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The Plato Ahora. Photo: Mike Szabo.

Apt613’s quest for the best burrito

By Mike Szabo on August 24, 2018

Those that know me well, know that I have a soft spot for burritos. Such a soft spot, in fact, that a tongue-in-cheek joke about my favourite spots around Ottawa found its way into my Apt613 contributor bio. So, I sure as hell wasn’t going to say no when my editor asked me to feature some of the best burrito spots in Ottawa.

Thing is, I know I already have a well set favourite in town, so to have an unbiased evaluation of Ottawa’s burrito scene, I needed to bring along an impartial judge.

Remember to practice safe eating and bring a buddy when you burrito-binge. Photo: Mike Szabo.

Enter one of my closest (and most opinionated) friends: Brett MacFarlane.

I’ve known Brett going on five years. He was actually one of the first people I met when I moved to Ottawa. The dude can carry on a conversation with pretty much anyone, has an awesome sense of humour, and is always game to try or do something new.

More than that, and this is what made him pretty perfect for this role, he and I generally don’t agree on much. I’ve spent more than enough time arguing with him about Star Wars, the purpose of fireworks, and Nickelback (yes, Nickelback – don’t ask, it’s a touchy subject for him) than I care to recount.

So, who better to crush five burritos and crown a champ in Ottawa in the span of four hours with?

Our day started at 11am at Taqueria La Bonita on Wellington West, which has some of the coolest décor of the restaurants we checked out.

It has a garage-style front window that allows the air to flow through the restaurant during the summer, vibrantly painted walls, and mementos of Mexico throughout. We got right to business and ordered the Burrito Supreme, which came out on a bed of rice, with a side salad, and was partnered with some of the best side sauces I’ve had in city.

Some highlights from Brett’s experience: “Great service and the side sauces were unreal. Really cool vibe, too, and the owners seemed really cool.”

With one burrito down, we headed over to Bronson for an Ottawa staple: Burrito Gringo.

It’s a no-frills spot that serves up burritos the size of a CFL game ball – so, you get your money’s worth. Brett got it how he wanted it, which was beef, pinto beans, cheese, hot sauce, and all the trimmings, but unbelievably, no guacamole.

Brett’s response to his first bite: “shit, that’s a solid burrito. Nothing fancy, but damn.” He then sat silently for seven minutes devouring the rest of it, so if that’s any indication of the burrito, I’d say it’s a good one.

He then sat silently for seven minutes devouring the rest of it, so if that’s any indication of the burrito, I’d say it’s a good one.

Two burritos in, I’ll admit it – we were already full. Nonetheless, we headed to the ByWard Market to Ahora where we got the Plato Ahora, covered it in Salsa Verde and forged ahead.

Brett’s take? “The beef: fantastic. This restaurant, it feels authentic. Haven’t been to Mexico… but, yeah.”

Located in the ByWard Market, Corazón De Maíz serves up authentic, homemade Mexican food. Photo: Mike Szabo.

Fourth up was Corazón De Maíz at 55 Byward Market Square.

Corazón De Maíz is a little gem in the Market, has some of the friendliest staff in Ottawa, and admittedly, it’s one of my favourite spots in the city – which meant that Brett was probably going to hate it.

We stepped into its usual long line, got some regular beef burritos, and cruised into the Market to eat outside. Brett tried about five different kinds of their side sauces before settling on their Chipotle sauce, which he kept remarking was, “Wow. So good.”

Sensing it was my favourite spot in the city, his comments otherwise were pretty reserved, as he was probably just avoiding an argument.

Either way, we drove over to Feleena’s Mexican Cantina in the Glebe to close out our burrito tour. We sat on Feleena’s awesome patio and had some of their delicious, delicious margaritas. We ordered the Clyde Burrito, which was different from the rest we got that day. It’s baked, a little bit thinner, and smothered in Jack cheese, but delicious all the same.

Brett’s take: “Really juicy burrito. Great burrito. This might actually be the top one, and this margarita is amazing right now.”

The burrito adventure takes it toll. Photo: Mike Szabo.

We sat together in silence for about 10 minutes after finishing our fifth burrito of the day. It was 3:30pm and our average caloric intake per hour was, just, insane. I think part of Brett died that day, actually. There’s even photographic proof.

Before I could let Brett go, though, I needed to know which spot topped his list.

“It’s tough. They’re all good for different reasons, so it’s tough to rank. They’re all worth trying out.”

But, then he did something he hasn’t done in years: “All that said, Corazón De Maíz tops my list. That was an amazing burrito.”

The burritos there are so damn good, it caused Brett and I to actually agree on something.

Now, whatever Brett and I think about the burrito joints in Ottawa, it goes without saying that the places we visited are awesome and they’re featured here for a reason. If you’re looking for a place to try, there’s something at these restaurants for pretty much everyone, and I should mention that they feature much wider menus than just burritos. We highly recommend giving them all a shot.

… but maybe don’t eat five burritos in like, four hours, like we did. Save yourself the hurt.