Blaze’n Burrito Mexican Grill8230 Rogers Ave. Fort Smith, AR 72903 479.242.2100 blazenburrito.com *For @beatyhim our Blaze’n review is by special request; All because he won our first contest.
A build-your-own burrito bar that we’ve often described to out-of-towners as “kind of like Subway, but Ameri-Mexican.” True – but way better. Who doesn’t love anything with a plop-o-guac on top?
Slick. The tables are shiny. The lighting is crisp. The flat panel TVs are bright. The ads look slick. Professional. This is a place that knows its vibe and knows its customers.
This is part sports bar, part eat-in fast food, part college hangout. (Yep, we always, always see some big kid who’s clearly a UA-FS student chomping away on The Big “B.”) It’s casual with a capital C. Casual enough for a gaggle of teenagers or a family with small children or two dudes trying to relive their youth by eating too much spicy food while watching college football together on a weekend afternoon.
Prices are sort of up to you, load it on or keep it simple. Most pricing depends on your meat choice since there’s a whole spread-o-toppings free with whatever you choose (besides burritos, the’ve got nachos, tacos, quesadillas, taco salads, probably something else we’re forgetting). You can get a vegetarian Lil B (that’s the small burrito) for $4, or a Big “B,” Quesadilla, Blaze’n Salad, Nachos or 3 Tacos with either pork or grilled steak for $6.50. Ground beef, shredded spicy beef or chicken is $6. Guacamole is extra, as is extra meat or cheese. But all other toppings are freebies: black beans, refried beans, sauteed onions/peppers, seasoned rice, potato wedges, 2 kinds of cheese sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, onions, black olives, jalapenos. And everything comes with chips & salsa (either mild or hot) — and you can get FREE REFILLS on the chips or the salsa or both. You know us — we love “free.”
The beer list keeps expanding. Hey, we’re not looking to go to Blaze’n for a party-all-night rave-a-thon, but it’s nice to be able to choose more than some basic (read: watery) lite beer as a cerveza accompaniment. This list below is actually outta date. They’ve already added at least 10 more “fancy” beers. All bottled, natch. Plus, they take requests. The counter guy asked us what beers we’d like to have added, said they’d try to get them in. Couldn’t think of any, but hey. Good to know.
We’re always partial to a cold Shiner Bock or Fat Tire. Or for more authenticity, get a Dos Equis.
The service. This isn’t a waitperson-type of restaurant; you’re on your own once your food is built in front of you & you pay the bill. Refilling your own drink, getting your own (plastic) silverware. But employees or the owner often will come ’round while you eat, asking about your food or if you need a chip-salsa refill. They’ll change the TV channel to another game if they aren’t already showing what you want to see. They are often seen cleaning up — the food counter, the floors, the tables. You know, working. Don’t always see that at restaurants.
The white queso. We don’t know what kind of cheese that is, but it’s not the standard cheese dip. Some kind of melty authentic Mexican supercheese, we suspect. And it’s super good.
The white queso. You make us fall in love with it, and then charge us for it extra on the side with our chips. Which is fine, sure. But why does it have to come in such an itty bitty container? It’s literally about the size of the butter or sour cream cups that steakhouses send out with the baked potato. We can’t afford to order 12 of them, just to get the amount of it we want to accompany our bottomless chips and salsa. It’s a recession, after all! Please give us a bigger queso-on-the-side option that won’t put us in the poorhouse.
We don’t like styrofoam cups. They stink for the environment, and they stink as far as just the texture. We just plain don’t like ’em. So, real plastic cups, please. We’ll return them along with our trays to the trash area, we promise. (See, another reason we drink a beer while we’re there! It’s in a cold GLASS container.)
What to order:
Really, it’s all good because you get to choose your meat well as all your accoutrements. So, it’s tailored to the diner’s preferences (so long as said diner likes Ameri-Mexican, right). Vegetarians love it, too. All the ingredients are fresh, don’t have that sitting-out-on-a-buffet look we hate. We hear via Facebook they now have a black bean ‘n corn salsa and cilantro as fixins, but we haven’t tried those yet. On the to-do list.
Nachos. Really, is there much more that needs to be said? Crisp chips piled high with mucho-macho-nacho-goodness. In this case, ground beef with white queso, shredded cheese, pico, tomatoes, olives, jalepenos, guac and sour cream. Mmmm, we want more right now!
The slow-roasted pork is off the hook good. And it’s weird now that we think about it how hard it is to find pork on nachos or tacos or quesadillas or sometimes even burritos, considering what a staple of Mexican cooking it is. Why is that, America? Are we still stuck in the 1950s version of Mexican food? It’s not like it’s veal or fatty duck liver or something expensive and hard to find. It’s pork and it’s cheap and it’s yummy. (This paragraph’s a blatant attempt to get Fort Smith Eats sponsorship from the Pork Council of America. Oink. Eat more pig.)
We’re also partial to the basic burrito. Often we’ll get the Lil B because The Big “B” is one bigggg meal and we like to save room for the endless chips & salsa (the chips are fresh and the hot salsa has a good flavor without being put-your-mouth-afire hot). You can get your burrito in all sorts of tortilla flavors, from plain flour to wheat to tomato basil. We like flour, spinach and the jalapeno cheddar the best.
Despite the claims of “Blaze’n” and searing-hot spiciness, you don’t have to fear the heat. The spice is available, but far from a given. You have to pile on the spicy shredded beef, jalapenos, spicy salsa, etc. to get that effect. Plenty of kid-palate options, too.
What to avoid:
The sweet tea — it’s hit or miss. Also, we think an herb tortilla is bizarre with Mexican food. Just because it’s available and tastes good separately, doesn’t mean it needs to be ordered together. Judgment, people.