It’s hard to present an argument for a better budget burrito, than the classic Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” burrito, typically found hiding shamefully on the bottom shelf of the freezer aisle. At three for a dollar, there are few better options for filling an empty stomach with an indiscriminate, spicy goo, when evaluated strictly on a cost-per-calorie basis; find a supermarket coupon you can double for Tina’s burritos, and it’s possible to walk out the door paying as little as 16 cents apiece for the little pasty bastards.
Not content to rest comfortably on its position as “King of the Sub-$1 Sketchy Burritos,” however, Tina’s is expanding its line into all-new products, including a bigger, heftier, more expensive version of the classic, dubbed “The Quesorito.” This new offering comes in three different flavors, including “Fajita and Cheese,” “Chicken Fajita and Cheese,” and the varietal we selected, “Beef, Cheese and Bacon.” From the eloquent description on WalMart.com:
A quesadilla wrapped around a burrito! Cheese wrapped around a burrito made with ground beef, rice, and bacon. At a half pound, this is a big cheese burrito. Microwaveable.
Taking their cue from Taco Bell’s ever-expanding fever-dream of a menu, Tina’s Quesorito takes burrito architecture one step further, by introducing a double layer of tortilla, filled with orange cheese, and stuffed with an amalgam of rice and presumably, ground beef, cheese, and bacon.
Our expectations were high. Under the auspices of the Tina’s brand, we expected the usual flour tortilla, stuffed with highly flavorful textured vegetable protein and other mysterious ingredients, that would explode neatly and in a cavalcade of orange grease down the burrito’s seam after a few minutes in the microwave. And in some ways, this is what we got. But there were some key surprises.
First, the filling in Tina’s new Quesorito burritos seems to be making more of an effort to contain ingredients that are recognizable. Taking their cue from Red’s and other so-called “premium” frozen burritos, Tina’s seems to be making an effort to ensure customers can clearly make out their combination of rice, meat, cheese, and chopped vegetables. We were impressed by the gesture, but found that in spite of this new priority on ingredient visibility, overall flavor and taste was sorely lacking. Sure, we could SEE the rice and the meat, but that doesn’t make much of a difference when those ingredients don’t TASTE like much of anything at all. And there certainly wasn’t any hint of bacon in there.
We were also impressed by the overall structure of the burrito. Though we assumed that the cheese-filled layer of double tortillas was purely a gimmick, attempting to duplicate the success of fast food chains, it actually serves to reinforce the structure of the burrito, preventing it from falling apart into a gloppy mess, or worse, requiring the use of a knife and fork. Two minutes and 20 seconds in the microwave, and the burrito was none the worse for wear; it didn’t split open, spilling its guts onto my microwave-safe plate. Unfortunately, the cooking instructions also didn’t seem to actually cook the burrito all of the way through; we were confronted by a chilly middle that, while unpleasant, didn’t slow us down from eating the whole thing in just a few minutes.
Overall, Tina’s new “Quesorito” line occupies a peculiar in-between space in the frozen snack landscape. The ingredients aren’t quire sophisticated enough to bump this concotion into the “luxury” burrito category, and yet, the price is too high (at $1.98) to make this a true budget snack. While we were impressed by the subtle improvements to the product’s look and feel, we were ultimately let down by its uninspired seasoning and overall lack of flavor.