Since replacing Santa Ana Restaurant in its tiny, bright red shack on Columbia Pike this past summer, Pedro & Vinny’s has been serving crowds that can hardly fit into its small confines. The restaurant is a franchise of the popular food cart of the same name that has set up shop around Washington, D.C. While inauspiciously situated in the corner of a CVS parking lot, this spot offers offers fully customizable, fresh, fast and delicious burrito-and-like-fare options for those who step inside.
Metal tables outside the restaurant offer a spot for sit-down dining in warmer months, inside there is only enough space for a cash register, a kitchen, and a corridor for a small line of customers to deliver their order.
Three entree picks make up the menu – burritos, bowls (burritos without the tortilla), and salads (burritos with no tortilla and a hefty dose of lettuce), and the filling sets the price – be it $6.45 for citrus-seasoned chicken, $6.95 for steak cubes, $6.85 for shredded braised pork, or $6.45 for vegetarian (which comes with a free dollop of the otherwise $1.50 guacamole to sweeten the deal for non meat-eaters).
Burritos come with the diner’s pick of tortilla wrap – not just the standard flour, but specialty flavors like spinach, garlic-onion and tomato. A wide assortment of toppings can be placed on the burrito, and Pedro & Vinny’s prides itself on its use of fresh ingredients – never canned and never frozen. The tortilla is steamed, with cheese melted on in the process for those opting to include it, while the diner considers the possible flavor combinations made with toppings.
First comes the choice of seasoned rice and beans, black or pinto, or the “black and tan” combo. Meats are layered on next. From there, an assortment of cool toppings awaits, like pico de gallo, lettuce, onion, corn, cucumber, cilantro, sour cream and guacamole.
House-made sauces can be added to the mix, as well. Some blend sweet fruit flavors with a little spicy kick, like the smoky-sweet Georgia Peach or the mango-habanero sauce served in a repurposed Grey Goose bottle affectionately referred to as “The Goose.” Others, like the cilantro-habanero sauce and the tomato-based sauce, focus on the heat. Diners are invited to sample the sauces with provided tortilla chips before making their pick.
When the final choices are made and the burrito is wrapped (or the lid is placed on the bowl or salad), the end result is a substantial amount of made-to-order food, even for those who don’t accept every possible topping.
The quality and flavor of the ingredients this restaurant uses is almost a disadvantage, as novice burrito builders can fall victim to over-stacking their creations until the many powerful flavors are indistinguishable from one another. The restaurant’s corn tastes like corn, and onion tastes like onion, and cucumber tastes like cucumber – they aren’t simply textural facsimiles that lack flavor. Add the heat that the many spiced ingredients and sauces provide, and the danger of building a too-potent burrito is evident.
A better approach is to select just a few elements – a savory meat, a delicious sauce, and a few vegetable toppings for a bit of crunch and flavor – to make an all-star burrito creation. Pedro & Vinny’s staffers are eager to make suggestions and make sure the heat levels stay within the diner’s spice comfort level. Whatever the final recipe, the ingredient variety and quality (and some generous late-night hours) will keep burrito lovers coming back for more.
Pedro & Vinny’s is located at 2599 Columbia Pike, Arlington. For more information, call 703-302-3999 or visit pedroandvinnys.com. Restaurant hours are
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 3 a.m.