12:30PM / 1/15/2022
I’ve eaten so many burritos in this building.
Today for lunch I headed over to Fairway & Pleasant Grove to go to Taqueria La Nueva Vallarta. This Mexican restaurant took over the space left behind by Freebirds World Burrito, next door to In-N-Out. I’m not sure when they opened, but if the oldest Yelp review is a good indicator than it was around March 2021. I headed in at about 12:30 after taking a quick peek at the menu online.
The interior is brightly-lit and refreshed from it’s Freebirds days, with some wild neon green booth seating and reconfigured counters. Lady Lib is gone and in her place is a row of LCDs crammed with the full menu (a bit more detailed than the website I think, so check out the photos below). It was moderately busy inside with about half the tables in use and a few people already in line to place orders. I stepped in behind them and started looking over the menu to finalize what I had started putting together in my head at home.
I don’t wear glasses (yet), but the text on these screens was on the smaller side and I had to step up closer to read them clearly. There’s a lot to choose from. I decided to go with a fairly basic order to get the sense of the place. I chose the Regular Burrito (meat, rice, whole beans, pico de gallo)[$8.99] and picked Asada Steak for it. I also picked out their Super Taco (meat, large corn tortilla, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, pico de gallo)[$5.99] and went with Carnitas for this one. I finished off my order with a regular fountain drink [$2.50].
I grabbed a table by the front and by the time I had filled up at the fountains and grabbed some chips and salsas from the salsa bar my food was already on it’s way out. I had just ripped open the grease stained bag of chips when it was delivered.
The taco was a monster. It was piled high with lettuce. I pulled some aside to get a better look at what was underneath it and spotted a few large chunks of pork, sour cream and the pico. It was a challenge to get this thing up off the plate to take a bite. It came with a fork and I almost wondered if they didn’t actually expect people to pick it up. I lost about 1/3 of the lettuce with my first bite, but otherwise it held together pretty well. It was too much lettuce anyway.
This was totally fine. Everything was fresh but nothing really stood out to me, including the carnitas. I love the crispy fried bits of pork but this version didn’t have any of those. It was kind of bland overall not just in taste but in texture as well.
I took a break between the taco and burrito to dig into the chips. The bags were available for anyone up at the salsa bar, and I had somewhat higher hopes for them seeing that the white paper bags were a bit greasy from the chips within. I thought this could be a sign they were made in house. Whether they were or not didn’t really matter because they were wholly unremarkable. Barely a hint of salt was visible. They were not served warm, which didn’t help. I grabbed 3 of at least 5 different salsa options to try, a white, a red and a green (the bar was not labeled).
The white was my favorite. It was creamy and had a surprising little bit of heat that snuck up on me after a few bites. The red had a strange flavor that I was unable to put my finger on. I was not crazy about it. The green one must have been avocado based. I usually like this kind but this one was incredibly salty as well as very heavy with lime. After a few bites I set it aside.
On to the burrito. This came foil-wrapped and kept it’s heat nicely while I tried everything else. I cut this in half to get a look inside before biting into it. Down the center was the asada, and surrounding it was a nearly uniform layer comprised of rice and beans. It was almost hard to tell what was rice and what was beans. I went to work on it and found that the flavors were similarly uniform. The asada was, again, fine. Similarly to the carnitas, it was very uniform in texture and didn’t have any blackened edges which give so much texture and flavor. The pieces were very small, almost like a rough ground beef. It was…boring. I was literally looking forward to finishing it so I could get a few more photos and get going with my other errands for the day.
While the food here was totally blah, I wouldn’t say it was bad, just not memorable in the slightest. Maybe I went a little too basic with my order, who knows. I will say that the place was very well kept and the staff was friendly and on top of things while I was there, clearing tables within minutes of people leaving. 2 out of 5 sounds about right.