Seven years old this month, Burritos En Fuego is one of Fells Point's most encouraging success stories. A message on its Web site says the restaurant is for sale. Let's hope it finds a buyer who is as dedicated to using good ingredients and maintaining friendly and efficient customer service. If Fells Point is still largely free of chain restaurants, it's thanks to places like Burritos En Fuego.
The formula here is very simple - quick and wholesome Mexican food, assembled from freshly prepared ingredients. Over the years, Burritos en Fuego has kept up with the culinary times, introducing meatless fillings and toppings like Portobello, and has discovered that offering options like grilled burritos and spinach tortillas will earn customer loyalty. Obviously, the prices have gone up, too.
There are eight stools for eating in the brightly attractive restaurant, but Burrito en Fuego does most of its business as carryout. Dining in would be fine in the late afternoon, but during the always-busy weekday lunch crush, it gets all knees and elbows inside, as customers tango in and out of the ordering line.
Most of what Burritos en Fuego sells - burritos, quesadillas, taco salads, soft tacos and Mexican pizza - gets carried to nearby offices or, in the evening, to neighboring homes. Although the restaurant doesn't have its own outdoor tables, Fells Point Square is just across the street, and on a nice day, it's not unusual to see folks enjoying Burritos en Fuego's food on benches. The open kitchen here is just behind the ordering counter, and I've always been impressed by how pleasant everyone here is, not only to customers but to each other.
The house specialty, of course, is the burrito, and the version here is the oversized, foil-wrapped kind with multiple fillings that has its origins in Northern California. It's a style I've never warmed to (I prefer a compact version), but of the specimens I've had, the burrito here ranks highly, with a tighter roll than found at other places, where the burrito self-destructs and has to be finished off with a knife and fork. The prices for burritos range from $6.25 (for beans) to $8.50 (for shrimp), and also include spinach ($6.75); chicken, chorizo, ground beef and Portobello ($7.50); and steak ($8.50).
These main ingredients, which are grilled on premises, sometimes taste underseasoned , especially the mushrooms and the shrimp, which would really respond to a little pre-grilling sea salt. All burritos are stuffed with Monterey jack, Mexican rice, a somewhat uneventful pico de gallo and a choice of black or refried beans. It's the sauces here that are so special (they can be purchased separately). These include a salsa verde, made from tomatillos; a mild-roasted Anaheim sauce; a mild chipotle; a two-pepper "fuego;" and a brilliant four-pepper "diablo," which is plenty fiery but full of interesting smoky flavor, too.
Other options are variations of burrito, using the same ingredients. Burrito bowls and quesadillas are priced the same as the standard burrito. A burrito bowl can be a healthful option, but it can also fail to hold your interest more than halfway through it. Quesadillas are fine and filling, and the only reservation I have about them is that the cheese never melts enough. Taco salads cost about a dollar more across the board but come with lettuce, large tortilla chips and the restaurant's fresh and tasty guacamole. All of these are decent options, but the one you'll remember is the Mexican pizza ($7 to $9), in which the same mix of ingredients, plus spinach, are piled on a crispy tortilla. This easily made two meals and looked much prettier than most of the other options.
Drinks are limited to sodas and juices; desserts to wrapped brownies and super-creamy rice pudding. It's the burritos people have been returning for seven years. And for me, the pizza.