Taco Tonto’s is the latest business to build a nest in the Birdtown section of Lakewood. At a time when burritos seem to be everywhere, Taco Tonto’s comes swooping into Lakewood by way of Kent.
The journey started when Kevin Yohn, longtime manager of the Kent location, and his wife Emily were given the opportunity to purchase the 30-year old landmark from owner Maureen Gartland. Joining forces with Lakewood residents John and Jill Crino, they took possession earlier this year. Now they’ve expanded to Lakewood, transforming the old Bela Dubby coffee shop into the second Taco Tonto’s.
Even though the growth plan is fast, the way the ingredients is prepared is quite the opposite. “We are definitely not Chipotle,” Jill Crino declares emphatically. Unlike the giant burrito chain, Tonto’s offers a fresh menu made daily. “All our sauces, guacamoles, meats and salsa are prepared fresh every day,” Crino explains. “We make enough for that day of service. That’s it.”
I happened to arrive just as they opened the doors. The design can be described as Mex modern, with a good balance of metal and wood furniture and fixtures. This balance keeps the space trendy and comfortable. Tonto’s has chose a very chill style of service, with a walk-up area where you can both “order and pick up.”
Perusing the menu, my eyes immediately went to the El Biggo Burrito. The choice of fillings included the usual cast of characters — chicken, beef or steak. A wild card choice was a sweet potato filling. Feeling adventurous, I chose the Chicken with Sweet Potato El Biggo Burrito.
Even in preparation, the continental divide continues between Chipotle and Tonto’s, where burritos are actually baked in an oven. The baking creates a hard, crunchy shell while melting and marrying the ingredients stuffed inside. The first bite was unique; my risky choice paid off with a surprising balance between sweet and savory.
The tri-colored tortilla chips tasted as they should, very salty. The guacamole, which can traditionally be very good or very bad, was creamy, chilled nicely and screaming fresh. The homemade sauces on the table are a nice touch. One is mild and one is hot. I tried the hot and it had a strong sense of heat, but with the right balance of chili so it didn’t ruin my day.
Tonto’s also offers an array of tacos, quesadillas, taco salads and tostados — a wider selection than most of their industry counterparts. If you would like some tequila or cerveza to wash down your sweet potato, Tonto’s has a full bar and craft beer selection.
13321 Madison Ave.
Fri + Sat 11am-1am