There’s an art to wrapping a good burrito, an order to shoveling in the ingredients. Make it too fat and it blows apart. Too thin and it no longer satisfies.
A longtime staple among students needing a go-to meal that packs well, the “Griz Breakfast Burrito” at the University of Montana has risen in fame this past week, climbing the “Bracket Battle: Best College Eats” hosted by the Cooking Channel.
The local mongo-burrito unseated Michigan State University’s “Melting Moments Ice Cream Sandwich” in Round 1 of the bracket competition. Other first-round upsets included University of Texas at Austin and its “Juan In a Million Breakfast Taco,” which sank favorite University of Oklahoma’s “The Mont’s Queso Dip” in early voting.
“It’s kind of my favorite, so I come here to get a nice burrito,” said Keron DeShields, a sociology student and member of the Montana Grizzlies basketball team. “I go for sausage, egg, cheese, hash browns, gravy and Tabasco. It keeps the mind sharp and it’s a good source of protein.”
DeShields stood in line Monday to get his hands on the fabled breakfast. Behind the counter, students Jordan Kibbee, Riley Konoske and Zoe Miller turned out burritos like factory workers turn out Fords.
Eggs first, hash browns second, followed by one’s choice of bacon or sausage. And then comes the cheese, onions, peppers, salsa, gravy, Tabasco and sour cream, all heaped on like a good dream. What results is a mountain of food – enough to last all day.
“You have to figure out how to wrap it,” Kibbee explained. “Some people put everything in the middle and it becomes really, really big and it just bursts. Sometimes the tortillas stick together, or you get them and they’re not hot enough, so you put them on the grill and then you burn your fingers.”
So goes the life of a burrito maker, but winning doesn’t come without heartache. What started out with 32 college teams vying for Cooking Channel fame is now down to 16.
The Griz burrito has enjoyed bracket-busting success, unseating Michigan State 2,169 votes to 1,169 in Round 1. Monday afternoon, it was leading the Ohio State Buckeye Donut, 2,359 votes to 1,143. Second-round voting ends Tuesday at 1 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.
And while the University of Kentucky’s “Ho Burger” may be tough to beat, along with Syracuse University’s “Cosmos Toasted Honey Buns,” it’s been a rough go for neighboring Gonzaga University.
Not only was the school’s top-seeded men’s basketball team ousted from the tournament by underdog Wichita State University, the Zags’ “COG Chocolate Chip Cookies” were knocked out of the Best Eats bracket by Fordham University’s “Pugsley Pizza’s Chicken Rolls.”
For the Griz, it’s a real upset in the making. The winner of this round squares off against UT Austin or the University of California, Berkeley’s “Top Dog Frankfurter.” The Las Vegas bookies haven’t weighed in.
“The (Cooking Channel) heard about (our burrito) somehow,” said Christina Voyles, director of marketing for UM Dining Services. “We sent them the recipe and they tried it. I don’t know where they found out about it. It has its own mythical following.”
Michael Collichio, manager of the Cascade Country Store, where the mythical burrito lives in the hearts – and bellies – of UM students, said the Grizzly Grill turns out as many as 150 burritos a day, or nearly 800 a week.
Collichio sported his own burrito Monday, hauling it around like the mini football it resembles.
“It’s one of those all-in-one meals where you hit the Country Store, grab a big burrito and be on your way,” Collichio said. “It’s really popular with our athletes. A lot of the boys come in and get a burrito – or two.”
UM athletic teams that take the bus to nearby road games (think Idaho State and Montana State universities), receive a sack full of burritos for the highway. For the UM football team, that’s 150 steaming breakfast burritos made to go.
For everyone else, words aren’t necessary with a burrito in hand.
“I was hungry and it’s my go-to meal,” said UM student John Orton.
To vote for the “Griz Breakfast Burrito,” visit bit.ly/10dIiaz.