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The Great Burrito Hunt

February 2, 2020

I never thought making a burrito was difficult. You heat up a large flour tortilla. Slap some beans on it. Rice if you have it. Salsa, onions, cheese, cilantro. Lettuce if there is something wrong with your head. Meat if you are so inclined. A splodge of sour cream adds a nice touch. Roll over, fold ends in neatly, complete roll so you have a tidy little package.


On Friday in San Antonio, I went to a humble Mexican place and considered the long list of meats for burritos. At the bottom was “Aguacate.” Avocado. Lovely. I do love some avocado on my burrito.

“Un burrito de aguacate,” I asked, having heard the order taker was much more comfortable in Spanish than English. “Sin lechuga.” No lettuce for me.

“Solo aguacate?” she asked. Just avocado? I expected this. Most people think I’m crazy for not wanting meat on my burrito.

“Si, no carne,” I said.

“Tomate? Crema? Lechuga?”

“Sin lechuga.”

I waited a long time. The woman who brought out the burrito out said “Un de aguacate. No tomate.”

Oh no. I hated to tell her it was without lettuce, not tomato, but lettuce is the one thing I cannot stand on a burrito. She had it remade.

I grabbed the bag and drove off, peeled my burrito and…it was a large tortilla tube of avocado. A few pink pieces of tomato and a squirt of sour cream were in there too. Solo aguacate, though. No rice, no beans, just unrelenting avocado for about 7 inches. I could have made 2 orders of guacamole with all that avocado.

You know what is boring? A whole tortilla stuffed with avocado.

Strike one.

So today in New Mexico, I went to a place that listed the ingredients. I ordered a bean and cheese burrito, confident that it would also have the rice, tomato, salsa and sour cream listed on the menu.

It came on a plate. It was a tortilla rolled with both ends open, beans and cheese inside the tortilla, rice, salsa, onion and tomato on the plate.

WHO DOES THAT? Who leaves both ends of a burrito open? These were runny beans, too. I tried to add the other ingredients inside, but by then beans had gotten everywhere and the whole thing was a floppy damned mess.

I never thought that burritos in California were California style, but I’m starting to think that the way we make burritos might be very specific rather, a local thing rather than the rule. In CA, if you order a burrito, it always has beans and cheese and salsa. If you want all-meat (or all-avocado) you have to ask for it and pay extra.

How are burritos where you come from?





  1. February 2, 2020 18:02

    My favorite burritos are from Qdoba… or the ones I make at home. In both cases I get to specify the ingredients I want, no problem!

    • February 3, 2020 05:41

      Qdoba violates my “no chain restaurants” rule. And the one burrito I had there (free coupon!) had this disgusting rice with cilantro and lime in it. WHO DOES THAT TO RICE?

  2. February 3, 2020 08:34

    In Las Vegas it’s hard to find a burrito that doesn’t feed a family of four. Huge, giant, mega burritos with lots of rice and beans because those ingredients are cheap. I’d rather go to Dona Maria’s and get a tamale.

    • February 7, 2020 06:54

      That is how big a burrito should be!

  3. February 3, 2020 08:43

    Burritos here in the PNW were always just meat or beans and cheese rolled in a tortilla. A crispy burrito is a smaller version that’s deep-fried, which the rest of the world calls a taquito. California-type burritos didn’t exist here before 20 years ago when Taco Del Mar and Chipotle and Qdoba arrived. There’s still a local Mexican fast food chain that serves what I grew up knowing as a burrito, as well as a plated version with the sauce and cheese on the outside that they call a Casita Burrito.

    The best burrito I’ve ever eaten was at a dive bar on MLK Way in Oakland and the second best was at a food truck at the Fruitvale BART station. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve had a really good burrito since I left California.

    • February 7, 2020 06:53

      I think in CA a deep-fried burrito is a chimichanga, which is usually found at places like Chili’s and orange-cheese Mexican places called “Dona Rosa’s” or something. I love a plain bean burrito if the beans are good. There’s a bakery in Soledad, CA that has beans I dream of.

  4. February 3, 2020 10:23

    Gorditos in Seattle does the tucked-in thing. *However* you’re still best off eating them with a fork, because they are stuffed to the gills. (also, as long as you’re eating them with a fork, get the smothered version which is covered in sauce and cheese and broiled or something; I forget the name, but oy, it is good stuff)

    In any place, I sort of assume that to get what you want inside, inside, that specifying exactly what you want in the burrito and exactly what you do not want in the burrito is probable the way to go. No matter what the prevailing way of interpreting instructions are, you’ll always get a few oddities out there…

    • February 7, 2020 06:51

      I am so used to having a standard set of ingredients that it did not occur that anyone would make a whole tortilla full of 1/2 pound of avocado.

  5. February 3, 2020 12:52

    I don’t eat them. My burrito options where always something like Chipotle. You go through a line telling them want you want. If we go to the most authentic Mexican restaurant here, I order tacos or enchiladas. But midwest does not do Mexican food well. I had to hunt for the few really good places. My favorite place is a Venezuelan place on the Kansas side. They have the best black been papusas.

  6. Robin permalink
    February 6, 2020 02:15

    From AZ, keeping in mind I haven’t lived there for years, they are usually either a meat or bean burrito. Almost always with cheese, tomato onion and lettuce. The combo of meat and beans by request. Never with rice inside (which is a filler I don’t understand. (It goes next to the burrito on the plate with the beans).

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