I’m probably one of the few people in the area that doesn’t have a Granny’s Burrito-related anecdote. The fact is, I never ate at one of the original Granny’s locations, which first set up shop in 1995. Granny’s would hop around town several times, including locations in the Old Port, downtown, and flung out towards the West End on Congress Street, before closing its doors about three years ago.
Following a grassroots Facebook campaign, and as it has so many times in the past, Granny’s Burritos has once again been reborn. This time, owner Christopher Godin is placing his bets on the second floor of the Public Market House, opening the latest iteration of Granny’s as a sublet in the former Deux Cochon space, after it was abruptly shuttered in early August. Granny’s menu is back in place, and the original recipes are intact.
How do the burritos stack up, though, for someone with no previous loyalties, or warm and fuzzy memories Granny’s Burritos? As it turns out, not half bad. We tried the chicken burrito ($7.50) on a white tortilla (Granny’s offers several different tortilla choices, including Garlic Herb, Spinach, and Chili), filled with “Moist dark meat, with our traditional spices,” combined with pinto beans, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. The chicken was moist and flavorful (the “traditional” mystery spice seems to be curry), carefully balanced with even portions of pinto beans, cool, crunchy iceberg lettuce, and the occasional bite of cooling sour cream. I was particularly happy with the size of the burrito; hefty, sure, like a newborn baby wrapped in tinfoil, but not so big that finishing it destroyed any hopes of a productive afternoon. Dabbed with Granny’s spicy “XXX” hot sauce (pureed habanero) made for a sensory-enlivening lunch, and one I can imagine enjoying again.
Jillian was similarly satisfied with her “Veggie Quesadilla,” ($4.50) which the menu helpfully describes as a “Mexican grilled cheese sandwich.” The quesadilla was a single, large tortilla, folded over, and filled with a mixture of pinto and black beans, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and big hits of garlic, served with a side of prefab tortilla chips and salsa. It was also zippy, and vibrant, with each taste distinct, never getting bogged down in the gloppy slurry that so often passes for a quesadilla filling.
When it comes to inspiration, the food at Granny’s owes much more of a debt to California, than it does to Mexico. A restaurant that adds sweet potatoes, mango, or Indian curry to as many dishes as possible, is interpreting burritos pretty loosely, and using their basic form (that is, as a hot, edible container) as an excuse to deliver some unexpected new flavor combinations. This approach was successful in the dishes we tried, though it could be a disaster.
Ordinarily, if you told me about a new burrito place that was completely divorced from the burden of any kind of South-of-the-border influence, I wouldn’t have high hopes. Granny’s, however, by virtue of their fresh flavors, contrasting textures and temperatures, and focus on wholesome ingredients, is a solid choice for a quick, workday lunch.