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Apr 3, 2008 01:29 PM

Chicago Burrito in LA?

Having lived in Chicago, San Francisco, and LA, I feel like I've seen the best of the best when it comes to burritos. And I've got to say, the Chicago-style burrito still blows away the Mission-style burritos I find on the West Coast, in my humble opinion.

I don't even know if Chicago-style is the proper way to refer to it, all I know its not the style they serve here. So let's break it down. First of all, Chicago burritos are always heavily grilled. 2nd, refried beans are always used over black beans, as its the glue that holds it all together. Rice is NEVER used, and instead lettuce and great Chihuahua cheese takes its place. And the default salsa is green. They are all prepared on the grill together, the beans go on the burrito as a paste, the ingredients are thrown on top, and then wrapped when nice and crispy, so its one cohesive unit. Nothing makes me angrier than the Chipotle assembly line where the meat, beans, and tortilla never meet on the same grill.

The result is cohesive wrap of heaven, with the perfect balance of crispiness & chewiness, not runny or messy needing a fork like half of the burritos here. Defininitely not the healthiest, but quite certainly the tastiest.

If you're familiar with Chicago, I'm looking for an LA equivalent of Taco Burrito Palace #2 or similar.

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    1. Call me retarded, but in a fit of late night desperation I recently had a Grilled Stuft Burrito at Taco Bell; it was refried beans, ground beef, rice, cheese and pico de gallo. And what the hell, it was perfectly grilled, cohesive and delicious. Try it - you've only got 2 bucks to lose.

      1. OK, Clinton, I'm buying..........the rope. Which kind do you prefer?

        To the OP,
        Lettuce and cheese in a burrito is So Wrong. Don't be insulting Chicago like that.

        If you have faith you Can Be Saved when you taste The One True Burrito.
        Find a truck. Order a burrito - just meat, smear of beans, a little onion and fresh salsa.
        NO freakin rice, guacamole, bean sprouts, tofu, sour cream, french fries, etc.

        If your metabolism demands more, order TWO.
        Better yet, go with the Taco.

          1. re: DiveFan

            Now, just 86 the beans and you've got a great burrito :)

            1. re: DiveFan

              Is this another fricking place in Al Hambra, Arcadia, or some other Inland Empire journey? I shouldn't have to drive 40 miles for a good burrito.

              1. re: ElJeffe

                I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the all meat carne asada from king taco blows away your chicago burrito ;)

                Also, in fact, the closest thing I've seen to the OP burrito is the grilled stuft burrito from taco bell.

                1. re: ElJeffe

                  Flame me, but Casa Del Rey has a pretty darn good all meat chicken burrito. You can get it with beans, but I like it all chicken. There's about a pound of tasty moist shredded chicken wrapped in a tortilla and its served wet style. Top it with some of their home made salsa.

                  Casa Del Rey in Temple City and Arcadia

                  1. re: ElJeffe

                    Arcadia, sort of, on Colorado, 1 or 2 blocks west of Rosemead, on the north side of the street very close to Cost Plus. They used to be good 3 years ago.

                  2. re: DiveFan

                    Notice I said (taco) Truck, not to be confused with a permanent location.
                    Sorry I don't know your PRSM neighborhood at all well, so I'd cruise down Lincoln and keep a good lookout. IIRC there was something good at Lincoln and Rose?

                    Get to be a regular; the cook will grill it or possibly even make one like the OP.

                    Bandini's blog is getting dated but there might be something Westside that's close to you. Unfortunately trucks come and trucks go.

                    Good hunting, and TIA to other posters with hot tips.

                    1. re: DiveFan

                      Agreed...I don't think lettuce was ever meant to be eaten warm like that and especially in a burrito. I find places that put rice and lettuce in a burrito are using them as cheap fillers. They probably grill the burritos in Chicago because the tortillas aren't fresh and would fall apart if you tried to fold one into a burrito and pick it up by hand.

                      1. re: monku

                        LOL, "they probably grill the burritos in Chicago because the tortillas aren't fresh". Hilarious. You do know Chicago is #2 in Mexican population to LA right?

                        1. re: ElJeffe

                          Emphasis on #2 ;)

                          It would appear based on google searches that it is in fact referred to as a Chicago burrito.

                          1. re: ns1

                            Hey, some of the Mexican restaurants in Chicago are just as good as LA (or even better) for cheap, delicious food. There's obviously just variations that appeals to the local population, but may not appeal to the locals here. Having said that though, I've never eaten a grilled burrito in Chicago, and I was born and raised there. And I have also yet to find a tortilleria out here like the ones in Chicago that literally have the viejitas standing outside making the tortillas by hand. If there are places like that in LA or OC please, PLEASE tell me where they are because I will be there like a shot.

                            1. re: FoodieKat

                              Since 1963

                              La Cabana Restaurant
                              738 Rose Ave
                              Venice, CA 90291
                              Phone: (310) 392-6161

                              I haven't been there in about 25 years but as far as I know they still have the lady patting away. And they are west-side accessible, which is why I haven't been there in 25 years. I'll bet their burritos are made with refried beans.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                Casablanca across the street from La Cabana also has the tortilla ladies. I want her to be be my mother so I can wake up to homemade tortilla issues every morning.

                              2. re: FoodieKat

                                Take a drive down E Cesar Chavez and look for any signs that say "tortilleria." My old favorite is La Azteca near Ford and 710 Freeway

                                And just to give the SF, Chicago, etc. westside transplant naysayers something to consider about the scope of Mexican food in Los Angeles, I typed in "tortillas" and "los angeles" in Google Maps and got over 3,400 results (be sure to note which side of the 110 Freeway they are clustered)


                                1. re: Ernie

                                  quality not quantity. el hurache was pretty good but again, weak in the burrito dept. ditto with la estrella, and el atacor.

                                  1. re: blackbookali

                                    You have only scratched a very large surface, so please hold off on any sweeping quality statements until you sample some more further south and east in the heart of the area, i.e., El Sereno, ELA, Boyle Heights, etc. I've mentioned a few specific places in earlier posts

                                    1. re: blackbookali

                                      as i have ventured "deeper" into the heart of this so called taqueria Mecca i cant help but noticing most people order tacos, not BURRITOS . . . maybe thats a sign . . . . ; - <

                                      1. re: blackbookali

                                        To be fair, I have had some fantastic Mexican food since moving to the LA area. The out of the way, hole in the walls are the best places I've tried so far. But that's true for many neighborhoods in Chicago too. I am looking forward to checking out those homemade tortillas too.

                                2. re: ElJeffe

                                  We have QUITE a few tortillerias here. Fresh tortillas, (flour or corn) are in very high abundance. Pre-packaged fresh, warm tortillas are pretty easy to find, at a lot of grocery stores here. Most markets have a vast selection of them. 10 different brands for corn in taco size, bigger corn ones for other items, many differnt sizes and thicknesses for flour (taco, fajita, small burrito, giant burrito, and then varying thickness for each.) Um, we have fresh tortillas. Lots of them. Everywhere. Homemade tortillas are also available at a few of the restaurants around town as well.

                                  The burritos are grilled to:
                                  1. Warm them up - as anyone who knows, cold tortillas are pretty rotten

                                  2. Create a nice seal, and

                                  3. When done perfectly, a little browning of the tortilla cannot be beat.

                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                    Yes, but pre-packaged tortillas from a machine are not the same as the handmade variety, even if they are fresh. There is something comforting about seeing an abuela patting the masa dough by hand.

                          2. Hot lettuce? Ugh!!! To each his own.

                            Seriously, though, I'd never heard of a grilled burrito until certain fast food establishments started touting them. That said, I suspect that you could probably get what you're looking for from just about any corner burgers & etc. joint that also has a Mexican menu (e.g., Tops or Lucky Boy in Pasadena). It may not be on the menu, but they've got the ingredients (though you may be stuck with American or Cheddar cheese), and they've got the grill.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jack Flash

                              To be honest, I may have imagined the lettuce, but the great Mexican cheese is always there, and my most important point was NO RICE. It's filler and a waste of space.

                              Has anyone seen this site? It would be awesome if there were more reviews. I see some King Tacos in here. There is one neart he 10/110 interchange. That is accessible enough for El Jefe to consider.

                              1. re: ElJeffe

                                Most Taco Trucks allow "Solo Carne" Option, its a bit pricier, but worth it for great meat... My favorite is Betos Tacos on Jefferson inbetween Redondo and La Brea


                            2. Well as a 3rd generation American of Mexican descent I HAVE NOT ever heard of a Chicago Burrito. And after reading the description I can honestly say it's last on my things to eat in my life time.
                              BUT I can tell you why you WON'T find a Chicago burrito in Los Angeles.
                              (I'm being sarcastic here)

                              1) The Los Angeles Mexican population is the 2nd oldest next to San Antonio.
                              2) Los Angeles has the BIGGEST population of people of Latino descent in the U.S.
                              3) The NACHO (as we know it) was invented here or in San Diego (it's debatable)
                              4) Their are MORE Taco Trucks here in Los Angeles than in ANY other U.S. city.
                              5) The BURRITO was INVENTED here in CALIFORNIA.
                              6) More BURRITOS are served here than in any other U.S. city.
                              7) The CHURRO is a thing of beauty!
                              8) The Tostada is just weird, I mean how the hell do you eat it?
                              9) Did you know you can buy frozen tortillas at Costco? WTF?
                              10) THERE IS NO LETTUCE in A BURRITO! NO IF's ANDS or BUTTS! LETTUCE IS FORBUTEN! NIEN! NO! It just DOESN'T happen in authentic BURRITO.
                              San Fransisco should be ASHAMED of it self for creating that thing called a MISSION buriito.

                              BUT I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU to go into a Mexican restaurant in East L.A. and try to get the cook to make it for you just as you describe. And then report back to us on his reaction.
                              I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU - infinity . . . to do it.

                              Or you can go to ANY Del Taco and order their Combo Burrito Supreme cause it's MADE EXACTLY like you described!

                              (just trying to be funny)

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: nrique

                                I thought Nachos were invented in San Antonio?

                                  1. re: nrique


                                    AHA! I've found PROOF! I pulled up the menupage on one of my old favorites and you can clearly see lettuce (and more importantly, NO RICE). Its added at the end so it does not get soggy. People...don't fear change...there is better to be had, and its in a cold, foggy, depressing place called Chicago.



                                    1. re: ElJeffe

                                      Lettuce, tomato, and sour cream in a burrito? I suggest going to a local Taco Bell or Del Taco for a Betty Crock, er, "Chicago burrito"

                                      1. re: ElJeffe

                                        Both of your links say 'page expired'

                                      2. re: nrique

                                        hi, just a bit of info-

                                        sf "Mission Style" burros are named so for the once predominantly Latino neighborhood referred to as "the Mission District", surrounding the actual sf Mission Dolores, and the surrounding area includes a street called Mission. Hence, sf doesn't have to be ashamed for the nomenclature of a burrito.

                                        I used to love the burros at taqueria cancun, I like my pintos whole. It was my favorite place until I used their bathroom, I won't go into the details, but I will leave you with the visual of "Islands in the Stream", I'm talking peaks and valleys, man. Then i realized there was no running water, then I realized the employees use the same bathroom, then I realized again there was no running water. Then I started going to La Taqueria down the street instead.

                                        Eventually, I realized the mission district made me miss warm weather, (it is in a enclosed in a smallish valley that has some faint respite from freezing wind) and later, I started missing Los Angeles. So I moved back. The food isn't as good, but I don't have to wear socks and a coat in July.

                                        Additionally, I once read that Los Angeles has the largest mexican Population outside of Mexico City! And I'm one of 'em!

                                        1. re: nrique

                                          I often substitute lettuce and tomatoes for the beans and rice in burritos I order... When you are on a restricted carb diet, the extra huge tortilla alone is enough to push my 60 gram per meal carb limit so somethings gotta give. I wish more restaurants would be diabetic friendly... Not everyone can process 300+ grams of carbs in a single meal!

                                        2. If you don't want rice in your burrito, try these three words "No rice, please".

                                          As for lettuce, that sounds like filler to me.

                                          1. My SF Mission burritos poop on your Chicago burritos LOL! Seriously, though, I'm familiar with the style of burrito you seek. I also feel your pain -- like the Mission burrito, you won't find exactly what you're looking for here in LA. Still, it shouldn't be too hard to get a reasonable facsimile given that so many LA places serve refried beans and grill their burritos. Have you tried ordering a burrito at Tacomiendo without rice?