Friday, August 21, 2009

Frugal Fridays: La Vaca

For this week's Frugal Friday adventure, I made my way over toward the Pike Place Market, but stopped just before at the little walk-up window at 1429 1st Ave that is La Vaca.

I'd been searching the web for ideas of new frugal lunch spots, and kept running across mention of La Vaca - a little Mexican restaurant that I used to go to fairly often, when they had a second location close to Cherry Street. The posts I saw about it were pretty outdated, but I thought it was worth a trek to see if they still have the cheap, tasty burritos I remember.

I went for the $3.95 veggie burrito with black beans - the only, or one of the only menu items still falling under my self-imposed cost limit. After tax, it came to $4.35.

The burrito was big - heavy even - so as I walked back to my office I had high hopes. I'm usually not one to say I didn't like something, but I have to be honest that I wish I'd spent my money at Amigos & Bebas instead - where my dollar would've stretched further and the burrito would've been better.

As you can see from the photo, the burrito was nearly all rice, with a little bit of beans and a tiny amount of lettuce/tomato. It didn't seem to have any sauce at all. I kept eating further down, hoping to find the hidden pocket of flavor and fresh ingredients, but only found more and more bland rice. After many years of vegetarianism, I know that you can make a delicious veggie burrito, but sadly, this particular burrito wasn't one.

A passage contrasting eating establishments in Europe and the US that I read today in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life seemed to capture the experience well:

"In our country [the US] it's a reasonable presumption that unless you have gone out of your way to find good food, you'll be settling for mediocre at best."

I also couldn't help but remember my old office mate Jorge, who would tell me about food from Mexico, and explain that burritos don't have rice inside them - that's an American addition. I honestly don't mind rice in a burrito. But in this particular burrito, rice was nearly all there was, and it made for a flat taste and unsatisfying (though certainly filling) lunch.

(Frugal Fridays is a weekly series dedicated to finding Seattle lunch spots where you can walk in with a $5 bill and walk out with a fulfilling, preferably healthy, lunch. If you have suggestions of places in the Seattle area with a great lunch for under $5 after tax, post a comment - I'd love the help.)

La Vaca Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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