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Blue Burrito Grille/Taberna del Tequila

Phoenix AZ (Sky Harbor International Airport)

sky harbor internat'l airport, near gate A22

Agua Verde

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Rating: 79
Price: $$$$

While summer 2012 may be a fairly dry spell for Madison taco reviews, the national expeditionary squadron has been making forays into other states to continue expanding our national coverage (currently at 15 states). Recently, on a trip around the American Southwest, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

In addition to free wireless internet, there were multiple taco options in the A gates alone. After much menu-comparing, I decided to go with the cheapest available option, which was the Blue Burrito Grille. When eating at the Blue Burrito Grille, you can either order from a classic airport-style stand and receive your food to-go, or sit down at the Taberna Del Tequila next door. Interestingly, at the Taberna, your tacos will come with a side of rice and beans in addition to chips and pico de gallo, while (according to the posted menu) at Blue Burrito Grille will only give you chips and salsa. The price difference between the two was 80 cents, which I determined to be sufficiently low as to justify a trip to the Taberna. Note that the real price difference is actually much larger, because the Taberna has table service, meaning a tip is requisite.

Taco filling options are chicken, pork, and steak. As steak costs $1 extra, I ordered one apiece of the pork and chicken. They came out after a short wait and the tortillas were, in fact, blue. Each taco was served with a double tortilla and was stratigraphically characterized by a layer of iceberg lettuce, a meat layer, and a shredded cheddar cheese topping. Everything was served on a large plate, over which pico de gallo was ladled and tortilla chips were stacked, allowing some of the pico de gallo flavor to enter the tacos as well. The rice and beans were portioned out into two recessed plate compartments on the side. Cholula was provided as well.

I first went for the pork. The meat was juicy and tender and mildly flavorful, though not fantastically so. The taco as a whole was fairly cohesive but quite wet. When I picked up the taco, a stream of liquid exited the downhill end of the taco and made its way onto the plate. The origins of this are unclear, but I'm guessing the pork was kept marinating in some sort of hot liquid, which was then improperly drained before being placed in the taco. It is a testament to the strength of the blue corn tortillas that they were able to stand up to this abuse unfazed.

Unlike the pork, the chicken was a bit dry and chewy. No liquid stream exited, and the mild chicken flavor allowed the cheddar cheese to be a much more notable addition. However, this also allowed the lettuce to enter the equation as a more dominant player. Lettuce dominance is almost always to the detriment of the taco as a whole, and this was no exception. Blue Burrito Grille would benefit from a stronger chicken marinade, which would allow the meat to stand apart from the rest of the taco.

Some would argue that airport food should not be held to the same standards as tacos that you can consume without passing through a metal detector. There's no real reason that airport food is inherently worse; restaurants in airports can acquire all the same ingredients and staff members as the vendors in the metropolitan areas that airports are typically found. However, in the interest of comparing apples to apples, we must investigate how Blue Burrito Grille compares to other airport tacos reviewed during previous tax-deductible taco-business trips? Well, to date, the airport taco reviewing database contains two entries: Que Bueno (in the Denver Airport) and Burrito Beach (at O'Hare). Que Bueno has the dubious distinction of being the worst tacos in America, largely due to the lack of effort invested in the taco-making process, which resulted in poorly proportioned tacos in a pool of taco-liquid. Despite the liquid, Blue Burrito appeared to avoid this problem, though this may only be because my tacos were not ordered 'to-go'. Burrito Beach, on the other hand, provided a chicken taco with a surprisingly high-quality meat, which Blue Burrito unfortunately did not live up to. We can therefore place Blue Burrito somewhere on the spectrum between the two options, though Phoenix's proximity to Mexico did raise my expectations for taco quality.

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