Is Mission Burrito Trying to Compete with Torchy's Tacos?

Categories: On the Menu

Mission Burrito 007.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Photographing tacos when all you want to do is eat them is torture, people. TORTURE.
I get the feeling that Mission Burrito is suddenly trying to compete with newcomer Torchy's Tacos, the Austin import that features tacos with fillings like fried chicken and names like the Dirty Sanchez or the Trailer Park.

Why? Because the Houston-based burrito chain has now introduced a new line of "Ten Tasty Tacos" at three of its locations -- the original on West Alabama (which opened in 1996) as well as on Durham and Highway 6 -- with more family-friendly names such as the Tree Hugger, the Sloppy Cowboy and the Confused Farmer.

In keeping with the competitive spirit, each taco has somewhat non-traditional fillings: The Black Magic comes with fried shrimp (or tilapia) on a corn tortilla with jicama slaw and horseradish sauce, for example. The aforementioned Sloppy Cowboy sees pulled pork topped with grilled potatoes and onions, chile de arbol salsa, shredded cheese and Mission Burrito's famously irresistible serrano-cilantro ranch dressing. (I mix that stuff into my queso, into my Que Mas salads, into everything I order there.)

And if the question here is whether or not Mission Burrito is trying to compete with Torchy's, the answer is clear: It is, and it's winning -- as far as I'm concerned.

Mission Burrito 009.jpg
It ain't much to look at here, but the Two Timer taco -- a hard corn taco shell wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and a spread of refried beans, filled with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream -- was the second favorite of the night.
I was one of those people who were very excited when Torchy's came to town. I loved their tacos in Austin, but was greatly disheartened to see their Houston location strip down a perfectly beautiful restaurant and turn it into a cold fallout shelter in hues of concrete and gunmetal. It didn't fit at all with the aesthetic of the Torchy's back in the Hill Country at all.

And across three separate visits to Torchy's, the tacos have steadily disappointed more and more each time. The last two tacos I received were cold. Stone cold. It was baffling. Worse, they were getting expensive.

Mission Burrito 002.jpg
Vegetarians: The Tree Hugger is your taco.
Not a single taco on Mission Burrito's "Ten Tasty Tacos" menu is over $3.95. My favorite, in fact -- the Tree Hugger, with plush slices of avocado amidst roasted corn, jicama slaw, serrano-cilantro ranch dressing and shredded cheese -- is only $2.50. Get two and it's a meal. (Yes, I know that I'm a sucker for avocado tacos.)

And because I've been eating at Mission Burrito since I was in high school and have yet to ever find the chain wanting -- even after it was sold to Houston-based Mexican Restaurants, Inc. six years ago -- I have no doubt in my mind that the tacos will remain consistently delicious over time.

I'd love to see Mission Burrito add these tacos to every one of its stores, but for now I'm happy to drive out to the old West Alabama mainstay, order a tray of tacos and relax under the big oak trees out front or in the cozy confines of the mission-style dining room. At least I don't feel like I'm taking refuge in a nuclear bunker when I'm here.



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Location Info

Mission Burrito

2245 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Mission Burrito

1609 Durham, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Mission Burrito

6168 Highway 6 N., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Torchy's Tacos

2411 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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25 comments
Jeffrey Pearson
Jeffrey Pearson

 Glad to see another respected food writer agrees with me here. Torchy's is atrocious. And don't be bewildered why their food is cold. I know why its cold, they sandbag their proteins. I can't wait for that dump to fail.

DempseyC
DempseyC

I think Paul West hired on as a consultant with Mission/MRI after his brilliant stroke of luring Torchy's into this market.

Flamenco J
Flamenco J

What is the goddamn fascination with restaurants making their own tortillas. Even some of the places that show you making their own are getting the masa (dough) premade. I guarantee it. It's rare for a restaurant to make their own tortillas from scratch...and I mean mixing flour, water, salt, etc... most of the masa comes premade, pre rolled and they just throw the raw dough on the cook top and go.

Somebody name some places that, you know for a FACT, make their own masa?????

Wuwu
Wuwu

Torchys sucks and I'm not afraid to say that.  Mission is the Luby's of burritos, pure crap too...folks just go to Terra Taco, across from W. Alabama Ice House and have a real standout....

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

You are so right about that serrano-cilantro ranch dressing. It's addictive. I had two servings of it on a salad there yesterday. Can't wait to try these tacos.  Curiously I also like their wine margaritas!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Please tell me they're at least making their own tortillas.

Ec
Ec

Those tacos look horrible. Packaged tortillas and dried out toppings. No thanks.

SirRon
SirRon

I liked this post, but I just felt like you could have just compared the food. I respect your experience and opinion.

If someone were to like the interior and has never had a cold taco at Torchy's, then what? I get that you feel romantic toward your memory of Torchy's and your dear childhood favorite Mission, but seriously Shilcutt? Mark my words, if I ever have a cold taco at Mission... watch out! I'm going to come back and fk this comment section up. Or something.

Sorry to sound like the rest of my peers here.

FT
FT

The music at Torchy's is way too loud for casual conversation. You shouldn't have to yell at your dining partner. I like loud music... at concerts, not while I'm eating. I never eat in the building. I always get it to-go. 

Corey
Corey

Mission is terrible, only place I've ever been to where they refused to print my reciept because they obviously flubbed our order, 4 tacos and one soup shouldn't run $30... They were good when I was in college, now they're just another corporate restaurant and it shows. I quite like torchy's and don't mind being 10 hipsters deep though their music is pretty god awful at torchy's...

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

Is the service better too? The service at Torchy's is weird. And not in the 'cool Austin vibe' weird...

Feldman
Feldman

 I'm partial to the two-timer (as crazy as it sounds, it's really good) and the ropa vieja taco. Good job Mission!!

SirRon
SirRon

You mean "the worst ever," right?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Well, I'll admit they photographed horribly. But they tasted terrific, and that's all I care about.  :)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

If someone likes the interior at Torchy's and has never had a cold taco there, then more power to them. Did I issue an ultimatum up there in the post somewhere that I'm unaware of?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've always received excellent service at Mission Burrito, going on 16 years and counting...  :)

SirRon
SirRon

This is the Internet. Everything is either the best ever or the worst ever. You tried to say that Torchy's is the worst ever and Mission is the best ever. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO INTERPRET THAT!1

SirRon
SirRon

U just don't get it do u PM? U must think u taste food better than every one else. YOUR WRONG TORCHYS IS AWESOME!

PM
PM

 And blog hits/comments, nothing wrong with cajoling a few more out of the mouthbreathing internet hoi polloi.  Torchy's should be honored.  They have already reached the internet commenting pantheon of burgers, Landry's restaurants, Pappas Restaurants, pizza, and fries.  You know, the topics where no one else gives a shit about your opinion, but you just really need to type it into a box in angry, grammatically inept fashion, perhaps using all caps if you REALLY need to show conviction.

SirRon
SirRon

This thread is too long, but...

The comparison was just fine. I'm pretty sure I've made it clear that the post was good. However Mission's new tacos being better than Torchy's should have nothing to do with "strip down a perfectly beautiful restaurant and turn it into a cold fallout shelter in hues of concrete and gunmetal" and "The last two tacos I received were cold. Stone cold. It was baffling." That isn't very strong evidence to support your claim.

It left me thinking: "Damn, 100% of the time I've been to Torchy's the tacos were great and I like the look." And expensive? C'mon. We are talking about $3-$5 tacos vs. $2.50-$4 tacos, right?

Had you left that out, I would have thought, "Damn, I gotta go try those tacos because Shilcutt said they tasted better than Torchy's, and Shilcutt knows her tacos."

That shit sucked some of the care out of me and ruined a good informative post for me. Just like this thread is ruining the potential for good conversation underneath the post.

But I like that I live somewhere that I can argue about good tacos.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I guess the reason I thought you were trolling is because I honestly don't know what's petty about disliking Torchy's Tacos. I find the interior to be cold and uninviting, and the tacos expensive for the poor quality I've received in the past. And the reason I brought them into this at all is because it's pretty clear that Mission Burrito is attempting to compete with the new blood in town, Torchy's.

SirRon
SirRon

You guys don't drink in the HP offices? That helps with the brain fry and the parsing.

I honestly feel that you should have left the petty crap out of that piece. It didn't need it. I mean it when I say that you are better than that. Contrary to my Discus peers, I respect your opinion*.

Sorry if that offends. However, I'm offended you used the troll word, so we're even.

* with the exception of your opinion of the HM pig's ears. I swear to Google I will burn Discus down if that dish shows up on your Top 100 list.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

SirRon, what is going on with the Internets this week? Please tell me that you're trolling because my brain is too fried today to try and parse it out for myself.

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