Rating El Super Burrito
Food: () Cuisine is authentic but not spectacular, tasty enough but not always high quality.
Service: () Counter service is generally reliable and kitchens are speedy.
Atmosphere: () Spilled food and soda makes tacky decor look worse when it isn’t cleaned up.
Locations: 1133 NW Wall St. and 2100 NE U.S. Highway 20, Bend
Hours: Downtown 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; east side 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Cuisine: Mexican taquerias
Price range: Tacos and burritos $2 to $7.25, entree plates $7 to $8.50
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa
Kids’ menu: Plates $2 to $3.50
Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Chile rellenos and corn tortillas
Alcoholic beverages: Bottled beer
Outdoor seating: Large patio at downtown location
Contact: 541-312-2009 (downtown) or 541-388-5667 (east side)
Three decades have passed since Miguel Moreno last set foot in the streets of his hometown in Mexico’s Guanajuato state.
But he hasn’t forgotten the flavors, or the prices, of his youth. At Bend’s original El Super Burrito, at home in downtown’s Columbia Bank Building since April 2008, he is able to offer near-likenesses of both to hungry, frugal diners.
El Super — along with its sister operation, El Super Burrito III, on Bend’s east side (there is no “II”) — keeps the cost of every single menu item to single digits. Tacos start at $2, the namesake burritos are $4.50 and up, and more elaborate combination plates top out at $8 or $8.50.
The food is solid rather than spectacular, as the small taqueria strives to limit costs. The beef can be a little gristly. But the chicken and pork are tender, and the produce is fresh. The Spanish rice is too dry for my taste, but the refried pinto beans are just right, sufficiently moist with a two-cheese melt on top. Counter service at both outlets is reliable, and the kitchens are speedy in turning orders around, including many takeouts.
The decor might be expected: The Virgin of Guadalupe is here, as are coolers filled with helados (ice cream) and horchata (a soft drink), cardboard Mexican beer cutouts and a TV turned to Spanish-language soccer. The biggest negative is the level of cleanliness. On recent visits to both establishments, with most tables vacated, I found food or spilled juice on several tables and on the concrete floors. It shouldn’t be hard for an attendant to produce a wet rag or a mop during lulls in business. In warmer weather, I’d choose to escape to the broad outdoor dining patio on the west side of the building.
Three of us recently descended upon the downtown location to share four dishes. An essential order, of course, was the Super Burrito, the restaurant’s namesake.
Marinated, chargrilled steak was wrapped into a large flour tortilla with a chile relleno — a mild Anaheim pepper, stuffed with jack cheese, coated in egg batter and lightly fried. It was served with sour cream and pico de gallo.
Chile verde, one of my favorite Mexican dishes when it’s properly prepared (as this was), was served as a combination plate with rice and beans. Tender cubes of pork were stewed in a moderately spicy “verde” (green tomatillo) sauce. Although the portion was generous, I wished there had been more.
Chicken fajitas, also a combo plate, were made with chopped and shredded chicken breast meat sauteed with onions, bell peppers and pico de gallo. They were served, of course, with corn tortillas so the concoction could be rolled and eaten with the fingers.
A marinated, al pastor pork taco was sauteed in a savory mix with onions and cilantro and double-wrapped in a pair of corn tortillas.
A chip-and-salsa bar at the rear of the restaurant was hard to find and not well-maintained. Tortilla chips were in an unmarked bin designed to keep them warm, but paper plates to hold them were in a different part of the taqueria. Pickled vegetables and three salsas were offered, two of them very spicy — but there were no signs to flag them, so diners were left on their own to experiment.
My favorite dish on the east side, in a location adjoining a liquor store, was an enchilada-chile relleno combination plate with rice and beans. The enchilada was excellent: pork carnitas in rolled corn tortillas covered in a spicy ranchero sauce. Although the relleno had a mildly burnt flavor, it, too, was good. Shredded lettuce, sour cream and pico de gallo finished the plate.
Another plate, this one with carne asada, or chargrilled skirt steak, would have been better had the beef not been so chewy. It was served as a combination plate with pico de gallo and slices of avocado.
The bird in a chicken burrito was tender and nicely seasoned, but it got lost at either end of the giant flour tortilla into which it was rolled. The best way to eat it was to cut an inch off each end.
A taco salad was very disappointing, as it turned out more like heavily doctored nachos than any salad I’ve had before. Rather than being served in a bowl, the ingredients — iceberg lettuce, pinto beans, tomatoes and carnitas-style pork, along with sour cream, guacamole sauce and shredded Mexican cheese — were laid upon a bed of corn chips on a plate. The cream and guacamole, along with a splash of Cholula hot sauce, had to suffice as dressing.
El Super Burrito has been a part of Bend dining since 1995. Prior to moving to Wall Street and Newport Avenue, it stood for 12 years opposite Toomie’s Thai restaurant on Minnesota Avenue. That’s where it was when Moreno purchased it in 2000. Over the years, it has consistently been known for speedy and authentic Mexican food at very low cost. Despite some shortcomings, its continued reputation is warranted.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at email@example.com .