Since this post was written, Pinto has become Barburrito.
C’s first experience of Pintos was in Glasgow, when he stopped in on the way to the railway station to grab a burrito. It was fast, affordable and unpretentious, perfect when you’re in a hurry. Pintos have now popped up in a variety of places across Edinburgh. They are chain, but is that always a bad thing? We visited their new branch on Shandwick Place to check them out.
Pintos’ is lively and friendly place to stop for a few minutes. This is a place to eat you food, have a quick chat with friends and then get going. I’m not saying you can’t linger, but this is a fast food place.
As we arrived on a Friday lunchtime, we were a worried that our chosen time might be unfair on them. There was a constant flow of people passing through but the queue moved quickly. We joined it, moved down the assembly line – you make your choice, add preferred toppings, settle up and set off to a booth or table, or take away. Pinto offers fast Mexican food: piping hot burritos wrapped in tinfoil, little plastic baskets of meats, vegetables and beans. This is fairly healthy fast food, combining simple ingredients (fresh vegetables, meat, beans and rice) with soft tortillas, tacos and salads with the usual selection of salsas, sour cream and chillies. The day the Shandwick Place opened, they handed out 1,000 free burritos. That must have been good training for the busy days to come.
They do deals that include Margarita or beer. It was lunch time on a working day so I opted for a lemonade with my barbacoa quesadilla. I was tempted to have the mixed tacos, but having seen them be prepared, I decided that I was really quite hungry and went for the quesadilla instead. Barbacoa is well-spiced, essentially pulled beef. With it I had the sweetcorn salsa since it looked drier – and more unusual – than the others. It was perfect for a quesadilla and worked very well in flavour with the melted cheese. It was crunchy and soft, sweet and tangy.
C had one of their specials, a vegetarian chilli in a ‘chilli bowl’ of rice, spiced up with a little of the medium (sweetcorn) salsa, all washed down with a bottle of Brahma. We added a side of tortilla chips with the spicy, green salsa. The salsa had a proper kick and was not similar to a green chilli hot sauce.
C found the chilli tasty but a little on the plain side, but a couple of dashes of chipotle sauce came to the rescue and his taste buds were soon happy. Pinto have chipotle and standard Cholula hot sauce on the tables. I fell in love with Cholula in Washington and am pleased that it’s now appearing in Edinburgh. A splash here, a splash there, adds flavour and heat, if there’s not enough in your dish. This might seem like a bad thing, but it makes sense for Pinto to err on the side of caution and I enjoy hot sauce. (A few well-placed dashes found themselves inside my quesadilla too.)
I know many people in Edinburgh who mourned the passing of Illegal Jacks, which closed just a couple of weeks after Pinto opened their first Edinburgh location next doors to the restaurant. (By coincidence, I hasten to add.) Pintos is a different type of place, but here too you can get a drink and a huge burrito. Pinto have won fans in Edinburgh and the queues at the Shandwick Place branch at lunchtime are impressive both in size and the speed at which they move. It’s a fun looking place, mixing original stone and rough-hewn wood with tiles and bright lights for a contemporary feel. We enjoyed our lunch, liked the venue and got back to work in plenty of time. Next time, I’ll try the bare char grilled steak burrito (the filling in a bowl instead of a tortilla), with black beans and guacamole. Or maybe the Yukatan chilli. With salads and tacos on the menu as well as burritos and quesadillas, there are various ways to enjoy Pinto’s chicken, beef, pork and veggie options, and different ways to dress them.
Caroline lunched at Pinto’s invitation.