Evansville’s Hot Head Burritos Disappoints in First Visit – Ryan’s Review
It’s no secret that I like to eat and try new things so when I heard Evansville’s newest burrito joint, Hot Head Burritos was open for business, it was go time.
Hot Head Burritos is on Pearl Drive across from AMC 16 Theater and is part of a national chain. The best description I can give is that its as if Moe’s Southwest Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Subway had some kind of wild love child. Like Moe’s, Hot Head offers burritos, bowls, nachos, tacos, and quesadillas filled with your choice of meat, rice, beans, and other standard Mexican fare. And like Buffalo Wild Wings you get to add one of thirteen sauces, ranging from Honey BBQ to “Straight Habanero” to your food.
The restaurant occupy’s the corner of the building that is also home to CiCi’s Pizza and Joe’s Records on Evansville’s west side and is clearly visible from Pearl Drive. Even Stevie Wonder could see it. Inside, you’ll see a red, black, and white color scheme with red being the most prominent. Fire, flames, and heat seem to be the theme they’re pushing and what better signifies that than red? Orange maybe, but now I’m getting off track.
Outside of the decor, the restaurant was clean and the staff was friendly, so things started off on the right foot. Now, let’s get to the main reason I stopped in, the food.
The ordering process is the same “production line” style you’ll find at Moe’s or Subway. The menu boards hanging above the counter layout the eight steps you go through in ordering staring with which type of meal you want. I went with the burrito. From there I added brown rice and black beans (white rice and pinto beans are the other “fiber” options). Meat choices include chicken, steak, pork, seasoned ground beef, and barbacoa, a seasoned shredded beef. A spicy version of each is also available. Knowing that I was going to add one of their spicier sauces later on in the process, I opted for regular steak.
In step four, you add your choice of salsa. The choices given are pico de gallo, corn salsa, a green salsa verde, or a wild salsa. I went with the pico and moved to step five where you have the option of adding jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, and raw onions. My choice was none of the above. On to step number six, the sauce.
This seems to be the main thing Hot Head uses to separate themselves from places like Moe’s or Qdoba. Each sauce is rated on a flame scale with the first four options having zero flame to the aforementioned, eight flame Straight Habanero. Now I like spicy food, but not overly hot, if that makes sense. I eat spicy food because I like the flavor of it, not because I want I’m trying to prove my masculinity. Basically, you won’t see me trying to choke down a pile of chicken wings doused in some kind of burn-your-stomach-lining sauce. With that said, I went with the four flame Cholula Hot Sauce. After adding sour cream, shredded cheese, and lettuce in step seven my burrito was complete.
The eighth and final step is where you add chips and a drink. Just like Subway, you can make a meal out of any entree by adding a drink and your choice of either tortilla chips or three cookies. This was the first slight bump in the road I had with Hot Head. I guess I’m used to most Mexican-themed restaurants offering complimentary chips and salsa. After all, they’re tortilla chips…lightly salted, fried tortilla shells. They’re not Doritos or some kind of flavored potato chip. Hot Head’s chips are nothing special. They taste just like every other tortilla chip out there so the fact that I had to pay extra for them rubbed me the wrong way. Although when you do opt for chips, you do get your choice of mild, medium, or hot salsa to dip them in (YAY!). Unfortunately, the cup of salsa you get is about the same size as a Jello shot (BOO!). I ended up buying a cup of queso dip (same size as the salsa…for $1.00) halfway through my meal because I had used up all my salsa before I was even half done with the chips, and that was even trying to ration out the amount of salsa I put on each chip.
My total bill (including the addition of queso dip later on) was just shy of $11.00. A couple of bucks more than I would spend at Moe’s, but not terrible in my opinion.
I’ll assume that you’ve figured out by the title of this review that things didn’t get much better as I sat down and began to dig into my burrito. In an attempt to find a few positives in my experience, I will say the size of the burrito was good and it was chock full of the ingredients I chose when I ordered, buuuuuuttttt (you knew it was coming) the flavor just wasn’t what I was hoping for.
Again, I like spicy, but not overly hot food. I like it to be just spicy enough that I get those little beads of sweat just under my eyes which I thought is what I would get with the addition of the four flame Cholula Hot Sauce. To be completely honest, I didn’t taste a bit of heat. Even the hot salsa I chose to go with my chips didn’t quite pack the punch I was hoping for. It gave off more heat than the Cholula sauce and had a nice, full flavor, but compared to the hottest salsa offered by Moe’s on their salsa bar (which does give me the eye sweats and what I was hoping for out of this whole experience), I didn’t feel like it lived up to its name.
As for the steak, it was a bit dry and cut up into perfect little cubes…almost too perfect. From what I could see as I placed my order, it doesn’t sit in its own juices on production line which makes a world of difference in my opinion. The rice is supposedly seasoned with cilantro which I love the flavor of, and I would have loved it in my burrito if I could have tasted it.
Let me make myself clear, the food wasn’t bad, it was just bland for my taste. Perhaps the spicy steak would have made a difference, or the addition of jalapeno or banana peppers, but again, I thought putting the Cholula sauce on it would give me the heat I was looking for. Lesson learned I suppose.
You’ve probably noticed a ton of Moe’s references throughout this review. The reason being is that unless I’m missing something, they are Hot Head’s main competition so it’s a natural comparison. Hot Head is the Burger King to Moe’s McDonald’s, they do basically the same thing, but add their own special tweaks to differentiate themselves from one another in an attempt to draw consumers in.
It’s completely within the realm of possibility that comparison could be one of the causes of my disappointment. I’ll admit, I really like Moe’s and usually eat there once a month or so. It’s also completely possible that I was so excited to try Hot Head that I over-hyped it in my mind to the point where is was impossible to live up to my preconceived notions.
Will I give Hot Head Burritos another go? Probably. Am I in a hurry to do that? Not really. But I encourage you to not just take my word for it, try it for yourself. With the variety of options, the combination possibilities could very well result in you finding your favorite new Evansville restaurant.
Check out their website for the complete menu and more info on Hot Head Burritos.