The radical, but necessary, nine-month reconstruction of Monroe Street is going to be hard on some small businesses, but so far things have been OK for Burgrito’s.
You could say it’s served as a forced soft opening.
Burgrito’s opened March 16, four days after construction began, selling burgers, burritos and its namesake combination of the two, among other menu items.
Business is strong, largely due to the EatStreet crowd, which has taken to the fast-casual restaurant to the point where one rainy Tuesday, Burgrito’s had far more delivery drivers coming in and out during the noon hour than it did regular customers (5:2).
Burgrito’s was started in 2015 by brothers Darin and Lawrence Laby, who admit they didn’t come up with the burger-burrito mash-up. Madison is Burgrito’s fifth location and the only one outside New York. There’s a Burgrito’s in Brooklyn and three on Long Island.
I was slightly leery of the so-called burgrito ($9.99), not really interested in having a burger rolled in a tortilla, especially after I learned there were fries in the mix. But the hamburger-burrito was pretty great, especially with chipotle sauce and its other components: bacon, lettuce, onion, cheese and tomato.
My friend avoids burgers because of buns, so she liked the burgrito concept, and noted that the tortilla was more firm than on the average burrito. She also appreciated the mix of textures the fries and the crisp bacon provided. “Usually in a burrito everything is kind of mushy,” she said.
A patty with cheese was broken in half so it could be rolled in the tortilla and positioned to allow for beef in every bite. The meat tasted fresh and flavorful. I only wished the medium-thick fries had been crispy. Still, that didn’t matter as much since they were tucked inside.
My other complaint was that the burrito came partly unrolled a few bites in. The same thing happened on my second visit with my falafel burrito ($8.49). Later, I noticed another customer who left part of the foil wrapper on as he ate. So that’s probably a good way to keep the burritos intact.
Otherwise, the fried chickpea balls were delicious, and the burrito came with sour cream on the side, which was a pleasant bonus. My only gripe was that the falafel could have been warmer.
Temperature was also an issue with a chicken bowl ($8.49), where the chicken chunks, beans and rice were warm. But it would have tasted better if the shredded cheese on top was melted better, and if the chilled lettuce wasn’t so cold compared to the warm ingredients.
A Caesar salad ($6.99) was notable for the generous amount of shaved Parmesan. Meanwhile, a side order of guacamole ($3.49), featuring tomato, came in two small plastic containers and tasted fresh and homemade.
I was surprised to learn from Matt Paciulli, the manager who came from New York to run the restaurant, and also does a lot of the cooking, that Burgrito’s makes its own chips ($2.49) and salsa ($1.49).
The salsa was smooth, made with freshly-pureed tomatoes, and packed more heat than I expected. The chips were freshly fried, light and not greasy.
Finally, it’s worth going for the small apple cinnamon dessert burrito ($3.99). Its crust was deep-fried and crisp, and coated with cinnamon and sugar, but the filling was vaguely reminiscent of a hot McDonald’s pie.
What makes me sad about Burgrito’s is that while the simple, no-frills atmosphere is fine for what it is, the love and care the owners of Double S BBQ put into their former space had to be stripped away. I get why the new owners needed to make the place over, but there is a resulting charm deficit.
The music on both of my visits, at least, added a fun feel, an 80s soundtrack of my youth: Think the Jam, UB40, the Knack, Elvis Costello, General Public and Echo and the Bunnymen. Paciulli said the restaurant uses a satellite radio station and agrees it provides a cool vibe.
I wondered why the Laby brothers chose Madison for their first location outside New York and found out it’s because Darin Laby’s wife went to UW.
The Labys get Madison and have tailored their menu to fit in. “We do about four times as many vegetarian items as we do in New York, which is a significant change for us,” Paciulli said. But gluten-free options haven’t been on their radar, he said.
As for the Monroe Street construction, it hasn’t been a problem, Paciulli said. In fact, the new restaurant has often found itself overwhelmed with business.
“We’re still training people, but there are times where it’s so busy that we can only do online orders, actually,” he said.