Restaurant review: Currito makes internationally inspired cuts-above fast food

By Columbus Alive
From the October 10, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Tim Johnson

While the much-anticipated Bakersfield is still working to open its Short North doors and unleash its Mexican-ish cuisine, tequilas, whiskeys and “badass” country music on Columbus, I figured I’d get a taste of what its fast-food brother was up to. That would be Bakersfield-owners-sharing Currito, yet another (trope fatigue alert!) Chipotle-inspired joint.

Brazenly positioned within sniffing distance of the wildly popular Chipotle on the OSU campus, this Currito (it’s the Cincinnati-based chain’s 17th store) hopes to steal some of its competitor’s business by offering a range of burritos, “bowls” and salads whose ingredient influences extend from Mexico to India and from Thailand to the Mediterranean. In Currito advertizing-speak, this is called “burritos without borders.”

Though it was playing ’80s oldies when I visited, Currito exudes a modern sensibility and mostly avoids that ultra-gloomy fast-food feel. It’s pretty roomy, with chunky wooden tables and perching spots (one of which anchors a garage door-style window) spread out over two levels.

I guess I’d call Currito’s damn salty but not bland fare cuts-above fast food. In other words, I wouldn’t seek it out, but if I was trapped in an airport or still a student, I’d be glad to bump into one (Currito is wisely planting its flags on universities and in airports).

From the pick-your-protein, pre-designed items I ordered (you can completely engineer a mix-and-match meal too), the best thing I tried here was the juicy, tender and plentiful pot roast-like “braised beef” gracing my “teriyaki” burrito ($6 for a small). The impressive meat was nestled among a salty-sweet sauce, some broccoli, character-lending caramelized onions, brown rice and carrots.

My cardamom-scented tikka bowl was OK ($7). The stars there were highly seasoned and good-tasting chickpeas, which merged well with decent, cilantro-flecked rice plus curry and raita-like sauces. A tofu add-on was on the insipid side.

The salt hit the fan with an untraditional Caesar Chicken Salad ($7). Here, grilled clumps of salty and peppery dark meat were tossed with salty feta, box-quality croutons, sliced romaine lettuce and a rich, thick and cheesy, better-than-average dressing.

Fortunately a pleasant and recommended, whizzed sorbet-like (and about as tart as it was sweet) Cape Codder smoothie ($3) helped defeat the powerful thirst created by that parched-mouth-making Caesar.