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Iowa State Daily

Who has the best burrito in Ames?

Who has the best burrito in Ames?
Joseph Bauer

The burrito: crowned jewel of Mexican cuisine and a heavy favorite amongst drunk college students struggling to find the strength to make it home after a long night on Welch Avenue.

When it comes to Ames, a city with an exceptionally high demand for burrito joints (especially after a Thursday night bar crawl), who really has the best burrito?

To maintain consistency, only “grab-and-go” Mexican establishments were visited. In addition to the style of the restaurant remaining consistent, the order at each establishment remained the same as well. To keep things simple, each burrito contained four ingredients: meat, rice and additional two toppings.

Poco Picante: 4/10

Located in the Memorial Union’s food court, Poco Picante is Iowa State’s take on the grab-and-go Mexican craze. Formerly known as Burrito Works, the Mexican establishment offers its flour tortilla burritos for $9.50. Students and visitors can also choose to add additional protein for an extra $2.25. Poco Picante offers two choices of rice and four choices of protein, including a plant-based chorizo. There is also a wide variety of toppings to choose from, 15 in total, including Iowa State’s own signature ISU salsa.

“I think they could really increase the amount of protein they give you,” said Joseph Johnson, a junior majoring in marketing.

As for the burrito itself, it was ultimately disappointing. The protein portion was slim and is measured out to the precise weight for each customer. The rice seemed to be undercooked and had already gone cold by the time of consumption. The chicken was inconsistent, with much of it being overcooked and other pieces leaving you wondering if it had been cooked at all.    

“It’s pretty convenient for a quick meal but it’s really just not on the same page as the other Mexican fast food places,” said Johnson.

Price: $9.50

Gross weight: 12.4 oz.

Pros: Accepts flex meals and dining dollars, located in central campus, 14 topping options 

Cons: Short hours, long lines, inconsistent quality, only one tortilla option

Mr. Burrito: 8/10

Opening its Ames location in December 2010, this family-owned burrito joint has become a local favorite for many students and Ames residents. Located on Lincoln Way, Mr. Burrito is a popular choice for post-bar grub due to its adjacency to Welch Avenue and late night hours. Mr. Burrito is open until 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and until 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. The family-owned establishment is closed for business Sundays.

“All of our recipes have been passed down from generation to generation,” co-owner of Mr. Burrito Berenice Valderrabano said.

Mr. Burrito’s traditional family recipes root from the Puebla region of Mexico. All of its ingredients are made fresh in-store each day to provide the best authentic experience each time to its customers.

“We don’t introduce new things, we keep the tradition and use the same recipes that we used when we opened,” Valderrabano said.

The burrito, as always, was a delight. With a tortilla freshly pressed to perfection, the meal gave off exactly what the Valderrabanos are going for: a fresh and authentic burrito experience.

Price: $8.99

Gross weight: 12.3 oz.

Pros: Open late, family-owned small business, authentic Mexican cuisine, five tortilla options 

Cons: Busy on late nights, closed Sundays

Chipotle: 9/10

Chipotle Mexican Grill opened its doors to the public in 1993 and now has over 2,300 restaurants worldwide. Disputably the most recognizable of the fast-food Mexican chains, Chipotle has gained a reputation unlike any other Mexican chain. Offering five different proteins, including plant-based sofritas. A veggie burrito is also available which includes guacamole as a substitute for traditional protein. In addition to its five staple proteins, limited-time options such as carne asada or chicken asado are available during limited specials. Chipotle offers white and brown rice, black and pinto beans and 10 additional toppings to finish your burrito off. Located only 1.9 miles from central campus, Chipotle is just a short drive away to satisfy your cravings.

“You can never go wrong with Chipotle, it’s always just as good as the last time,” Iowa State junior and finance major Reece Seery said. 

The burrito was exactly what an individual can expect from Chipotle, consistent and made to perfection. Coming in at a whopping gross weight of 17.3 oz., Chipotle’s burrito seems to be the heartiest of the bunch. However, if you’re looking to double up on protein, it’s going to cost you an extra $3.50. Adding queso to your burrito will cost an additional $1.40 and guacamole an extra $2.50. 

Gross weight: 17.3 oz.

Price: $7.95 to $10.95 (depending on protein)

Pros: Large portion sizes, six protein options, limited-time proteins

Cons: Typically most expensive, long lines during rushes, only one tortilla option

Pancheros: 7/10

Originating in Iowa’s own Iowa City, Pancheros Mexican Grill has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a local college town Mexican joint. Pancheros has since expanded to 13 different states and has 72 locations across the country. Headquartered in Coralville, Iowa, Pancheros has nearly half of its total restaurants located in its founding state, with 27. Located 2.1 miles from central campus, it is the furthest drive out of the bunch for students on campus. Pancheros offers four options for protein including its own vegetarian “tofusada.” Black and pinto beans are available, however, there is only one option for rice and no alternatives to the standard flour tortilla. Pancheros offers 12 different toppings including sauteed veggies and hot tomatillo salsa. For college students looking to score some extra freebies, Pancheros has a rewards program that offers deals and discounts to members through the Pancheros app. 

“Pancheros definitely has the superior tortillas, undisputed,” Seery said.

The Pancheros burrito weighed in at 16 oz., the second-highest of the bunch. Overall, the burrito exceeded expectations and was well put together. The tortilla was warm and toasted to perfection. The protein was plentiful and exceptionally flavorful earning it a respectable 7/10.

“I think it’s the most underrated out of all the chains,” Seery said.

Price: $10.75

Gross weight: 16 oz.

Pros: Open late, vegetarian options, rewards system

Cons: Furthest from central campus, only one tortilla option

Final Rankings

  1. Chipotle – 9/10
  2. Mr. Burrito – 8/10
  3. Pancheros – 7/10
  4. Poco Picante – 4/10
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View Comments (13)
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Comments (13)

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  • A

    Ana Downing | Sep 16, 2023 at 9:23 am

    tacos el primo erasure

    Reply
  • A

    As | Sep 15, 2023 at 10:46 pm

    Chipotle is so bland and overpriced. Rico’s is far superior to every place on this list.

    Reply
  • K

    keili | Sep 15, 2023 at 10:36 am

    Ben, this is a great article. Much respect for ranking chipotle the highest. #teamchipotle

    Reply
  • A

    Andy | Sep 15, 2023 at 9:37 am

    For the two options away from campus, driving isn’t the only option. CyRide Blue is great option for a bite before or after shopping at Aldi.

    Story idea is to pick a CyRide destination and cite some useful info: length/xfers/frequency of route from Friley/MWL/UV/Towers; range of food options; and vibe.

    Reply
  • K

    Kyle Barry | Sep 15, 2023 at 9:08 am

    This feels biased towards Chipotle. Pancheros and Chipotle are nearly the same distance from campus, however that’s a con for pancheros, not chipotle. Long lines, cost, and only one tortilla option cost chipotle 1 point overall. On the other hand, being .2 miles further away from campus than Chipotle, and also only having one tortilla option (fresh pressed) on which the franchise was built on, Pancheros is dropped by 3 points. Also there are so many other places to get burritos in Ames. What are your qualifiers to be included?

    Reply
  • J

    Josh | Sep 15, 2023 at 9:01 am

    What a shit rag of a publication for not including Rico’s Tacos, Tacos El Primo, or Abelardo’s. Sure, “the best burrito” belongs to the joint where Ben in your physics class is serving you a bulging heap of overpriced disingenuousness.

    Reply
  • J

    Jake | Sep 15, 2023 at 1:49 am

    Well, The Flying Burrito was King and way better than any of these! I won’t even eat Chipotle!

    Reply
  • K

    Kate Challis | Sep 14, 2023 at 10:30 am

    Seriously?! Chipotle is the best?! I mean it’s good, but isn’t there an awesome food truck that’s better? Maybe this is a sign that we are in Iowa, if a massive chain is ranked the best burrito in town.

    Reply
  • M

    Matthew S. | Sep 14, 2023 at 10:23 am

    ? There are mexican food trucks on the ISU campus everyday and they aren’t mentioned here. If you just google “burrito near me” you don’t get any of these restaurants. I know these articles are just to meet some kind of student write quota but god damn really?

    Reply
  • C

    Colin | Sep 14, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Chipotle getting a 9/10 gives me little faith in the credibility for any of these scores.

    Reply
  • J

    Jae | Sep 14, 2023 at 7:53 am

    Didn’t expect the Iowa State Daily to SLANDER some of Ames’ finest institutions by omission today. NO MENTION of Carlos or Rico’s. For shame.

    Reply
  • C

    C | Sep 14, 2023 at 7:17 am

    Abelardo’s should be on here

    Reply
  • C

    Cade Moore | Sep 13, 2023 at 10:45 pm

    Poco should be higher

    Reply