Now, I'd been to the Una Mas nearest my house but as a laugh I suggested
that my girlfriend and I eat at this Una Mas in a different city. In
reality Capitola is only an hour from my house, but a mountain range
in between my house and there makes a distant Una Mas seem exotic. As
we sat there eating, my mind wandered, as it often does, to sunshine,
sheep, little candies with that stuff like cellophane that are so hard
to unwrap because they're sticky. Actually, my mind wandered to an unusual
thought: "I should visit all the Una Mas locations." To my utter amazement,
I'd said it out loud.
Five years later, that girlfriend is my wife (my mind had wandered and
I'd accidentally said out loud, "we should get married") and I have
gone to all 31 Bay Area Una Mas locations.
What you are about to read is the culmination of my work and in many
states, grounds for institutionalization. Any resemblance to Obsessive-Compulsive
Disorder is completely coincidental.
I'm a simple guy who likes what he likes and isn't really big on change.
I don't get tired of having the same thing for lunch everyday if it's
something I like. Now when I say that I eat at Una Mas a lot, it's something
of an understatement. These days I probably eat at Una Mas three times
a week on average. That's relatively low considering that when I used
to have a job across the street from one, I ate there 28 days out of
a 31 day month. Those other three days I was standing outside the Una
Mas headquarters begging them to let me live there.
What Is Una Mas?
For those of you wondering what the heck an Una Mas is, I'm here to help.
Una Mas is a small chain of Mexican food restaurants in the San Francisco
Bay Area. They have 31 locations in such popular cities as San Jose, San
Francisco, Milpitas, Sacramento and Fremont. When I first discovered the
place in 1991, I used to order steak quesadillas, which are a genuine
slice of Mexican heaven.
However, pounding down two of those bad boys each trip quickly led to
extra weight. For the next few years I'd order two chicken burritos
on wheat tortilla with no beans and extra salsa. A few years ago they
stopped carrying the wheat tortilla, and asking for extra salsa could
sometimes cause confusion, so to this day a slimmer me orders two chicken
burritos with no beans.
of the Game
In order to actually cross an Una Mas off the list, I had to go there
and eat a chicken burrito. It wouldn't count if someone brought me food
form the one in Los Altos. Visiting 2 or 3 Una Mases on a single day
sure would have made the tour a lot easier, but as a challenge, I didn't
let myself visit more than one per day.
Next, I was never allowed to travel to an out of the way Una Mas with
the express purpose of going to that Una Mas. This rule made the tour
take a while, as up until a year ago, I never had reason to drive three
hours to Sacramento. Worse, Sacramento has three locations, which means
I needed three separate trips in order to hit them all. Three hours,
three locations, three trips. The quest took on mystical dimensions
and it's all Sacramento's fault.
The Una Mas Corporation also owns a smaller chain of restaurants called
Pollo Rey. They look identical in both menu and theme, but as a purist,
I did not count them as actual Una Mas locations. I'm pretty sure there
is only one of those I haven't been to anyway.
am Not a Freak!
When I'd tell people that it is my goal in life to visit all the Una
Mas locations I would usually get one of two responses. The first response
is a look as if I'd just said, "I lost my testicles in Vietnam." It's
a look of confusion (as I'm not old enough to have gone to Vietnam)
soaked in an ancho sauce-like pity (because clearly my life is over).
The second response is that they tell me some other place that has really
good Mexican food. No, really, thank you, I've tried Baja Fresh.
And it's no Una Mas.
The best response I ever got was from a guy I used to work with. After
only having known him a few days I confessed my goal of visiting all
the Una Mas locations and he responded by telling me that it was his
goal to run around the capitol building in every state capitol in the
U.S. He was up to seven last time I checked, the freak.
The Missing Una
you cannot get this burrito in San Francisco.
In order to make sure that I visited every Una Mas location there was,
I did some research. I used the back of a "to go" menu, which listed most
of their locations and the Una Mas website.
As their menu has changed over the years, new locations have popped
up, which I added to my list. So one day I get in the car and drive
to San Francisco to run some errands. I figure it's the perfect time
to visit the Una Mas in San Francisco on Folsom Street.
When I get there, no Una Mas. I walk around the area, no Una Mas. There
isn't even a hint that there used to be an Una Mas there. Where did
it go? Why does the Una Mas website say there is an Una Mas there? Is
it like the castle in Krull that constantly moves around or like Brigadoon,
which only shows up once every hundred years?
Disappointed but still craving a burrito, I ate at the nearest place
advertising Mexican food I could find. I can whole heartedly tell you
that there is no reason you ever need to eat at the Garage Café, Liquor,
Wine, Beer and Deli.
Una Mas Location - Sunnyvale, Lawrence Expressway
This Una Mas saw me 28 out of every 31 days. Every day I would call
in my order then walk across the street from work to pick it up. After
a few weeks, the employees started calling me by name. A few weeks after
that, they knew my name and my order.
It eventually got so that I would call up and say, "I'd like to place
an order to go." They would respond, "is this Michael?" That's service.
What makes them even better is that the night shift kinda knows me too
or at least recognizes me as that guy that likes chicken burritos with
no beans. Going to that Una Mas for me is like going to Cheers where
everybody knows your name. Runner up - Sunnyvale, El Camino & HWY
85, though you need a token to use the bathroom.
Una Mas Location - San Jose, River Oaks Parkway
A franchise of restaurants is built on the idea that no matter which
location you visit, you're basically getting the same quality and ingredients
that you'd get at any other location. Can someone tell me then why this
Una Mas doesn't have jack cheese?
If you order a quesadilla at any other Una Mas, it's going to have jack
cheese inside. At this Una Mas, every menu item that would normally
have jack cheese on it will instead have cheddar cheese. Worse, the
mildest cheddar cheese to be found in three counties. I thought it was
a mistake the first time I ate there, but it's not. They have simply
chosen for whatever reason to not use jack cheese.
If you ever go to this Una Mas, I recommend eating at the Chinese place
next door, where they do not serve cheddar cheese on your orange chicken.
Decoration - Sacramento, Fair Oaks Blvd.
Most of the Una Mases have the same decorations and pictures on the
wall but every once in a while one breaks out of the mold and goes "decoration
crazy." The Una Mas on Fair Oaks has a VW bus cut in half and mounted
on the wall. The entire time I sat there eating I wondered if the driver's
door would open and if I could get inside.
Runner up for this award is the "salsa cage" at the Una Mas in Daly
City. It's not really a cage, but it's the only Una Mas where the salsa
bar is encased in glass in the middle of the restaurant. The entire
time I sat there eating, I wondered how cool it would be to fill it
Best Promotion - All You Can Eat
About 4 months ago I walked into an Una Mas and there was a sign advertising
"All You Can Eat." Surely I thought I'd died and gone to heaven but
it was true. Some participating Una Mases have an "all you can eat"
special on weekends and weekdays after 5pm. While not a traditional
all you can eat, it is certainly more food than I can eat for a mere
$6.99. Pound for pound for pound for pound, you can't find a better
deal on burritos.
Runner up was the "buy a puck, save a buck" promotion they had about
3 years ago. If you bought a little San Jose Sharks key chain for a
few dollars you got one dollar off your order each time you ate at Una
Mas. The offer was only good for a few months, but saving a dollar per
visit does add up. For me, anyway.
That Needs an Una Mas - East San Jose
I know where each and every Una Mas location is so it's only natural
that I know where there needs to be an Una Mas. I grew up in East San
Jose near McKee Road. I can tell you that there is a severe lack of
restaurants on that side of town for reasons I don't understand to this
day. Also, you can leave the Una Mas in Fremont and drive south along
680 for half an hour before you get to the next Una Mas. World dominating
franchises like McDonalds and Starbucks were not built on having locations
half an hour apart.
Disappointment - Stop Stalking Us!
Remember when I told you that I once ate at Una Mas 28 days out of a
31-day month? I know that because I got the idea a few years back to
let the Una Mas headquarters know that, as Kathy Bates said in Misery,
"I'm your biggest fan." I saved up all my receipts and composed a lovely
letter to them and sent it off. It's been well over two years and I've
never heard a thing from them. Maybe it was my suggestion to rename
a burrito after me. Perhaps they didn't like my idea of having a "Senor
Goodson" appreciation day. I really wasn't pimping for free stuff, but
I did expect a letter of acknowledgement.
I won't be ignored.
For the last week or so, I've been trying to contact the folks at the
Una Mas main office to tell them about my adventures, but my calls go
unanswered. I thought it would be fun to get a tour of the Una Mas headquarters
and maybe pander for a job as Regional Manager of Burrito Quality.
I won't be ignored.
But until the happy day they acknowledge me, Una Mas will remain the
unofficial food supplier of Fanboy Planet.
would like to add that Una Mas has great fish tacos, nachos, and taquitos
as well, because there's more to life than burritos. Cheddar cheese?