Matthew Lickona 7 a.m., April 24
Considering that it's a pretty major chain, the arrival of Freebirds World Burrito in Hillcrest shouldn't make that much of a splash in San Diego where one is seldom more than fifteen minutes from a world-class burrito.
However, Freebirds bears mentioning for two main reasons: 1) It seems busy enough that it won't be shuttering itself next week, and 2) the restaurant specializes in Mission-style burritos.
As far as burrito culture is concerned, San Diego is actually somewhat the exception rather than the rule compared to most US cities. The San Francisco Mission-style dominates taquerias in basically every corner of the US except for San Diego.
Freebirds--originally a NorCal and Texas based chain--makes a better than average version of this kind of burrito and it's likely that they will find a foothold with transplants to San Diego from places near and far, people to whom the Mission-style burrito tastes more like home than a California Burrito ever could.
Sharply dressed and somewhat overeager to be your best friend, Freebirds staff of young hipsters steam tortillas (available in white, wheat, spinach, and cayenne pepper) and then custom build burritos to customer specifications along a culinary assembly line.
Steak, chicken, or carnitas. What kind of rice? Cheese? What kind of beans? Guacamole and sour cream? Lettuce and pico de gallo? After enduring the barrage of questions, the fully customized burrito gets wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and it's ready to eat.
Simply peel down the wrapper as the meal goes on. Prices are a little steep starting at $5 for a teeny-tiny veggie burrito and climbing to almost $14 for the seven pound, steak-filled Super Monster, but the big burritos are truly massive .
Ensconced in the borderline Dixie-fried, rock & roll atmosphere of Freebirds, these burritos may seem pretty unorthodox to the faithful San Diegan, but this stylistic difference is certainly worth exploring when it's done right.
Maybe it's a little weird to mash together carnitas, refried beans, lettuce, pico, and sour cream; it's certainly even weirder to smother the entire concoction in sweet, tangy barbecue sauce afterwards (Freebirds has a barbecue sauce pump shaped like a Harley-Davidson).
But it's definitely worth a shot. Plus, if you're from Boston, Austin, Athens, or Atlanta, this is probably going to tug on your heartstrings a little.