Chili, Shmili. How about a tongue taco?

Cincinnati Bites
Blue Ash Chili Gravy Cheese Fries

Posted Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Head Burritos is a new local chain based in Kettering, Ohio, near Dayton. As of this writing, there are 16 locations with more on the way. Most of the franchises exist in the Dayton/Columbus area, but one opened last month in Oakley and another in Florence, Kentucky. We checked out the Oakley location on Madison Rd., the site of the former Fatburger.

Hot Head's business plan is obvious: they're riding on the coat tails of the Chipotle burrito phenomenon, hoping to divert a chunk of burrito enthusiasts their way. Assuming Hot Head can compete with Chipotle's quality and also come up with a unique angle, their plan isn't a bad idea at all.

Hot Head's menu is nearly identical to Chipotle's, with a few notable exceptions. You'll see the usual proteins: steak, chicken, pork and beef; the usual veggies and carbs: rice, pinto beans, black beans, tomatoes, corn, salsa; and familiar sides: quesadillas, tacos, guacamole and nachos.

What Hot Head Burritos brings to the table are their selection of (very) spicy signature sauces: their specialty is turning up the heat. I like spicy food, and my mouth was plenty tingly after trying both their spicy steak and spicy chicken options. You can pile on fresh jalapeno slices, or choose among 12 different sauces, most of which pack a substantially spicy, habanero-flecked punch, far hotter than anything Chipotle serves.

The most bizarre sauce, though, is their signature "Hot Head" sauce. It's a mildly spicy, mayonnaisey concoction that just seemed odd on a burrito, unlike those that are traditionally pepper or tomato-based.

After two meals there, we've concluded Hot Head Burritos is a solid --albeit inferior-- Chipotle wannabe.

Their ingredients simply don't seem to be on par with either Chipotle or Qdoba. For example, instead of romaine lettuce, they use iceberg lettuce; ground beef instead of Chipotle's slow-braised, shredded beef; plain, unseasoned rice that lacks any subtle cilantro-lime notes; and black bean, pinto bean and guacamole options that simply don't taste as flavorful as those from either top burrito chains or from local favorites like Habanero in Clifton and Taqueria Mercado.

Hot Head's meats overall seemed a bit mediocre. The steak and chicken we tried were a little dry and overcooked and the taste wasn't quite Chipotle-caliber. I'm guessing from the flavor that none of the meat came from naturally, humanely raised animals --and it shows.

Hot Head features some decent "2 for $10" specials that are hard to beat, and I wouldn't go so far as to say I disliked my Hot Head burritos. Yet, after I'd finished, I was left with the lingering regret of not having visited one of the bigger, better burrito chains.

If you're a spicy food fan and find Chipotle's spice levels lacking, Hot Head burritos may be a solid alternative. You'll certainly not have to contend with Chipotle's long lines. But if you demand the high quality ingredients Chipotle's audience have come to expect, you'll likely leave with an extra side of disappointment on top of your habanero-induced heartburn.

Hot Head Burritos on Urbanspoon
Hot Head Burritos

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 2.0 out of 42.0 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. Mediterranean Musings at Milya Cafe
    -posted Sunday, July 16, 2017
  2. Pastrami Impressions: Shapiro's Delicatessen
    -posted Wednesday, July 5, 2017
  3. Chinese Impressions: Fortune Noodle House
    -posted Saturday, June 10, 2017
  4. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  5. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo: they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design