By Robin Garr
I don’t review chain restaurants often. I’d much rather talk about Louisville’s great independent local eateries. But when a new corporate shop like Currito comes to town and people tell me the food is really good, I’m willing to take a look.
I believe the last time I did such a thing was in November 2018, when I finally got around to sampling the amazingly tasty fried free-range chicken at The Eagle on Bardstown Road, one of the first ventures of its Cincinnati-based corporation outside its home town.
Here we are, three years later, and I’m doing it again, this time at Currito. I’ve got to tell you that the creative international flavors of its grains and green bowls are startlingly good. And here’s a funny coincidence: Currito and The Eagle both originate in a small but impressive Cincinnati-based outfit called Thunderdome.
Curiously, while the chain got its start as a quick-service burrito operation with some international flavors, it has evolved well away from that. The Louisville shop, a local franchise – its 22nd operation in its sixth state – doesn’t actually have a burrito on the menu. You may, however, order any of its dozen-plus grains or greens bowls wrapped into an oversize tortilla for no extra charge.
The new Louisville Currito’s spacious, high-ceilinged room is bright if a bit spartan. The walls are decorated in abstract orange, yellow, red and white, with spare, shiny wood seats and tables. I loved it that the two big flat screens within my view were both showing football: American-style gladiators on one, shorts-clad soccer players on the other.
Currito is quick-service, like a lot of quick burrito joints. You order at the start of the line and watch them build your bowl from pans full of prepped ingredients as you walk along the counter to pay at the end.
The menu is straightforward, divided as you’d expect among grains, greens, and smoothies and shakes, and pricing is fairly simple too: Grain bowls are all $7.79, with or without a tortilla wrapper. Greens bowls are all $8.49. Add optional grilled chicken ($2.50), grilled steak ($3), or organic tofu ($2). A half-dozen smoothies and shakes are $5.49 to $8.99.
We declined smoothies, and I fled screaming from the discovery that the Nutella milkshake packs 980 calories, which is about what your average moderately active adult ought to consume in an entire meal.
But I digress. A greens bowl was extremely good, and a grain bowl was so spectacularly good that I could. not. stop. eating. it.
Since we were having a salad bowl anyway, we went extra healthy with Currito’s Superfood option. Pictured at the top of the page, it’s a blend of kale and arugula with tricolor quinoa, feta, edamame, carrots, golden raisins, chickpeas, and slivered almonds, with a house vinaigrette on the side.
It was built on a base of dark-green dinosaur kale and spicy arugula spread side-by-side in the bottom of a compostable cardboard bowl. All the other toppings had been added in neat strips across the greens in portions of perhaps one-quarter cup each. Each item was fresh and tasty on its own, and they sang together in the dish in harmonious chorus.
The beef add-on was impressive: Each 1/2-inch cube was pink inside and grilled tasty brown on the exterior, served with feta crumbled on top. The good house-made vinaigrette had been finished with Dijon mustard, and the overall portion size was big enough to fill a take-home bag. Even for quick-service, the kitchen does solid, professional work.
And then we got to the grain bowl, whereupon the top of my head pretty much blew off with pleasure. Bowls come with a variety of ingredient mixes, most of them sporting international flavors: Tikka with masala sauce; Teriyaki with brown rice and a Japanese accent; Mediterranean with hummus and feta; a Buffalo bowl with that familiar hot red sauce; and more.
The Bangkok option caught my eye with its taste of Thai, and before long my taste buds and tummy came along. Built on a base of cilantro-lime rice, it was topped with rows of cucumber dice, shredded carrots, and slivered almonds, slathered with a spicy cashew vinaigrette and a thick, hot-sweet Thai-style peanut sauce, and sprinkled with pretty, nutty black and white sesame seeds. The nicely done tofu option consisted of crisp-fried, lightly spiced dice. The dish was just too good to save any for takeout. I cleaned my plate, and I’m not sorry.
Sides of chips and hummus ($2.99) and plain tortilla chips ($1.99) added to the fun. The chips appeared to be freshly fried, delightfully snappy and crisp, popping with fresh masa corn flavor. Hummus was thick and smooth and also appeared fresh-made. It was exceptionally garlicky and lemony, and that’s a plus.
Lunch for two was $27.84. I paid with the app, which I later realized didnt offer a spot for a tip. Next time!
Noise Level: The sound system can hamper conversation with peaks over 75dB during loud songs; but sound levels usually hover in the more conversational 60dB range chatter.
Accessibility: The new building appears fully accessible to wheelchair users.