Diamonds in the Rough

This Week: The Perfect Burrito


Related Articles »

  • Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
  • Comments Comments (0)

Berkeley, we're disappointed in you. We deserve better than La Bo. Apparently there are so few decent burrito joints in this city that locals felt compelled to vote La Burrita Best of Berkeley's "Best Mexican" in this paper only two weeks ago. La Bo-really? Best burrito in Berkeley?

We consider ourselves typical Berkeley students and residents, and we begrudgingly hit up La Burrita and Chipotle simply because of their central locations, not because they represent some kind of revelation in tortilla-wrapped entrees. If laziness is the excuse, we completely sympathize. But how can we forgive Berkeley for its quality burrito deficiency? Well, we thought, maybe there are more burrito places than even we know about. That proved a solid hypothesis from a pair of arrogant (and possibly delusional) burrito connoisseurs.

We decided the only way to establish the real depth of La Burrita's inferiority was to travel beyond Telegraph Avenue-a frightening proposition, we know-and compare it to Berkeley's other offerings. Embarking on our quest, we began at La Cascada Taqueria on Center Street and traveled in an outward-expanding, burrito-seeking, automobile-aided arc. Along the way we found some places worth keeping track of but undoubtedly missed some. Unfortunately, but perhaps fittingly, our sojourn left us with few hard-and-fast rules. High Tech Burrito cured us of our chain phobia while Gordo reminded us not to overlook the contribution of a tasty tortilla. But before we sat down to write about it, we had to determine: What constitutes the burrito hierarchy?

If La Bo is at the bottom, what's at the top? Well, there is a platonic concoction of tortilla, rice, beans and cheese out there that we hold as the burrito standard, but it's not in Berkeley. It lies along Mission Street in San Francisco. San Francisco's oldest district is home to countless hole-in-the-wall taquerias that cater to discerning lovers of large, stomach-stuffing burritos.

Southern Californians may complain about the lack of Mexican grub, but the San Francisco burrito revolutionized cylindrical food forever. A steamed tortilla and ample portions of the basics, as well as sour cream and guacamole, distinguished the "Mission burrito" from its skeletal southern counterpart. The meat available in Mission burritos aren't just your typical steak, chicken and pork. Chorizo may be familiar, but how about cow tongue (lengua), brain (seso) and head (cabeza)? Perhaps you haven't explored all the delectable parts of the cow, but experimenting with flavor is an important part of the burrito's appeal. The Mission burrito has become such a culinary force that uber-chain Chipotle chose it as the basis for its own creations.

But on this side of the bay, the traits of a good burrito never seem to coalesce at a single cantina, much like undermelted cheese. Each Berkeley joint offered a different take on the California standard, and some were worth trying. We ardently dove in to the fish burritos at Shattuck and Ashby's Taqueria La Familia, but it was a struggle to find anything close to our perfect Mexican gyro. The closest any Berkeley burrito got to our hearts (or stomachs) was at Juan's Place, located at 941 Carleton St. The burrito's elephantine size defies the super category, while the guac-sour cream composition was astounding. Our beef with Juan and his burrito is that you have to sit down and wait for your burrito to be made. Our ideal burrito joint is one where you can grab and go without ever sitting down.

What is it about burritos that strike such a chord with Californians? The amalgamation of filling meat, cheese, beans and a million other possible ingredients? Or is it the perfect simplicity of it all, wrapped up in the easiest-to-eat form? It must be the combination-a meal that's appetizing, easy and allows us to roll our "r"s with glee and mispronounce Spanish ingredients. Unfortunately, we haven't yet discovered any Berkeley burritos qualifying as "diamantes deliciosas."

Our quest continues

Stuff your face with Nick and Derek at [email protected]

Comments (0) »

Comment Policy
The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regards to both the readers and writers of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. Click here to read the full comment policy.
White space
Left Arrow
Image What did we learn?
There is no way to end a column and make everybody happy, just as there is ...Read More»
Image Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
Try to tell someone about a dream you had, and they won't want to listen. T...Read More»
Image Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
I'm a contrarian when it comes to movie talk, and often unfoundedly so. No...Read More»
Image Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
I have hosted three Oscar ceremonies in my living room. Well, my parents' l...Read More»
Image Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
In my utopian fantasy of the Oscars - where I am dictator of the AMPAS obvi...Read More»
Image Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
If I had a water cooler, or knew where one was, I'd be talking around it. P...Read More»
Right Arrow

Job Postings

White Space