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the burrito problem

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I feel like we have a burrito problem in Los Angeles. Or maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Maybe chowhounders can help clarify my thinking.

Here's an example. I had some chores to do in Hollywood over the weekend, so I went to two prominent burrito destinations (e.g., both recommended by LA Weekly), Burrito King (2109 W Sunset near Alvarado, 213 484 9859) and El Gran Burrito (4716 Santa Monica Blvd by the Vermont subway station, 323 665 8720).

In each case, for scientific purposes, I ordered the same thing: a chicken burrito with no cilantro and a tamarindo. In each case I was underwhelmed. The problem, in a word, was grease -- rivers of grease, oceans, pouring out the bottom end of the burrito shortly after I held it vertical to start eating it, but not before soaking the tortilla so badly that it soon lost all integrity and collapsed into a vile mess.

It's not an easy problem, I know. You've got a choice: you can go to Baja Fresh and get a completely grease-free burrito that (as someone pointed out here) tastes like cardboard, or you can go to a place that does something to the chicken. What they do, unfortunately, is let the chicken sit for long periods in something that, okay, is not entirely grease, and that may have some lime juice or something. The problem is that the wet stuff gets all over everything. Adding hot sauce doesn't help. And it's not like the results were such taste sensations either. I did like the beans at Burrito King, though I can't imagine my arteries did. On the whole, though, a wash.

It can be done. Good burritos are a dime a dozen in San Francisco. Or you can go to Orange County and get good burritos. A couple of the burritos at the Grand Central Market have been mentioned here, and they're okay, though wildly uneven. But on the whole, I'm come up with the same greasy problem everyplace in LA that I've tried.

Am I missing something? Am I going to the wrong place? Am I imposing anglo expectations on someone else's chow? Set me straight.

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  1. I think the problem has more to do with the chicken than the burrito. For example, Taqueria Mexico in my hood makes great carnitas and al pastor burritos, but the chicken burritos are bland and soupy. You're best off looking for a place that specializes in or at least serves pollo al carbon -- unfortunately most "authentic" Mexican burrito joints around central L.A. serve stewed or boiled chicken instead.

    My favorite chicken burritos are the ones served at La Cumbre in San Mateo (not the SF location). Eddie, the owner, swears that his secret is in the way that his grill is seasoned. I haven't found anything in L.A. that compares, so I stick to carnitas, carne asada, or al pastor instead when it comes to burritos. If I really want a chicken burrito, I grudgingly settle for Baja Bud's, which seems to be the least bland of the "fresh Mex" joints.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chris G.

      Also look for or specify pollo asado (although sometimes as you noted it's left to sit in a soupy mess in a stainless steel container--but it doesn't hurt to ask to have the chicken chopped up fresh off the grill instead).

      1. re: Chris G.

        I think Chris G has nailed this issue. For beef and pork nothing beats the Burrito Kings of this world. But for chicken, alas, the gringo places -- where chicken is grilled fresh for you and hasn't been sitting in a vat -- may be the better choice. BTW, if you want a clean-seeming, gringo-catering burrito stand that is also top-notch, far better than Baja Fresh, I recommend Yucca's on Hillhurst. I don't think they offer chicken but they do do a vegetarian burrito and their beans are some of the best around. The pibil style pork is super-greasy but only in the best way...

        1. re: Rafi

          Rodeo Grill on Sunset in Echo Park, and another branch on Olympic near Alvarado, does an excellent pollo asado burrito, with freshly grilled chicken. They also have a pretty decent salsa bar.

          1. re: Rafi

            Yuca's uses american cheese. laughable.

      2. Acutally good burritos are not a dime a dozen in San Francisco if you believe a current thread on their board...

        My favorite is the Lamb Burrito at Gerlach's Grill in Pasadena (Fair Oaks & Glenarm). But their burritos include white rice, which might be a put-off to some. They have fantastic fresh fish as well.

        I'm also a fan of the pork burrito at Senor Fish. Large chunks of lean pork.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Key Lime Guy

          hilarious! you go to a fish place for lamb burritos and then a mexican seafood restaurant for pork burritos!

        2. In addition to the suggestions for ordering already posted, a lesson in how to eat a burrito may be in order too for those of you who didn't grow up eating these things. I'm assuming that the ones you're getting are wrapped in a double layer of aluminum foil. Do NOT remove the foil from the whole thing as I've seen many people do. You should only tear back from one end uncovering about 2" or less of burrito at a time. Bite off from that area, and unwrap more as you progress. The sensation of biting into foil is unpleasant so stay ahead. The foil acts to hold the whole thing together.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            The problem is that Burrito King doesn't use aluminum foil wrapping, just the wax parchment. It doesn't make for the neatest eating, but it's damn good. I can't speak about the chicken, since I normally go for the machaca or chile verde there. No rice filling either. And to the original poster, that isn't grease, it's burrito nectar.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              To supplement Melanie...

              .if you pick the burrito up, don't just hold on to the sides (which causes inadvertant squeezing and problems)....one must use one hand (with some spread fingers) to actually hold the bottom of the burrito.

            2. I'm a big fan of a couple of burrito places... in fact I think I posted about one of them earlier but there were no responses.

              Ramona's burritos - go to the source, NOT the frozen crap sold in stores. I must confess, I've never had a chicken burrito there, and not even sure they make one, but INCREDIBLE burritos... love them. They are located on the corner of Crenshaw and Redondo Beach Blvd, across the street from El Camino College in the South Bay. Really great... I can't say enough, I've been eating there (and their other location on 135th and Western) for 20 years.

              Green Burrito - Again, go to the source. The only Green Burrito worth eating at is the original one in Hawaiian Gardens on Carson St. between Norwalk Blvd and Pioneer Ave. Don't even try any of the sad, crappy franchise locations (especially the ones contained inside Carls Jr's). The first and original location has GREAT burritos and a good selection of Mexican food. If you are hungry try their Big Ed - HUGE - it takes two of the very large flour tortillas to make and hold all the stuff inside. Can't stress enough that the only GB worth going to is the original one in Hawaiian Gardens.

              Enjoy!

              2 Replies
              1. re: woo!

                I LOVE chowhound tips, especially when they're less than 10 minutes away! I think I'll make a short trek from Long Beach and grab something from that Green Burrito tonight. I've never liked their stuff before, but you've sold me on the magic on this particular location.

                1. re: woo!

                  I strongly disagree with frozen Ramona's being C---.
                  I ran a beach burrito-hamburger stand and a "general store" at the Silver Strand beach near Oxnard CA. My homemade burritos were a huge hit, but when the restaurant was not open for the day, Ramona's FROZEN Burritos (which we heated in several microwave ovens within the market) were a BIG hit too If one is familiar with defrosting food correctly, one can heat up a terrific Ramona burrito - we sold thousands of them over the years.
                  BTW; I just polished off my favorite Ramona's - CHEESE, absolutely delicious,
                  especially with fresh chopped yellow onion.

                2. It is a matter of timing at most taco and burrito stands. My two favorites are El Taurino and El Gran Burrito, but neither are 100% consistent. The turnover at El Taurino is so rapid that the food is excellent most of the time. Best of course is when you belly up to the counter right after they just trimmed the al pastor from the spit and you get perfect non-greasy tacos. On occassion at El Gran Burrito, the carnitas are swimming in grease. You literally have to wring it out. Why? Bad timing. You happen to be that place in line when you get the last few greasy scoops of meat from the bottom of the pan right before it is replenished from the kitchen.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: glenmore

                    El taurino is definitely a must go. Their tacos and sopes are also really good. Another is King Taco.. there's a bunch in LA but i always go to the one in old pas on union.

                  2. Where are the good burritos to be found in OC?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Hilary

                      My own favorite burrito in Orange County, in fact my favorite burrito on planet earth, is at El Toro Bravo on 19th Street in Costa Mesa. There's another place nearby called Taco Mesa that is quite good, though I don't recall the burritos in particular. I recall there being good burritos further north in Orange County, in Santa Ana perhaps, but my memory has faded. I found the OC Weekly's Mexican recommendations to be pretty reliable.

                      1. re: Phil Agre

                        And if you go to Taco Mesa - try the Baked Cream Cheese Flan served on a vanilla-cajeta sauce and fresh seasonal fruit!!!

                        I haven't had their burritos so I can't comment on them but the flan is absolutely wonderful!

                        http://www.tacomesa.net/index.htm

                    2. My favorite burrito in town is actually El Gran Burrito - one of the very places that you had your massive problem - but:

                      1. Never had the chicken there. Following the rule that whenever all the people in the joint are of the same ethnicity as the proprieters of the joint, and when they're all ordering one sort of thing and not ordering another sort of thing... El Gran Burrito seems to specalize in beef of all sorts, with a foray into al pastor. So there - carne asada, cabeza, al pastor. (Though I wouldn't take down the cabeza if I were you - with your repugnance towards grease - cabeza is basically the fine art of taking very fatty beef and slow cooking it to give all the meat the tenderest texture of pure fat, keeping it on the edge of dissolving away from solidity but not quite over the edge).

                      2. As glenmore said, timing. They're too low-overhead a place to ever throw away anything that's been sitting too long. El Gran is a 24 hour place. It's terrible midday, when everything's been sitting. pretty good at dinner time, and insanely good at midnight or 2 AM on a Friday.

                      -thi

                      1. I agree with the original poster. Incredibly hard to find a decent burrito here in SoCal. Coming from SF, I've been sorely disappointed. But have found a few places that hit the spot (not necessarily for chicken, though):

                        Chipotle - Chain, but fresh ingredients and good carnitas that scratch that itch.
                        Senor Fish - Tasty rice in the fish burritos.
                        Taco Mexicano - Great carnitas, but not the most clean place in world. Feel like I'm gambling on the health of my my digestive system when getting food there sometimes.

                        One that I forgot to mention in another thread:
                        Casa Sanchez in Long Beach - It's all about that tangy mexican cheese they use. Yummy....

                        Oh and yeah, La Cumbre in San Mateo is aMAZing. So is El Farolito (24th/Mission) in SF and Tacos Morenos in Santa Cruz (and the new location in the Capitola Mall ;) ).

                        1. Check out Taco Village in Montebello on Olympic Bl. They are my favorite place for clean tasting, nongreasy burritos, and they have a good fresh salsa bar.

                          1. If you're feeling adventurous, try one of the ubiquitous taco trucks parked around LA (particularly Koreatown and further east). Not all of them will have pollo, but some do and they tend to be of the grilled rather than stewed variety. Fresh, tasty, and the burritos don't fall apart in your hands as you eat them (the burritos aren't the overstuffed varitey with sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc... meat, rice, beans, cilantro, onions, and salsa roja are the usual suspects). As an additional bonus, you can pick up a few carne asada tacos to round off your chicken.

                            There's a taco truck in front of California market (5th and Western) called "El Delfin." The truck is blue, and they serve pollo... unlike most places, they put lettuce in their tacos, and maybe the burritos too. Good carne asada and al pastor (a little greasy), and I can't complain about the chicken quesadillas I had there (i'm not a huge fan of chicken to begin with).

                            Whenever I hear of people complaining that they can't find a good burrito or taco in LA, I suspect they haven't tried one of the trucks... it may take a while to find one that you like, but you're set once you do (and until the city ordinance requiring them to move kicks in). I can't vouch for cleanliness (I bet there's a reason they call them "roach coaches"), but I have yet to get sick from eating at a truck, and I think they have better food than most brick and mortar taco/burrito places.

                            edit: if you get really lucky, you'll find a little old lady pushing around a cart of homemade pollo burritos... I've never seen a burrito vendor, just tamales and tacos. But oh, the tamales...

                            1. I get a great chicken burrito at La Fogata on Van Nuys BL in Sherman Oaks. I order it without beans and dry.

                              I have no idea why they want to ladle a sauce over it when I want to hold it in my hand.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mar52

                                Unless you're really obsessed with avoiding a fork, you need to get that burrito wet, with both red and green sauce. I Love La Fogata. The only bean & cheese burrito I've ever craved. I don't feel the need to hold the food in my hand, necessarily, especially if it's at the expense of a delicious sauce.

                                Being that Fogata is a sit-down place, it should not be all that shocking that the burrito comes with sauce on a plate.

                              2. It depends what you're looking for. If you want the gigantic 3000-calorie cholesterol bomb that is sold as a "burrito" in San Francisco, you can go to Carnitas Michoacan on Victory and Coldwater Canyon in Valley Glen and get it -- it's grilled chicken, not stewed.

                                If you want an actual BURRITO, which contains meat, salsa, cilantro, onions and beans ONLY, El Taco Llama (the good locations only, of course) can satisfy.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  The burritos I got in Chicago weren't messy at all. They would grill it a bit so that the cheese would bind the whole thing together, but the veggies wouldn't be ruined in the process. The composition of the tortilla was much different from what seems to be used here in LA as well.

                                  They were larger, held up to more handling, and also developed a chewy, crispy combination that was WONDERFUL.

                                  Tacos, however, are a different story in LA. It's taken me a while to adjust to the style of taco here, but now I wouldn't trade it for anything.

                                  Go out, at ten pm, to the Taco truck on La Brea and Olympic, it's on the southwest corner (Tacos El Pecas #2, I believe) get yourself two cabezas (yes, it's that good), two pastors (don't stop now), two lenguas (quit being scared), and a couple of asadas for dessert (now aren't you satisfied?).

                                  That's heaven. But burrito heaven, sorry guys, is back in Chicago for me.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    Which ones are the good locations? Specifically, is the one on Topanga Cyn. Blvd. and ... hmm, maybe Roscoe? a good one?

                                    1. re: ozhead

                                      I don't know that one. The one on Vanowen and Haskell is NOT a good one; the one on Sherman Way and (Lankershim?) is OK. The best one is at Magnolia and Bakman.

                                  2. Das Ubergeek, thanks for reiterating one fundamental expectation. Most SF area folks expect the <supressing gag> Mission style monstrosity that (IMO) is only appropriate if total veggie or if served smothered on a plate in a sit-down place.
                                    LA hounds seem to prefer the One True Burrito as described above which can be lifted safely with ONE HAND (reserving the other for pouring salsa, of course).
                                    Either way, a superior chicken burrito is much harder to find. One of the few saving graces of El Pollo Loco.
                                    Hey, woo!, ditto on the original (?) Ramona's location. Shows that there's no reason why great burritos can't be smallish.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: DiveFan

                                      Actually, I think you guys are missing something when talking about SF style burrito places. One of the key elements is being able to see and chose everything that goes into your burrito right there in front of you. As far as I know, Chipoltle is the only place in LA that has the same set-up and that's only because the founder spent time as a chef in SF (at Stars) and loved the burritos but wanted to create a healthier, more gourmet version.

                                      It seems most places in SF have a greater variety of fillings to chose from. Also, not all of the burritos are "gigantic 3000-calorie cholesterol bombs". Most burritos come with the basics and only become "bombs" when you ask for a "Super Burrito" which generally adds cheese & sour cream.

                                      As far as chicken is concerned, I think it comes down to preference. Some people prefer the taste of grilled chicken to that of boiled or stewed. Personally I think that it's harder to find grilled chicken that's not dried out and therefore prefer the boiled or stewed. I recently tried the Chili Verde burrito at the new Senor G's in Playa Del Rey and it wasn't too bad. The chicken in my burrito seemed stewed, but I saw them grilling some chicken while I was there.

                                      Just for the record, my favorite burrito is a Camarones y Hongas (shrimp & mushroom) burrito at either El Toro in the Misson.

                                      1. re: shenry

                                        Not to detract from your point, but a Chipotle burrito with everything on it is 1600 calories.

                                        I don't like SF-style burritos. The weird toppings and then the steamed stretchy burrito wrapper (can you even still call it a tortilla at that point)... no thanks.

                                        To the OP, who probably isn't checking this after four and a half years, the reason we don't have SF-style burritos here is because we have actual Mexican people making our burritos, and most Mexican places don't put fancy-shmancy Bay Area ingredients into it... it's meat, beans, onions, cilantro, and then sometimes hot sauce, crema, cheese, rice or guac.

                                        1. re: therealbigtasty

                                          I think the problem is you are limiting your burrito options to the westside which is one of the worst places for Mexican food in LA (a couple of Oaxacan places notwithstanding).

                                          Try out some of the recommended places for burritos on the eastside for better results.

                                          1. re: Ernie

                                            In all fairness, I do love my east side burritos, but you can get very good burritos on the west side if you know where to look... Specifically at Tacomiendo, and Carneceria Sanchez. :)

                                            --Dommy!

                                            1. re: Dommy

                                              I very much trust your opinion, Dommy. I will have to try those someday :)

                                    2. the chicken stuff (tacos, burritos, whatever) at Tere's in a small strip mall on Melrose west of Rossmore are of the non-greasy grilled variety, and all the ingredients are ridiculously fresh -- really a good, solid burrito.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: tannazie

                                        Tere's is indeed a perfect mix of fresh, non-greasy but still authentic and delicious food. Frankly, the burritos are too damn big for me to eat unless I am utterly revenous.
                                        In that neck of the woods, also really like the burrito at Los Burritos on Hollywood near Wilcox.
                                        Since I live over the hill, I dig on Tony's (Coldwater & Magnolia) for non-greasy yet delicious and authentic Mexican food when I am near home.

                                      2. Yes, Tere's chicken burrito is pretty damn good..

                                        So if i'm lead to believe that SF burrito joints have a greater variety of fillings they specialize in more creative gringo burritos. From my trip to Mexico, LA burritos are pretty damn close to the burritos served in the Baja (other than the seafood places). Simple meat, rice, beans, onions, and cilantro. Sometimes there is guac and sometimes there is cheese, sometimes crema, but they must be requested. There is almost never mushrooms, veggie filling, roasted peppers, black beans, etc. etc....Thus LA specializes in more authentic mexican style burritos while SF has injected a little creativity with it's mexican flavors. Both styles of burritos have a place in my palate. From my background I'm a burrito purist, but I used to live in Atlanta and really miss what me and my buddies called "Stoner Burrito" joints. Totally gringo, but fresh, tasty, and plentiful.....It's totally subjective....

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: pjsace

                                          pjsace - you may be right to a degree. But I think most of the menu's I was thinking of are fairly authentic minus a few ingredients. For instance check out the El Toro menu: http://eltorosf.com/page/nrzu/Menu.html Sure there are a few creative items such as Tofu Ranchero but most of it seems authentic to me, their menu has just evolved to accomodate the tastes of their clientle. You will also notice that their "Regular Burrito" is just Meat, Rice, Beans and salsa.

                                          I just ran across this burritophile website. Didn't have time to check it out though:
                                          http://www.burritophile.com/blog/

                                        2. Since this thread is still alive here's a random burrito: the all-meat carnitas burrito at Campos on Pico and 20th in Santa Monica. Juicy, savory, delicious. Greasy? Just enough.

                                          1. Had a really good Buritto Al Pastor at Casitas Taco in Burbank today. Highly recommended.

                                            1. I love the burritos at Las Fuentes in Reseda (have not had the chicken but their Burrito de Bistek Encebollado is the best!). Also, in Pasadena, the guy who cooks in the back of a small neighborhood market makes a good chicken burrito (although I always go for the Al Pastor since that is my fave). See my previous post about it linked below.

                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: WildSwede

                                                Las Fuentes is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, especially for the carnitas!

                                                1. re: WildSwede

                                                  yes sir. las fuentes among the best i've had in los angeles. BIG chunks of grilled inside skirt steak, creamy pinto beans, avocado and salsa. no filler rice!! and no dripping grease.

                                                2. just had to weigh in on this lingering thread with my longstanding loyalty to the chile relleno burrito at La Esquinita on Sunset near dwtn. He puts machaca in it. Really good salsa though I miss the days when his rellenos were made from hand roasted poblanos. Still good. Actually, the poblanos were a great taste but not user-friendly, the way he does it now it works more like a unit.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: corydon

                                                    Yes, La Esquinita is the real deal.

                                                    I also like Dos Burritos (not Los Burritos) on Hollywood just west of Vine. They make a killer carnitas burrito, and a very good carne asada burrito.

                                                  2. Problem #1... you are eating Burritos. Tacos are much healthier & grown up... switch to tacos.

                                                    Problem #2... Burrito King is stale its so 1980's... there are dozens of places in L.A. that are much better.

                                                    Here are some suggestions:

                                                    Pepe's Tacos in Mar Vista (go all meat)
                                                    La Chapalita (Broadway & Johnston in Lincoln Heights)
                                                    Tacomiendo in Mar Vista (you will need to split it for sure)
                                                    Loteria Grill

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Hey, since someone resurrected this thread, I've been meaning to ask the norcal transplants this. What are THE places in the bay area that have this much longed for and highly touted Mission style burrito AKA gordo AKA silver torpedo? I'm sure my so-cal bias will doom the experience, but now I'm curious.

                                                      1. Poquito Mas has excellent chicken burritos (they offer charbroiled and simmered) . . . their chicken is always very fresh, the burritos are large and packed full of meat, salsa and guac . . .

                                                        Some posters call Poquito Mas a chain, but it's really just a taco stand success story, it started as a single stand-alone just like all of LA's mom&pops. Now they pull in tons of dough so they got matching bags for all the stores . . . King Taco's been doing that for 20 years but nobody calls them a chain (?) . . .

                                                        I don't necessarily agree that LA has a burrito problem, although I do agree with the starter's dilemma . . . most of the "traditional", "authentic" mex stands and restaurants treat chicken as an afterthought and it's usually forgettable . . . chicken seems to get a better shake in the places that bill themselves BAJA-STYLE, which usually means "grilled" although lots of people quickly dismiss that as "franchise" . . .

                                                        While many US-based chains are billed as BAJA-STYLE in their pitch (LaSalsa, Mrs Garcia's, Rubio's, Baja Fresh), LA still has plenty of mom & pop baja-style joints. Poquito Mas is one although its atmosphere is closer now to a chain than a taco stand, and Cactus #2 and #1 on Vine and Beverly respectively are solid authentic stands that grill as their primary cooking method . . . Tortilla Grill on Abbot Kinney and La Casitas in Universal City are a couple others.

                                                        1. Tacos Villa Corona in Atwater village makes an excellent fresh burrito with very tender meat that is seasoned but not drippy or greasy as you describe. It is a teeny little longstanding family run place in the old concession stand of a neighborhood theatre on Glendale Blvd in Atwater. The papas and spinach burritos are favorites -- people order all varieties but I think the steak and potato is best. Very good fresh hot sauce -- go in sometime while they're roasting the chiles and your eyes will burn all day. No ordering off the menu but what they have is fabuloso. The potato tacos are heavenly as are the steak tacos. Small, so order lots. But the burrito is worht a drive wherever you're coming from.

                                                          1. I'm moving to LA in a few months, so I've been researching the burrito situation in depth. Check out a place called Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica -- that's the first place I'm headed when I get there. South OC Hound, if you order them "to go," they will reportedly wrap your burrito in foil.

                                                            1. LA is a taco town. Burritos aren't even properly Mexican food anyway - it's Tex-Mex border food. IMO, the burrito is a way of hiding poor quality and underflavored meats since all the flavor is in the beans and toppings.
                                                              Enjoy the "purity of essence" that is the taco at any of the great trucks and stands across the city and consider ourselves lucky to have them.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: oro3030

                                                                Come on now, a really good burrito is a true pleasure, as are tacos...and there aren't any good burritos in LA.

                                                                However, as I've adopted the "LA is a taco town" philosophy I've hit up El Pecas #2 on La Brea and Olympic several times...

                                                                1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                  "there aren't any good burritos in LA."
                                                                  Really? Do you ever go to East LA?

                                                                  1. re: Ernie

                                                                    Where can I find a good shrimp and frijole burrito in E-LA?

                                                                      1. re: ozzygee

                                                                        Alert... that menu has a major find... Sopa de Cahuamanta... a Sonoran style stew original made with Turtle (Cahuama) & Manta Ray (Mantarraya)... hence Cahuamanta... now its made with Shrimp & Manta Ray because Turtles are outlawed (at least in Mexico).

                                                              2. Granted, taco trucks are a good touch on the LA scene, but more often than not I find myslef chewing up an awful lot of dry corn tortilla to get to a little bit of meat, while standing a couple feet from a barking dog.

                                                                Plenty of good burritos in town, alongside a couple beers I don't mind if they're not proper mexican food. a and w, feel free to email me at jimmyodonnell@mac.com and I can suggest options based on your preferences.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                  Or you could just post them here so that people can find the recommendations later...

                                                                  I like the taco tables near me...

                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                    Sure, I just didn't want to take the discussion too far off-topic . . . since you ask, my faves are --

                                                                    El Taurino, Hoover & Olympic
                                                                    Tortilla Grill, Abbot Kinney in Venice
                                                                    Poquito Mas, citywide
                                                                    La Casita, Cahuenga & Lankershim, Universal City
                                                                    Cactus #2, Vine & Melrose
                                                                    King Taco, citywide
                                                                    El Gran Burrito, Vermont & SMB -- not great, but open very late
                                                                    Tacos Por Favor, 14th & Olympic in Santa Monica

                                                                    1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                      Jimmy, which of the places you mention do burritos that are most similar to Tacos Por Favor? Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                                                        I'd say that El Taurino is a lot like the texture of the TPF burritos -- although El T is mostly for carne asada and al pastor, they don't do much with chicken and I've never seen shrimp there -- but the burrito is similar, it has your meat (double meat for $1.25 more), it has rice and beans and onions and green or red salsa, they don't put cheese or guac or cream in the burritos. NOTE that El T does not serve chips with the burrito (nor with almost anything else) it's an a la carte order.

                                                                        The same assembly style applies to Cactus and King Taco. At all these places, you can order "all meat -- pura carne", and you will get a tightly-wrapped pound of meat with just onions and salsa added, which is great but can taste very spicy / salty with no rice or beans to offset it.

                                                                        Tortilla Grill is more of what I've seen described as "Mission - style", it's large, lots of rice and beans, they include guac and sour cream and cheese unless you call it off, it never holds together so at some point it ends up on your plate. El Gran B is similar.

                                                                        Poquito Mas includes meat, guac, cheese and salsa -- no rice, no beans, -- and they make the tortillas fresh for each burrito so it wraps together really tightly and holds, never opens up. This is great when you prefer to go hand-held rather than eat it off a plate, and I don't like to leave the foil on so this is great for me.

                                                                        Also, I find that the places which service mostly Mexicans / Central Americans don't really do up chips and salsa the way most American customers would like . . . maybe it's an expense they don't want to incur, but if I'm sitting down I like to hit up a basket of chips and choose my own salsa . . . Poquito Mas, La Casita, Tortilla Grill and Tacos Por Favor all offer that . . . but El Taurino, King Taco, and Cactus do not.

                                                                        1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                          Jimmy, thank you so much for the information. You've made a burrito freak very happy! One more quick question -- does King Taco have whole beans?

                                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                                            I'm going to say YES, unless it's changed otherwise in the last year . . . I don't go there often, basically because El Taurino is just a couple blocks up . . . but I doubt they've changed anything, because El Taurino DOES have whole beans and they are owned by King Taco.

                                                                            One more note while we're on a roll . . . the red sauce at KT and El T is HOT, and it's the DEFAULT, they will put it in your burrito UNLESS you call for the GREEN when you order. I suggest going green the first couple times and get a cup of red on the side, then test it yourself. THAT's my combo, I do it like that all the time now, green INSIDE and red ON THE SIDE.

                                                                    2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                      El Pecas#2 at La Brea and Olympic...tear into a dollar taco or six, go for the pastor.

                                                                      With extra onions. My girlfriend loves it when I do that!

                                                                      1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                        Appreciate it, but I'm not short on taco places.

                                                                        I don't like the giant SF "Mission-style" burritos... a burrito to me is the same stuff that goes on a taco (meat, salsa, cilantro, onions) with beans in a larger tortilla that allows you to close it.

                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                          I don't think it's a size issue. I've had monster burritos the way you describe, and mission burritos that would qualify as dainty. It's mostly a question of taste -- unlike you I happen to love avocado, rice, and cheese, which are the principal additions in a mission burrito.

                                                                          Plus, there's the advantage of being able to eat it with your hands. Ingredients aside, that's really what distinguishes the mission burrito.

                                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                                            I love avocado, rice and cheese, but not in a burrito (OK, well, sometimes avocado)... rice in a burrito weirds me out, it's the double-starch thing.

                                                                            How else would you eat a burrito, besides picking it up and eating it?

                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                              Come to NYC, land of the awful knife-and-fork burrito. Even in LA, I find that eating a burrito with your hands takes skill, as they don't typically steam the tortillas or wrap the finished product in foil. Both of those steps make a big difference when eating with your hands, esp. when grease threatens to bust the bottom of your burrito.

                                                                  2. What's a good source on the East side for shrimp and bean burritos?

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: broncosaurus

                                                                      If you mean east of the river, then I'm guessing you can find a good one at one of the locations for SEVEN SEAS / SIETE MARES . . . they also have a Sunset Blvd location in Echo Park, north side of Sunset down by Dodger Stadium. I'm sorry not to be more specific with street names . . . if you know where the Sunset La Parilla is, then 7S is about a half mile west of it.

                                                                      LaParilla probably does a mean shrimp burrito, I've eaten their shrimp but not in a burrito. I don't know if they have locations east of the river . . . they have the aforementioned Sunset location in Echo Park and then they are near MacArthur Park on Wilshire at Witmer (?), half mile east of Alvarado

                                                                      1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                        Hello... the original location is on Cesar Chavez in Boyle Heights.

                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                          The original 7 Seas or the original La Parilla? Anyway, I think either would have a decent shrimp burrito but I haven't had either.

                                                                          1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                            La Parilla... it was probably the most well known & regarded restaurant in ELA for a long time, most ELA personalities like Paul Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Los Lobos & Fernando Valenzuela were fixtures there during the 1980's.

                                                                    2. Lord have mercy - rice in a burrito? eggs in a burrito? avocado in a burrito - until i read this thread, chicken in a burrito? in fact, i don't usually associate chicken with antojitos in general.
                                                                      The SF burrito is its own thing. How nice to be able to drive up and enjoy them! shrimp and beans? for real? maybe it's good. Why do that do shrimp? If they're fresh, why not a great ceviche or coctel campechana? If they're not fresh, why eat them?
                                                                      I feel incredibly fogey-licious right now. I wonder who here likes the Hollenbeck burrito at El Tepayec... that's the common consensus of the best burrito in town, i always thought.
                                                                      If you define a good burrito as an SF burrito, then you're kinda *&#$ed living down here as the style and tastes are going to be different. BUt with so many places serving great antojitos of all kinds, what a pity you can't find something you like. Then again - I'm more of a taco-eater. and cemitas. and enchiladas. when it comes to antojitos.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Jerome

                                                                        After reading this post for all these months, I just shrug it off like those posts who come here crying for "REAL" New York Chinese food... As some of these posters have made it so abundantly clear, we are dealing with a completely different 'food' form here I am now calling the "guerro" burrito... ;)

                                                                        --Dommy!

                                                                        1. re: Jerome

                                                                          Why? Because the texture of good refriend beans with some shrimp suspended in mid-tortilla, plus decent salsa, is a sort of buttery wonderfulness (to use a common chowhound construction).

                                                                          Note "good" and "refried" are important parts of the equation. No whole black beans and the like.

                                                                          For me "great ceviche" is a contradiction.

                                                                          The native Mexicans I've known best will happily take a tortilla, plop any one/two/several things in it, fold it up and munch away. That is your definition of a burrito. You might have a complaint if folks start adding foie gras or something but otherwise all is fair.

                                                                        2. I will say it one more time... even though I am not a fan of burritos... you will find (possibly) THE MOST exceptional burrito in all of L.A. probably California... at La Chapalita (Broadway & Johnston in Lincoln Heights - this is where the 5 & the 110 meet just East of the river).

                                                                          Its a standing room only stand adjacent to the meat market of the same name.... Burritos used to be $2.25... they are probably $3 now... this place is legendary among East LA insiders... in its heyday... cars would line up along Broadway to stand in 30 minute lines for the best tasting Tacos, Burritos & Tortas in the city.

                                                                          Please don't bring up... mediocre places like King Taco, Rincon Taurino & Atacor until you have tried this place... if you still find the other wannabes palatable... then that is your biz.

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            I vow to try La Chapalita. What should I order, aside from "burrito"? Dry? Wet? Do they do a particular meat really well?

                                                                            1. re: BearCity

                                                                              Is El Taurino (on Hoover below Olympic) the "Rincon Taurino" referred to in the post about Lincoln Heights' La Chapilita?

                                                                              1. re: jimmyodonnell

                                                                                If I am not mistaken... El Taurino is the more sit down version of Rincon Taurino which are more of taco stand like King Taco.

                                                                              2. re: BearCity

                                                                                No wet option here, just simple options...

                                                                                Carne Asada is lightly seasoned chuck, steam griddled until tender & a bit browned (reminds me of a good Suadero)... its paired with tasty whole beans & very good Mexican rice, avocado sauce & tomatillo salsa.

                                                                                Barbacoa is brisket braised in a delectable dry chile sauce until very tender, then shredded.

                                                                                Going all meat with a side of whole beans is a very strong option here... I recommend it particularly for the barbacoa.

                                                                                The tacos are as good, if not better than the burritos... but the tortas are astonishingly good.

                                                                              3. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                Excellent... I will add that to the must try list for next Quarter!! :)

                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                  Thanks, Eat. That is near the meat market that I shop at, so I will definitely try. Do they have Al Pastor? If so, is it good? Thanks again!

                                                                                  1. re: WildSwede

                                                                                    Where do you shop... Rancho Meat Market or BiRite? They might have Al Pastor but it wouldn't be Real from the Spit etc.,

                                                                                    1. re: WildSwede

                                                                                      Some of the BEST Al Pastor in the Valley is at Carnitas Loya 10424 Laurel Canyon Blvd
                                                                                      Pacoima, CA 91331
                                                                                      818-899-4223

                                                                                      Their Carnitas are out of this world too....

                                                                                    2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                      I'm not sure when the heyday was, but it wasn't tonight.
                                                                                      I arrived about 930pm to find the main building closed (is that the meat market?) and the outdoor stand adjacent open, but with no customers.
                                                                                      Ordered an all-meat carne asada burrito which was ok but not in league with El Taurino or even King Taco, the meat was tough and the salsa didn't have much kick. This wasn't the worst burrito I've had, but seriously it was closer to Benito's or Campos than to the city's better choices . . . I don't know who would "wannabe" this, it isn't worth a return trip for me.
                                                                                      I'll next try Carnitas Michoacan, six blocks closer.

                                                                                    3. For al pastor off of a rotisserie spit try the Carnitas Michaocan on No. Broadway at 19th, which I think might be right across the street or caddy-corner. The BEST smoky spicy hot sauce!

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: nosh

                                                                                        In Lincoln Heights... I lived there 13 years... its okay I don't think its exceptional. Doesn't even come close to places in Baja.

                                                                                      2. Ditto. If you have ever eaten at Gordo's in the East Bay and San Francisco, you will understand exactly what this person is talking about. Gordo's, so simple, yet so good--and cheap. Why can't they come to LA, or why can't someone in LA figure out how to make burritos Monterey style.

                                                                                        1. El Indio (not to be confused with other El Indio Mexicano)- Balboa and Roscoe, been going there for 25 years. 90% of the time the best tacos and Burritos I've ever had, once in while they get tough meat, but it's worth the chance.

                                                                                          1. I suggest you find your nearest Chipotle. Baja is not bad. I don't think they taste like cardboard. Also, keep in mind that an authentic burrito is supposed to be greasy and they usually will fall apart on you.

                                                                                            1. Long-running thread! My favorite chicken burritos in L.A. are at La Playita, on Lincoln near Rose. While they ARE juicy and contain stewed chicken, they aren't greasy. They are large and cheap ($3.50). La Playita also has good shrimp burritos($4.50), and my ex used to like their carne asada burritos.

                                                                                              1. Yeah, the problem I believe is you got a chicken burrito. It happens a lot where a certain place will have one style of meat which is lot better then the others.

                                                                                                I go to El Grande specifically for the Carnitas burrito. I have no problems with the burrito imploding. Some burritos require technique as others have said.

                                                                                                I do believe there is a little "anglo expectation happening with someone else's chow" as you said.

                                                                                                Places like Chipotle and the other tex mex chains are to me like saying the Panda inn is where you go to get good clean chinese food.

                                                                                                There are great burritos in LA all over the East side mostly small La Fonda restaurants and in good way never to be seen on Chowhound.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: burntwater

                                                                                                  It's sad how bad the chicken is at taquerias in LA. In many other cities, where burritos are something besides an afterthought, marinated pollo asada is often a featured ingredient. Not sure why this is, but the relationship is strong. Although I haven't stooped to Chipotle since moving to LA, I actually had reasonably tasty Chinese food at Panda Express recently.

                                                                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                    Chicken is one of those things that is just SO easy to over cook at most fast paced taquerias. It's just NOT a traditional taquero meat (I've never had tacos de pollo at any of the epic taquerias from TJ to DF). The BEST Pollo Asado anything (I mainly get the Torta) is from Betos Tacos, the Taco Cart on Jefferson near La Brea. I think it's because they use the Disca to cook the Chicken and it stays a bit more juicy.

                                                                                                    --Dommy!