I'm looking for recs. on good burrito places in CC or the western 'burbs. Doesn't have to be fancy (actually...I prefer not). I just moved here to Philly from Boston and I miss my old burrito stomping grounds up there: Anna's Taqueria. Quick cafeteria-style....wrapped to order...big, juicy, bursting at the seams...generous fillings (not filled with cheap rice)...
and no...Qdoba doesn't count ;-)
Bostonguy- I too am a recovering Anna's girl (steak super, black beans, extra hot sauce). Unfortunately, while there are decent taquerias here, none reach the high bar that Anna's set. Mesa in the western burbs is decent, as is El Fuego downtown. And, you are right, Qdoba does not count. Baja is okay every once in awhile, even though they have terrible guac.
My question for you- were you a Harvard Street Anna's frequenter too?
Not in CC, but just west in University City, you'll find the best burrito in town in my opinion. MexiCali's mashed sweet potato burrito with beans, rice, queso, sour cream, and choptle-tomato salsa is the reason Penn kids line up for at lunchtime and regularly run late for Econ. The ingredients are wrapped in a tortilla that's griddled until crisp and blistered, the stuffed inside sweet and steamy--it's huge and only $3! Make sure to hit the car, right on Spruce Street after you cross 36th Street, not the restaurant on 40th, which charges around double.
A lot of the UC food trucks do business based on location and not quality, because they know they have lemmings, excuse me, a captive audience. My favorites (KoJa, Rami's) are on the outskirts of the food truck area, where they have to have better quality to compete. MexiCali does serve large portions but their burritos are so bland... too much rice I think. Even the "hot sauce" is -somewhat- hot but there's no flavor to it. I always regret making the time-to-quality of food tradeoff to eating there.
I was more of a Tacos Lupita fan but MexiCali doesn't hold a candle to Anna's. There was one burrito stand (not restaurant) I went to a few months ago that I can't remember the name of (maybe somewhere in Old City?) which had good SoCal-style burritos. Taqueria la Veracruzana on Wash Ave has burritos but you're better off sampling the other offerings there and at Los Taquitos de Puebla--which btw far outshines Anna's in their tacos al pastor.
I feel like crying after reading the above posts. The sad truth is that you have just moved to an awesome city, but one devoid of great burritos. Anna's and Felipe's have no equal in Philly, and I sometimes wonder if they have an equal anywhere.
I may not be the best judge for you – I prefer to keep my burritos simple: black beans, cheese, rice, guac, salsa, and maybe sour cream. Given those criteria, here is what I have found in the Iladelphia:
Santa Fe (11th and Locust): Good but not great. They do beans and Spanish rice well, and provide the vegetarian with a couple of interesting options. They totally miss, however, when it comes to lettuce, and cheese. The problem, and I have no doubt this will infuriate an Anna’s lover, is that they put too many cold ingredients in the burrito, often resulting in unmelted cheese and tepid burritos. I recommend asking them to hold the lettuce, it can be nasty.
El Fuego (7th and Walnut): This place is probably your best option for a hearty and tasty burrito. They have clean and flavorful rice, thick and fresh guac, and options for salsa. They also make huge burritos, and manage to get the cheese next to the hot ingredients, which helps it melt, though not as much as that wonderful steamer does at Anna’s. Decent shells and lots of tasty looking meats, though I haven’t had them myself. The problem with the burrito here is that I find it to be the second best option, preferring the soft tacos.
MexiCali (cart in University City, restaurant at 40th and Sansom): this place can be good, though I am not sure if all of these creations really qualify as traditional burritos. The more interesting options are good, though the basic black bean and cheese – the metric for any burrito place in my mind – is down right bland. Not great shells, uninspired guac, and zestless rice. Check it out, but make sure to mix it up if you get my drift.
Qdoba (everywhere): This will perhaps cause doubts about my other opinions. I agree this place is rather despicable, both in regards to most of their food and, more importantly, the décor and feel of this fast-food giant. But I have found that when it comes to the basics – the black bean and cheese – they do a decent job. The rice, nothing to write home about, is cooked evenly and has some flavor. The beans, again, are average. But I find the guac passable, and appreciate the level of autonomy they give the customer. Want more cheese, you got it. Three kinds of salsa, no problem. They fail to melt the damn cheese half the time, but they also give you whale size portions.
There are probably some other decent options out there, and I would love to hear about others’ opinions. One final thought: I have honestly spent the last three years in this city trying to find a burrito that can rival Anna’s, and I just don’t think it exists, at least not in this city. But I have found that all of these places, with some judicious ordering, can make a decent burrito. It’s not like walking into Anna’s, where you can have such a tremendous amount of confidence in the burrito – from the server to the shell, and from that guac to the robust black beans – but it can be good. Let us know what you find.
You and me both Fatty Lumpkin! I love Philly and its dining scene. It is by far the most underrated dining locale in the eastern seaboard. I am glad you mentioned MexiCali is a good mention as well.
Its just hard to go back after you have had Anna's. There are people who will inevitably disagree...
No need to cry, though. Boston can be reached under 5 hours if you really get a hankering ;).
Check out the large yummy burritos at Johnny Mananas in East Falls (near Manayunk). much better than the chains mentioned. There is a more authentic (poor English speaking staff) in Phoenixville- Los Mariachas, if ever out that way, that has them- and great mole sauce!
I've had many an Anna's burrito and I think that El Fuego is a close-ish comparison, with a much lesser tortilla (some found the Anna's burrito too gummy, I liked it). I didn't think El Fuego was great, but when I lived in Boston I was also only so-so on Anna's (I slightly preferred Herrera's or El Pelon).
I really, really, didn't like my one Santa Fe burrito experience. It was only one time, but I wasn't wild about it at all.
Joy- Anna's was a bit gummy, but you can't compare the way they steamed the cheese right on the tortilla. Made for perfect cheese to burrito ratio! I agree, El Fuego is the closest.
How much am I loving all this burrito talk?!?! Glad to see there are other people like me, who are fervent about their burritos.
I've found Hot Tamales at 18th and Market to be pretty good. Mexican Post just opened in our building a few days ago. We went to their location in Old city about 15 years ago and hated it, but given that it's freezing outside, I might try them today. Any suggestions about what's edible?
re: Susan H
susan h - might be a bit late for lunch today but...
i find myself at the franklin mills branch occasionally to meet my folks (1/2 way and there isn't much around there) there is a salad (don't remember the name) that has stewed chicken and lots of avocado on it, they serve it with a spicy ranch. that and occasionally the flautas are the only 2 things i have really enjoyed there.
hope it helps, i work across the street so i hope it's ok, i',m tired of public house and htere is little in the area...
Thanks, Nittany (we should meet for lunch sometime). I didn't make it there today because it turns out there's no entrance from the building and I didn't have my coat on -- so I settled for the cafe in the lobby (now that's desperation -- but their soups are pretty good). I was hoping for Helen and Chung (the chinese truck on 17th) but she seems to have disappeared. Asia is pretty good to take clients to -- there's not much else.