San Marco spawned a fast-food restaurant, who would have thought? But true to the area, they modeled themselves after one of the most chic and delicious fast food joints to hit the scene: Chipotle. The Hightide Burrito Company, created by Alejandro Juarez, a UNF graduate, prides itself on using only fresh, quality ingredients, some familiar, some not so well known here in the US. Being avid fans of well-crafted burritos and needing some filling food after an evening visit to the San Marco Theatre, we eagerly pulled into Hightide to assess the situation.
Walking through the door, Chipotle clone is the resounding conclusion. But not so fast there, buckaroo, these guys have definitely got a leg up on the competition. Much like their big-chain counterpart, you order your burrito by selecting the main filling (typically a meat) and then telling the construction crew what other ingredients you'd like as you get to them. But while the process is identical and many of the ingredients are standard, there are a few surprises thrown in.
First off, as a vegetarian option they offer Nopales: Seasoned cactus leaves sliced then sautéed with mushrooms, onions, corn and Poblano peppers. There's also fish, which still isn't standard among the big competitors. One thing that got me super excited was the option of whole wheat tortillas. All of the tortillas are made fresh at the restaurant, as many other restaurants do these days, but nobody else (as far as I know) offers whole wheat tortillas. Purists may scoff but these things are delicious and I'd never choose a bleached flour or corn tortilla ever again given the choice. In addition to the standard burrito / taco / salad options, you can also get a Torta: A freshly baked roll (telera bread) lightly buttered and grilled, then stuffed with your choice of protein, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and mayo. Sounds delicious.
The ingredients are indeed fresh and very tasty. Overall I'd have to say that I enjoyed this burrito more than all that I've experienced from their big competitors and the build-your-own method gives them some edge over the other small, quality places around town. The tacos looked pretty good but I'm not going to make any comparisons since we all know where the best place for tacos is. Oh, and the chips are good too. I typically neglect to eat the corn chips at any restaurant except in times of great hunger but I couldn't stop myself from cramming these little, freshly-fried wedges of decadence in my mouth, despite my own best intentions.
In addition to making delicious food with fresh ingredients, Hightide also strives to be environmentally conscious and community minded. The best place to see evidence of these ideals is the bathroom. Seriously. Dual flush toilets (I really want one of these), responsive automatic sinks, and an amazing hand dryer made by Dyson.
But despite the amazing bathroom facilities, my reason for going back would still be that tasty burrito. Now, if only they were closer, I might have no reason to ever go back to Chipotle.
Hightide Burrito Company
1538 Hendricks Avenue,
Jacksonville, Florida 32207