Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's what's on the inside (of the tortilla) that counts

A few years ago I found a small monthly tear-off calendar at work and put it on my desk. On it I taped this picture:

Each time I ate a burrito I would mark it on the calendar. I called it my Burrito Calendar. I love burritos.

In light of this I have decided to bring you my Top 5 Burritos in Portland list. There are many, many possible criteria for a list like this, but I have simplified the process. I have simply ranked these stuffed tortillas of goodness in the order of how much happiness they give me while I am eating them. So, without further ado, because prior to this statement there was so much ado, I give you...drum roll...the list.

Trivia: "Burrito" is Spanish for "little donkey". Also, "Boca Raton" in Boca Raton, Spanish for "Rat Mouth".

Honorable Mention: King Burrito
Ingredients: Unknown

Listen, I have never been to King Burrito. I don’t even know where it is. But one time I attended a networking luncheon put on the Portland Business Alliance and everyone had to go around the room and tell their name and where they worked. I stood up and said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and, sadly, I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan which means I’m basically a loser all the time.” You probably think that has nothing to do with King Burrito. Well, it kind of doesn’t and you’re a know-it-all. Pipe down and let me explain. The next time I had to give my name, rank and serial number I was at a South Portland Business Alliance meeting and when it came to me I said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and I LOVE to eat burritos. I’ve eaten 34 of them this year (this was in March).” After that people came up to me and told me all sorts of things about burritos. A recurring theme was a food cart called King Burrito. If that young, eager Farmers insurance agent is this worked up about a burrito served out of a wagon then I’m all in and you, King Burrito, have just narrowly missed my top 5.
Note: See, I told you I've never been there. I just checked the website and it turns out it's not a cart at all, it's a hole in the wall taqueria!

Ingredients: Carnitas
White or Brown Rice
Black Beans, but the Pinto Beans w/ Bacon are equally good
Corn Salsa
A little Sour Cream
A TON of Cheese

I know, I know…I’m choosing a huge corporation with a major ownership stake by McDonald’s as my #5 burrito. So what, you hoity toity snobby food critic? It’s freaking delicious and it’s big enough to make me full. The employees are great because, as corporate (as opposed to franchised) employees they have to do pretty much anything you say. They are friendly and helpful and, hey, owner Jim isn’t breathing down their neck about food portions like Jen does over at every Subway shop in the Milwaukie/Clackamas area.

At Chipotle you are basically on an assembly line of delicious tortilla stuffings. The key here is you can never have too much cheese, so you order like this: “Put on a ton of cheese. Just when you think you’ve put on too much add one more handful.” It has taken years to perfect this request because they are trained to put on small sprinkles thereby making you ask for more countless times like the girl giving free haircuts at the beauty school who is too scared to cut anything off. BUT…they HAVE to give you as much as you want despite however many fingerfuls it takes. Tell them to keep going until you say “stop” and you’re golden…or white, since the cheese is an amazing blend that looks the color of a Wisconsin girl in winter.

Ingredients: Refried Beans
A Chile Relleno

I know I know…you’ve been to Muchas Gracias and you love the Oregon Burrito. Good for you. Go write your own blog. As for me, I too have had the Oregon Burrito and it’s decent. I happen to think the potatoes take away from the flavor instead of soaking up the flavor, but maybe I caught the OB on a bad day. Here’s my take on burritos: if you can put a relleno in the middle of it, it’s good. I first encountered this in a crappy hole in the wall down in LA with my dad, stepmom and sister. My dad took us to the most likely place to get shot in the entire city so we could have some authentic LA Mexican food. People don’t smile in that place…that is until I bit into my chile relleno burrito! Then I was smiling and I think my obvious lack of gold teeth targeted me as an outsider.

That said, I brought that mentality back to Oregon with me. So, screw you Oregon Burrito, I’ll take the Mexican Burrito. Oh…you can’t find the above item on the menu at Muchas Gracias, you have to ask for it special. Just say “Give me the KeenKeith special”. They will look at you like either a) they don’t speak English well enough to know what you’re saying or b) you’re an idiot. After you get past that embarrassment you simply say “can you squirt some of your lardy lard lardy beans onto a tortilla, smother it in cheese then add a relleno?” They will say “yes, that will be $4” and you’ll be the fattest, happiest person on the block.

Ingredients: Seasoned Ground Beef

Thought I was kidding, didn’t you? Well I’m not. They cook up the meat with all this crazy crap in it that doesn’t seem to go together at all, then they serve it to you in this yellow wax paper as if to say “no, we really are Latino”. I have yet to meet anyone who loves this burrito the way I do. It’s tied for number one for me and I struggled with this because it’s on an equal plane with my numbers 1b and 1a.

So you get this burrito, you unwrap it and wad up the yellow wax paper and set that aside. You then grab the green sauce and just drench the tortilla with it and dig in with a fork and knife. No regrets…no regrets.

Ingedients: Chile Relleno
Refried Beans

The above is a description of the Super Burrito. Running a close second is the Chile Relleno Burrito which is just as wonderful as the dangerous Los Angeles burrito my dad risked all our lives for. Honestly, the only way you can do wrong with Super Torta is by not going there. They have tongue on the menu which in and of itself makes it an authentic experience. You can also buy rock candy out of their quarter machine. Rock candy? Yes, rock candy. I have always assumed that's because there's so much poverty in Mexico that people have to eat rocks there.

Interior: Shredded Beef
Sweet Rice
Refried Beans
Exterior: Cheese
Sour Cream
Sweet Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

“What?!?!!!??!! Salad Dressing? Grosssssssssss!” Shaaaaaaadup. It’s awesome. So this is another assembly line burrito. They have a location in Clackamas in the Home Depot parking lot on 82nd. They are opening a new west side location, I think it will be in Beaverton.

So the shredded beef is amazing. It tastes like Yankee Pot Roast…which is weird because Yankees are Northeast and this place is definitely shooting for Southwest. I don’t care about that. What I care about is how mouth wateringly good the meat is. How sweet and soft the rice is…and most importantly how tangy delicious that salad dressing is. It’s literally the best salad dressing I’ve ever tasted and I don’t even bother with the salad anymore. I could drink that stuff straight from the container. Instead I have them soak the burrito with it.

The Latino workers look at me like I’m nuts when I ask for the salad dressing, but the white guy knows us and doesn’t even ask. He doesn’t eat his burrito that way, but he can identify with our American urge to smother everything with sweetness. The only think that would make this place better is if I could find a way to actually bathe in the sweet vinaigrette. I’m sure it would make my skin soft, smooth and scrumptious.

Well, I hope you're able to visit all of the above fine establishments. Also, visit this place just north of SE 92nd and Foster.
I have never been there but the following is a list of reasons you should patronize this establishment, which also happen to be reasons I will soon be trying it out:
1. The interior walls are bright green which makes it light up like lime sherbet at night.
2. Check out the police car. Ever gone to a crappy restaurant with police officers eating there?
3. Note the nutty yellow bird on the's practically screaming "I'm delicious!"
4. Some dude apparently likes to mess with his bicycle in the alley.
5. Look at orange shirt guy. Any Mexican food place in a neighborhood where you have to constantly be looking over your shoulder MUST have great food. I'll bet they even serve tongue.

If you have yet to develop your burrito pallet I suggest you get on that right away. The burrito craze has grown so wildly that there is a section on Weidler over near Lloyd Center that has a Muchas Gracias, a Chipotle, a Taco Bell and a Q'Doba Mexican Grill within a half block of each other.

Oh, disclaimer: burritos will make you fart.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Fresh Prince of Happy Valley

Every day I grow more disgusted with our culture's idol worship of celebrities. For whatever reason we are fascinated by the people we know most about...because every piece of their love life and career moves are published in gossip rags. We have blurred the line between entertainment and reality to such a degree that people no longer want to know where one ends and the other begins.

As celebrities grow to accept their own importance and the roles they play in the sad lives of their adoring fans, many come to the conclusion that they need to write a book about their adventures. Never mind that most of their life has been an open book pasted on the pages of countless magazines. Never mind that they're not good writers so someone else will actually pen the “autobiography”. There is a demand, so it must be done. If you have someone else write it, they will buy it.

Well, I have a suggestion. In an age of soundbites and the brevity of a time in history when we have moved from telephone conversations to texting instead, I believe that we need a new format for biographies. Anyone writing an autobiography should adhere to a new set of rules. If your life is worth writing about, someone who actually knows how to write will take care of that after you're dead. If you're looking to write a book about yourself while you're still living then I believe you have a duty to your readers to keep within the confines of the new autobiography. The format is called ABoBA which stands for “Auto Biography of Bel Air”.

The rules of ABoBA are simple. You must write the highlights of your life story into the context of the theme song for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Go ahead and listen just in case you haven't had this song stuck in your head for the past decade and a half. After that you you can find my first shot at an ABoBA. When you've finished reading mine please write one for yourself and post it in the comment section below.

Remember, I'm the one who told you that Spider Yelling would sweep the nation (it did even better than that by going international). Soon everyone will be writing ABoBAs of their own. We should probably start the #ABoBA now as well. Remember, much like all good resumes fit on one page, all good life stories fit the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song!

ABoBA by KeenKeith
This is a story all about how
I grew up and life turned out.
I'd like to take a moment, no time to dilly dalley
I'll tell you how I came to rule a small castle in Happy Valley.

In the SouthEast Portland suburbs, born and raised!
Milwaukie was where I spent most of my days.
Chillin' out playin' Backyard baseball like a fool.
Shootin' some b-ball at Hector Campbell School.
When some skater guys, they were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood.
Got shot with one little beebee, my Momma freaked out!
She said, “We're calling the police man to take them down”.

Applied to several colleges, and chose one that was near.
Met a girl who's fresh and the future's lookin' clear.
If anything I could see no if, buts or maybe's
So I ringed up her finger and we had ourselves three babies.

I pulled outta waiting tables, then campaigns into insurance.
Caleb, Tenley, Micah help me keep up my endurance.
Wrote an early 90's rap song now it's time for the final tally.
I can sit on my throne as a king in Happy Valley. it's your turn. Post yours below.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Open Letter to Red Box

Dear Red Box,

I am forever glad to have met your acquaintance. You probably didn't notice me, but I certainly remember the first time I saw you. You were so new and so different. Like the video game console in The Last Starfighter, you seem to have been dropped into the dirtiest, crappiest place in our society (McDonald's) yet you had a magnetism stronger than my ability to resist.

I approached you, or you pulled me near...I'm not sure which. I touched your screen. I scrolled through your movies. It was foreign and strange and I didn't exactly know what to expect or how to react to your ease of use. Eventually I found a movie I was interested in watching. That was when you said those two sweet little words. “One dollar” you whispered in my ear. One dollar? Are you out of your mind? Of course not. You don't have a mind. You're a box that happens to be painted red. And you are wonderful.

You see, oh dear Red (pause for dramatic effect) Box, I had long ago terminated my relationship with Blockbuster and Hollywood. The thoughts of the local independent movie rental shops were but a fleeting memory. Even having mentioned these, your competitors from times past, should imply that my grooming in movie rental selection was borne of stores with open floor space and racks upon racks of films categorized as “Drama” or “Comedy” or “Horror” or, along the much coveted exterior wall, “New Releases”. My habit was shared universally with all of America. I would enter the store, turn left, find the wall 'o new releases and browse the up to year-old releases that I had pored over probably just a few nights before. Much like the common “so many channels and nothing on” I would search through the endless alphabetized boxes looking for that gold nugget I had somehow missed each and every other time I had combed this same spot.

And I remember the last time I ever walked into a movie rental store. It was a Hollywood near my house. I was looking for “The Nativity”. Hollywood had it for rent. The cost was $4.99 for a five night rental. This was a full two dollars per night higher than my previous rental which had been a couple of years prior. The clerk was kind enough to point out that I could purchase the DVD for the same price from the used movie bin. Really? I can rent it or buy it for the same price? Have you considered adjusting your pricing model to compete with this spaceship from the future called The Red Box? “No,” she assured me. She had it on good authority that you, The Red Box, were nothing but a mere fad and that your financials were suffering. You were but a fleeting mistress and would fade into oblivion akin to the LaserDisk. As I said, that was the final time I set foot in a movie rental store. As far as I know that rotund and brawny gal died in the great Hollywood implosion of a few years ago clinging to the idea that I somehow wanted to spend $5 to borrow a movie for a few nights.

So, Red Box, you win. I have a Netflix account and it's great, but it can't satisfy my completely. We watch the occasional streamed movie that the rating matrix swears we will judge 4.5 stars out of 5. But when we are itching to see a new release we drive up to the local Albertsons (thank you for not limiting yourself to the golden arches!) where there are not one, but two kiosks. For impromptu movie night, you are always there for me. And your ease of access is amazing. Your app allows me to choose and reserve a movie from my phone! I know you care for me as I do you because you hold the movie for me personally. All I have to do is swipe my credit card? All love comes with a price. $1.20? What's twenty cents between friends? I need you Red Box...I need you.

All that said, I have a grievance to air. You see, I used to feel special. I felt chosen. I was “in the know” because of our relationship. But do you know who now knows you and utilizes your comforts? Everyone. Oh, and also Everyone's brother. Am I greedy? Am I jealous? Do I fear being lost amongst the crowd of your admirers? Hardly. You think too highly of yourself. Don't forget that you are nothing but a large red container filled with usually disappointing “entertainment” created by large corporations whose political agendas typically clash with my moral compass.

My problem, dear box, is that when you make yourself available to the masses you invite the lowest common denominator to frequent your services. What I ask for is a clear instruction manual on a flashing, brightly lit marquee above each kiosk. And I ask for severe consequences struck upon those who choose to disregard these rules.

Rule #1
No one under the age of 16 is allowed to browse movies without an adult present. Multiple times I have stood in line behind 12 year old girls who browse their way through each and every movie. In the old brick and mortar stores this would have been perfectly acceptable. It wouldn't have bothered anyone because we could simply walk around her and search through the wall of entertainment at out own paces. However, considering the necessity of your screen, oh Red (pause for dramatic effect) Box, I am completely paralyzed by the indecision of the adolescent dingbat standing between me and your glory. What's more is that this girl, no matter how many times it happens or which little girl it is, HAS NO CREDIT CARD! Why? Why is it, you ask, that she is standing here reading the description of Men in Black III? Seriously? Men in Black III???? Here's a description: The unwatchable threequel to a marginal movie made before you were born regarding ridiculous aliens and subpar dialogue. Has anyone, in the history of Earth, ever...EVER read the full description of Men in Black III? Yes. The girl in front of me at Kiosk B. And why was she there alone? Because her father has become so annoyed by her insistence on inserting the word “like” into each sentence three times that he couldn't stand grocery shopping with her. So he walked in, sent his offspring to annoy The Red Box and checked off the list his wife made him in peaceful solitude. Shame on you Crappy Father. Shame on you.

Rule #2
Where there are two kiosks, there is one line. I don't care that some people have reservations on one box and one on another. People can sort that out from the front of the line. What I'm saying is this: if I arrive first, Billy don't get togo in front of me simply because Billy be standing to my right. There is one line or there will be martial law. Perhaps the rule should be “if you feel like you're getting away with something then you shouldn't be doing it.”

Rule #3
You can read no more than 3 descriptions in one visit. Here's the deal...if you're looking to watch a movie how much do you want to know about it anyway? In life there used to be a thing called a “pleasant surprise”. I fear that with today's 24 hour news cycle we feel the need to process so much surface level information that we have lost that splendid satisfaction from having been blind-sided by a good story. The description, or what used to be the back of the box, tells you nothing about the quality of the acting, the dialogue, the tells you a brief synopsis of the story which isn't going to tell you if you'll enjoy it anyway. Do you think the back of the box on Sideways will make you want to follow the romantic journey of a down on his luck wine enthusiast as he rediscovers his spirit in a tale of frolicking in the beauty of the California wine country? Come on.

Rule #4
If you spend more than 3 minutes on your turn you are required by law to rent something. The penalty for breaking this law is death.

And now, fair Red Box, I bid you adieu. If you will kindly implement the above rules if use immediately I will remain your most obedient and loyal servant. Thank you for finding a business model that allows me minimal contact with humans as we continue to evolve into a society with our eyes glued to screens instead of one anothers'.

Your affectionately,


PS – The Dark Knight Rises was really good.