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May 3, 2010 06:52 PM

California Burrito Express -- Orlando (E. Colonial Drive)

Tonight I stopped by the new California Burrito Express, which opened this past Friday in the old Fazoli's location on East Colonial Drive near the Fashion Square Mall (3922 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803). I work pretty close to that sad restaurant graveyard, so I've been looking forward to a new option for my occasional dinner breaks. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect, but I was prepared for a slightly generic chain like Chipotle or Moe's, with bland, overstuffed burritos "as big as your head."

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very authentic, extremely reasonably priced Mexican restaurant with a vast menu. This was no Taco Bell wannabe or Chipotle clone -- they offered tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, and my personal favorites, tortas (giant sub-like sandwiches on soft, almost sweet Mexican rolls). Options included carne asada, al pastor (pork), chicken, steak, chorizo (spicy crumbled sausage), fish, shrimp, and even lengua (slow-cooked beef tongue, another favorite), plus many others I'm sure I'm forgetting. It was a bit overwhelming, just due to the variety of choices. Oh yeah, they have a small breakfast menu too!

Whenever I visit a new restaurant, I always order a few things, just to sample as much as I can, and also so I can write about it on Chowhound. I really ought to just start my own local food blog! But I digress. I ordered a torta con lengua, where the tongue was a bit chewy, yet tender. It came with lots of shredded lettuce, and a bit of avocado and maybe some mayo, but I felt it could have used some kind of sauce to help the little cubes of meat and all the lettuce stick together better. I added a healthy scoop of the homemade salsa fresca, full of tomatoes and onions and cilantro, which helped. Chilango's in Winter Springs still has the best lengua I've tried in Orlando, but unfortunately I'm never over there anymore.

I also ordered a fish taco, which was easily the best I've had outside of San Diego. Locally, I've tried fish tacos at Baja Burrito Kitchen (overpriced and tiny), Del Taco (bland), Pancho's (not so good), and even Cheesecake Factory and Houlihan's (meh!), but this fish taco blew me away. The soft tortilla melded perfectly with the crunch of the fried fish and shredded cabbage, and the creamy sauce and little bit of salsa fresca completed the package. I think it was something like $2.35, and I could easily see making a meal just out of those... well, three or four of those!

Always a glutton (and not just for punishment), I also ordered a burrito con chorizo, although after my torta and fish taco, I could only eat one bite. It was a good size, and only $3.99. The first bite was delicious, but I'll have to enjoy the rest tomorrow. It looked like there was quite a bit of chorizo, cheese, and some refried beans inside the slightly crisp, grilled tortilla -- they didn't pad it out with fillers like rice or (gasp) lettuce.

I was glad they had horchata to drink, that perfect creamy, cinnamony sweet drink that pairs perfectly with Mexican food. They also have a fountain with your typical Coke products. Up front near the soda fountain, they have a salsa bar with the salsa fresca, red and green hot sauces, lemon and lime wedges, and what I now consider a true staple of authentic Mexican restaurants -- pickled carrot slices, jalapeno peppers, and onions, which go together surprisingly perfectly. I did add some of the carrots and onions to my torta con lengua to give it a kick, now that I think about it.

Anyway, for anyone who lives or works east of downtown Orlando or anywhere along that stretch of Colonial Drive, California Burrito Express is a new oasis in the vast desert of chain restaurants. Of course you're not far from the best Vietnamese food in Florida, but it's nice to have an authentic, cheap, delicious Mexican option right there as well.

162 W State Road 434, Winter Springs, FL 32708

Baja Burrito Kitchen
2716 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

Del Taco
3551 Dovera Dr, Oviedo, FL 32765

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  1. thanks for the tip lou! ive got to try it out soon! you are the best!

    1 Reply
    1. re: pdpredtide

      You honor me, and your TastyChomps blog has been an inspiration to me to write more about what I eat!

    2. I'll have to check it out to. I'm always looking for a good fish taco, but tend to not like the deep fried kind. So far the best I've found is at Taste in College Park (they grill the fish). I will check out these fish tacos since you recommend them and see if they can change my mind about fried fish tacos.

      1 Reply
      1. Good call on the torta con legua. It had an amazing flavor. I also had a very filling burrito con carne asada. Loved the salsa bar.

        1. I had lunch today (#16 Special Burrito) at the new location on SR436. I have lived In Florida 1 year and Southern California 49 years. This is the first place (besides the taco truck I came across out in Groveland) that is really Cali style Mexican. California Burrito Express is just like home. Soft flakey tortilla that tasted homemade. The marinated Carne Asada was perfectly seasoned and cooked just like they do all over Cali. The salsas were just right and the beans and rice??? Well again done like great California Mexican food always is. This is NOT Tex-Mex... I'm glad to say. There is plenty of that in Florida. I realize it's only one visit so I'm going back tomorrow to make sure it's as good on Tuesday as It was today.

          5 Replies
            1. re: gooday2eat

              Pretty sure jbfiorito meant Colonial, but it isn't far from 436. However, I could be wrong and there may be another one ON 436, but it would have to be south of Colonial since there definitely isn't one north of it.

              1. re: gooday2eat

                It's in the parking lot of the shopping center with the Aldi and Joann's at the intersection of 434 and 436 in Altamonte. Went into an old Miami Subs building that has been several fast food Chinese & Mexican places over the years. I noticed the coming soon sign a few weeks ago. I guess it's now open...

                  1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                    Thanks for the info. That's a whole lot closer than the Colonial location for me. As for the new location, that same building used to have a little Mexican joint called Senior Jose's in it back in the 80's and early 90's. Was cheap eats and had the best Mexican hot sauce I have ever had. Wish I knew how they made it.

            2. Finally made it by this past weekend and I'm glad I did. Although the burrito con carne asada isn't quite as good as Beto's, you're less likely to get shot, so it balances out.

              I also had a carnitas taco which I found very flavorful. The carne asada tacos are a little small, but had a nice flavor.

              I'll be going back this weekend to try the fish taco. I'm spoiled as hell having learned to eat them in Encinada, Mexico. NO GOOD FISH TACO'S ARE AVAILABLE IN ORLANDO. I hope they change my mind.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bkhuna

                I finally made it back. Ordered a couple of fish taco's and were told they didn't have them. I didn't ask whether he meant that day or any longer so my quest to find an edible fish taco in Mickyville goes on....

                Next stop, Clearwater.