Burritos are, to paraphrase Ron Swanson, the most efficient meat delivery system. They may in fact be the finest culinary innovation mankind has ever created. They contain all of the essential food groups (meats, cheese, veggies, beans, sauces) in a convenient air-tight edible pouch, its fillings satisfying cravings both savory and sweet. They’re mobile, endlessly customizable, versatile, and adaptable to most situations. What could go wrong? Freebirds. Freebirds could go wrong.
Freebirds World Burrito got its start by a couple of hippies in Isla Vista, CA during the late 1980s. It’s since expanded into Texas and a few other neighboring states, only recently making a huge surge in Southern California with over 15 stores opening over the last year. There’s no escaping the comparison to Chipotle, as they both focus on custom-built, assembly-line burritos made fresh to order. Ingredients at both establishments are also touted as fresh and organic, with the all proteins hormone-free, grass-fed, and free range. What distinguishes Freebirds from the competition is the ridiculous amount of options it offers you.
Making your way down the line, you’ll be asked what burrito size you’d like: Hybird (Small), Freebird (Regular), Monster (Large), and Super Monster (a 7lb crime against man). Then you choose from the 4 tortilla options: Flour, Wheat, Cayenne, and Spinach. You move on to pick from 5 different filling options, and the choices only get more extensive and confusing from there. After about 4 minutes of decision making (not fast in custom-burrito time), I ended up with a Freebird carnitas burrito with a cayenne tortilla.
I was actually excited, having put more thought and effort into this than any of my daily clothing choices, but my first bite was met with immediate displeasure. The Spanish rice was way too dry, crunchy even. The cayenne tortilla (which has no hint of spice) was arid and stale, and the fillings were just as tasteless. Carnitas should normally be moist and hold together, but the ones in this burrito were stringy and desiccated (I’m seriously running out of synonyms for ‘dry’). Not even a healthy dose of Tapatio could save this burrito, which eventually (due to poor foldsmanship) came undone, spilling its undesirable innards into a pile of broken burrito dreams. Essentially, Freebirds feels like the cheaper version of its competitor, despite being more expensive. The hippie/surfer-bro vibe also comes off as trying too hard, as does the loud tropical attire worn by the monotone, jaded employees. With plenty of other great and even good burrito options nearby, I see no reason to come back again.
Note: This does not apply to the OG Freebirds by UCSB, which is exceptional and it’s a shame they couldn’t carry on the quality to it’s SoCal brethren.
Mile-High Club First-Class Business Economy
Freebirds World Burrito
1632 E Katella Ave, Ste A
Orange, CA 92867
Photography by Cristiana Wilcoxon