The Definitive Guide to All 15 Burrito Styles Available in the United States
This past week, I hosted ESPN's burrito correspondent, Anna Maria Barry Jester of the company's FiveThirtyEight data-mining site. We ate at Athenian Burgers #3 in Buena Park, which is a competitor in FiveThirtyEight's epic Burrito Bracket competition that seeks to find the greatest burrito in America by facing off Yelp stats versus actual critics.
Photo by Professor Salt Epic!
Anna Maria loved her Athenian Polish sausage breakfast burrito, although I worry about it advancing, given it's facing off against the legendary Manny's El Tepeyac AND Al and Bea's. She told me about her burrito adventures so far, from the Deep South to Santa Fe to Ventura and beyond. And as she recounted one cylindrical god (or imposter) after another, it got me thinking of all the different burrito styles in America. While you may think you know them all, you'd be surprised at the amount of burrito diversity in this country, from the Mexican hamburger of Denver to burritos in El Paso that function more as tacos, to the monstrosities of Taco Bell, austerity of a bean-and-cheese, and more. So, without further ado, in no particular order of deliciousness...
Photo by The Mexican Del Taco's magnificent bean-and-cheese
The first burrito to spread across the United States, and still stocked by all the pioneer fast-food chains, from Taco Bell to Del Taco to TacoTime and more. Beans, cheese, and a light sauce--so deviously simple, and now usually found only at fast-food chains and the homes of Mexicans, because more popular nowadays are monstrosities.
Photo by The Mexican El Paso burrito--notice how tiny it is, compartively speaking
The best name I could think of for the burritos of northwest Mexico and El Paso: small, simple things usually stuffed with a guisado (a stew) and nothing more--no guac, no cheese, no nada. Usually folded so that two flaps stick out of the side, as opposed to getting completely wrapped into a tight tube. Severely underrated.
Photo by Professor Salt Burrito from El Toro Bravo
The best name I could think of for the burritos of a previous generation of Southern Californians: the ones in big tortillas with your choice of meat, rice, and beans. The burritos I grew up eating, the kind you'll get if you enter a taquería in Southern California. No sour cream, no veggies--just the meat, beans and rice. And, yes, insufferable hipsters: rice. The only people who think rice doesn't belong in a burrito are people who didn't grow up with burritos from birth.
Photo by The Mexican El Castillito in San Francisco: Home to my favorite burrito of all time
San Francisco's gift to the world, a gargantuan beast where most everything goes inside a massive flour tortilla, then the results get wrapped in foil. Key to the Mission style is the preparation: down the assembly line. Style copied wholesale by Chipotle, which most of the U.S. still doesn't know.
Carne Asada Burrito
Carne asada burrito with a taquito in it--another San Diego creation
Somehow, San Diego has claimed what's really just a meat burrito with guacamole, salsa and cheese into their own creation, and unique. Um, okay...much better to claim is, of course...