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Review: Someburros! - Tempe, AZ (w/ photos!)

Seth Chadwick Oct 9, 2006 01:49 AM

In the great metropolitan area of Phoenix, there are plenty of taco/burrito places that all end with “tos.” Filibertos, Polibertos, Losbetos, Pigeontos, etc. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of them are particularly bad. Of course, they will fill the stomach after a night at the clubs when the only other options are Denny’s or 5 & Diner.

It was music to my ears to discover that there was a place in Tempe called Someburros! that specializes in large burros with a variety of fillings. A few people had mentioned it to me that is “wasn’t bad,” so I was quite happy to try this place and see if it was a notch above the “tos.”

My trek took me to the southeast corner of Baseline Road and Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ. The eatery was located toward the back of a strip mall with shake roofing and a variety of businesses. I had a tough time finding parking because Someburros! was packed with diners. I did finally snag a space and walked in.

The place was fairly large with many tables and a refill station for drinks. I walked to the counter to order and noticed the very large and comprehensive menu tacked to the wall behind the registers. The featured items were the burros, but I also noticed several other Mexican dishes as well. As I was making up my mind, the cashier pulled out a tray from underneath the counter, grabbed a paper basket and filled it with tortilla chips. She then took my order.

I decided on the Chicken Fundido Burro ($6.35), but I also wanted to try something non-burroish, so I ordered the Chile Relleno ($3.85). To wash it all down, I got a large Diet Coke ($1.85). I paid my bill and the cashier then filled my drink cup, placed it on my tray and then added a bottle of hot sauce. She then handed me a number to place on my table so my food could be brought to me.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/someburroschips.jpg

I found a table near the front doors and parked myself, diving into the chips and sauce. The chips were, unfortunately, stale. I don’t know how long they had been sitting under the counter, but they were not good. Thankfully, the hot sauce covered up some of the staleness, but I abandoned the chips after a couple. The sauce itself was quite good, with a moderate amount of heat and a pleasant fresh taste that made it stand out.

As I waited for my food, I surveyed the surroundings and they were bright, sunny and cheerful, with each table sporting a pot of fake flowers. The place was very clean and I liked the openess of the dining area.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/someburrosfundido.jpg

I waited about 10 minutes before my food arrived. On two separate plates were my burro, complete with rice, and the chile relleno. Both were piping hot and I had great hope about this. They serving sizes were also quite large. I tasted the rice and liked it. It was fluffy and moist and had a nice taste to it because it had been seasoned with a bit of cumin.

I cut a piece of the burro and took a taste. I was not happy at all. What turned me right off to this burro was the fact that the chicken had come straight from a can. The chunks were lightly pink and in large nuggets. I had seen this before and it was from the little tin I use to open to make chicken salad sandwiches for myself when I was a starving college student without any real means of being able to cook any food. Sadly, the canned chicken had “that taste.” I thought the fact that Someburros! used canned chicken pointed to either the place being cheap or lazy, but it was a faux pas that never should have been done.

The cream cheese sauce - the highlight of any fundido dish - was okay, but there was so much of it, it had to be scraped off and used sparingly. I don’t like biting into a brick of Philadelphia cream cheese with my bagel and I certainly didn’t like it here. If I were a cynic, I would say they upped the amount of cheese sauce to hide the canned chicken.

I then turned my attention to the Chile Relleno. This wasn’t just piping hot. It was nuclear. I had to wait a few minutes to let the whole dish cool down or else I would have caused 3rd degree burns on my lips, mouth, etc. When it finally was cool enough to eat, I took my first bite. It was better than the burro, but not by much. While it had all the necessary components of a chile relleno, it was missing the most important factor: taste. This was virtually flavorless. There was cheese and eggs and a chile and a sauce, but even the chile had no distinct taste that my mouth could latch onto. Now, if I were a cynic, I would think they made this flavorless on purpose, so as not to offend anyone.

Disappointed and still hungry, I filled up my soda glass, emptied my tray at the nearest garbage can and left. The total for this luncheon downer was $13.03 including tax. The cashier and the person who brought me my food were both pleasant and friendly. But that didn’t even come close to making this restaurant run a success (although they did have Diet Coke). As I walked to the car, I entertained the idea of going to one of the “tos” restaurants, but decided just to wait it out until dinner.

As I drove around to do some errands, I thought about why this place was so busy when the food was mediocre at best.

Then, I saw something that made me realize that people will often enjoy mediocre food just because the portions are large:

ClaimJumpertos.

Someburros!
101 East Baseline Road
Tempe, AZ 85283
Dress: Casual
Hours: Sunday through Thursday - 10:30 AM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday - 10:30 AM to 11 PM
Notes: There are two other locations in Gilbert and Chandler.
Website: www.someburros.com

Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com

  1. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Oct 9, 2006 04:44 AM

    To say I have been less than impressed with Someburros is putting it mildly. It's the epitome of gringo Mexican food; large portions and bland as hell.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
      Seth Chadwick Oct 9, 2006 05:49 AM

      That is definitely the shorter version of my experience, JK. It looks decent, but just lacks flavor.

    2. d
      dustchick Oct 9, 2006 04:59 AM

      We live close to the Tempe Someburros and get take-out occasionally. We always get the same thing: red beef burro with beans and cheese. We make them "enchilada style" by using the hot sauce, which we like quite a bit. I'm surprised that you had stale chips - ours have typically been warm and fresh. It isn't the best Mexican food, to be sure, but it usually fulfills the occasional very specific craving for the gringo comfort food version of Mexican food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: dustchick
        Seth Chadwick Oct 9, 2006 05:51 AM

        dc,

        I was more surprised about the chips than just about anything else because I was there only about an hour or so after opening. I really thought they would have been fresh, but they were stale, which could mean they were from the day before and weren't properly stored.

        If I am in the area again, I will try the red beef "enchilada style" and see where that gets me.

      2. b
        Bazel Oct 9, 2006 07:47 PM

        While this doesn’t make the food any better ... you might understand. The family that owns Someburro’s (I think there are now 3 locations in the east valley) were also the founders of Pancho’s Mexican Buffet (or so I thought I had read somewhere). And, some 30 odd years ago the annual birthday feast at Panchos was always highly anticipated. But – in retrospect I believe the excitement stemmed from raising the flag at the end of the meal for Sopapillas – not so much the meal itself.

        FYI

        BZ

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bazel
          m
          mrx3000 May 31, 2007 11:54 AM

          Poncho's the restaurant in S.Phoenix not Pancho's the mall buffet.

        2. Grey Jan 5, 2007 01:10 PM

          Seth, did you by chance catch this little blurb in yesterday's AZ Rep., in regard to your Someburro's review?--
          http://www.azcentral.com/community/te...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Grey
            Seth Chadwick Jan 5, 2007 03:24 PM

            Thanks for letting me know, Grey. I had not seen it.

            1. re: Seth Chadwick
              geg5150 Jan 5, 2007 03:56 PM

              Seth! You're famous!

          2. z
            ziggylu Jan 5, 2007 02:36 PM

            Yikes....way to create bad PR for yourself as a restaurant owner!

            Have to say we tried the Chandler location last week for the first time. Tried the albondigas soup that was advertised....ick. They didn't degrease teh stock at all and then the meatballs added their own dose of grease. Couldn't eat it. Husband had a couple tacos...the oil must not have been hot enough...they were soggy and saturated with grease as well. Both dinners went in the trash and we went home and made popcorn...

            Chips and salsa were good tasty though.

            1. tastyjon Jan 6, 2007 05:41 AM

              I'm going to try it out, if only to confirm my gut reaction that this place is blah.

              The pics look no different from the 2,700 other ho hum greasy Mexican eateries throughout Phoenix, serving the same rice and beans plus (insert your standard fare). Are these really someone's Grandma's recipes? Nostalga is nice, but how hard is it to melt oily cheese over a chile pod? You'd think after 40 years of cooking, someone would have developed some fantastically unique flavors.

              But I'll check it out and confirm my notions.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tastyjon
                JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Jan 6, 2007 11:33 AM

                I know how the morbid curiosity goes quite well, but I will certainly recommend that you not waste precious dining time there when you could be having something better like... Chipotle. The food at Someburros is utterly, completely banal; it just is not worth it.

                1. re: tastyjon
                  amkirkland Jan 6, 2007 09:10 PM

                  It's a curious thing to defend an attack on your food with it's credentials rather than providing actual proof that it's good. So far he hasn't convinced people of his food's quality, but instead insulted his grandma.

                2. h
                  hzp Jan 6, 2007 01:49 PM

                  mostly, i wouldn't give him a try because of his utter rudeness. giving him a chance is still giving him dollars, and at this juncture, i don't care if the food there IS great. I'm still not encouraging his behavior.

                  1. mamamia Jan 6, 2007 04:49 PM

                    I don't like rude owners. An overlooked aspect of being a restauranteur is PUBLIC RELATIONS.

                    While the number of great Mexican food restaurants in town can be debated, I have my own personal list of favorites. I don't need to waste my time with what may or may not be a good experience on the food end, when the owner leaves a bad taste.

                    1. GroovinGourmet Jan 6, 2007 10:59 PM

                      Amen! I cannot believe that guy was such a tool. Accusing Seth of lying no less. Here's hoping Someburro's enjoys a quick and timely demise.

                      1. f
                        FoodCritic480 Mar 4, 2009 04:30 PM

                        Good Afternoon All,

                        I have to admit, right off the bat, I'm awfully shocked by the bad ratings of Someburros. Someburros (and Ponchos for that matter, the Ponchos on Central Ave, not the "Less-Than-DelTaco-Quality-Buffet Panchos) are exceptional & authentic Mexican fare. I grew up in Los Angeles and then relocated to Yuma, AZ before my current destination of Phoenix. I've had my fair share of Mexican eateries. When I moved to Phoenix, of course I was bombarded by Filibertos, Losbertos, etc, which are palatable, and more authentic than Taco Bell, Del Taco and Chipotle, but just tastes cheap. So when a co-worker reccommended Someburros, I thought I'd give it a go. Chips asaide, because i've had both hot & fresh, perfectly salted chips and older stale ones as well, everything else I've tried has been excellent. While I'll agree that the chicken in the Pollo Fundido is less than stellar (and pink), the flavor of the sauce is excellent.

                        I always judge a mexican resturant on my favorite items: Salsa, beans, rice, cheese enchiladas, & folded tacos. The tacos & enchiladas (red sauce) at Someburros (and Ponchos) are some of the best I've had (in Phoenix, LA, & Yuma). The shredded beef is tender yet not mushy & full of flavor. The enchiladas have the best enchilada flavor around, unlike "Gringo-inspired" chains like "On The Border", "Garcias" (YUCK!), and "Manuels".

                        Matter of fact, I recently dined at "Rancho De Tia Rosa's" in Mesa, and while the ambiance was out of this world, the fare was over-priced and bland.

                        In any event, I'm just surprised at the bad reviews. If your a connoisseur of folded shredded beef tacos and cheese enchiladas (red sauce) and love beans (they have the BEST refried beans in the entire valley), then I'd suggest giving Someburros or Ponchos (on central ave) another try.

                        I can't see how anybody would prefer anything over this place unless you grew up eating what me and my mexican friends call "gringo-inspired" mexican food, a la On The Border, Garcias, Chipotle (although their Barbacoa is AMAZING), Macayos, Qdoba (which I'm convinced is Chipotle's less-popular little brother), etc...

                        Just my .02

                        PS, my other favorites in the valley include: Los Olivos (scottsdale), Arribas (chandler) [if you like new mexican-style hatch green chiles and SPICY food!], and El Portal (near downtown Phoenix) . La Tolteca on van buren and los dos molinos (central ave) are worthy mentions as well.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: FoodCritic480
                          Jess321 Mar 4, 2009 04:42 PM

                          I don't live in Tempe so I haven't been able to give Someburros a chance yet, but while reading your review it encouraged me to visit. However, I simply can't understand how you dislike On the Border and Garcias (which I dislike as well), but you enjoy Arribas and Los Olivos. Those are equally gross and even though they attempt to seem authentic, they fail miserably. I know everybody has different tastes, but from what I've found, you either like all of those places or dislike all of them. Have they changed in recent years and become a lot better? I'd love to hear other people's input on this.

                          1. re: FoodCritic480
                            Seth Chadwick Mar 4, 2009 05:37 PM

                            You are setting up a false dichotomy between two lists that you yourself have created: Someburros and Pancho's vs. anything "gringo."

                            Noticeably absent from your list is El Nopalito, El Bravo, Richardson's (for New Mexican), Barrio Cafe, and Caroline's, to name a few. Jess is correct that everyone has different tastes, but there are things to consider such as consistency, creativity, expertise, freshness, and authenticity. The Someburros name pops up on this board from time to time, but the ones in my list are consistently mentioned for being some of the best Mexican (and New Mexican) food in the Valley.

                            The less than positive reviews of Someburros come from real life experiences. As I said in my review, I found some aspects of that restaurant to be good, including the rice, the hot sauce, the friendly counter service and the fact the place was clean and tidy.

                            Sadly, that wasn't enough to prevent one of the owners from calling me names and claiming I was lying about my experience. Oddly, I tend to not want to give my hard-earned dollars to people who insult me.

                            1. re: Seth Chadwick
                              f
                              FoodCritic480 Mar 5, 2009 05:57 PM

                              Seth,

                              I appreciate your response and understand your point of view. To the other posted, no I do not own, nor have ever worked for Someburros. I decided to reply and defend them because their food is very good. The BEST mexican food I've ever had? No. But a top 5 in the valley? You bet.

                              I apologize. I forgot to mention Caroline's, which, for my money have the BEST (and fresh) tortillas in the valley. I have never tried: El Nopalito, El Bravo, Richardson's (for New Mexican), or Barrio Cafe, hence my reason to omit them. I read your review on Maria Maria, and have yet to be there either, so I will not comment on that place either.

                              Maybe I'm one of those guys who finds a place that is good, and sticks to it. I frequent Someburros or Ponchos at least once every 2 weeks, if not once per week.

                              By no means do I put my opinion above yours or others who agree with you. I thought it would be refreshing to submit my opinion as contrast to the rest.

                              While I agree that the co-owner responded immature and unprofessional, that doesn't equate to the food being bad and bland. The food has always been full of flavor and I'm still waiting to find a place that serve better beans.

                              I will try your recommendation of the restaurants you listed. Mexican food is probably my favorite type of food.

                              Being a food critic is tough. Because there are numerous options on a menu, and some may be great and others not so much. Thats why I usually stick to my usual combo: Beef taco, enchilada, beans & rice (and the usual chips & salsa).

                              In respones to Jess, its possible its changed, maybe it hasn't. I just know what tastes good and what doesnt, to me.

                              And I'm Caucasian, so its no slam on white/gringo people. I just know the difference between something my mom would make as a kid vs my mexican friends' nana's (grandmothers) growing up.

                              Look, I still eat at Chipotle (only for their Barbacoa tacos), but to praise them and say its more authentic (a chain started by a white guy in Colorado), I can't get behind that logic. Its not a pre-discrimination, its what my taste buds tell me.

                              In the end, I just wanted to give you guys my take on Someburros. I was just shocked to hear you guys thought it was disgusting. The ownership's response and chicken was the only thing that fits that description.

                              And no firecracker, i'm not angry, probably was just hungry at the time. Trying to keep my saliva from dripping on the keyboard as I think of their tacos, enchiladas, beans & rice.

                              1. re: FoodCritic480
                                winedubar Mar 6, 2009 08:29 AM

                                hi there,

                                honestly i think there's a whole wide world of really good mexican food out there, and unfortunately you are missing alot of it. el nopalito, america's taco stand, phx ranch market, there are tons and tons of places out there with really stellar mexican food. and to be honest, i almost stopped reading after you were signing the praises of poncho's. that place defies logic. for reals. i can't imagine a less authentic, or even tasty, place for mexican food *shudder*...

                                1. re: winedubar
                                  azhotdish Mar 6, 2009 09:53 AM

                                  i'm actually eating the chicken mole enchiladas right now from el nopallito - that place pretty much rocks. sorry, i can't compare it to poncho's as i've never been, but go try it!

                            2. re: FoodCritic480
                              JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Mar 6, 2009 04:00 PM

                              Los Olivos? Really? That's comida para las turistas if ever I've seen it.

                              I see in a little bit of searching around online that Poncho's (very important O as you mentioned: Poncho's on south Central has nothing to do with the hideous Pancho's buffets) is affiliated with Someburros. It stands to reason pretty well that if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.

                              As for Garcia's, they went downhill ages ago, likely meeting the same fate as Monti's La Casa Vieja when the kids thought they could run the business better than mom and dad, and tried to split off on their own. From what I remember of going out to eat with my grandmother, one of the Garcia's locations is the original, and I'm pretty sure it's on 35th Avenue north of the 10. That one is likely going to be considerably better than the other ones in town, as the 35th Ave one is not affiliated with all the rest.

                            3. f
                              FoodCritic480 Mar 5, 2009 06:06 PM

                              PS: Seth, I'd love to read some of your pizza reviews. Do you have any? Next to Mexican food, pizza takes a close 2nd. Call it my mistress if you will. My favorites? Rosatis (classic combo on thin crust is out of this world), NYPD (great, fresh crust and fresh toppings), and Nello's are my most frequents. I'll treat my girlfriend and myself to Pizzeria Bianco & Cibo on occasion.I keep hearing great reviews on La Grande Orange Pizzeria, but have yet to make that trek.

                              Sorry to get off topic, but I'd love to hear your recommendations. Just because you don't like Someburros doesnt mean you dont like food. Something we both apparently love.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: FoodCritic480
                                f
                                FoodCritic480 Mar 5, 2009 06:13 PM

                                Oh, and I can't forget Oreganos. If you can get passed the line, its worth it. (Not to mention the heavenly pazookie as desert). Matter of fact, I just celebrated my 29th birthday there 2 weeks ago before a trip to Vegas.

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