Big Ron's Burrito Shack, the newest Cowley Road spin-off of the Atomic franchise, does exactly what it says on the tin. It categorically is a shack, complete with tables made from scaffolding, corrugated iron roofs and a pallet wood facade. It also sells burritos: there is, in fact, absolutely nothing else to eat on the menu. The only thing left to clear up is the identity of Big Ron himself.
Atomic Burger's co-founder, James Reilly, coined the name to respect the memory of his business partner, Martin Peter Ronald Bunce, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this year, aged 43. Since Mr Bunce hated the name Ronald and tried his best to conceal its existence, the shack was named in his honour.
As with previous Atomic incarnations, the idea is to offer a fast, fun take on a single comfort food. But this time they have done away with the pop culture stylings and instead emblazoned the walls and menu with an enormous mock-Aztec motif. Combined with the numerous, capitalised references to BIG RON, the impression is that of a vengeful pre-Columbine burrito deity.
The menu is simple. You choose one of four filling options (shredded beef, tequila & lime chicken, Texas pork or cajun mixed veg), add your preferred extras (lettuce, beans, rice, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese are included in the price) and one of four salsas, and sit down to feast. The only other menu options are soft drinks and beer.
First, the good. The consensus in the Daily Info office was that the tortilla wrap itself was excellent: flavourful and sturdy, it held the fillings together securely and minimised the amount of dripping salsa. Meats were uniformly tender and flavourful, and the ingredients were mixed in such a way as to avoid the enormous, localised globules of sour cream and guacamole that you get at some other burrito outlets.
But there were problems too. Almost everyone in our party ordered the "Big Ron" size, assuming that the name and substantial price tag (£6.75) would you get a truly massive piece of food. Actually, a Big Ron is only a modestly-sized Ron. To get the heft you really expect from a burrito it may be necessary to order a "Ron Grande" - two small burritos wrapped in one enormous tortilla - and that will set you back £10. When dining in, the problem is partially offset by the free tortilla chips and salsa on offer, but unfortunately none were included in our takeaway order.
Big Ron's is a welcome addition, then, to Oxford's very limited number of Mexican options, but it is not quite a game changer.