America’s 35 Best Burritos 2015
September 22, 2015
Our fifth annual ranking honors those who do the noble burrito proud
America's 35 Best Burritos 2015
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. To pay homage to the beloved burrito, we’ve compiled our third-annual ranking of our country’s best. So, did your favorite burrito make the list? 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.
#33 Bean and Cheese, The Chile Pepper, Yuma, Ariz
At The Chile Pepper, open since 1954, it’s not about the girth of the burrito or all the add-ons, but the exquisite execution of simplicity. Locals rave over the simplest of burritos here — bean and cheese — and the fresh tortillas and a dash of hot sauce can transform the experience from ordinary to excellent.
#32 Asada, Tacos El Bronco, Brooklyn
Yelp / Kim D
The Tacos El Bronco trucks have been raved about by just about every New York City publication, and their brick-and-mortar restaurant has retained the magic of its mobile siblings. They have an extensive red-and-green menu filled with Mexican staples (although they do also offer burgers), but it’s their ginormous burritos that are the stars, particularly the juicy asada. The guacamole is flavorful and the ingredients are distributed with care — a good specimen of a great burrito.
#31 Cabeza, La Juanita, Sioux City, Iowa
With experience in a lunch truck operation in Los Angeles in the 1970s, La Juanita owner Christina Bautista knows what it takes to make a good burrito, and she’s spread the gospel to Iowa, where the daily crowds let you know that you’ve come to the right place. Open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily, La Juanita has made a name for itself thanks not only to its authenticity, but also the variety and high quality of the ingredients. Carne asada is the top seller, but the cabeza, with slow-cooked beef cheek, is tender, juicy, and definitely the way to go.
#30 Chorizo, Irazu, Chicago
Yelp / Richie D
This Costa Rican spot, located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhhod, has been around since 1990, serving homestyle fare to the hungry masses and absolutely nailing it. Traditional Costa Rican dishes like gallo pinto, chifrijo, and casado are joined by more common tacos, empanadas, and sandwiches, but the chorizo burrito is the must-order. The spicy,fresh sausage is sautéed and rolled up with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Get some traditional Costa Rican Lizano sauce on the side and you’re all set.
#29 Chile Relleno, Delicious Mexican Eatery, El Paso, Texas
Yelp / David H
It takes cojones to name your restaurant Delicious, but these guys aren’t lying. None other than Julia Child herself extolled the virtues of this place (and took advantage of her visit there to spend some time in the kitchen brushing up on her Tex-Mex cooking skills), and while it’s renowned for is gorditas (meat and cheese stuffed into a fried corn tortilla pocket — a long way from Taco Bell’s version), the burritos are stunningly delicious, even one filled with just beans. If you want to visit burrito utopia, though, order the chile relleno burrito, which takes one of their best menu items (also one of the best versions of a chile relleno anywhere) and wraps it up in a warm flour tortilla. Brilliant.
#28 Carne Asada, Taco Surf Taco Shop, San Diego
Yelp / Jason B
Taco Surf just made last year’s list, but they gained considerable ground this time around. The smell of excellent Mexican food will draw you off the beach and into this uniquely Southern California taquería. Though there are 16 burrito filling options, opt for the carne asada. The top sirloin is cooked to order and never sits around, creating an extremely fresh burrito dripping with warm beef juices.
#27 Spicy Pork, Taquería Tlaxcalli, The Bronx
Yelp / Fabian C
Last year’s list didn’t include a burrito from the largely Hispanic- and Latino-dominated Boogie Down Bronx, and we’re glad to see that the situation has been rectified. The Bronx tends to be a little neglected by the culinary press, but New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells made it up to Tlaxcalli back in 2013, and awarded owner Mauricio Gómez’s joint a star — quite the coup for a tiny Mexican eatery in the vast and oft-forgotten outer borough. If you can take the heat, order the spicy pork burrito and a Michelada to help wash it down.
#26 Grilled Vegetable, Anna’s Taquería, Boston
Another burrito that has increased its standing on our list this year is Anna’s Taquería’s grilled vegetable version. With six locations in and around Boston, Anna’s is the standard-bearer for burritos in Beantown. For vegetarians and carnivores alike, the grilled vegetable burrito is one of the best ways to eat your vegetables you’ll ever encounter: the fresh, hot tortilla is filled with your choice of vegetables including seasoned onions, broccoli, corn, zucchini, squash, eggplant, red onions, sweet potatoes, and seasonal offerings like Brussels sprouts, rolled up with rice, beans, cheese, salsa, and hot sauce.
#25 Pork, Cabo Bob’s Burritos, Austin
Cabo Bob’s brings a taste of Baja California to Austin without being tacky or gimmicky, and with a real commitment to high-quality food. All tortillas are cooked to order (certainly not a ubiquitous practice at all burrito shops), and all sauces are scratch-made in-house daily. While their Baja fish taco is certainly the real deal, and there’s always the option of customizing your burrito and loading it up with fillings, go for the #5, the pork burrito. An ancho chile tortilla is filled with shredded pork, brown rice, pinto beans, grilled onions and peppers, cheese, lettuce, cilantro, and their 66 Red Sauce, and it’s a wonder to behold.
#24 Pescados, Essex Taco, New York City
Although one might think it a simple dish, a well-executed Baja-style fried fish burrito can be surprisingly hard to lock down in the Big Apple. Luckily, Essex Taco knows what they’re doing, as evident in their pescados burrito. Walk into the three-table-and-four-seat-counter hole-in-the-wall, give the cashier your order, and watch the chef fry the fish right in front of you before rolling it up, piping hot, into a tortilla along with rice, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, sour cream, and cheese with salsas verde and rosa on the side. One bite will tell you that you’ve found the real deal.
#23 The Flying Burrito, Juan's Flying Burrito, New Orleans
If you’re looking for a great burrito in the Crescent City, look no further than Juan’s. This “Creole taquería” has three locations, where everything is made to order and finished à la minute on the grill. If you want to try a little bit of everything, the Flying Burrito is what to order: grilled steak, shrimp, and chicken; Cheddar and Jack cheese; black beans; yellow rice; salsa; sour cream; and guacamole are rolled up in a tortilla, then given a final go on the grill
#22 Carne Asada, La Perla Cocina Mexicana, San Diego
This San Diego gem dubs itself a “burrito factory” and it doesn’t lie: it turns out delicious burritos with expert precision, and doesn’t disappoint. While you can opt for the King Kong, which stuffs both a chile relleno and an order of carne asada into a burrito, we suggest you leave the relleno out of this one and go right for the carne: thin strips of marinated and grilled tender steak. Make sure you opt for a dollop of freshly made guacamole.
#21 Camaronera Burrito, La Camaronera, Miami
La Camaronera might have exploded in popularity since it was featured on the Food Network in 2009, but it really is all it’s cracked up to be: the place in Miami for fresh seafood, cooked and served with no frills by people who really know what they’re doing. Their snapper sandwich, fried whole fish, and conch fritters are highly recommended, but don’t leave without ordering a Camaronera burrito: lightly fried shrimp and corvina wrapped in a tortilla, topped with some melted cheese and a drizzle of sauce. Think seafood doesn’t pair with cheese? Try this burrito.
#20 Al Pastor, Taquería San Francisco, San Francisco
Yelp / Kevin Y
Though a newcomer to this year’s list, Taquería San Francisco opened 25 years ago in 1990 in San Francisco’s historic Mission District, and SF Weekly named their carnitas burrito Best Classic Burrito back in 2011. While they state that “the best way to test a taquería's mettle is to get a regular carnitas burrito,” we actually think the al pastor is where the party’s at here. While you can opt for the rather tame “regular” style (with rice, beans, onions, and cilantro), we suggest going for it and ordering the “super” (with rice, beans, onions, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, and avocado).
#19 Maximo, Changos Taquería, Austin
Making the leap all the way from #30 in 2014 is Austin’s Changos Taquería. The aroma of homemade tortillas hits you like a suplex from a luchador when you walk in the door, reinforced by the fact that you can actually see employees hard at work hand-making the masa rounds. Take that fresh tortilla and turn it into a Maximo burrito (add meat or guacamole) and you have a world-class meal for a cheap college student budget.
#18 Carne Adovada, Los Dos Molinos, Phoenix
Yelp / Travis C
Peek into the kitchen at Los Dos Molinos, a Phoenix institution for more than 20 years, and you’ll find the owner or one of her daughters and just one helper preparing Tex-Mex classics from scratch, to order. Burritos here come filled with beef, chicken, or chili, but opt for the carne adovada: a red pork stew that’s a Southwest specialty (when in Rome, right?). Few places do it better than Los Dos Molinos, and when wrapped up in a flour tortilla with some melted cheese, there are few foods more comforting. Heed the warning given by the little red chili pepper next to it on the menu, however: it’s spicy.
#17 Carnitas, Gordo Taquería, Albany, Calif.
Gordo is a Bay Area institution with six locations, but locals swear that the one in Albany is tops. The wonderfully juicy carnitas burrito is filled right in front of you as you peer into the open kitchen with its vats of fillings cooking away. If you can keep your burrito from spilling forth its contents, you'll not only have accomplished more than most Gordo diners, you'll be knocking at the gates of burrito heaven.
#16 Combination, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food, Los Angeles
A lot of people are really into Al & Bea’s bean and cheese burrito, but we like to go against the grain a bit and let you in on lesser-known tidbits of gastronomic wisdom, one of which is: order the combination burrito instead — wait, as well? yeah, as well — make sure you order the combination burrito as well. Yes, you get the beans, but you also get shredded beef and it gets topped with either salsa verde or roja. You can thank us later.
#15 Goat, Cantina Los Caballitos, Philadelphia
There’s one on every list, amiright? No, but seriously, go sit in Cantina Los Caballitos on East Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia and eat their goat burrito and be happy. A flour tortilla is filled with rice, black beans, onions, cilantro, and braised goat, and the result is really fantastic. In a departure from many of the restaurants on this ranking, Caballitos has a modern, gastropub feel, which should ease the anxieties of those who fear “exotic” meats from hole-in-the-wall secret spots.
#14 Al Pastor, Taquería El Castillito, San Francisco
Yelp / Lynn F
Little bundles of joy — that’s how many San Francisco locals would describe El Castillito’s al pastor burritos. They’re another place offering “regular” and “super” burrito options, and we will always tell you to go in the super direction, which here means rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, avocado, onions, cilantro, and salsa along with their raved-about marinated pork. All of this is delivered in a rolled tortilla for less than $8, which is really a dream come true, isn’t it?
#13 Chicharrón and Green Chile, Burritos Victoria, Las Cruces, N.M.
Less than 50 miles from the Mexico/United States border, it’s not too hard to find solid, authentically New Mexican food in Las Cruces. Still, Burritos Victoria’s chicharrón and green chile burrito stands out from the crowd. Let’s unpack this one: green chiles harvested locally in an area of the country in which premium peppers are grown are paired with crispy fried pig skin and wrapped in a soft blanket of tortilla. It’s delicious and inexpensive New Mexican street food at its very best.
#12 Chipotle Pork, Calexico, New York City
The team behind this Cal-Mex New York City cult favorite started small, with a cart in SoHo that quickly became a mob scene during lunchtime. They’ve since expanded to an additional cart near Madison Square and four brick-and-mortar storefronts, and while their tacos and rolled quesadillas are things of beauty, the burritos are true works of culinary art. To get a sense of the amount of hard work that went into perfecting their recipes, opt for the chipotle pork to join rice, beans, Monterey Jack cheese, and pico de gallo in your burrito: the meat is slow-roasted for six hours, shredded, and mixed with a smoky, tangy, just-spicy-enough sauce, and the whole package will knock your socks off.
#11 Asada, Maize Mexican Grill, Champaign, Ill.
Yelp / Elizabeth M
Opened about four years ago by Armondo Sandoval from Mexico City, Maize operates out of a very small space, but feeds crowds of students and locals nearly non-stop every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are a few surprising items on the menu, such as the pumpkin flower fried quesadilla, but since this is a list about burritos, go for the asada, which will come with the meat diced, perfectly grilled, and encased in a large, fresh, homemade tortilla along with rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.
#10 Carnitas, Dos Toros Taquería, New York City
Holding steady at #10 is Dos Toros: a taste of the Bay Area in New York City, their eight locations all do their West Coast roots proud. Tortillas (brilliantly) first get a thin slice of cheese melted onto them to serve as a base for perfectly proportioned fillings in order to prevent soakage, and the meat selection is simple: grilled chicken, grilled steak, or slow-cooked carnitas. Opt for the carnitas: tender, juicy, and full of porky flavor. And guess what? Unlike other options around town, it’s always available.
#9 Lobster, El Zarape, San Diego
In a city known for its Baja-style fried fish Mexican mainstays, El Zarape separates itself from the pack by serving a rave-worthy lobster burrito. It comes with some tomatos, crema, cilantro, and salsa verde, and we suggest exploring the solid salsa bar — especially if you order the $.99 fish tacos, too, which is really the pro move when in America’s Finest City.
#8 Carne Asada, El Farolito, San Francisco
Yelp / Eulie M & Vi Li
El Farolito just missed being included in the top ten last year, but here they are at last. As one of the most popular and written-about taquerías in the country, El Farolito lives up to the hype. And at nearly two pounds, their burritos will fill you to the brim. The rice, beans, sauce, guacamole, and other fixings are all artfully arranged and evenly distributed, and the carne asada is tender, juicy, and full of grilled, beefy flavor. After a night out, there are few San Francisco sights more welcome than El Farolito.
#7 King Burrito, King Burrito, Portland, Ore.
Yelp / Duane P
Portland’s King Burrito is a true local gem, turning out expertly prepared creations that are wildly delicious. While the carnitas and carne asada are stellar, they named one offering the King Burrito because it’s the best on their menu, and it’s a monster: chile relleno, refried beans, and steak picado (diced steak mixed with tomatoes, onions, and chiles), topped with homemade avocado sauce, and served in a giant flour tortilla.
#6 Carne Asada, L’Patron, Chicago
This neon green Logan Square spot has not only conquered Chicago’s burrito scene, they’ve conquered carne asada as well. Grilled to order, still a little pink, expertly seasoned, not overly greasy, it’s carne asada perfection. When partnered with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, homemade refried beans, and avocado (and roasted poblano chiles if you’re feeling adventurous), it’s a masterpiece.
#5 Chile Relleno Burrito, La Azteca Tortillería, Los Angeles
Yelp / Sergio Z
Last year’s #1 and raved about by famished travelers and locals alike, the chile relleno burrito at La Azteca Tortilleria is a thing of beauty and a destination unto itself. The place offers other options like carnitas and carne asada, but the cheese-stuffed, perfectly fried chile relleno that makes up the bulk of this burrito is what sets it apart, elevating the humble poblano chile to heights of Tex-Mex greatness (while you’re at it, you might as well have them add some carne asada to it as well). It’s everything you look for in Tex-Mex cuisine all in one perfect bite.
#4 Green Chile, The Shed, Santa Fe, N.M.
Yelp / Sarah F
This Santa Fe institution has been spreading the green and red chile gospel since it opened in 1953, and is so renowned that there are often lines to get in. Just about everything on the menu of traditional Hispanic and Pueblo recipes is delicious (their taco also came in at #4 on our list of America’s best tacos this year), especially the legendary red chile cheese enchilada, but the green chile burrito is one of the best you’ll ever encounter. Its simplicity is what makes it so great: it’s just pinto beans, white Cheddar, and onion rolled in a flour tortilla and topped with their famous green chile sauce, served with Spanish rice on the side. It’s all about the chile at The Shed, and this is arguably the best way to experience it.
#3 Carnitas, La Taquería, San Francisco
La Taquería is a regular stop for food-lovers in San Francisco, a city already famous for its Mexican offerings. Either keep it simple and just stick with meat and beans — no rice filler in the burrito here — or upgrade it with all the classic burrito extras and watch your pants tighten with each bite. We suggest you go all the way and load yours up with their unique style of carnitas, which are somehow both crispy and moist, and nothing short of delicious.
#2 Nico's Mexican Food, San Diego
Yelp / Adria D & Ashley P
Rocketing to #2 for their first appearance on our burrito rankings, Nico’s California burrito was ranked #1 by eight San Diego surfers polled by Thrillist in August, and now here they are. The burritos are the perfect size — not too large and unwieldy but still big enough to not to leave you hungry — and there’s carne asada, French fries, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato rolled all together inside. The widely popular recipe is considered a local delicacy, and Nico’s does theirs just right.
#1 Bean and Cheese, Tito's Tacos, Los Angeles
We love when this happens: a newcomer to a perennial list blows everyone out of the water and commandeers the top spot. As their website will tell you, Tito's Tacos was opened in Los Angeles in 1959 and has since become beloved by “people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds looking for a traditional south of the border eating experience.” There’s a lot of pride in their culinary traditions here, and that is something we very much respect. There’s a chili con carne filler option, but the crowd favorite is the simple bean and cheese, which speaks to the burrito’s beginnings as a humble field food. It’s simply perfect, and it’s America’s best burrito.