For years now I’ve been driving to Hampstead for burritos. Yep. Hampstead. On Highway 17 there’s a little place on the left (when headed north) called Burrito Shak. It’s not too far past Scotts Hill, right after the speed limit drops down to 45. I could make a strong case for driving 20 miles to a different county for tacos, but now I don’t have to because the franchise has a new location in Wilmington.
The local spot looks exactly like the original location, which is what I expected considering it’s a franchise. The walls are splashed in a light teal—perfectly beachy and also in support of our UNCW Seahawks. It’s a counter-service restaurant, with ample seating. Diners taking their food to-go can skip the line and go straight to the register. To-go food also can conveniently be ordered online.
My husband and I had a quick midweek lunch date to try out the new Shak. We wanted to have work snacks for later, too, so we ordered two Jolly Roger tacos with pulled pork, a Guppy quesadilla with steak, and the burrito bowl special. And chips and queso because … duh. The only area of the menu we didn’t touch was the nachos and salad, but we’ll be back for them.
Before I get into this, I’d like to note one of the things I really appreciate about Burrito Shak that makes it feel less franchise-y: They take the time to make all of their sauces, toppings and meat in-house. Nothing arrives in a bag to be reheated. In fact, Burrito Shak started as a family-owned restaurant with thoughtful food, and it remains that way. There’s something to be said for such a level of integrity.
OK, enough gushing about company culture, more gushing about tacos.
The Jolly Roger tacos were piled high with house-cooked pulled pork and baja slaw, and topped with crumbly cotija cheese, not-too-spicy roasted poblano crema and lime sour cream. We opted out of the pico de gallo because I don’t like onions. (I know, I know—don’t @ me). The two tacos would have been plenty for me for lunch. There’s also a three-taco option for folks with a three-taco appetite, which is me if I don’t also have a burrito bowl and quesadilla to conquer.
The baja slaw is just one of the things that makes Burrito Shak great—like really great. It’s tangy and crunchy and colorful and just dang delish. Folks who are finicky about mayonnaise can appreciate it, too, because there’s not much at all. It comes on many of the house combinations, but if it doesn’t, I just add it.
The burrito special of the day featured rice, a choice of black or pinto beans (we got black), chicken, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, corn salsa and avocado crema. We opted to have it as a bowl because it seemed more sharable. The city of Hampstead should build a statue in honor of Burrito Shak is chicken. It’s spiced perfectly. Anyone lucky enough to be in there while they’re cooking it will definitely want to bring a jar to capture the aroma. It’s a recipe I would love to have. Although the bowl was pretty good overall, it did prove something I’ve always thought: A bowl just ain’t a burrito. Something about all those ingredients snuggled up in a big, soft flour tortilla just makes the experience way more magical.
Our quesadilla was the only thing missing the mark a bit, but only because of one little detail: The pieces of steak were just too big. It was cooked to a delicious medium, and the sear lended the perfect amount of char. Because it was cut so large, it ended up being difficult to eat. Aside from that, the cheese blend was yummy, and I really liked the addition of sour cream inside the quesadilla instead of on the side. It gave an overall tang to balance the rich cheese and steak combo.
Diners staying for lunch can enjoy the salsa bar that offers varying degrees of spice and pepper varieties. I opted for the poblano, which is delightfully mild but still full of flavor. It’s less spicy than their delicious queso dip, which has chunks of peppers. (Pickled jalapeños? Poblanos? Who cares?) It’s perfectly creamy.
There’s definitely something for everyone (including the kiddos, who get their own menu). Those who visit on Mondays can also enjoy a baked potato special—perfect for the cooler temps we have rolling in finally.
Tl; dr: Get Shak’d up.