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ISO Best Burrito in PHX compared to NYC...read on

My dear BF from NYC always complains to me about the burritos here in Phoenix that they don't have enough stuff (rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, etc.) in them compared to his fave place in NYC - La Paloma Burritos on 45th between 8th & 9th. He ordered a chicken burrito at Carolina's & all that came in it is chicken. I guess he wants something like you can get at Chipotle, only really good of course. So does anyone here know about La Paloma in NYC & can make good recommendations for similar/better places here? I am not the greatest Mexican resource here because I don't love it, but I do enjoy any good food. Help me put this big city boy back in his place ;-)

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  1. Sounds like he wants what I think of as a "Mission-style" burrito like a person would find in San Francisco. I'm not a big fan of those 3-lb combo-plate-in-a-tortilla burritos, so I haven't really sought them out here. La Tolteca on Van Buren offers a "super" burrito that has the salad in with the meat, but I don't think it has rice or beans, though maybe one could pay extra to have them added.

    Really, it seems to me that around here, the most likely source for such a thing is a national chain like Chipotle or Someburros, but maybe others know of high-quality, locally-based sources for Mission-style burritos.

    La Tolteca
    1205 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

    1. He needs to adjust his thinking. Really.

      Think of it like pizza... do you (he) want to buy a slice with 12 toppings? As good as each of those toppings might be, they get muddled when folded together. Or a NY hot dog. Add every possible topping and at some point it becomes a mob.

      Believe me. I was once there. The dream burrito was the one with the most stuff. Having 10 things going on seemed the best value. But here's the rub... it's too much. The taste buds can only discern so much at once. Imagine spending years creating the best tasting piece of chicken or refried beans. If you did that, why add 9 more competing flavors? Also, many places use the other stuff as fillers. If you want a carne asada burrito, do you really want to hunt for the beef pieces?

      I'd suggest a better burrito philosophy. Start with the main ingredient of desire and seek who delivers the best of that. Carnitas? Shrimp? Chicken? As far as I can tell the fave chow places discussed here will serve it pure or accompanied by rice, beans, guac, etc. on request.

      1. if he's ever had carolina's red chile and still wants a burrito with rice and beans, there's no hope for him. :)

        1 Reply
        1. How about Chino Bandido?

          Short of that, there's always Taco Del Mar, which markets themselves as a purveyor of "mission-style" burritos.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Heh, I'm sure Chino's would be glad to do a Jade Red Chicken and machaca burrito, that'll fix him!

            I have found the Taco del Mar burritos to be excessively gloppy. Perchance Hippies Cove on Mill Ave, formerly a Taco del Mar, managed to fix the problem.

            As far as great burros with lots of ingredients... Phoenix isn't the place for 'em. Tell your friend asking for mission style burritos around here is like asking for deep-dish pizza in NYC. The best multi-ingredient burro around is the Oaxaca Special at Carolina's, with chorizo, potato, beans, and cheese.

          2. Unfortunately, the "mission style" burrito that is popular is really not part of the Phoenix Mexican dining scene (although I am sure a few places to cater to that, but none that I know of that stand out).

            Although it won't satisfy his craving, your BF can at least take some solace in knowing that the burritos in Arizona are more authentic than the mission style. JK, who has great food knowledge, has reminded us before that burritos were invented in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and pretty much contained just a couple of ingredients.

            I do agree with azhotdish, though. The red chile burrito at Carolina's is fantastic.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Seth Chadwick

              basically any burro at carolina's will rock yer world. i also love the burro's at rito's, esp the green chile. be careful - its like a soup burro, and if you aren't careful you'll end up wearing it

              1. re: winedubar

                And be sure to get extra tortillas, maybe some red or green chile to take home, assemble with whatever "extras" you might desire! I just used one of those tortillas for today's lunch...

            2. Thanks everyone for your input. The BF good-naturedly frowns his disapproval that no one is taking his side; "just wait to you try a La Paloma burrito this summer in NYC!" I will report back on that experience. Meantime, we'll give a few of the suggestions here a try.

              5 Replies
              1. re: scaheld

                The more I thought about it, the more I chuckled. People from the East Coast complain that they can't get a proper NY/NJ-style pizza in SF. Now we have New Yorkers disappointed that they can't get SF-style-by-way-of-NY burritos in Arizona. The rest of the country just can't win, can it? I kid. I kid. ;-)

                I won't go into my tiresome rant about why I detest Mission-style burritos, but I will echo the comments of others by suggesting that he give the simpler local burros/burritos a chance. There was a time when I thought a burrito was a big log full of rice, beans, cheese, salad, etc., but after I had my first green chile-only burro from Filito's in Guadalupe (RIP), my view on that subject totally changed.

                Anyway, if he does find something he likes here, let us know. Similar questions have come up before and probably will again.

                1. re: hohokam

                  I agree, not a fan of burritos stuffed with "filler". ; ) Speaking for us former East-Coasters, one of the many things we like about moving from Boston to the Phoenix area is no longer having to order our burritos "with no rice".

                  Older, but still ongoing thread:
                  Once and for all -- rice in a burrito -- Yay or nay?

                  1. re: Rubee

                    I don't like the rice either. I tell em to hold it.

                2. re: scaheld

                  I'm a huge fan of mission style burritos and nothing beats a SF style taqueria like in the Mission. I'll take Taqueria Cancun over any "burros" I've had here. I don't really care what is "authentic" or not. All I know is that they are damn good and some of the best value food around. I prefer enchiladas, chile rellenos, or tacos if I go with the green chile, red-chile thing. So, one vote on that side.

                  1. re: scaheld

                    Heck, I live in New York and I don't take your BF's side.

                  2. Having lived in the Phoenix area for 12 years, and loving all sorts of food...especially Mexican, I have tried dozens of places for a perfect burrito. There are several spots that make good ones, but my personal favorite is Salsa Cabana. It is located in the strip mall on the NE corner of Greenfield and McKellips, in Mesa. The owner couple is delightful. He sings while cooking in the open kitchen; she handles the ordering and register. It is about 10 miles from our house, but every time I'm in the area I stop and eat in and/or get a carry-out. The BEST burrito is the Burrito Mexicano (with chicken, rice, beans, guacamole, etc. Be sure to get it "enchilada style" with wonderful RED sauce. I only eat 1/3rd at a meal and have had it for lunch the past two days. Yum!

                    1. I have to agree with everyone that has posted so far to just forget the search for the elusive Phoenix "mission style" burrito, and instead focus your efforts on chaning the mind of your poor, poor misguided boyfriend.

                      To me, the "mission" burrito is all around pointless. You're essentially squashing dead the best, most flavorful parts of the entire meal by suffocating them in rice, lettuce, etc. The only argument I can see for this burrito is that they are so filling, they can sit in your gut for a week while your body parcels it out for fuel, rice kernal by rice kernel, eliminating the need to eat for days. Other than that, I'm at a loss.

                      As you know, there are so many options here for some really great burritos, I'm sure you can put a few cracks in his mission-love. The real question is why, if he has plenty of "mission" burrito spots at home, would he even want to seek out the same thing down here? Go with what Phoenix mexican is known for.

                      Enjoy your search.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: crsin

                        Upon further reflection, I have noticed that a lot of places in PHX will happily load up a chimichanga with everything. I even had one this week that was served "open face" with a dollop of guac and sour cream, a pile of shredded lettuce and doused with green chile.

                        From what I understand, the chimi is an AZ creation and a gringo adaptation of a burrito simply deep fried. Being fried, it's best eaten right away. You probably don't want to get one "to go" and eat 5 hours later. On the flip side, a simple burrito can be taken on the road or to the job site for later consumption.

                        So it "may" be that a lot of places keep burritos simple and portable out of tradition to the working class who carried it like a pasty, empenada, etc. The chimi is better adapted to a dining situtation, where it can be wet, sloppy, overloaded, etc.

                        I'm happy with both options!

                        1. re: tastyjon

                          I do agree with you on this one. My favorite Mexican item is a chicken chimi from Carolinas.

                      2. The burritos at Two Hippies, Camelback just west of 7th Street, at typically loaded with multiple ingredients. I think they're generally quite good, although I think the hippies sometimes go overboard with the shredded cheese. Sometimes, cactus is available as a special. Go for it if it is available.

                        Two Hippies Beach House
                        501 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ

                        1. You might want to look into the barbacoa at a Chipolte location. Though they are a chain, and "fast-food" oriented, the original in Denver won many culinary awards. I do not know how one location might differ from another, but will have to say that these were great at two different locations in Denver. I've only had one in PHX, Shea & Tatum, and it was good too.

                          Maybe try one on your own, before you drag BF to it.

                          Good luck,


                          PS only linking to one, but there are several around the Metro-area.

                          Chipotle Mexican Grill
                          1660 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                          1. You mentioned that your BF ordered a Chicken burro at Carolina's and was disappointed that it only held Chicken. This makes me think how the burro is being order might be part of the challenge. For example I know that Carolina's does a 3-way burro. I think the 3-way is your choice of chile (red or green), beans and rice. In any case I would suspect that if your BF ordered one of these he could swap out or sub to his taste and add to his hearts content (for a small fee .. of course) - or any other burro for that matter. I happen to really like chorizo and egg burro's but I like a little potato mixed in to cut the richness of the chorizo and I NEED cheese - cause cheese is a perfect food in my book. All I have to do is ask and pay some money and they are more than willing to accomodate my request.

                            Just a thought. . .


                            1. I don't know about "tons of stuff" but I grew up in Southern California and my favorite type of burrito is a combo with ground beef, cheese, refried beans and rice (and that's it - except smooth, hot salsa to pour as you eat).

                              I tried a couple of different places around the Valley - Someburros (which is NOT a national chain, BTW) and Los Favoritos jump to mind - but they just don't do it quite right.

                              The best place I've found that meets my needs is, believe it or not, Chronic Tacos on Mill Ave. Don't be scared away by the college students or the bar - they have pretty good food!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: asu2usc

                                You're right. I changed that sentence a couple of times and didn't clean it up before I posted. Both are chains, but only Chipotle is a national chain.

                                1. re: asu2usc

                                  I was going to suggest Chronic Tacos if no one else did. They're out of California and make a nice overstuffed burrito that doesn't fall apart on you. I've also had their tortas, which are quite good (though the bread isn't quiiiite fresh enough). Their Al Pastor pork is delicious, and they'll put baja sauce (like for fish tacos) on anything you order there. It's yummy. The Tempe location is on 6th Street, just east of Mill, next to Slices.

                                  I work in the building right behind that, and it's a dangerous place at lunchtime - for my waistline, anyway.

                                2. We're from the Southeast and have had the same complaint ever since we moved here. Seems like everywhere, but Arizona, burritos aren't simply tortilla and meat. Our fall back is Moe's Southwest Grill. There's one in Tempe on W Elliot; and one in Glendale on W Hanna Lane. (moes.com)

                                  Yeah, it doesn't have to be a 10-pound burrito, it just needs to have a variety of flavors other than just... meat.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: wlampkin

                                    please accept this with love when i say this ;) but i think moe's is just about as far removed from anything that could still be called a 'burrito' . a concoction, yes. but anything that smacks of any kind of authenticity is lost on a place that names a dish after a dive in a rodney dangerfield movie (the triple lindy).

                                    please, try to expand your tastes by trying any number of the burrito's that more authentic, and dare i say, more tasty. if you think about it, it is kind of a funny complaint that something has too much meat. usually people complain that there isn't enough ;)

                                    1. re: winedubar

                                      Moe's sort of reminds me of what Chipotle would be ... if Chipotle had an offspring with Taco Bell.

                                  2. let's get one thing straight. there are no good burritos in nyc, period.

                                    1. I'm so sorry I forgot to follow up on my visit to NYC & the BF's search for an acceptable burrito here in PHX.

                                      We went to his favorite burrito place (La Paloma) & it was bland, bland, bland. Even he admitted that it seems like they changed owners or something and it was not as he remembered.

                                      Here in Phoenix we did check out Two Hippies Beach House on Camelback and that burrito was quite tasty. They did stuff it full of some good ingredients. He's just a stuffed burrito kind of guy & I gotta love him for it.

                                      Thanks for all the fun advice, critiques & feedback on this!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: scaheld

                                        Well, this NY'er, leaves next Friday for Phoenix/Scottsdale & we are going to eat mexican almost every night we are there. In my opinion, NY mexican food is no way near as good as in AZ, so I am looking foward to getting my fix...over & over.

                                        1. re: synergy

                                          amen, brother! nyc is great for many things, but mexican food is not one of them. we have filiberto's, los favoritos, amados, los betos, super burrito, and so on. nyc has chipotle and taco bell.

                                      2. Well it is a trek from Phoenix, but you can get a pretty good burrito near Williams Field on Power Rd at a place called "The Burrito Shack"./ They'll make whatever he wants in it !