I’m Dining Out Here
by Andrew Sprague
About 20 years ago I worked at Pat and Willy’s Bar and Grill in Charlottetown. At the time it was one of the busiest restaurants, table for table, on the Island. Pat and Willy’s served Mexican food, or at least what people thought was Mexican food back in those days. If you grew up in Charlottetown in the 90s you generally had little to no baseline comparison when it came to most ethnic food. So when someone told you what you were eating was a burrito, then that was exactly what it was, even if all the flour tortilla contained was chicken, bacon and cheese, and all that came with it was salsa and sour cream. Pat and Willy’s served exactly those kind of burritos by the bucket load. I would routinely serve 15 to 20 chicken burritos a night, sometimes far more. They were our biggest seller.
I’ve since learned that bacon is a fairly rare burrito ingredient. Most burritos also contain at least rice and beans. The vast majority are stuffed full of all kinds of ingredients like lettuce, tomato, peppers, and avocado to name a few. Seems pretty basic, I know. But again, I had no baseline.
Pat and Willy’s closed about ten years ago and there have been very few if any restaurants since that have regularly offered a burrito on the menu, until recently. At Burrito Jax next to The Guild on Queen Street they have three things on the menu; burritos, burrito bowls and quesadillas. There’s no restaurant service at Burrito Jax, just a counter and some tables. The set up is very much like Subway; pick the kind of burrito you want, be it chicken, beef, pork or veg, then move along the counter to pick your style of tortilla and your toppings. Your burrito gets heated up on the grill and when it’s ready they shout your number.
When I decided to do an article about Burrito Jax I thought I’d invite an old friend from my Pat and Willy’s days to see how Jax burritos stood up against the old Charlottetown best seller. That friend wasn’t available but I went anyway. In typical Charlottetown fashion the first person I saw when I walked in the door was Brent Byrnes, the former manager of Pat and Willy’s.
I ordered the small Jax chicken burrito. Jax chicken is like regular chicken but marinated and more flavourful. I stuffed it with rice, beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, green onion, green pepper, jalepenos, salsa, chipotle sauce and burrito sauce, which is a mixture of lime, sour cream and spices.
It was a pretty good burrito. The small size was filling and the spices brought just enough heat for a medium sized pool of sweat to form on my bald spot. No one ingredient stood out except maybe the chipotle sauce which brought the heat and a little smoke as well. At $9.65 with a San Pellegrino it’s a mighty good deal for lunch or a late night stop gap measure. What I can’t say for sure is whether it’s a good burrito compared to other burritos. I just don’t have the baseline. I rarely, if ever, order a burrito. All that said, Burrito Jax has set my new standard.
Brent and I did a fair bit of reminiscing over that lunch hour. We didn’t work together at Pat and Willy’s. We passed like ships in the night. But we worked with a lot of the same people. He said he nearly took the chicken burrito off the menu because the food cost was huge. In the end he couldn’t do it to the ever faithful chicken burrito fans of the day. I wonder how they’d order their burrito at Jax?