Even if the food at Neato Burrito was merely OK, it would still be something of a modern marvel. Not just a cheap place to get heavy food whilst drinking the night away, Neato also offers hefty doses of atmosphere and culture to boot.
Luckily for its patrons, the food at Neato Burrito isn't just serviceable — it's outstanding. For the price, you're not likely to get a better burrito in town, and certainly not in the late hours that Neato leaves its doors open.
"I think it's more than just the food, though," says Patty Tully, Neato Burrito's co-owner, and she's not wrong. Tully and co-owner Tim Lannigan have taken what was once a Slick Rock and converted it into a true weirdo paradise, one where all manner of styles clash magnificently into a wholly singular atmosphere.
While most of the kitchen equipment was maintained in the conversion, the recipes and attitude are completely from scratch, so to speak. Before taking an ownership role, Lannigan used to work at the Slick Rock that Neato once was. It's seen quite a few changes since being a franchise.
"Tim basically took Neato Burrito and made it what he had always wanted to do while working at Slick Rock," Tully says.
That approach certainly manifests itself in Neato's menu, which is a very delicious kind of lawless. Traditional Mexican burritos share marquee space with various Asian and American burrito variations, including newly christened specials such as "El Gas Station-O," a more elegant adaptation of a convenience store favorite.
Since becoming Neato Burrito, the space has served as the perfect size and shape for hosting a massive and eclectic array of concerts, open mics and presentations. The building hosts an all-ages poetry open mic every Wednesday, and dozens of bands, both local and touring, manage to take the stage at Neato every month.
It's easy to lump Neato Burrito in with the wildly popular and appropriately named Baby Bar — a diminutive dive bar attached to Neato's back side. But while Baby Bar may be the more lucrative side of the business (as bars often are), it's important to recognize Neato Burrito's honest merits on their own terms.
"When there's a show at Neato, that's where the action is," says Tully. If you've ever been to Neato Burrito on a crowded Saturday night, trying not to spill your beer as you stand your ground at a punk show, you know exactly what she's talking about.
2nd PLACE: Atilano's; 3rd PLACE: Slick Rock