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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.

      20 Replies
        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
                http://www.sierramadrenews.net/casade...

                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 http://tacohunt.blogspot.com/ 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)

                              http://maps.google.com/maps?f=l&h...

                              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.
                              http://www.burritophile.com/

                              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

                                --Dommy!

                            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?
                              AND
                              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

                                    LOL!

                                    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.

                                    http://www.menupages.com/partnermenu....

                                    http://www.menupages.com/partnermenu....

                                    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?

                                            1. Adding fuel to the fire...

                                              Do yourself a favor and drive down to San Diego and have the BEST style of burrito one can find i.e. Sonora style that is simply a grilled (not steamed!) flour tortilla filled with carne asada, pico de gallo and guacomole.

                                              Try JV's Taco Shop or Santana's.

                                              31 Replies
                                              1. re: vinosnob

                                                You don't have to drive to San Diego; Taco Village in Montebello is best and a similar style. However, judging from these endless SF, Chicago, insert-bland-version-burrito-of-your-choice threads, clearly out of the comfort zone or driving range for transplants who have chosen to live in predominately white areas, i.e., the westside, then complain about the burrito offerings around them

                                                1. re: Ernie

                                                  Face it, Ernie, burritos are not a strength of LA -- we're a taco and torta town. If it were otherwise, you'd be able to get great burritos without having to drive to Montebello. That's what makes SF and Chicago truly special when it comes to burritos.

                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                    Face what? There are others in East Los Angeles as well. Taco Village just happens to be my favorite (and it is actually right on the border of East LA and Montebello). Until you leave the comfort zone of the westside (which does not nearly represent the breadth of Mexican offerings of the entire City and County of Los Angeles) you simply cannot make that claim

                                                    1. re: Ernie

                                                      Face the reality that truly delicious burritos are available even on the "westsides" of SF and Chicago. That's what makes them burrito towns, as opposed to LA, where one must travel.

                                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                                        I haven't been to Chicago to try their burritos (and after seeing lettuce, tomato, and sour cream on the example not sure I want to) but have not been impressed with anything in SF, be it in the Mission or financial districts. If you study a map of Los Angeles (~500 square miles vs. 7 x 7 miles in SF), it should become obvious sometimes you need to drive some distances for the best types of ethnic cuisine in this city

                                                        1. re: Ernie

                                                          Yes, I'm discovering as much for Chinese in particular. But I haven't yet had to travel to find good regional Mexican and tasty tacos and tortas, which is why I'd rank LA ahead of other cities where foods like those are concerned. Just not burritos.

                                                          1. re: Ernie

                                                            lol - Um, you guys are aware that you are allowed to edit your order at most restaurants, right? If you do not care for lettuce, you won't be strongarmed into getting it.

                                                            I live in Chicago, and one of the decidedly best taquerias in the entire city "La Pasadita" does not add lettuce to a standard burrito. beans, meat, cilantro, onion, and sour cream is the default prep. The main ingredient, though, is the succulent char -grilled skirt steak.

                                                            1. re: Ernie

                                                              Honestly, I don't where all this 'sour cream and lettuce in Chicago burritos' business is coming from, because I have never eaten a burrito like this in Chi-town. I wouldn't like the prospect of eating warmed over sour cream and lettuce either- yuck! :-s

                                                              1. re: FoodieKat

                                                                I've been to Chicago only a handful of time but I know exactly the type of burrito Jeffe is talking about.

                                                            2. re: a_and_w

                                                              East side LA Mexican and Chinese is way overhyped. It may be better than the westside but that aint saying much . . .

                                                              1. re: blackbookali

                                                                Really, from reading the boards it sounds like if you want any really good Chinese or Dim Sum, you have to go to the SGV?

                                                                1. re: blackbookali

                                                                  The logic is missing in this one

                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                    well, technically the logic would be eat Chinese where the highest concentration of Chinese are. But I've never gone to the SGV specifically for Chinese food, so can't speak to its validity.

                                                              2. re: Ernie

                                                                Does Highland Park count? Cuz while the tacos are the bomb, their burritos fell to the shadows . . . nothing came close to Taqueria Cancun double asada and guac . . . .

                                                                1. re: blackbookali

                                                                  Highland Park is a start, but there are many more places off Whittier Blvd, 1st St, E Olympic, E Beverly, etc. where the action is.

                                                                  What other East LA (and by that I don't mean Silver Lake or Los Feliz) places have you tried? Taco Village, Manny's El Loco, Tepeyac, Lupe's, J&S, etc?

                                                                  1. re: Ernie

                                                                    The OP was looking for Chicago style burritos. East of the river those have to be pretty scarce, no matter how excellent the more authentic ones there are. The drive from the Westside is brutal, too.

                                                                    1. re: Ernie

                                                                      Tepeyac is great, but the burritos are not.

                                                                      1. re: blackbookali

                                                                        If you prefer the straight-up quality carne asada, fresh salsa style better than the Tepeyac stewed/guisado style, check out Taco Village, an old personal favorite on E Beverly Blvd

                                                                        http://www.funkrocks.com/2007/11/15/r...

                                                                2. re: a_and_w

                                                                  BAH!!!! The closest thing EVER to a burrito that my Abuelita has made for me has come out of ELA, El Tepayac... the Hollenbeck...

                                                                  Because Abuelita would never have...

                                                                  Steamed a Tortilla (BLEH SF!)
                                                                  Added Letucce (BLEH Chicago!
                                                                  Added Copius Amount of Shredded Cheese (BLEH! Santa Barbara!)
                                                                  or French Fries (Bleh San Diego!)

                                                                  Our burrito tradition is strong and well here... I've tried numerous burritos in the four places above mentioned (All of them had these attributes listed above bleh! BLEH!!!) and

                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                  1. re: Dommy

                                                                    Dommy, if you're in Chicago again, post somethnig on the Chicago board. I guarantee you a good steak burrito. (no lettuce)

                                                                    1. re: gordeaux

                                                                      Thanks Gordeaux... I look forward to the day I can return (Hopefully next year)... I miss Chicago on the whole terribly...

                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                    2. re: Dommy

                                                                      Dommy,

                                                                      "French Fries (Bleh San Diego!)"

                                                                      You're 100% incorrect.

                                                                      French fries are NOT standard in a typical SD carne asada burrito.

                                                                      What you're referring to is called a "California" burrito which is distinctly different from a traditional SD carne asada burrito.

                                                                      1. re: vinosnob

                                                                        I think what Dommy was referring to is one of the more frequent requests we get here on the Los Angeles board from transplanted San Diegans is requests for places that put fries in the burritos. It might not be "standard" but it certainly sounds like it's a popular option down south.

                                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/54884

                                                                        1. re: DanaB

                                                                          YUP! I lived in San Diego for 3 years in the late 90s... the way the locals were so proud of that thing horrified me...

                                                                          --Dommy!

                                                                          1. re: Dommy

                                                                            "I lived in San Diego for 3 years in the late 90s"

                                                                            So what? I grew up there..neener neener neeeener! ;) .

                                                                            Face it, LA sits on a pedestal when it comes to its tacos.

                                                                            As for burritos, it's average unless you prefer sloppy filler like beans and lettuce in your burrito.

                                                                            1. re: vinosnob

                                                                              yup. LA has great tacos but no burritos. its like asking for beef brisket in North Carolina. and calling beans filler in a burrito is like calling lettuce filler in a hamburger. its an ingredient, you may not like it particularly but a burrito, much like sandwich, is the SUM OF ITS PARTS. as for the all meat thing, go eat a steak, and skip the tortilla all together.

                                                                      2. re: Dommy

                                                                        Dommy, have you tried an actual Mission burrito yet? Because most of them don't steam their tortillas...

                                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                                          Yes... Many times I've had them presented to me by SF people who felt they had to prove something (otherwise 90% of the population there) Even my own soon to by hubby tried to trick me into trying them...

                                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/319019

                                                                          And even after I forgave him, I even faced the demon in my own home...

                                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320763

                                                                          And perhaps there are many places that will warm the tortilla for you on the grill if you request... but in all the places I've been to... They ALL have had the Fresh O Matic on hand... that includes La Cumbre and even the El Tonayense taco truck had one in it! (And I was shocked because that devil machine blew the circuits in my apt!!)

                                                                          --Dommy!

                                                                          1. re: Dommy

                                                                            Interesting...I note that neither of the links is to a report of a real Mission burrito in a actual SF taqueria. (Cooking them in your own home with a fresh-o-matic ain't the same.) I remember mattapoisett's post well. If you read the responses, you'll note that I chastised him for insisting that you go to one of the few places (La Cumbre) that steams their tortillas. Off the top of my head, none of the five best SF taquerias steams their tortillas -- they all grill without asking.

                                                                            No one respects your opinion of authentic Mexican food more than me, but please stop spreading this ridiculous misinformation. Whatever your SF friends have presented to you, it's pretty obvious you still haven't tried a real Mission style burrito.

                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                              Herm... I WANT to believe you... LOL! ;) We plan to get up there this summer for a visit and will revisit the post and your recs! Thanks! :D

                                                                              --Dommy!

                                                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                                                Dommy, let me know when you do -- I'll make a long Mission burrito post on the SF board just for you. They're one of my obsessions (LOL!) and I'd love to repay you for all the AMAZING Mexican recs you've provided me in LA.

                                                                3. I will admit to missing certain foodstuffs since moving from Chicago last fall--pizzas from Marie's, moles from Sol de Mexico, Indo-Pak grills from Khan's, *anything* and *everything* from Vie--but burritos from Taco Burrito Palace #2 do not make the list. In fact, an honest-to-goodness shiver ran down my spine when I came across the words, "Taco Burrito Palace #2," in your post. That place...that food...that crowd...yeesh. In my personal cosmology, its offshoot--aptly named, "Taco Burrito Palace #3"--resides in the 3rd Circle of Hell, right next door to (yet) another Maxwell Street Express.

                                                                  Anyhow, I do have a constructive suggestion for you:

                                                                  Go to Burrito King on Sunset @ Alvarado and tell them that you want an "Ultimate" burrito "without the rice." Then walk over to the side window and watch the grill man as he assembles the whole thing on the flattop, just as you describe. You want salsa verde on it? Just ask. You want extra lettuce? Just ask. You want it without onions? Just ask. You want it crisp? Just ask. Seriously, dudes are champ.

                                                                  I'm nearly certain that you will walk away a happy man.

                                                                  Oh, and a tip: try the stew-style machaca. It's better than any burrito meat filling I ever found in Chicago...

                                                                  Burrito King
                                                                  2109 W Sunset Blvd.
                                                                  213.484.9859

                                                                  Best,
                                                                  E.M.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Erik M

                                                                    I live down the street from Burrito King and find their burritos passable, at best. I would much prefer taco zone up the street, or king taco down the street.

                                                                    Hell I'd prefer alerto's carne asada burrito over BK.

                                                                    PS: The smoke shop next to that place though is tops, if you're into that kinda thing :)

                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                      Yes, but can those establishments actually fulfill the OP's request? Having lived in Chicago for fifteen-odd years, and having been to both Taco Burrito Palace #2 and Burrito King numerous times, I am fully confident in Burrito King. Whether I even care for the place (I don't, generally speaking) doesn't matter, as I wasn't asked for my OPINION.

                                                                      I ask you, is there something so terribly wrong with helping a fellow hound---transplant or otherwise---find exactly what he or she wants? Or, must every one of these types of requests be met with an ego-/ethno-centric reëducation campaign?

                                                                      E.M.

                                                                      1. re: Erik M

                                                                        E.M. for President. That was better than the Obama speech.

                                                                        1. re: Erik M

                                                                          No need to get all fiesty. My opinions on burrito king are independent of my opinions on this chicago burrito.

                                                                          I'm just sayin, if their "normal" burritos aren't that good *in my opinion*, I don't see how a custom chicago burrito would be good, either.

                                                                          1. re: Erik M

                                                                            hahahaha! so true. as we speak i am looking at homes in El Monte for my future pork bun/pastor burrito fix because apparently East Hollywood is the next Beverly Hills . . . .

                                                                      2. OK, I have to weigh in on this one, folks. As a former Chicagoan who religiously ate La Pasadita's burritos for years, I feel I have a good understanding of the type of burrito the OP is looking for. I would quibble on a few details in his description, perhaps. First off La Pasadita (which had won the "best burrito in Chicago" award on several occasions) had a variety of versions of their truly stupendous burrito. While the constellation of ingredients did vary, it is true that refried beans were a staple. Plenty of cheese is also necessary. My favorite version also included: guacamole, CILANTRO (yes, the caps are necessary here), and (gasp!) rice. My problem with the rice is that it wasn't evenly distributed throughout the burrito, resulting in a clump of white muck at the end. BUT, here is what made La Pasadita truly special: their meat. First off, there was plenty of it. But more importantly, it was marinated in incredible spices for a lengthy bit of time before it's slapped on the grill WITH ONIONS AND PEPPERS (caps also necessary here). Lettuce made it in on occasion, but not always. Now, I have to say that this is the burrito I, too, have been craving since moving to LA several years ago. And no, I have not found it yet. (Sorry, El Jeffe!)
                                                                        Another disclaimer: the La Pasadita burrito still ranks as the SECOND best I have ever had. The best for me happens to be from Pancho Villa in, yes, SF's Mission. And perhaps the reason why I like La Pasadita so much is because it's a meatier version of that Mission classic. If anyone can help ME find something of the style that I have been describing, please feel free to enlighten me.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: frenchdisco

                                                                          Thanks French,

                                                                          I've felt like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, everyone thinking I was crazy. Now when do I get Julia Roberts? And as you point out, refried beans are the paste that hold it all together. Just asking for a traditional burrito in LA without rice, with cheese and grilled tortilla will typically end up with a falling apart mess vs. the beautiful, cohesive burrito I am referring to.

                                                                          I had thought Hounders were pretty open-minded put looks like the burrito topic hits a little too close to home.

                                                                          1. re: ElJeffe

                                                                            >>I had thought Hounders were pretty open-minded put looks like the burrito topic hits a little too close to home.<<

                                                                            I think its more that Angelinos find it amusing -- given the vast depth and breadth of Los Angeles Mexican food offereings -- when people come here and criticize the Mexican food, because they cannot find things made exactly the way they did it in New Mexico, Colorado, S.F., Chicago, etc.

                                                                            Personally, I like regional differences. It keeps things interesting. But coming to L.A. and looking for a "Chicago burrito" is akin to coming to L.A. and looking for "New York Pizza," and we all know where *that* particular inquiry will get you.

                                                                            If you are unwilling to embrace the deliciousness that is an L.A. burrito the way we make 'em here, then your best option is to experiment -- go to a place where you like the meat, tell them what you want in the burrito, and ask them to grill it. Most places will oblige. I suggest you start at El Gran Burrito, which makes the burrito in front of you so you can ask for no rice, extra meat, sour cream, etc. They have cojita cheese rather than cheddar or jack, and they have a grill. I had a delicious burrito there just the other day, with fabulous carnitas, cheese, beans, rice, onion and cilantro. Plus, their salsa rocks.

                                                                            1. re: ElJeffe

                                                                              Haven't refried beans been a burrito staple ingredient since the beginning of time?

                                                                              1. re: mlgb

                                                                                Nope... At least not in the L.A. Enclave I grew up... Burritos were a way to create a 'sandwich' of left overs and send us on our way... most contained a stew (Guisado) from the next before... Or were made of Egg Mixed with meat or Chorizo, again, from the night before. My favorite burritos are still burritos of egg, nopales and chorizo... Yumm...

                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                                                  Ah. I guess not being from CA, my first burritos were of the Del Taco and Taco Bell variety, and probably had the refried beans. Although I admit that was pretty close to the beginning of time.
                                                                                  I still remember my first chile relleno, someplace with Joes? in the name, south of Market in San Francisco. About 40 years ago.

                                                                                  1. re: Dommy

                                                                                    Exactly so, Dommy - repackaging of leftovers. But the older burrito stands on the eastside, such as Lupita's and Al & Bea's, do tend to feature refritos sluiced with chile or a spoonful of guisado. The whole-bean burritos tend to be adaptations made by people from parts of Mexico where burritos aren't common. Breakfast burritos, of course, need contain no beans at all.

                                                                                    1. re: condiment

                                                                                      A vehicle for leftovers. Which is to say, an afterthought. Burritos in LA are the equivalent of brunch.

                                                                            2. I think you are out of luck. I have never seen a place that has chihuahua cheese out here. I like it too. In NYC they make enchildas with it. I haven't been able to find it out here in a store, let alone a restaurant.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                                                                                The "chihuahua" cheese most people know, especially those from Chicago is a brand... not a type. We are Cacique town and I don't think that will change anytime soon. If you are looking for a particular kind of Mexican Cheese (Stringy, melty, dry crumbly, soft crumbly...etc..) check out a good Mexican Supermarket w/ a Deli.

                                                                                Also, Lala from Mexico is gaining wide distribution and has a wide selection of cheeses (Including a 'chichuahua'). Again, large Hispanic Markets...

                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                                                  Begging your pardon, Dommy, but the Chicago brand I used to buy in Nashville was Mexicano, or something like that, and one of the varieties they offered was called Chihuahua, with or without jalapeños. The kind "with" was my favorite pepper cheese, and far superior in character to the only Mexican-style pepper cheese I've been able to find here. Like the difference between aged Gouda and Velveeta.

                                                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                    Oh, I'm not arguing that there is a type of cheese called "Chihuahua", but there also is a brand that is very prevalent in Chicago...

                                                                                    http://www.vvsupremo.com/spanishsite/...

                                                                                    As you notice they have a registered trademark on the word Chihuahua and they DO protect it (Trust me on this).

                                                                                    However, as I mentioned Lala has indeed this type of cheese (Trust me on this as well... ;)) in their line up. I'll go to Gigante next week and see if it made it over to the move (I'm through talking with them today! :P)...

                                                                                    --Dommy!

                                                                              2. Chicago is special because they take the everyperson meal, such as pizza or a hot dog, and make a big sit-down dinner out of it. Therefore, I believe that a Chicago-style burrito must be good also. But I do wonder if it was cabbage in that "cohesive unit" of flavor and not lettuce?

                                                                                I have had the breakfast burrito twice at Mary's. Not everything you ask for but it is griddled to a golden brown cohesive two-hander of crispiness & chewiness. If you try this place take a good map (maybe even a guide) and just ask them to put what ever you want in it.

                                                                                Mary's Market and Café (Cash, indoor and outdoor seating)
                                                                                561 Woodland Dr., (Santa Anita exit from the 210, go North up the hillside, Left on Grandview, Right on Mountain Trail, Right on Sturtevant Dr., Left on Woodland Dr.)
                                                                                Sierra Madre, CA
                                                                                (626) 355-4534
                                                                                http://www.sangabrielvalleymenus.com/...
                                                                                Cash ONLY
                                                                                Tues - Fri 7:30am to 3:00 re-opens at 5:00 – call for closing time,
                                                                                Sat /Sun 8:00am to ?
                                                                                Closed Mondays

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: JeetJet

                                                                                  You do not have to wonder any longer. It was not cabbage. No chance. None.
                                                                                  The lettuce stays crisp if you eat it right away. No worse than the lettuce on a burger. Here's how they are made:

                                                                                  Giant tortilla on a griddle, or grill.
                                                                                  Once the tortilla is flipped the first time, then the ingredients start:
                                                                                  Refried beans
                                                                                  Cheese
                                                                                  Meat
                                                                                  Guac
                                                                                  S. Cream
                                                                                  lettuce
                                                                                  tomato
                                                                                  onions
                                                                                  cilantro
                                                                                  Then, it's wrapped, and rolled with the ends tucked in while rolling. Then it's griddled to a decent brown if you want it that way, or not if you don't.

                                                                                  My standard order is always:
                                                                                  no beans, no cheese. I don't mind the lettuce at all, but out of my five REALLY good go to spots, only one of them uses lettuce as a standard item.

                                                                                2. Any taco truck that sells quesadillas, tortas & burritos should be able to make this to order. They will probably use monterey jack for the cheese (from the quesadillas) & most of the other ingredients are also commonly served in tortas. And of course they should be able to griddle it like a quesadilla.

                                                                                  1. Ok, so I have to weigh in on this now. I grew up near Chicago, spent about 5 years in Los Angeles, and just last year moved to Melbourne Australia (try finding any kind of Mexican Food in AU.) Anyway, my buddy who's still in LA tipped me on to this thread because we used to have some heated arguments about this. We once had a lettuce v. non-lettuce argument that ended up having us poll 50+ of our co-workers and making long distance phone calls to Chicago Mexican restaurants. I was in the same boat where I was really missing Chicago Mexican food.

                                                                                    Anyway, the place you want to eat at is Gilbert’s in Santa Monica. It’s a sit down place, but the prices are cheap. Great food, great atmosphere, great service, and great great great margaritas. Also, their chips and salsa are fantastic some of the best in LA (another thing that most LA Mexican Restaurants screw up.) It’s the only place in LA that I found could quench my Chicago-style burrito hunger.

                                                                                    Gilbert's El Indio
                                                                                    2526 Pico Blvd
                                                                                    Santa Monica, CA 90405-1829
                                                                                    Phone: (310) 450-8057

                                                                                    You must go there and tell me your opinion. I’ll mail you $5 if you don’t like it and can tell me of a better Chicago type Mexican restaurant in LA. (offer applies to ElJeffe only and may or may not be AU$)

                                                                                    Additional reflections on the Chicago/LA burrito that I’ve picked up on over my years of discussion:

                                                                                    -The Midwest is known for its quality meats and cheese. Two things that help make a great burrito.
                                                                                    -The Chicago and Los Angeles Mexican populations seem to come from different areas of Mexico so claiming that on is more pure than the other is a mute point.
                                                                                    -Monetary wise, you get a lot more Mexican food for your buck in Chicago. Huge burritos for cheap.

                                                                                    Also, just in case you are craving Chicago Hot Dogs at any point, there is a Portillo's in Buena Park. Worth the 1.5 hour drive for a good Hot Dog or Italian Beef.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: jlagerholm

                                                                                      Gilbert's gets a lot of love on the LA board and I go there often as it is 5 minutes from my house. But Gilbert's does stick lettuce in some of their burritos (and it means I am ever alert to tell the waiter "no lettuce" in my burrito). Don't forget to ask them to bring you some of their extra spicy salsa "El Diablo" to "perk" up your burrito the next time you visit.

                                                                                      No need to send me the money to eat at Gilbert's. It's money well spent.

                                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                                        Is the burrito at Gilbert's a knife-and-fork affair or can it be eaten with hands?

                                                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                          mine are all k & f as they are ordered with salsa verde covering them

                                                                                      2. re: jlagerholm

                                                                                        I have been thinking about the op and now your post adds something more. Some of the LA "Special quesadillas" that I have had with Pastrami, carnitas, or asada w/ cheese, salsa, beans and even lettuce all in a large tortilla that is grilled brown seem to me to be the same thing but with a different name. Maybe it is not that the cooks and kitchen crews in Chicago come from a different area of Mexico than their counterparts in LA, but rather the few who started the Chicago burrito norm may have stopped in Texas on the way north and did some Tex Mex cooking and thinking before moving on to Chicago. Just last week I had a fast food version of Tex Mex taco-burger at a local Taco Bell (Bell Burger) and it had lettuce and tomato in the bun with the ground beef taco meat.

                                                                                        J&S (American & Mexican Menu)
                                                                                        887 N. Garfield
                                                                                        Montebello, CA
                                                                                        (323) 725-8106

                                                                                        Jim's Famous Quarterpound Burger
                                                                                        915 W Duarte Rd
                                                                                        Arcadia, CA 91007
                                                                                        (626) 447-5993