When you think about it, the burrito might be the world’s most perfect food. Seriously, what’s not to love? A jumbo flour tortilla, steamed and pliable, filled with beans, cheese, meat, and vegetables, customizable to the extreme. Want guacamole and Mexican crema? Sure. Want grilled vegetables instead of meat? Sure, there are plenty of vegetarian options available. All the food groups are covered, and best of all, the burrito is handheld. In honor of this bundle of culinary joy, we’re pleased to present our fourth annual ranking of the best burritos in America.
First things first: What, exactly, is a burrito? It’s not just a hodgepodge of stuff wrapped up in a tortilla; that’s a wrap (especially if it’s cold and cut in half). And though there are plenty of fusion burritos out there — like the world-class ones served from Los Angeles’ Kogi Truck or the increasingly popular egg-filled breakfast burritos popping up around the country — those are rankings for another day. For today’s purposes, we’re talking about what you probably picture when you think of a burrito: a tidy cylinder tightly wrapped up in aluminum foil, filled to nearly bursting with the aforementioned Tex-Mex favorites: your choice of rice, beans, cheese, meats like carnitas, al pastor, and carne asada, vegetables, guacamole, pico de gallo, crema, and maybe some hot sauce, all the flavors co-mingling to create a flavor bomb that’s customized precisely to your liking. Hungry yet?
In order to compile our ranking, we looked at burritos from all across the country and applied several strict criteria: Are all the ingredients fresh? Is there a good selection of meats and add-ons? Can you customize your order, right down to the amount of crema? Is it renowned by critics and locals alike in its city? We’re not ranking the places to buy a burrito; we’re ranking the burritos themselves, but we know that you don’t buy a burrito in a void. So when you drive to this place, does your mouth immediately start to water, forcing you to impulsively pull over and, before you know it, you’re diving face-first into the burrito of your dreams? Yeah, those are the burritos we’re looking for.
We compiled a list of more than 130 burritos from all across the country that meet those criteria, from Mountain View, California, to Morgantown, West Virginia, and divided them into regions. We included favorites from last year’s ranking, as well as burritos in existing best-of lists and burrito-ranking websites, and we put it to you, our readers, to vote for your favorites from across the country.
Obviously, the top end of our list is California-heavy. Before burritos found their way to the Mission District of San Francisco, they were little more than a flour tortilla rolled up around one or two ingredients, like beans or fish. But the burrito ballooned once it made its way to the States, growing to massive proportions in San Francisco in the early 1960s, giving rise to the burritos we most recognize today and therefore some of the most definitive, "perfect" examples. Other regional varieties include the more minimalist meat-cheese-salsa variety found in San Diego and one with refried beans, stewed beef, and shredded Cheddar in Los Angeles. Further afield, green chile has made its mark on the burrito in Santa Fe, and throughout the rest of the country, the gospel has spread, resulting in unique and delicious burritos in just about every major city.
Did your favorite burrito make the list? (If not, let us know and we'll consider it next year.) There are few foods quite as satisfying as a well-made burrito, and these 50 restaurants do it better than anyone else in America.
Additional reporting by Kate Kolenda.