Chino Locos—”crazy chinese” in Spanish—is a puportedly Mexican/Chinese fusion restaurant, although it comes off more as a burrito place with Chinese elements. It’s got an interior filled with various interesting pop culture posters, a short, enticing menu with weird names that attempt to be cool or funny.
This is a trend that I’ve noticed in many home-grown fast food restaurants, especially in burger places. Keep in mind that, at time of writing and of reviewing, I felt more like an overly-critical cynic than a happy young blogger, and this may colour my review against my best efforts. It may not help Chino Locos (a lucrative-enough business to have two establishments—is what I think of as an “acceptable target”), as one negative review won’t harm the company’s revenue or chance at success.
Another justification for my bad mood in the following paragraph: it’s never a good thing when a person walks into your restaurant wearing two thick hoodies and goes through their entire meal without even taking off their hat. It’s Canada, not the Arabian Peninsula, buy a heater.
We start the meal off with a bowl of nachos, after having come here directly from swimming practice, I’m ravenous and tired. Even that doesn’t keep me from noticing that the 5 dollar appetizer is made with dollar store ingredients and kept marginally above absolute zero with a microwave seemingly so weak I wouldn’t be surprised if it were damaged in a drunken experiment involving half a grape, plasma and an exploded egg.
Let me paint a dank picture: temperature feels like the bowl’s been sitting around for ten minutes (actually, more like five given the restaurant’s cold interior) bland tortilla chips probably imported from over the border, and that kind of fake Taco Bell “cheese” that wouldn’t taste much different if it regurgitated back up my throat before being re-swallowed. To be succinct, I was disappointed so far and was already thinking of the snarkiest new name for Chino Locos that I could think of in Spanish, something using the word barato (which means “cheap”).
Then came the burritos, which were good enough to elevate Chino Locos off my hit list and even give it a mixed review. Sort of. My mom had gotten the pulled pork option, and mine was a fish burrito. Both came to our table hot, as if they’d actually been cooked instead of microwaved, and the tortilla was generously stuffed with meats and filling alike. In terms of generous portion and comfortable heating, they passed the test.
Given the choice of mild, medium or hot, the former was mild, and mine was hot, both choices turned out to be mistakes. Maybe the spicy choice was meant to live up to its name, perhaps I just was not in the mood for heat despite my mom convincing me I’d like the hot sauce, but whatever the reason, I found my burrito too spicy to honestly enjoy. Franky, there wasn’t much else to taste, even the milder pork wrap had little to no seasoning.
What I will say is the ingredients of both were pretty good quality: fresh, tender and plentiful. While huge and filling, the burritos lacked a lot in terms of spice, not the fiery kind, but rather marinade, garlic, chives, herbs, decent salsa, friggin store-bought taco seasoning, something. Due to the simplicity of their ingredients, the burritos were two-dimensional in flavour: having many things to bite into and taste, but not much depth. I wish they’d added more sauces and aromatics from both Mexican and especially Chinese cuisines, some guacamole and hosin sauce would’ve killed it, but unfortunately the nuances of both ends of the world were overlooked. Good thing is that I’ve found my snarky re-name, “Gringos Locos”.
Pros: if you’re in the Broadview area of town and for some reason are stubbornly avoiding anything Chinese in the area, than Chino Locos will, despite its name, offer a non-eastern meal. I’d recommend ordering medium-spiced burritos, they’re too bland by default, and too spicy otherwise. If you want to feel stuffed by a tortilla baby and are likewise in the neighborhood, this will handle the craving. Coming here is really weighing how close you are vs how much you crave something with meat and beans in it.
Cons: were to begin? It’s cold and uncomfortable, for starters, and the nachos were something I could picture my dog nibbling on for a couple seconds before walking away disappointed. I get not every dish can be amazing, some will be bad comparatively to others, but at least try with everything, or else take it off the menu. Laying that to rest, let’s just say a customer should ignore the side dishes. The burritos, ignoring the spice problem that was 100% our own fault, didn’t have much flavour and they really shouldn’t hinge on what degree of heat the customer orders them in. In terms of constructive criticism, experimenting with extra seasoning could really make Chino Loco’s shine. Lastly, in relation to one of the pros above, the streetcars and buses go right by the place, if you’re in the area, just hop on something with wheels and go elsewhere. I’d sooner wait 15 minutes going downtown so I could eat at Chipotle’s.
In short, I thoroughly do not recommend Chino Locos, the best thing about their establishment is average, filling but done better elsewhere and complaining about everything they got wrong is like beating a dead horse at this point. 3/10 (Yes, the nachos knocked off a star off my rating)
Chino Locos 368 Broadview Avenue