Internal Editor and self-proclaimed food Bwogger Vivian Zhou is here to bring you a little sneak peek of the new Morningside Heights Dos Toros before the Grand Opening on Wednesday, February 12th. This post is not sponsored by Dos Toros (though we wish it was).
Many months ago, in the middle of summer, I wrote about how Dos Toros was expanding to a location near Columbia, in the space that used to belong to Amir’s at 2911 Broadway. You’ve probably all passed by the sign between 113th and 114th—they claimed to be the new kids on the guac, but not for a while, because they were under construction for what felt like years. Dos Toros had originally said they would be ready for Fall 2019, but the sign never changed from opening soon to opening now. As someone who lives on 113th and Broadway, I surely have been anticipating the day I can finally get a burrito right outside my door—and after trying their food during the soft opening and sitting down for a talk with Marcus Byrd, the Director of Marketing, let’s just say I will be basically living at Dos Toros.
For those of you who need a little refresher, Dos Toros is a Northern California-inspired Taqueria chain (yes, it’s a chain but not in the way that McDonald’s is a chain). They serve customizable burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads. Sounds like Chipotle? It’s not. It’s better.
Before I get into the background, Dos Toros’s vision, and all the logistics, let’s just talk about the food. A few Bwoggers and I had the privilege of tasting their menu during the soft opening. At 6:20 PM on a Monday night, we headed towards Dos Toros and found a huge, meandering line all the way down the block, full of students eager to try a bite. The place is small, but the service is fast. Not really intended to be a sit-down place, Dos Toros has four small 2-person tables, a counter service / assembly line style food serving area, and a large back kitchen. The prices are very affordable—the pollo asada (chicken) is $8.99, the carnitas priced at $9.99, carne asada (steak) at $10.99, impossible beef (vegan beef) at 10.99, and rice and beans at $6.99. All of these proteins can be made in any entrée style you prefer, and toppings include: black or pinto beans, Mexican rice or farro, sautéed corn, peppers & onions, a choice of three hot sauces (smokey, verde, habanero), crushed chips, tomato salsa, sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack, shredded romaine, and of course, guacamole for $1.84 extra. They also have sides such as chips & guacamole, as well as drinks such as Jarritos soda, house-made drinks, and Mexican beers such as Tecate, Pacifico, and Corona.
What sets the food apart is the freshness. Four of the Bwoggers tried bowls, and one tried carnitas tacos. The meats all tasted clearly freshly cooked—especially the carne asada which was very tender, and the guacamole which was so fresh that you could see pieces of tomatoes and un-mashed pieces of avocados. According to Marcus Byrd, the Director of Marketing at Dos Toros, they put a large emphasis on scratch cooking—everything that is served is cooked from scratch, and fresh in the morning. The butcher and marinate their meat on-site, they cook their carnitas overnight, they toast their rice before cooking in the pot, they even cook their beans from dried beans instead of the can. They also source their ingredients from high quality places. The tortillas, for example, are made from masa from Oaxaca which is sent to Queens, then shipped to all the Dos Toros restaurants every morning. They are the same tortillas used at Cosme.
Another reason Dos Toros’s food is flavorful is their hot sauces (which is sold by the bottle for $7.99). They have three kinds: the mild, the medium, and the spicy. The mild hot sauce isn’t very spicy, but it is still very flavorful. It’s called the smokey, which has, obviously, a very smokey finish. This is especially beneficial to those who are sensitive to spice, as it offers an alternative way to add flavor. The medium hot sauce is the verde, which is a tangy green hot sauce. The habanero is the spiciest of the three, and it’s definitely got a kick. Another Dos Toros favorite is called the “double dragon”, which is when you order the verde hot sauce with the habanero: double the kick.
A lot of students were wondering what sets Dos Toros apart from Chipotle. “People come up to us all the time and ask, what inspired you to create a cooler version of Chipotle? But actually, we were aiming to be a more organized version of a local taqueria,” Byrd explained. The owners Leo Kremer (of Third Eye Blind) and Oliver Kremer (as well as Marcus himself) were originally from Northern California, but when they moved to New York, they were unable to find any Mexican food of the same standard. They set out to fill the niche that is the Northern Californian burrito on the east coast, and voila, Dos Toros was birthed.
Dos Toros’s emphasis on sustainability is a big piece of what they do. Their meats are all 100% naturally raised, and free of antibiotics and hormones. They compost all their kitchen waste, and all the bags and utensils that they use are compostable too. They even use BPA-free receipt paper. However, according to Marcus, there is an ecological aspect of sustainability, but there is also the part about helping the community. Dos Toros aims to leave every neighborhood a better place than they found it. They do this through partnering with Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO), a Harlem-based organization that aims to curb recidivism (the rate at which people go back to prison). They offer GOSO internships which are strategic partnerships with New York companies to allow for a 3-month internship paid by GOSO, and if the employer is happy with their work after the internship, they can then become full-time hires. Dos Toros does not just donate to this organization—they are one of the business partners that provides jobs for those who go through the GOSO internship program. In fact, Dos Toros employs about 50% of current the GOSO Interns, and it’s clear that Dos Toros values the importance of not just “slapping on a charity logo” and instead, actually working with the program.
Beyond helping the community, Dos Toros also caters to a huge variety of audiences. Dos Toros opened 10 years ago at Union Square, targeting families, a quick colleague work lunch, and students. Their owners had just recently graduated college at the time, and knew that college kids on a college budget would enjoy this food. 10 years later, they are graduating from NYU and arriving at Columbia (What took so long??). They cater to all types of dietary restrictions—they have the impossible ground beef for non-meat eaters, as well as a rice and beans options. They also used to have a rotating market vegetable (examples include butternut squash and cremini mushrooms) that may come back due to popular demand. During the pre-opening event, Dos Toros gave out tickets redeemable for one free entrée, and during their grand opening on Wednesday, February 12th (tomorrow), they will be selling $5 burritos (or other mains) all day. Along with these promotions, there are many that are yet to be disclosed. In the past, Dos Toros has had an event called “study day.” This usually happens around finals, and it’s a day where students and faculty can go in and get free chips and guacamole. They also do catering for events—in fact, 10% of their sales are from catering.
When asked what Marcus thinks the Dos Toros specialty is, he replied, “It all started with the burrito.” According to him, there is such a burrito as the “OG burrito”: a tortilla with melted cheese on top, Mexican rice, pinto beans, carnitas, double dragon, tomatoes, guac, and a little bit of sour cream. The added melted cheese on the tortilla is a Dos Toros speciality. Marcus said, and I quote, “The melted cheese adds structural integrity, cylindrical excellence, and our burrito is ranked top 10 in the country by Daily Meal.” He also revealed the not-so-secret recipe of their delicious guacamole: hass avocados, kosher salt, lime juice, and pico de Gallo. At the end of our talk, he took the chance to plug Dos Toros’s finsta: @pintotheburrito.
Make sure you check out their grand opening day on Wednesday, February 12th for $5 burritos! Their hours will be 11:30am-2:15pm for lunch and 5:30pm-7:30pm for dinner. You can check out their menu here.
Photos via me of course