Always hot on the trail of the little donkey, we have been off traversing the globe in search of the best and brightest in tortilla-wrapped concotions on the west coast. Let us step outside our Mission-style boundaries and explore:
The California Burrito!
Yes, we have ventured deep behind enemy lines into San Diego to tame this wild beast. Known as the inspiration of the Great Burrito War between Southern and Northern California, the California burrito is surely a polarizing figure in today’s burrito climate. This one comes to us from Lolita’s Taco Shop, in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood.
Carne Asada, sour cream, cheddar/jack cheese, guac, and FRIES! That’s it. And what a specimen it was, with the french fries adding Gordo’s-type girth. The carne was muy rico, and the french fries were thin cut, crispy, and knocked the texture rating straight out of Qualcomm. The salsa roja from the salsa bar added a much needed kick, and just enough sauciness for everything to go down smoothly.
Points were lost for not fully melting the cheese, the tortilla was lacking delicious brown grill spots, and a foil wrapper would have significantly improved structural integrity. However, those SoCal traitors may be on to something with these fries…
P.S. Horchata from a machine is swill! Make that mierda by hand!
The Oregon Burrito!
The Oregon Burrito is a newcomer to the scene, as we see burritafficionados from the Northwest put their spin on the California Burrito. This slab comes to us courtesy of Muchas Gracias in Portland.
The OB features carne asada, cheese, and grilled red potatoes instead of fries. It also packs a flavorful blend of roasted onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and cilantro, bringing a bit of fajita flair.
No sour cream or guacamole to be found, making this a healthier option than its southern predecessor. And the temperature was scorching! The interior was steaming bite after glorious bite, leaving no unmelted cheddar grates here.
If we’re picking nits, the carne was a bit gristly for our well-traveled pallates, and again the tortilla could have used more time on the grill. But salúd to innovation! Give the Oregon Burrito a try if you’re ever visiting the North West-Coast.
The… Bacon-Burrito Dog?!??
Yes, that’s bacon. And chili. And not one, but two 10-inch hot dogs. Throw in some cheese and onions, and you have the glorious Bacon Burrito Dog from Pink’s Hot Dogs in LA. Don’t be jealous, you ain’t got it like they got it.
While this hardly qualifies as an officially sanctioned participant in the Burritolympics, The Bacon-Burrito Dog does hold a special place in late-night burrito lore.
When you’re on your way home from the bars at 2AM, and need your double-chili-cheese-bacon-dog fix but don’t want to spill chili on your sweet Ed Hardy shirt, Pink’s Burrito Dog has you covered. Thank you, Tortilla Gods, for making this burritabomination possible.
In our neverending quest to unwrap the next great foiled treat, there will inevitably be speedbumps along the way. Such has been life over the last couple weeks. May I present:
LUCINDA’S MEXICAN FOOD TO GO
Lucinda’s has been described as the “best burritos in Marin.” They are famous for their zookie burrito, which includes grilled squash and zucchini. Sorry, but when given a choice between veggies and carnitas, I’m taking pork every time.
Apparently, you should stick with the zookie. The carnitas were mushy and bland, the beans and rice were flavorless, and the “hot” salsa barely even tickled the tongue. The chipotle crema, which had me so excited when I saw it on the menu, didn’t even register on the palate.
When you can’t taste a difference in the ingredients of your burrito, it’s never a good sign. Everyone was simply just there for the ride, no one stepped up to take the lead. Meh’s all around.
TACOS SAN BUENA
TSB is part of the grand El Tonayense fleet of roach coaches. The source of tasty burritos in the past, I decided to try my luck with an al pastor super burrito (spicy.) Overall, the flavor was pretty good, but texture and overall (lack of) size were mitigating factors.
The whole pinto beans were a little undercooked and toothsome. And while one expects a good amount of grease with their al pastor, translucent tortillas are never particularly appealing. Additionally, the veggie content was notably lacking. Although not a problem for me, no pico de gallo option is sure to ruffle some feathers. The guac was also thin, likely a tomatillo based puree.
A friend got a plate of tacos, and said they were delicious. Yeah, they look good, but donde estan las cebollas y cilantro?
Finally, on a mission to see if there are ANY good burritos north of California St., we trekked to La Canasta on Buchanan. Things looked promising with carne asada grilled to order, and a rare cochinita pibil sighting on the menu.
What a disappointment to learn that the asada was unseasoned, the salsa had no depth of flavor, and unmelted grates of jack cheese abounded. But most egregiously, frijoles overpowered everything. After a healthy ladleful of refried beans, the burritista added MORE whole pintos! They may be a magical fruit, but no one needs that much magic.
Overall, it was a step below average, and left me unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Will we ever see a decent burrito in the Marina? Outlook not so good.
The Green Chile Kitchen recently moved on up to new digs on McAllister & Baker. This southwestern shop employs a “New Mexico style” with most of their entrees offered with either fresh green or red chile sauces.
The first thing you will notice is the short & fat “Gordo’s style” burrito. Not long, but plenty of girth 🙂 Upon unwrapping the silver torpedo, I came across a beautiful sight: INSANELY GRILLED TORTILLA!!!
Yes, this tortilla was grilled to the extreme. It appears that they start by steaming it, roll the burrito, then put it back on the grill for a few minutes to roast. The post-roll grill is one of my favorite techniques. Not only do you get that delicious crisp outside on the tortilla, but it allows all the ingredients inside to melt and fuse together.
Within the crispy, flaky delicious exterior, temperatures soared. I had to wait a minute for it to cool down before engaging (not an easy task when starving and staring down a slab of this caliber.) Luckily blue-corn tortilla chips and fresh salsa were on hand to momentarily satiate my desires.
Overall, this was a very solid burrito. No elements really stood other than the A+ tortilla, but nothing detracted either. The carne asada was juicy, the rice and beans complemented well, and since the cheese was so thoroughly melted, it tied everything together nicely. The red chile sauce kind of got lost in the fray, but overall a delicious effort.
All in all, it’s a bit tough to justify spending $9.80 on a gordito burrito, especially with Little Chihuahua just down the road. That being said, I will be tortilla dreaming for weeks to come. I’ll be back to try their chile relleno.
Instead of going back and doing retroactive reviews, allow me to take you on a quick journey through the last 18 months. When I returned from Brasil and a 6-month depravation of glorious burritos, I decided to chronicle my journey through the San Francisco Taqueria scene. These are my adventures: