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Provo • I didn't expect to find a fast-casual burrito joint focusing on local and sustainable fare sharing space with a ratty smoke shop advertising the latest in hookah paraphernalia.
But Mountain West Burrito is just that. Located on State Street just south of Orem, this little place is the newest addition to the Heirloom Restaurant Group's holdings, which also include Provo's Communal and Orem's Pizzeria 712. As long-time customers, the owners of Heirloom decided to buy the place when the founder and original owner of Mountain West Burrito left Utah to pursue other interests.
Unlike the other Heirloom Restaurant Group restaurants, which appeal more to my palate and age, Mountain West Burrito has found its niche with starving college students and Gen Y workers.
That's not to say that the food won't be attractive to everyone due to the eatery's emphasis on fresh and local meats and produce. But the atmosphere reminiscent of an old college dorm might make a sit-down meal less than appealing for anyone over the age of 25.
But let's talk about the food. There are six options on the menu: tacos, salads, burritos, nachos, chimichangas and quesadillas. For each, you can choose from vegetarian, carnitas, steak, chicken, roasted veggies or half and half (which is any two of the above) to fill your Mexican entree. Vegan cheese and sour cream are each available for an additional $1.
Mountain West Burrito sources all of their meat from sustainable and regional producers, including pork from Niman Ranch, chicken from Mary's Free Range Air Chilled Skinless Chicken, and steak from Meyer Ranch.
The nachos seem to be universally recommended, so I ordered the half-and-half version ($8) with steak and roasted veggies. Tender, juicy, thinly sliced beef was piled over a bed of crisp tortilla chips, black beans, fresh salsa and melted cheese, all this topped with roasted veggies that had just the right amount of still-fresh bite. The portion size could easily feed two adults, while every bite was messy and delicious.
Make any order at Mountain West Burrito "deluxe" by adding sour cream and creamy house-made guacamole for $1 an outstanding value and an addition I'd highly endorse.
Fresh flour tortillas are one of the highlights here when you're ordering burritos, quesadillas or chimichangas. The tortillas are perfectly chewy, and just thin enough to avoid overly-doughy bites, while still thick enough to hold in all of the quality ingredients. Whole-wheat tortillas are also available.
The only protein disappointment on the entire menu were the carnitas, because the braised pork tasted bland and mostly indistinguishable from the burrito's ($7 regular/$13 giant) overly plentiful beans and rice. Better was the nicely seasoned and salted chicken mixed with a right-sized amount of rice and beans in the deep-fried chimichanga ($8/$14).
Many of Mountain West Burrito's items come with a generous scoop of salsa ($2 as a large side) and their signature green hot sauce on the side. The salsa features finely chopped tomatoes with just a smattering of onions and chiles, while cilantro and citrus flavors accent this pico de gallo. I'm not a particular fan of extremely spicy hot anything so the burn of the green hot sauce overshadowed any flavors to me. Even several of my dining companions who are more adventurous when it comes to chiles remarked that it was just too hot to really enjoy.
While Mountain West Burrito does have a dining area, take out is an attractive option to escape the loud and frenetic atmosphere. On a visit on a Monday afternoon, the line to order snaked through the dining tables nearly to the door. With every seat filled, our only option was to precariously perch ourselves between the soda fountain and the air-conditioning unit while we waited for our carry-out order to be ready.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at our makeshift lunch destination some miles down the road with our take out order, I discovered that there was none of the "creamy salad dressing" that should have been the star of my steak salad with shredded lettuce, black beans and salsa. A salad without dressing is hardly a salad but the juices from the well-marinated steak saved it from being a complete disappointment.
Returning for dinner on another visit, we were able to walk right up to the counter and order in addition to securing a table but we appeared to be older than every other diner in the place by at least a decade.
Mountain West's prices are slightly less then the Utah-based chain Café Rio for similar menu offerings. With their superior products, I would rank this burrito place on my regular take-out shortlist if I lived close by, but I would remember to carefully check my order before I left the restaurant.
Overall, with the addition of Mountain West Burrito, the Heirloom Restaurant Group seems to be on its way to cultivating a new generation of fans.
Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Heather L. King blogs at http://www.examiner.com/lunch-in-salt-lake-city/heather-king. Send comments about this review to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a response at facebook.com/nowsaltlake.
Mountain West Burrito
Food • HH
Mood • H
Service • Hhj
Noise • bb
Mountain West Burrito serves burritos, salads and nachos, featuring quality, local ingredients in Provo.
Location • 1796 North 950 West, Provo, 801-805-1870
Online • http://www.mountainwestburrito.com
Hours • Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Sunday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major