Spilling the beans: Bethesda’s best burritos


Photo courtesy Alex Schupak

The Black & White’s resident burrito experts were quick to give their California Tortilla order (above) a 1.2/5.

This story was published in print during the 2020-21 school year.

After a long year of online school, five newly-vaccinated Black & White burrito enthusiasts attempted to answer the longstanding query: What’s the best burrito in Bethesda?

As it turns out, we asked the wrong question altogether — there isn’t a best burrito in Bethesda.

In our two-hour trip around Bethesda, the five of us drove the wrong way down a one-way street, ran our car into a concrete pole and nearly got a parking ticket. And what did our toils reward us with? Five burritos ranging from passable to downright disgusting.

At each burrito establishment, we asked servers for the restaurant’s most commonly ordered burrito to eliminate any confounding variables. Our grading scale ranged from a 5/5, the perfect beans in a blanket, to a 0/5, something so horrid it didn’t deserve to be classified as a “burrito.”


California Tortilla: 1.2 / 5

We ordered the California Screamin’ burrito with blackened chicken, rice, queso, fajita veggies, Cal Tort’s signature California Screamin’ sauce and salsa for $8.69. 

As we entered Cal Tort, we were greeted by festive lights and the unforgettable “Wall of Flame,” a decorative wall of hot sauces. While the restaurant didn’t scream Mexican authenticity, we were optimistic about the flavor of the burrito — however, after ordering, things went downhill quickly. Visually, the burrito looked sad: limp, structurally unstable and filled with what looked like microwaved veggies. Bite after bite, nobody tasted even a hint of queso, salsa or their signature sauce. One word we unanimously agreed to describe this burrito was “awful.”

The contents of the burrito were not sufficiently mixed, to say the least. Chunks of chicken and peppers were clumped together with uneven distribution, and the burrito as a whole did not embody what Cal Tort prides itself on: fresh ingredients. Their saving grace was the blackened chicken, which, after dissecting the burrito, we finished eating. All of us had enjoyed a Cal Tort meal before, but this burrito sadly did not reflect our past experiences. Although it was priced reasonably, the meal wasn’t even worth the nine dollars.


Fish Taco: 2.4 / 5

We ordered the chicken burrito filled with grilled adobo chicken, rice, beans, pico de gallo, guajillo sauce and crema for $8. 

The comforting atmosphere along with the reasonable prices set our expectations for Fish Taco high — too high. After ordering, we excitedly made our way to their outdoor seating area and sliced the burrito open. Right off the bat, there was too much rice, not enough beans and a striking lack of chicken. The initial presentation was disappointing, but we held our heads high, optimistic for the taste test.

As we dug in, however, a somber wave washed over the table, and we silently put down our burrito pieces. While the quality of the ingredients was acceptable, this specific combination didn’t create the harmony we wanted to see. It was light on toppings, light on flavoring and light on mixing — overall, it was just a relatively bland burrito. At the end of the day, while we have nothing against Fish Taco as a restaurant, this particular meal does not lend itself to reordering. We now understand why the restaurant is called “Fish Taco” and not “Chicken Burrito.” 


Chipotle: 3.8 / 5

We ordered a customized burrito with white rice, chicken, black beans, roasted chili-corn salsa, fresh tomato salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole (and yes, we got extra) for $10.20. 

Chipotle had been a burrito staple for our entire lives. The company has locations around the world and rarely disappoints customers — despite the occasional E. Coli outbreak. To be honest, we expected this meal would rank pretty low on our list, considering Chipotle is a chain. But, surprisingly, it was a resounding favorite (which, when compared to all the other establishments, really doesn’t say much).

Chipotle’s burrito customization was the highlight of our experience. With a selection of tasty flavors everyone knows and loves, it’s hard to make a burrito you don’t enjoy. 

With that being said, a perfect burrito needs to make you feel some type of emotion. Joy. Inspiration. Gratitude. You have to be knocked off your feet, and Chipotle’s interpretation of the classic Mexican dish just didn’t do so.

If you’re in the mood for a solid burrito, Chipotle is a reliable option. But for any burrito aficionado, “passable” is a pretty fair assessment. For a burrito that you’ll be telling your grandkids about, you might have to drive a little further than your local Chipotle to find it.


Gringos and Mariachis: 2.3 / 5

We ordered the “birria burrito with esquites,” a modern spin on a classic burrito that housed pulled short rib, green rice and black beans inside a soft tortilla with sides of esquites (Mexican street corn), avocado salsa, queso and sour cream for $14.

Anyone with solid burrito-tasting experience is sure to recall the classic truism, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” Sadly, the folks over at G&M’s didn’t get the memo. While the ingredients were fresh, it was the unconventional mashup of “gringo” and “mariachi” flavors that turned us off from the meal. Barbecue pulled ribs felt wrong in a burrito, especially with nothing more than unnecessarily colorful rice and beans to compliment it.

While the numerous extras that came with the meal definitely helped improve our appraisal, they weren’t enough to make up for the bland, gentrifi-rrito that deserves a spot on a 2014 food blog alongside “cronuts” and “kombucha.”

In all fairness, we did not consume the burrito as it was intended: as an appetizer platter at a sit-down restaurant. The sleekly modern design of the restaurant might have aided us in a more thorough analysis of the entire eating experience as the chefs may have intended. But can anyone blame us for leaving? Burritos are, by nature, a to-go food. They are pre-bundled packages ready for traveling, transporting and shipping. Any attempt to deconstruct these fundamental elements reckons a burrito not so burrito-like.


Guapo’s: 2.5/5

We ordered a beef burrito with Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips for $12.95.

The final stretch of our burrito journey landed us at Guapo’s, where loud music and energetic decor welcomed us as we walked through the door. We placed an order for pick up and sat outside, feeling pessimistic from the past experiences. Finally, we received our last meal of the day, and, frankly, we weren’t ready for what was coming. We all glanced at each other in horror as we opened the box: At first glance, the burrito resembled a melted mound of cheese.

It took us a minute or two, but underneath all the greasy cheese lay our prize: a Guapo’s burrito. Some of us were apprehensive about diving into the burrito, but we persevered. Instantly, the flavors burst out. Each bite of steak, combined with the Mexican four-cheese blend and rice, was delectable. This felt authentic — a stark contrast to G&M’s. Soon thereafter, however, a multitude of problems fatal to the burrito’s rating became apparent.

The burrito lacked functionality, an essential aspect of burritos. The burrito was incredibly messy, and impossible to eat without utensils — an instant point deduction in our book. Additionally, the density and richness of the burrito made eating it feel like a bottomless pit. While Guapo’s might be a welcome option for those that are extra hungry, for anyone else, the authenticity is sure to sit in your stomach.