Ten Mexican fast-food guilty pleasures
5. Nacho Burrito from Baja Fresh.
This burrito is crammed with so much f*cking cheese that eating it is almost guaranteed to stop you up for at least four days. That's why it's so f*cking great -- it's got shredded Jack and Cheddar, I think maybe some chicken, and then the entire inside is hosed down with queso dip.
TGIF isn't a Mexican chain, and normally I bitch about restaurants trying to serve too many different kinds of food, but I make an exception for TGIF because it has the best appetizers of any chain I can think of. The Tostado Nachos are brilliant because of their uniformity: The fried tostado shells are expertly spread with a beefy-beany mixture, covered with melted cheese, then cut into individual nacho triangles so that you get all the toppings on every inch of every chip.
3. Pintos & Cheese from Taco Bell.
When I was a shortie, my other shortie friends and I would have contests to see how many mild sauce packets we could empty into a single order of these without spilling over the cup. Then we'd relish each bite of the soupy mixture while our parentals would look on in disgust. Can you put a price on memories like this? Sure you can -- but since this side item is from Taco Bell, ten bucks will buy you enough bean cups to plaster a dining room.
This burrito is a masterpiece. It's spicy, smoky, sweet, tangy, and I swear there is chocolate in it somewhere. This burrito is a fat, sloppy, delicious reason to get stoned -- if you really need a reason.
1. Anything from Chipotle.
Of course I can't write a list about Mexican food without adding Chipotle, because it's impossible to ignore our homegrown golden-child chain, ever. Actually, I like everything from Chipotle's modestly-sized menu, because the salsa is fresh, the guac is fresh, and the staff manages to ingeniously stuff corn into every nook and cranny of their burritos and soft tacos.
Honorable mention: The fried ice cream from Chi-Chi's.
Chi-Chi's was the "it" Mexican restaurant in the '80s, but the chain went belly-up in the U.S. in the '90s. The food was usually sub-par and covered with tomato sauce, the carpets were always stained with bean bloobers and corn chip crumbles, and the music was cheesier than the nachos -- think Casa Bonita but without all the cool stuff -- but Chi-Chi's did some magic with its fried ice cream. I don't know what it was, but those fake honey-drenched balls in the cinnamon-sugar flour shell were what I looked forward to every Friday. Of course, I was also six years old, wore Wonder-Woman Underoos and gave my cat a bath in motor oil. My judgment may have been off.