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A Cold Experience at Hot Harry’s

June 30, 2011

“We don’t really need 3 burrito chains in Albany.” Those were the words of the MHK’s senior female staffer last night as we tried the newest Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos on Western Ave. The other two chains to which she was referring are Moe’s and Chipotle. And while some people may criticize those two as being less than authentic, after sampling Hot Harry’s, her quote rings true – Moe’s and Chipotle seem like the best burrito places ever.

Hot Harry’s menu is fairly straightforward – burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and a few salads and soups. You pick your protein, which include cilantro-lime steak, Yucatan chicken (in a garlic-citrus marinade), adobo chicken (red chile sauce), pulled pork, ground beef, veggies, Baja tofu, and the seemingly out-of-place Cajun catfish option. They do have preconceived combinations for burritos like the bacon cheeseburger, the Thai chicken, and the buffalo chicken. You can get your burrito “regular,” “super” (which includes sour cream and guacamole), or “monster,” with double the meat. Just about everything comes with chips (the kids’ meals have the option of yogurt instead).

We tried a burrito with the Yucatan chicken, the Thai chicken burrito, a cheese quesadilla, and their soup of the day – roasted red pepper with Gouda.  The burritos are composed in front of you, so you can direct the assembler as to what toppings you’d like. They made the Thai chicken one first, regular size, which ended up being pretty small for a burrito. So we asked for the other burrito to be “monster” sized, which really means it was the size of Moe’s and Chipotle’s normal burritos. The toppings all looked fresh, and the staff was very friendly in helping us negotiate the menu.

With regard to taste, the burritos were decent enough. The Thai chicken had a good peanut sauce on it, and the chicken was cooked perfectly. The Yucatan chicken was unfortunately cut into very large chunks, which actually does not benefit a burrito or taco – the pieces were so large that you could not take a bite of more than just the chicken at a time. Plus it was a little overcooked and dry. But the spicy sauce I requested actually had some heat to it, so the dish was edible enough overall. The soup was not bad, though it was heavy on tomato base and very light on any red pepper or Gouda; but at least it had flavor. The chips tasted like they were going stale – we weren’t sure if they were made fresh much earlier in the day, or if they came out of a bag; in either case, Moe’s and Chipotle’s chips are far superior. The salsas that Hot Harry’s offers were huge failures (other than the hot sauce); the “spicy” salsa didn’t even have a hint of spice, let alone any flavor at all; the “medium” one was the same. It tasted like cold tomato sauce. The pico de gallo was tolerable, but the tomatillo salsa was truly disgraceful. It was so full of sugar – yes, sugar for god knows what reason – that it tasted like a dessert instead of a Mexican food condiment. The guacamole was not bad – it had a lot of lime flavor but was pretty mushy.

Overall, we can’t find a good reason to go back to Hot Harry’s. I’m curious to see if their steak, ground beef or tofu options are any good, but not curious enough to make us return. If anything, having this establishment in the area (there are 3 now with a 4th opening soon) should boost Moe’s and Chipotle’s business, because as we said, they are far superior in quality of taste, compared to “Not So” Hot Harry’s.

The Mouse House Kitchen gives Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos 2 out of 5 stars.

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