Is there a Bay Area-style burrito place in Los Angeles?
June 16, 2006 8:35 AM   Subscribe

If you've spent time in the Bay Area, you've probably been to one of those burrito places where they make the burrito in front of you with your choice of fillings. Kind of like how they make sandwiches at Subway, but these are generally really good burritos. They steam the (gigantic) tortillas, there are three different beans to choose from, tons of guacamole, Mexican sodas, etc. Is there a place like this in LA? I promise that I've been looking.

I'm thinking of El Sombrero in Berkeley or Pancho Villa in SF.

So here's the problem: I live in Los Angeles, and I should be able to have access to the best burritos on Earth. I don't want a roach coach burrito and I don't want the small dry kind they have at 24 Hours in Boyle Heights. I want a huge delicious burrito made in front of me to my specifications.

Any help?
posted by benrodian to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Omg yum. You are making me hungry. I know exactly what you are talking about. Unfortunately, I don't know of any places like that in LA. I can recommend highly Tito's Tacos in Culver City. Different style of Mexican food, but OMG it's amazing.
posted by radioamy at 8:38 AM on June 16, 2006

Maybe there's a reason they call what you want a Mission-style burrito?
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:41 AM on June 16, 2006

Response by poster: StickyCarpet: I didn't know it was called that. Thanks.
posted by benrodian at 8:43 AM on June 16, 2006

My wife and I had someting just like this at Grand Central market.
posted by Binkeeboo at 8:44 AM on June 16, 2006

If you aren't against going to a chain, that sounds EXACTLY like the burritos at qdoba. I imagine chipotle is the same?
posted by necessitas at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2006

Their website sucks, but there might be a Chipotle in the area. Oh, and their burritos aren't all-world, but they're pretty decent.
posted by stovenator at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2006

It's a chain, but I'm still a fan: For this kind of big burrito made to order, Chipotle is very good.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2006

Damn. Stovenator and necessitas beat me to it. For the record, there are indeed Chipotle's in the area: There's one on Beverly, and a few in the valley, at least. I don't know about others.

Also, eaten at qdoba, and I'm not a fan.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:47 AM on June 16, 2006

There is, or soon will be (the website is unclear) a Moe's near LA. A chain, again, but pretty good. Not as authentic as the smaller places run by actual Mexicans, but it does the job anyhow. Plus they sell beer.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:50 AM on June 16, 2006

The best "made in front of you" burrito place I've ever been to is Freebird's in Santa Barbara, which I believe is a chain. I checked to see if they have one in LA, but their website doesn't seem to list all their locations, only ones in Texas, even though I know that same chain still has a location in Santa Barbara (well, technically Goleta)...
posted by EnormousTalkingOnion at 8:52 AM on June 16, 2006

Some people find Chipotle bland, but I simply find it fresh and very tasty.

Chipotle is not only a chain, it's majority-owned by McDonalds, which is apparently planning to divest itself of the stock this year.
posted by o2b at 8:54 AM on June 16, 2006

There is a place on Washington Blvd, about a block from the beach that is supposed to make SF-Style burritos. I can't recall the name, but it comes highly reccomended from a fat man I know. It's on the north side of the street.

Alternatively, though I've never had a burrito from them, I have loved everything else I've had from the blue taco shack on Lincoln, just north of Rose in Venice. It specializes in seafood cocktails. Huge styrofoam container of shrimp, octopus, and calamari in lemony spicy dressing. Delicious. Don't get the crab, though, it's fake. I have had meat tacos there and they were quite good.

Also consider switching to Cemitas Poblanos. Huge sandwiches like a torta, but unique to the Mexican State of Puebla. There are now dozen or so trucks selling these gargantuan flavor bricks of meat, cheese, toasted poblano peppers, avocado, and onions. I prefer mine made with "milanesa" but you can choose your filling. They cost about four bucks and are just as filling as burritos. Frankly if they had these in the Mission when I lived up there, I would have rarely gone for a burrito.
posted by mzurer at 9:07 AM on June 16, 2006

Response by poster: There is a description of the kind of burrito I'm talking about here at WikiPedia.
posted by benrodian at 9:09 AM on June 16, 2006

A few San Francisco taquerias grill the tortillas instead of steaming them, using heat and oil instead of steam

Ha! That should read "The better San Francisco taquerias..."

If only there were some way...
posted by mzurer at 9:27 AM on June 16, 2006

benrodian - The burrito described there is exactly duplicated at the Chipotle chain. There are several in LA. IMHO you can get the same thing done better at a mom & pop taco shop. That is, more meat, less beans and rice.
posted by Binkeeboo at 9:38 AM on June 16, 2006

The places mentioned above will get you most of the way there, but I wonder if the total experience will be similar to staggering into Pancho Villa and scoring an inexpensive (but not TOO inexpensive burrito).

In LA, where I am as well, it's all about the tacos - and usually the seafood ones.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2006

I'd check out Poquito Mas. It's a chain but I think there is only about 10 of them. They grill there tortillas and most, if not all, make them right in the store.
posted by sideshow at 9:56 AM on June 16, 2006

I Nth Chipotle. I love 'em.
posted by clh at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2006

Huh. I've friends in Palo Alto, and whenever I visit they take me to a burrito place near them, in P.A. I think. Actually there are 2 places, side by side, one strictly a burrito joint and the other a mexican supermarket with a deli in back- both have constant lines out the door. Both are fabulous and an order of magnitude better than any other burrito I've ever had. If they are a ten, Chipotle is a 6 and Taco Del Mar a 5.

yes, I know I've mixed my mathematical metaphors.
posted by carterk at 10:02 AM on June 16, 2006

If you've ever had a real SF/Oakland burrito, you can never go to Chipotle.
White rice has no place in a burrito, and that's just the biggest of Chipotle's problems.
Last time I was in LA, my best food came from burrito trucks. Not lunch trucks, but trucks that only served mexican food.
posted by gally99 at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2006

#mzurer: There is a place on Washington Blvd, about a block from the beach ... I can't recall the name,

Mrs Garcia's is great (or at least it was years ago when I last ate there).
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:49 AM on June 16, 2006

I grew up in southern California and just had my first experience at one of the places you describe last week while visiting SF.

I guess I'll have to give it another try, because I found it to be quite possibly the worst burrito I've ever had. Chicken and beef that had been sitting in a pool of liquid in a tub all day under a heatlamp, guacamole that was obviously reconstituted from a mix...I realized why people have dogged Bay Area burritos my entire life. I don't exactly hold Subway to be a model of sandwich-making expertise either, so perhaps I'm expecting too much?

Can someone recommend a place to try a so-called Mission style burrito that'll blow me away?
posted by plexiwatt at 11:02 AM on June 16, 2006

In San Francisco, in order of preference:

El Farolito on Mission at 24th.
El Castellito on Church north of Market. Unless you get the guy wearing a Green Bay Packers cap. Then you need to get something else, because he's no good at making burritos. I suggest a quesadilla suiza.
El Castellito on Mission by 17th.

After one year in the Mission, I bascially never went to any other taquerias.
posted by mzurer at 11:07 AM on June 16, 2006

And the place that was reccomended on Washington Blvd is called El Tarasco.
posted by mzurer at 11:12 AM on June 16, 2006

Response by poster: Just went to a place at Grand Central Market. Got an enormous burrito. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for (the guy put 25 pints of onion in there, even though I told him not to), but it's pretty good and it was $4. I was surprised because the last time I ate at GCM I bought some fried rice that was mostly splintered chicken bones.

As far as the 'quality' of mission-style burritos goes, there's no accounting for taste (steamed vs. grilled tortilla, rice vs. no rice, etc). I'm sure that they are neither the 'best' nor the most authentic. But I like them better than what I've found in LA, mostly because the beans aren't all burnt and dry and the rice has some flavor.
posted by benrodian at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2006

The chile verde burrito on Zonal Ave across from the LA County Hospital is excellent. I forget the name of the place, but two nice old Mexican ladies will make a burrito to your specifications, and it'll stand up against any Mission burrito you care to name. It is in Boyle Heights, though, but don't let that stress you out.

I wish I could remember the name of the place. all these links are clearly referring to it.

All you people recommending Chipotle? I'm sorry for you. I really am. Get help.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2006

Well, never mind the name of the place: Google maps to the rescue. The green arrow points directly to Casa de DELICIOUS BURRITO.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2006

For passionate and opinionated reviews of SF burritos, btw, try Burrito Eater.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:59 AM on June 16, 2006

Typically in SoCal, we don't have the "make it in front of you" type taquerias, but in my experience at local small Mexican places, they'll toss just about anything into a burrito if you want it.

Dante would have talked about the special circle of hell reserved for people who put white rice in a burrito, but it was just too horrifying. He had to think of his publishing receipts.
posted by LionIndex at 1:10 PM on June 16, 2006

carterk, you're thinking of El Grullense. They definitely sit at the pinnacle of Bay Area burritodom.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:00 PM on June 16, 2006

oneirodynia, I'm pretty sure carterk is talking about La Costena at Rengstorff and Old Middlefield.

For SF burritos, I'd recommend Taqueria San Francisco, at 24th and York.
posted by gally99 at 6:48 PM on June 16, 2006

yeah, you're right, gally99.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:05 PM on June 16, 2006

Try Taco Plus in West LA (1525 S Bundy), because I have had some really great freshly-made burritos there. However, you may find more discriminating help at

Also, Paco's Taco's on Centinela and Washington for great (and cheap) sit-down mexican food, and Tito's Tacos in Culver City.
posted by Joh at 10:34 PM on June 16, 2006

Just go with the good old Chipotle burrito. If you want flavor go for the Chicken or Spicy Beef, ask for Beans (black or pinto) & vegetables, get a little bit of Hot salsa, and another sauce!

If you can get past the fact that Chipotle is owned by McDonalds you will find a might good and big burrito!
posted by randomthoughts at 8:56 AM on June 17, 2006

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