Grub Scout: Barberito's in Bearden rises above typical Tex-Mex fare

Barberito's

Bearden - Knoxville

215 Brookview Centre Way, Suite 101

865-330-0068

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Critic's star breakdown

  • Food: 4 stars (out of five)
  • Service: 3.5
  • Atmosphere: 3.5
  • Overall: 3.5

Hey, look, everybody — another fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant! I know we've already got Salsarita's, Moe's, Blue Coast Burrito, Z Mex Grille and Chipotle Grill (and no telling how many others I've let roll out of my brain), but we've got room for one more, right? Right???

The Grub Spouse and I made our way to Barberito's for dinner recently and found it tucked away in an enclave of shops off Northshore, just a few doors down from Bistro By The Tracks. The layout channels patrons to the left, where they can scope out a large wall menu before heading down the long chute that leads to the food-prep area.

I couldn't help but compare the Barberito's experience to other, similar local chains, particularly some of my favorites. You won't find any huge surprises when it comes to the overall selection of Southwest food items, which includes burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos and fajitas. For those watching carbs and calories, there are some healthier salad options as well as seven items that carry fewer than seven fat grams each.

We were greeted by two friendly fellas, who took us step by step through the assembly process. I was ready for a big ol' fat burrito and was pleased to discover that Barberito's offers a choice of several different 10-inch tortillas, which most other places do not. There are plain and spinach, to mention a couple, but I got mine on a chipotle tortilla.

As for the innards, you can get the basic Skinny burrito, which includes rice, beans, meat, cheese and salsa. Or you can go Fatty and add guacamole or sour cream. Or you can go all gangsta and get the Heavy D, which tacks on guac, sour cream and lettuce. That's what I did, choosing black beans over pintos and also giving their new spicy chicken filling a whirl. Along the way, you get other options, including various veggie and salsa toppings. I was also happy to learn that chips and the salsa bar are included in the price, which, for example, Salsarita's does not do.

The Spouse got the fajitas, choosing regular grilled chicken along with the included three soft tortillas, cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce and sautéed onions and green peppers. Guacamole was included too, but The Spouse passed on the green stuff and added black beans instead.

We got our orders and made a quick stop at the salsa bar, where we dished out a little mild and tomatillo salsa. There was some hot sauce too, but I had ordered spicy chicken and didn't want to tempt fate.

As it turned out, the spicy chicken lived up to its billing. It was fiery hot though not uncomfortably so. It was just right for yours truly. Overall, I thought the proportions of rice, beans, meat and other fillings were right on, although the spicy chicken definitely screamed for the most attention. I also liked the way they smeared the sour cream evenly on the tortilla before wrapping it, instead of globbing it all into the middle.

The fajitas were on target too with spicy and smoky grilled tastes mixing in well with the cool sour cream and lettuce. The Spouse was given a more-than-ample amount of filling and was able to put away two fajitas' worth before boxing up the rest for my next-day lunch.

I even liked the thin, crispy tortilla chips and the flavors of the salsa bar. So even though Barberito's is more of the same in many ways, it does have some distinctive attributes that would appeal to fans of this budget style of Tex-Mex cuisine. You can at least give it a go and make your own taste-test comparisons.

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