There has been a very noticeable trend of burrito joints popping up in the Lehigh Valley and last year Fegley Enterprises, the team behind the ever-expanding and always-popular Brew Works brewpubs jumped on the chance to enter the fray when they opened Burrito Works in Allentown.
Burrito Works takes a kind of Subway-style approach to their operation. When you enter and head into the burrito portion of the restaurant (there’s an attached coffee shop as well) you start at the glass display case. After deciding what you want (burrito, burrito bowl, taco, or salad), you go through what meats, rice, beans, cheese, and salsa you want on your order.
For meats you have three choices: chicken marinated in witbier, beef marinated in porter, or pork marinated in blonde ale, all of which are then slow-roasted and pulled. You can also opt for a meatless vegetarian burrito. Next up you’ve got five choices of salsa in varying degrees of heat. On the lower end there’s pico de gallo and corn salsa, in medium intensity there’s salsa verde, and on the hottest end there’s pineapple habanero and pico el Diablo.
To finish it out you can add brown or cilantro-lime rice, black lager or pinto ale beans, and cheddar jack or sour cream. There’s other signature burrito options for order as well. The restaurant also touts custom and signature “pizzapatas”, which are pizzas on a grilled flatbread. Sides include chicken tortilla soup, Mexican bean soup, chili, and beer & cheese soup.
One of the main draws to Burrito Works over other shops is its liquor license. They serve two Brew Works beers on draft, usually one being a pale ale and the other something hoppier as to counter spiciness. This is a welcome change from most burrito places around the Lehigh Valley where you have to BYOB, if that’s even allowed. They also feature nice extensive bottle list that lets you choose beers from across the world to pair with your food or to take out.
Another great addition to Burrito Works is the local artwork on display throughout the restaurant. Changing out monthly, the pieces range from paintings to decorative furniture. The atmosphere of the restaurant is very quiet and warm. Summer is the best time to visit Burrito Works. Why you ask? Because they have a an outside area that allows you to enjoy a beer and your food while relaxing in the shade.
The place isn’t without flaw, however. The food itself is mediocre to bland. Without dumping on some hot sauce (which they have a nice selection of, by the way), it just doesn’t cut it. The marinated meats lack additional flavoring and seasoning and don’t contribute much more than protein to the dishes. The salsa is another point of contention, particularly in the heat department. The pico el diablo, supposedly topping off the spiciest end of their heat chart, fails to deliver. It’s mildly spicy and could certainly use a hell of a lot more kick.
Staff there seem terribly lackadaisical as well, even for a burrito shop. In one occurrence the staff just seemed mad at the world, completely dissatisfied with having to serve customers. During another visit employees were move friendly and helpful, but had loud, inappropriate conversations while we dined in an otherwise empty sitting area.
Despite these downfalls, Burrito Works is certainly an enjoyable place to visit. Minor changes, like some better employee training and bringing the food up a notch, would bring Burrito Works to another level. The food quality itself is fine, but what they do with it could be improved. Still, if you’re in downtown Allentown and looking for a quick meal and a beer there’s far worse you could do. If they could get the food up to the level of Cali Burrito and have the employee quality level to boot they would fare far better.
Correction: It was originally mistakenly stated that Burrito Works carries tofu. They only offer a vegetarian meat-free option.