Lunch in the Loop: Burrito Buggy (aka the U.N. of Lunch)
Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
I've been waiting a while for Lunch in the Loop to be established before I unleashed my introduction of Burrito Buggy to you all. I wanted to make sure you were here reading, absorbing, and enraptured by my masterful use of the English language to capture the experience of fine midday cuisine (read: office lunch). And there is a good reason. Burrito Buggy easily serves the strangest combination of food I have ever seen in the Loop. It is mind-boggling and amazing. And it never fails to make me laugh.
In my mind, it's like the owners brought Greece, Mexico, India, Jamaica, and America all together into a meeting where they joined hands and agreed to make a superpower... of food! Then they gave each other a lot of high-fives and left in the afterglow of cultural brotherhood. My imagination may run rampant in golden fields filled with unicorns and rainbows, but Burrito Buggy easily surpasses some of my beautiful, beautiful, dreams.
Since the restaurant is called Burrito Buggy, they have to serve burritos, right? The fine specimen on the left is the Gyro Burrito ($5.98), and the one on the right is the Jerk Chicken Burrito ($5.89). Yes, you read that correctly. That is a burrito stuffed with Kronos gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. The meat is carved right off the rotating cylinder, crisped on the griddle, and jammed into a flour tortilla. It tastes just as you would imagine; the meat is a savory combination of beef, lamb, and spices with a uniform loaf-like texture, the tomato adds little sweet moist bites, the onion is sharp and crunchy, and the cooling tzatziki sauce brings it all home. The flour tortilla somehow makes it less of a gyro sandwich, and more of a burrito. It works. Your eyes say "burrito," your mouth says "gyros," and your stomach says "food." Greece, high-five Mexico.
The Jerk Chicken Burrito is stuffed with char-grilled jerk chicken, cheese, rice, lettuce, onion, and tomato. The chicken is well-marinated with the strong flavors of jerk seasoning, including allspice, a slight touch of cinnamon, and fiery dried chile. The meat is well grilled to the point where you can taste the char with every bite. It's got some decent heat to it, which builds as you eat. Jamaica, high-five Mexico.
This is where things get a little more interesting. On an entirely separate menu, Burrito Buggy serves an array of Indian food. Don't want burritos? Have some daal, lamb curry, or in my case, the butter chicken combination ($7.99), which comes with butter chicken, rice, naan, a small salad, and a samosa. The focus here is really the butter chicken. The name is somewhat misleading, considering the chicken is cooked in a tomato and yogurt based sauce, seasoned with garam masala, a hint of cumin, and a touch of cayenne. The butter really isn't truly the main flavor.
The chicken is tender, and picks up the flavors of the rich sauce, and mixed with the basmati rice, you get a bit of curry flavor finished with the tomato-based creaminess of the yogurt sauce and just a bit of heat. The samosa is stuffed with curry potatoes and peas, and is deep fried. Unfortunately, the samosa soaks up a fair amount of grease, making it a little tough to enjoy, but the chicken should keep you busy. India, high-five your neighbors, Greece, Jamaica, and Mexico.
And finally, we have fried whitefish nuggets ($4.49), which is also on a completely separate menu set aside for fried fish, chicken, and shrimp. That's a total of three different menus in the same restaurant, all served at the same counter. Astonishing! Sadly, this is my least favorite item of the bunch; the fish is a bit too, well, fishy, and since it still had its skin under the cornmeal breading, entire pieces of batter slid off the fish. Overall, the breading lacked crunch, and the nuggets were thin and soft. The french fries below aren't cooked all the way through, and end up being limp, soggy, and almost raw. Good try, America, but high-five your culinary neighbors, Mexico, Jamaica, Greece, and India anyway!
So if you're out at lunch and you're asking yourself, "Hey, do I want Mexican, Greek, Indian, Jamaican, or American food today?" You can find all of it at Burrito Buggy. And if that doesn't suit you, you can go next door for Chinese and Korean at Lai Lai and Korean Express, also both in the same restaurant. Oh yeah, and don't forget the Jerusalem-inspired street food at Benj Yehuda on the other side. Diversity! Unity! Food!
206 West Van Buren Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (map)