Some of the first recorded iterations of the burrito we all know and love date back to before the Spanish colonization of the Mesoamerican region in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the native peoples in what are now Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica wrapped fruits and vegetables such as avocados, mushrooms, and squash in corn tortillas. During the same time, their northern neighbors, the Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest, came even closer to the burritos we enjoy today by wrapping meat and beans in the cornmeal flatbread they called piki.
Burrito means "little donkey" in Spanish, and some postulate that the name refers to the appearance of the bedrolls packed onto the backs of the animals. This speaks to the humble beginnings of the dish, as it is a one that’s been relied on by field workers and travelers alike to keep their food warm and intact as they work or roam.
And, when you think about it, the burrito is pretty much the perfect food: completely customizable and entirely portable. You can fill yours will different types of meat, fish, or fowl, or keep it vegetarian and even vegan-friendly. Recently, we’ve seen some rather imaginative takes on the centuries-old dish, so it’s also one that’s open to interpretation and creative twists.
To pay homage to the beloved burrito, we’ve compiled our third-annual ranking of our country’s best. In order to do this, we supplemented our past research with suggestions from our knowledgeable editors, as well as asking you, our readers, to write in, letting us know where you get your favorite burrito. We then dug through online reviews and best-of lists that were published since our 2014 ranking to make sure we haven’t missed any great new ones.
We divided the more than 130 burritos that made our shortlist by region — from Albany, California, in the West; to Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the Southwest; to Boston in the Northeast. After that, we asked nearly 40 burrito experts — among them the Burrito Eater, Charles Hodgkins, and Justin Bolois of First We Feast— to weigh in and vote. Today, we proudly present the 35 burritos that came out on top.
This year’s winners are located in 13 different states, with California being the best-represented, scoring a total of 12 spots on the list — up two from 2014. This enabled the West to keep its regional lead from 2014, commandeering 14 of the 35 spots this time around, just as it did last year. New York secured five, Texas has three burritos on the list, and New Mexico and Oregon each snagged two spots.
Some of the burritos that made the cut were also on last year’s list, like The Flying Burrito at Juan's Flying Burrito in New Orleans; the green chile burrito at The Shed in Santa Fe; Morgantown, West Virginia’s Sergeant Pepper's burrito from Black Bear Burritos; and Taco Surf Taco Shop’s carne asada burrito in San Diego. Newcomers to this year’s list include the goat burrito from Cantina Los Caballitos in Philadelphia; Al & Bea’s Combination burrito in Los Angeles; and Champaign, Illinois’ asada burrito at Maize Mexican Grill.
So, did your favorite burrito make the list? (If not, let us know and we'll consider them next year.) What about that one you’ve heard great things about? You’ll just have to read on to find out.
#35 Al Pastor, Taquería y Panadería de la Santa Cruz, Portland, Ore.
This little tienda in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood would be right at home in Mexico, down to the free pickled peppers, carrots, and guacamole on the tables. There’s a market up front, a no-frills dining room in the back, and amazing burritos made to order coming out of the kitchen. Just about everything here is spectacular, but the al pastor is truly a thing of beauty.
#34 Sergeant Pepper's, Black Bear Burritos, Morgantown, W.Va
There are great burritos in West Virginia? You better believe it: at Black Bear Burritos some of the country’s most creative burritos are on offer, made with the highest-quality ingredients, sourced locally whenever possible. Offerings include teriyaki, Thai-, Indian-, and Jamaican-style burritos, but their finest offering is a vegetarian one, comprising a pepper cheese tortilla filled with rice, red beans, roasted red peppers, green chiles, and (if you want it spicy) jalapeños, topped with a cool homemade kiwi salsa.
Additional Reporting by Senior Eat/Dine Editor Dan Myers.