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All We Can Eat
Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 07/19/2012

Boloco is on to something

Boloco burritos: Original (18 to 20 ounces); small (15 to 16 ounces); mini (11 ounces). (Tom Chenette)
An alien has landed in the Washington area’s burrito universe, and I can’t help but think that the fast-food world of bigger-than-your-head rice/protein logs might benefit from the experience.

Boloco officially opens on Friday in Bethesda, but today you can stop in for a free taste of what the Boston-based chain is bringing to town. The deal: Boloco (long story short: Boston Local Company) offers its signature menu items in three sizes — the least of which is no larger than your average cannoli and nets you plenty of change back from a five-spot. There are eight “globally” flavored burritos (flour, whole wheat or bowl) that might cause a purist to sneer, but you’d be surprised how easily a brown rice/masala sauce/tofu mini can slip down the gullet.

A not-so-serious timeline on a back hallway wall traces the company’s 15-year history. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)
Not only are burritos sized a la Goldilocks, they can be customized with proteins, vegetables, sauce/salsas, beans, dressings, rice/lettuce and unexpected add-ins such as Asian slaw and herb croutons. (The Bocolo nutrition calculator online is customizable as well.)

John Pepper, one of four company founders and the current chief executive. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)
Size options extend to the odd offerings of smoothies and shakes; chief executive and co-founder John Pepper figured the burrito pairing would work based on what he saw people consuming long ago in San Francisco, and 15 years and 19 stores later, it seems he was right. (He thought calling a peanut butter, banana and ice cream shake the Jimmy Carter would be obvious for consumers, but he was wrong: “They think it’s a political statement — not an ingredient one,” he says.)

Businesswise, the place hits the right notes: green, atmospherically pleasant, involved in good causes, social-media savvy. But customers who opt for self-checkout at the grocery store might be most excited to order at one of four touch-screen kiosks at the start, where they can even pay up front and skip the assembly line. Advance-planning types can order online or via a Boloco iPhone app

The Bethesda location is the first of three Bolocos planned for Washington. Pepper says our area’s appreciation for global cuisine was the reason why his company came here as its first shop outside New England. Look for the District’s first Boloco near 19th and M streets NW in October; the third is set for Georgetown in early 2013.

Boloco is located at 4930 Elm St., Bethesda. 301-986-6962.

One way to order fast: Boloco’s touch-screen kiosks. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

By  |  11:15 AM ET, 07/19/2012

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