When you think about it, the burrito might be the world’s most perfect food. All the food groups are covered with nearly endless combinations of ingredients, and best of all, the whole dish is handheld and doesn’t even require, well—a dish.
For our second-annual ranking of the best ones found in America, 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 squeezed on top? Is it renowned by critics and locals alike in its city? We didn’t set out to rank the places to buy a burrito; we ranked the burritos themselves, but we know that you don’t buy a burrito in a void. So when you drive by 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?
Those are the burritos we went looking for, and after compiling an extensive list, sent a survey to journalists and food writers across the country, as well as renowned chefs that are a part of our Culinary Council. Chefs who participated in the survey and will allow their names to be used include Jonathan Waxman (a native Californian with extensive burrito experience) and Cesare Casella (who brings an Italian-rustic viewpoint to the subject). Although there could only be one winner, we found plenty of delectable specimens being made across America, including in Denver.
With a handful of locations in Denver and Boulder, Illegal Pete’s is singlehandedly turning both of those cities into burrito destinations. A rocking good time, this restaurant sources all of its antibiotic- and hormone-free meats from Niman Ranch, and nothing arrives at any of their locations pre-made. They offer a wide variety of gluten-free and vegetarian options, but you have to try their standout pork carnitas burrito. The pork is braised with Mexican Coke, orange juice, and spices; is sweet, spicy, and deliciously porky; and it gets rolled up in an all-natural with cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, cheese, and sour cream.
It’s so good it snagged the #13 spot on our list, and with no other burrito from Denver represented on our list means that, according to our panel of experts, Illegal Pete’s is the proud home of the best burrito in Denver.