Build your own burrito at La Choza

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Chicken taco bowl. —Marnely Murray

On the mainland, fast food refers to the chemical-laden burgers, tacos, and other things that pass as food nowadays. But thankfully, on this Island, fast food means walking into La Choza Burritos in Vineyard Haven, ordering a burrito made on the spot, and taking a bite of it in under five minutes from the time you walked in. Seth Gambino, owner and burrito maker for the past six years, has added some new additions to the classic burrito menu to tantalize your tastebuds this season.

La Choza has been a staple for those of us who are looking for a healthy meal that won’t break the bank. The new options on the menu stick to that core value of good food at a fair price, starting with the vegan or chorizo chili that comes with cheese and sour cream ($6.50 a cup, $12.50 a bowl, or $30 a quart) as the first addition. The vegan chili interested me, so I had to have a taste. If he had not mentioned it was vegan, I would have had no idea it was. Packed with vegetables, whole grains, and the perfect balance of spices, this vegan chili will convince any meat lover to go vegan for a day.

Up next on the new menu is the Chili Cheese Frito Pie. It’s a dish popular to Southern and Midwestern states, with the basic ingredients of chili, cheese, and corn chips. Its origin is hard to pinpoint, but it’s said to have been created in Mexico and made its way up. It can be made either as a casserole, or as La Choza serves it, right in a Frito chip bag. Here, they top it with their chorizo chili, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and scallions (plus, as you can see in the photo, I added a sprinkling of Roasted Dulse (50 cents extra) for more umami flavor. The Frito Pie was interesting and fun, and for $8.69, it’s a quick meal to grab.

Now, you might be wondering why a burrito shop offers dried seaweed flakes — roasted dulse — on its menu; it’s all about the umami. Seth discovered Maine Coast Sea Vegetables after he realized it was a friend’s company and wanted to support it, so he’s incorporated these two products into his menu, focusing on adding that delicious umami, that sixth flavor, to dishes. He strives to make tasty options for his vegan diners, and the roasted dulce is a great substitution for meat. And even if you are not ordering vegan, a sprinkling of this green superfood adds dimension and flavor to your meal.

Because you can still get burritos at La Choza:

  • Yellow Rice and Black Beans ($4.50 base price plus additions)
  • Portobello Mushrooms cooked with scallions, tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, served with rice and beans ($6.50 base price plus additions)
  • Beef or Chicken that’s been marinated and slow-cooked in a tomato-based chipotle garlic sauce, served with rice and beans ($6.50 base price plus additions)
  • Chorizo, my new favorite, is a slightly spicy Mexican sausage with corn, served with rice and beans ($6.50 base price plus additions)
  • A new addition: Chicken Salad made with feta cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato ($6.50 base price plus additions)

And when we mention additions, they range from 25 to 75 cents, and include but are not

limited to: black olives, roasted corn, guacamole, sour cream, roasted corn and chipotle salsa, lemon cilantro cream sauce, Texas caviar, and more. You can really customize your meal here. That’s what Seth and his team achieve — creating the most delicious burrito you’ve ever tasted with no more than a $10 bill. What’s in my dream burrito? A blend of chicken and chorizo, rice and beans, and add cilantro, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, Texas caviar, and a side of hot sauce. Head to La Choza and create your own dream burrito, but plan on sharing it, because they tend to be massive.

For those looking for more saladlike meals, La Choza has added an Iceberg Wedge Salad option, if you’d like lettuce over your burrito or in a bowl ($2 more), or their Kickin’ Chicken Wrap ($9.79) packed with their chicken salad, lettuce, tomato, Texas caviar, feta cheese, roasted dulse, and lemon-cilantro cream sauce, all perfect on a hot summer day when a burrito seems like too much.

Follow La Choza on Facebook for updates and specials at bit.ly/ChozaMV. It’s got convenient parking year-round and is within walking distance of the Steamship Authority; stop in for lunch soon.