Nowadays in Pittsfield, especially if a whole lot of lunch is your style, you can choose between Mexican meal joints in the downtown area. So, forget about the hamburger, the pizza slice or the hot dogs - the burrito has landed!
First there's a chain called Hot Harry's. They have two locations in the city, one right at the lower edge of North Street at number 37 on the west side of the street. Practically adjacent to the hoped-for movie complex and right down the street from the Central Block Building and the headquarters of Legacy Banks, it sports tables, booths, local art and an array of food options with a decidedly "American" Mexican flavor.
Their regular Burrito, a tortilla filled with Spanish rice, beans (pinto or black), meat (Cilantro-Lime Steak; Yucatan Style Chicken marinated in orange juice; Adobo Chicken in a red chili sauce; Chipotle Barbecue Pork; Ground Beef with Mexican spices) lettuce and cheese sells for $5.50 or you can go all the way to Super Burrito and add sour cream and guacamole - the luscious avocado spread, for $6.25. There are twelve other varieties of burrito from which to choose with subtle and not so subtle variations included.
The Super Burrito is a meal in itself, although it is served with fresh tortilla chips and you can choose any or all of the four freshly made salsas to accompany the platter. Three of them are mild but the Rojo Asada is heartily spicy. The Salsa Original is a delectable and subtle accompaniment to the burrito. The tortillas at Hot Harry's are sweet and soft, paper thin but hold up well against the meat and sauces. The flavors are lovely and the combination of consistencies very enticing. It is geared to the middle-American palate. It's a pleasant treat in a place that's both inviting and spacious.
At Pancho's, located a block and a half north on the opposite side of North Street at number 154, the choices are decidedly more Mexican than American. While some of their burrito options are less extensive (two different meats instead of five, for example) and they don't use lettuce as a filler, their basic burrito at $5.95 is still a very good choice. On the other hand if you order the Mole Burrito and add a side dish of sour cream and guacamole you have a meal that makes Mexico seem a whole lot closer to Massachusetts.
The tortilla is thicker here than at Harry's, and not as sweet but just as good. It has heft but doesn't feel heavy. The mole, a chocolate sauce, is spread over the top of the burrito and the whole thing is then baked for a minute or two which dries the sauce a bit and solidifies the burrito into a slightly crunchy, but not crisp, container for the delicately herbed ingredients within. The rice is a plain rice in a plain sauce; the chicken has been marinated in citrus juices and peppery spices. There are no "chips" so the presentation is plain and straightforward. The two extras - sour cream and guacamole - cost an additional $1.45. Pancho's is slightly more expensive, but slightly more authentic as well. The room is small, the tables geared for the temporary occupant, the paintings genuine and interesting to look at while you wait.
Both new spots are guaranteed to satisfy the burrito-bound lunch appetite. How you react to the differences all depends on what you anticipate when you enter the door. In both places there are lots of other options outside the basic burritos, so do not feel bound by the convention of the burrito at the top of the menu. Let your appetite roam free around these ethnic choices. Arriba!
ADD YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT EITHER HOT HARRY'S OR PANCHO'S BELOW!
Readers' Comments - Hot Harry's
From R.A., Pittsfield: Hot Harry's is our choice by far. You can taste the freshness. Best salsa in town!
From P.J., Pittsfield: For a great lunch meal, Hot Harry's. Their food is fresh and good and just the right amount.
Readers' Comments - Pancho's
From C.C.: I work on North St. and for me and many others I know- there is NO comparison.. PANCHOS is by a mile the best Mexican in This area. No food court mexican for me. Panchos is the real deal. Don't miss out.