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9 Catt. 2: In re Pedro and Vinny’s

2012 May 9

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. JEREMY, C.J., concurred.

To achieve greater justice in the matter before the Cart, my brother and I visited Pedro and Vinny’s (P&V) on separate occasions. Ever mindful that a food cart’s quality can vary from day to day, we wanted to minimize a Cart opinion based on an unusually bad day or an unusually good day.

My visit took place one afternoon when I spotted the burrito cart on the sidewalk across the street from Chipotle in Ballston. P&V has two carts run by a father-and-daughter team. The father, John, operates the first cart on K Street in DC. The daughter, Kristin, set up the second cart for a time in Ballston, but she recently moved to a new location in Crystal City. I had heard about the burrito cart from my new law clerk, who informed me that P&V’s vegetarian burrito had been named one of the best burritos in the country last year.

Although I am not a vegetarian, I somehow usually walk out of Chipotle with a rice, cheese, and sour cream burrito. As no stranger to a meatless (not to mention beanless) burrito, I figured a visit to P&V for a vegetarian burrito would be a nice change of pace.

Pedro and Vinny’s


Upon my arrival, I learned that P&V had added chicken to the menu, but I stuck to my vegetarian plan. Ordering a burrito from P&V involved quite a few decisions. Kristin walked me through the steps:

  1. There’s the choice of tortilla—flour, wheat, tomato, spinach.
  2. Cheese or no cheese? (Kristin needed to know this first in order to warm up the tortilla and melt the cheese. The cheese is a cheddar-jack mix.)
  3. Then there’s the size: small, medium, large? (The medium and large come with rice.)
  4. Chicken—yes or no?
  5. Black beans, pinto beans, or both (a.k.a. “black & tan”).
  6. Pico de gallo? Sour cream? Guacamole?
  7. What kind of hot sauce—fruity or non-fruity? how hot?

I opted for a medium burrito: flour tortilla with cheese, black & tan beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. After sampling a few sauces and getting some recommendations from Kristin, I chose a cilantro habanero over a mango sauce. Given my aversion to cilantro, see In re Salt and Pepper Grill, 6 Catt. 1 (2012), this might come as a surprise, but less so if one considers that I also share my brother’s aversion to fruity sauces, see In re El Floridano, 2 Catt. 2 (2011). My law clerk later informed me that in P&V speak, my burrito order should have sounded something like “flour, cheese, black & tan, with everything, spice level 7, non-fruity.”

Making the burrito

To assemble the burrito, Kristin placed the tortilla on a round pizza tray; piled rice, beans, and pico de gallo down the middle; and then used a spatula to spread smears of sour cream and guacamole, one to the right and the other to the left. Hot sauce was drizzled on top before it was all rolled together.

As Kristin wrapped up my burrito in foil, she told me to drop my $20 bill into a Tory Burch shoe box and to “help myself to change.” This was the first honor-system style of payment that I’ve come across during my term as a Cart Justice, and I applaud it (since the hands handling the food should not also be handling the money). A medium vegetarian burrito with guacamole came out to $6.25. Next to the Tory Burch shoebox was a box of complimentary York Peppermint Patties. I always appreciate food carts and trucks that throw in a little sweet. See, e.g., In re Hot People Food, 6 Catt. 4 (2012) (providing a piece of guava-flavored hard candy).


We have defined street food as “the kind[] of food[] that can be cooked in front of you and [is] meant to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up.” In re Eat Wonky (The Whoopie Pie Case), 2 Catt. 5 (2011). If a food cart’s dish constitutes street food, then this Supreme Cart must affirm unless we can meet the burden to rebut the presumption of affirmance. In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012).

This Cart finds that a burrito is street food for the same reasons that sandwiches are street food. See In re Red Hook Lobster Pound (The Shrimp Roll Case), 9 Catt. 1 (2012); In re Willie’s Po Boy, 7 Catt. 4 (2012); In re NY Famous Kabob, 7 Catt. 3 (2012); In re Rolling Ficelle, 6 Catt. 3 (2012); Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2. Therefore, P&V’s burrito  must be affirmed unless this Supreme Cart can meet the burden to rebut the presumption afforded to street food. This Cart rebuts the presumption of affirmance.


Vegetarian Burrito with Guacamole

When Kristin handed me the burrito, I immediately appreciated the weight. A P&V burrito—even the medium size—is pretty large. The weight promised a very filling lunch. Unfortunately, although I was full after eating my burrito, I was not completely satisfied with the meal.

The burrito was not tightly wrapped, so guacamole, pico de gallo, and beans oozed out. It made for messy eating.

Some bites of the burrito were quite tasty, but most were bland. The rice and beans were mushy and lacked flavor. On the other hand, the guacamole and sour cream were fresh and delicious. Bites that included these toppings were enjoyable, but since they were smeared on the sides of the tortilla (rather than in the middle), not every bite included them.

Finally, I couldn’t taste the hot sauce. Several more splashes would have gone a long way towards adding a flavorful kick.

Towards the last few bites, all that remained of my burrito was a sloppy mix of flavorless rice and beans. Very occasionally I am met with a meal that, despite my dislike of wasting food, just isn’t worth finishing. This was such an occasion. See also In re Dangerously Delicious Pies, 4 Catt. 4 (2011); In re Sâuçá, 4 Catt. 3 (2011); In re CapMac (The Classic CapMac’n Cheese Case), 1 Catt. 1 (2011).


At P&V, I got a filling burrito at an affordable price from a food cart that strives to provide a good customer experience. Although P&V used fresh ingredients, the finished product was disappointing. Perhaps, after hearing about USA Today’s “best burrito” review, I approached P&V with hopes that were too high.

REMANDED to Pedro and Vinny’s for revision.


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