat as two Big Macs,” Amy said. “But at least it’s good fat.”

I will say this, though: I saw one customer’s enchilada-style burrito, which was smothered in shredded cheese, and knew I would experiment some more when I returned. You can order the avocadorgasmic burrito enchilada-style, too, but when I asked Juan his favorite item on the menu, he said it was the enchilada-style carnitas burrito.

And then he winked and told me he always puts an added ingredient in his (I’ll leave you, dear reader, to guess this magic ingredient). I asked him if I could special-order a carnitas burrito Juan-style during my next visit, and he smiled.

Not sure if that was a yes or no; suffice to say, he may regret ever telling me his secret. But I sure won’t regret it.

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