Chino Locos (Broadview Ave.)
Chino Locos, the popular burrito joint, has shuffled up locations, closing their Church St. outlet and opening up a new spot in East Chinatown at the corner of Broadview and Gerrard, leaving them with two stores, including their original Queen and Greenwood location.
The main difference between Chinos Classic and the new East Chinatown location is the latter's much more spacious interior -- a lengthy, remodelled brick and wood space dominated by the open burrito preparation area and dotted with comfortable seating.
The other change up is that this location offers quesadillas ($6.99-$8.99) and "Nachos Cheese" ($4.99), although cheese is a bit of a misnomer, as our handful of tortilla chips are slathered with a bright yellow sauce possessing a slightly soapy aftertaste.
Given Chino Locos' usual commitment to fresh ingredients and value for money, it's a disappointing offering more reminiscent of a baseball game than decent dining.
The rest of Chino Locos' offerings are better. The new location maintains the focused menu of its progenitor, sticking to only a handful of different burrito options ($6.99-7.99), stuffed with fresh ingredients prepared daily - guacamole, black beans, tomatoes, edamame, cilantro, red onion, chipotle sauce, sour cream and cheese, plus your choice of rice or chow mein noodles. Spice fiends will be pleased though, as a rather extensive interrogation of spice preference does result in some real heat.
Customers would do well to stick with the more fusion oriented side of the menu - "Da Finest" (basa) and rotating specials, such as this week's General Tao ($8.99), as more traditional offerings don't quite work well enough without that extra hook. The most distinct "fusion" aspect you can add to your classic burrito are the chewy chow mein noodles, which serve mostly to take up space and add little on their own.
The meats that accompany these toppings do their job in workmanlike fashion, not putting things over the top but not detracting either. The chicken tinga in the Pollo Loco is slow cooked, but little of the rich meaty sauce one would usually expect seems to accompany it. Meanwhile the slow roasted pork in the "Sweet" burrito doesn't offer big flavour, proficient more than perfect, albeit with hints of a decent homemade scallion-ginger relish.
The Biggie Bean, with extra black beans and without meat, fares worse, as whatever other flavours there may be are completely overwhelmed by the mass of very firm black beans. Ultimately these burritos are technically proficient but not more than that, as there's nothing tying everything together - no umami if you will.
One's choice of burrito is a deeply personal one, and everybody has their own favourite. Chino Locos certainly has its supporters, and Chino's original location does, in my opinion, offer a superior burrito experience. Judged by those standards, though, the Chino Locos in East Chinatown still has a ways to go.
Chino Locos is open Mon-Sat 11-9 and Sun 11-8.
Photos by Anders Whist. Yell at Anders on Twitter .