What happens when two Mexican food-loving best friends move from San Jose to Livermore?
They go through withdrawal for the South Bay’s Latino food scene. For a while, they actually make the drive south to eat at their favorite spots, from Milpitas’ Taqueria Las Vegas to Sunnyvale’s Mercado La Torre. It’s a lot of miles. And a lot of tortillas.
Then one day in February 2020, they say, “Enough” — no more sobbing over salsa — and launch a bracket-style burrito contest on Facebook to get to know their new East Bay community and find the Tri-Valley’s best burrito spots.
“Because they’re the best food in the galaxy,” says Andrew Kutsenda, a self-proclaimed foodie who together with roommate Robbie Reign make up Chomp Chomp Bay Area. “I remember my very first breakfast burrito. I didn’t even know such a thing was possible.”
Kutsenda and Reign have been buddies for 12 years. The 30-somethings have traveled across four continents together, and when they’re not stuffing their faces with carnitas or asada, Kutsenda works as a real estate agent and Reign is a singer-songwriter.
Their Burrito Bowl — “El Bracket” — drew hundreds of comments and support for 16 Tri-Valley taquerias, including the victor, Livermore’s El Cerrito, which won for its flavor, authenticity and price point. Kutsenda and Reign envisioned a burrito celebration in a rowdy bar somewhere, with drink specials and too many people.
Then the pandemic hit. And suddenly, the indie food critics realized they could turn this “funny little thing” into a way to help struggling restaurants.
“Now more than ever, we need to support local businesses,” Reign says. “These are real people with real families, and they make some pretty dope stuff. A lot of them have been forced to shut down because of the pandemic and that’s just not right.”
The Chomp Chomp duo announced the winner of their second tasting bracket — doughnuts — over the weekend. After that, they’ll take on sushi. Eventually, they plan to expand to the entire East Bay, but they won’t do more than one bracket per month. After all, they ate six burritos each for the final head-to-head.
“We need recovery time,” Kutsenda says. “And workout time.”
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