Review: Freebirds provides a delicious alternative burrito
by Kate Marinkovich and Frankie Comey
Published February 5, 2013
“It says pot brownie on your menu. What kind of pot brownie do you mean?” Unfortunately for this curious customer, the pot brownies served here at the new Freebirds on the corner of El Camino and Cambridge Avenue are not the kind that was expected. Instead, they are delicious, double chocolate chip brownies that can complete a Freebirds meal for $2.99 more.
Freebirds is a fast food Mexican restaurant offering a varied menu of burritos, tacos, salads and more. Freebirds’ humble beginnings are based in the beach town of Santa Barbara. Here, two self proclaimed ex-hippies honed their perfect burrito with a few key ingredients: fresh-chopped vegetables, home cooked rice and beans and grass fed beef and all natural chicken. Having evolved into a full blown chain, there are many other locations across in the nation, namely in California and Texas.
Our Freebirds experience began at 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. At this time, Freebirds is reasonably calm. Customers sit reasonably scattered across the tables, deep in the spell of their burritos. Right on cue, the electric whine of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem, “Free Bird”, starts playing on the speakers.
If Chipotle and Hot Topic had a baby, it would look a lot like the interior of Freebirds restaurant. While waiting in line, we glanced around, noticing the faux brick walls, appropriately decorated with graffiti and hippie-themed icons. A massive American flag with a peace sign emblazoned across it covers a large stretch of wall. Most notable was a statue of Lady Liberty riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle hanging from the ceiling.
The dress code at Freebirds stayed true to its edgy flavor: most employees wear baggy jeans and snap-backs. Many of them rocked a piercing or tattoo. But above all else, their friendly, lively demeanor was welcome. Along with asking for our orders, employees struck up conversations with us. Most employees appeared to be college students, and they asked us where we went to school. The ordering process was leisurely but didn’t feel like it took too long.
Many people will compare Freebirds to another burrito chain: Chipotle. And while Chipotle has its pros and cons, Freebirds certainly has its quirks that serve to differentiate it. One such quirk that struck us was the personalized experience in comparison with Chipotle or another more conventional burrito chain. Have I ever had a conversation with a Chipotle employee? No way. The frenetic pace that Chipotle employees operate at offers no time for small talk. People go to Chipotle expecting this: a burrito to-go in three minutes tops. Freebirds is a completely different experience of a laid-back but still timely service. Chipotle is the mass-producing conveyor belt while Freebirds is more of an independent, hand-crafting establishment.
Burritos come in four sizes: the kid’s sized Hybrid, the average Freebird, the hefty Monster and the larger-than-life Super Monster. Moderately hungry, we each went for the Freebird. I heard good things about Freebirds’ grass-fed steak, so I chose to pile that into my flour burrito. Flour, wheat, spinach, and cayenne burritos are all available for the customer’s choice. Beans also have two options: black and pinto. Rice is varied between cilantro and Spanish. Along with Spanish rice, lettuce, pinto beans, cheddar/jack cheese, corn and tortilla strips, my burrito was completed with a generous helping of the signature Badass Barbecue Sauce.
A Freebird steak burrito came out to $7.29. An additional $2.99 added a fountain drink and pot brownie to round out my order. By the time I sat down, I was thoroughly ready to dive into my made-to-order burrito. Maybe it’s just me, but something about Spanish rice in a burrito is downright genius. The first bite was delicious. The tortilla chips added a nice crunch, the steak was flavorful, and the barbecue sauce bound the different textures of rice, chips, steak and vegetables together perfectly. I was hard pressed to remember the last time I had a burrito this good.