You've Been Waiting Your Whole Life to Face San Diego's The Kraken Burger
The undisputed burrito champ of Boston, Anna's has amassed a mini-empire since it first opened in 1995. It's now repping six locations in the greater Boston area, and locals speak of it in the same reverent tones usually reserved for David Ortiz. The tortillas are steamed with cheese, which might be inauthentic, but is also amazing. And you have the option to super-size, so take it.
Hear us out! Yes, we know a chicken and broccoli burrito sounds like the kind of blasphemy that leads to plagues. But in the hands of this lauded Atlanta spot, it's a sin worth committing. The chicken & broccoli (rest assured, it's loaded with Jack cheese) is one of Bell Street's four burrito specials, but you can also go with a less gonzo option off its basic burrito menu -- a menu that includes steak, ground beef, shrimp, green chilies, potato, pork, chicken, beans, and even more broccoli.
New York, NY
When the three Vendley brothers moved from California to New York, they missed the Cal-Mex food they grew up with, so they did the natural New York thing and opened a food cart. A Vendy award and hot Martha Stewart Show appearance soon followed, as did several brick-and-mortar locations. Now, you can enjoy their trademark marinated steak burrito all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Lesson learned: never underestimate Martha Stewart's masterful control of NYC street food.
Changos abandons any pretensions and focuses instead on great burritos and tacos. You're working on three levels with the burritos here: Super (beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, tomato, salsa), Maximo (all that with a choice of meat), or Bongos for Changos (the Maximo with guac). Despite the latter's flashier name, we're advocating you go middle of the road with a Maximo. Don't let the hordes of UT kids (it's right next to campus) get in your way.
Black Bear has tons of live music and a nice selection of beers on tap, but this isn't your typical Mid-Atlantic pub. The place also has a lengthy selection of burritos that toe the line of heresy -- a stir fry "Mr. Teri Yaki" burrito?! -- without leaping right over it. Start with the Irie Member. If you're up on your Rastafarianisms, you'll know "irie" is an excellent state of existence and in this case, it indicates a Jamaican jerk sauce covering pineapple, beans, cheese, rice, jicama, and your choice of meat.
Chile Pepper already wins points for having a drive-thru -- it's called Mr. G's and it serves the same recipes as the Chile Pepper sit-down location. But it's also got great food at dirt-cheap prices. The excellent bean-and-cheese burrito is just $1.89. Seriously, a large Coke is more expensive! Make the most of this opportunity by cruising by Mr. G.'s for a baker's dozen, since scoring double-digit orders of burritos is much more exciting than a basket of blueberry muffins.
New York, NY
The Calexico bros drew their inspiration from California's Imperial Valley, but the brothers behind Dos Toros (Leo and Oliver Kremer) went with a more traditional muse: the SF Mission District. Like so many West Coast transplants, they were bummed out by the burrito scene when they arrived in New York, so they decided to rectify the problem with some recipes from home. After putting in time in Mexican restaurant kitchens and honing their burritos with an impressive 10-day food quest, they opened Dos Toros. The New York Times was one of the first to heap praise on the carnitas, but the paper of record certainly wasn't the last. Today, Dos Toros' strong pork game is well-established, as is the restaurant's burgeoning rap career.
San Francisco, CA
It's hard to stand out in San Francisco's Mission District, an area so well-known for its glorious burritos, there's an entire category known as "Mission-style." But El Farolito certainly does. Just check out how thoroughly it crushed the competition in Esquire's reader poll for most "life-changing" burrito. Devotees will accept no substitutes, which is probably why the line winds well out the door on any given night. If you can manage to push through the crowds of tipsy 20-somethings, order the carne asada.
Los Angeles, CA
You probably already thought we were crazy for recommending a basic bean-and-cheese at Chile Pepper. But we're about to do it a second time, because the one at Al & Bea's is just that good. Although most California burrito spots require beef, pork, or at least some French fries, people clamor around the bean-and-cheese because of its impossibly perfect balance with the Al & Bea's red house sauce. It might seem boring, but it's the best move at this nearly 50-year-old institution.
Philadelphia has several strong players (think Los Gallos Mexican Taqueria, Cucina Zapata), but if you want the very best, take a field trip over to Conshohocken. There, you’ll find El Limon, an unassuming little taqueria that’s packing some serious burritos. As any fan will tell you, getting it without the place’s otherworldly mole is a sin and a crime, so go wet-style. And while you’re there, you might as well take advantage of the FREE MARGARITAS. This is not a joke. Go there now.
San Diego, CA
Shrimp? Good. Steak? Great. Pico de gallo and a special sour cream sauce? Outstanding. All this and more (cheese! guac!) can be yours if you order one of El Zarape's surf & turf burritos. El Z burritos aren't exactly monsters, so this isn't the kind of burrito that'll bust your gut. But it is the kind you'll have dreams about for years to come.
Usually when something's advertised as "hot, fast, cheap, and easy," it's not a compliment. Unless it's geared at one of the creative burrito creations at Flaming Amy's, in which case it's a laudable guarantee. The Wilmington destination is known for getting a little wild with its menu -- think Philly cheesesteak- and cheeseburger-inspired burritos. Before you tango with a Philly Phatboy, though, try the titular Flaming Amy, which comes loaded with jalapeños, chipotle peppers, and green chiles. Or, if the thought of a single jalapeño makes you wince, go with the Fajitarrito. (You're not the only one with portmanteau play, Quesarito.)
Named for the song that ruins every music fest (sorry, Skynyrd), Freebirds has conquered seven states and counting since it emerged in 1987. You have 15 free fixings and several house salsas and sauces to choose from here -- but don't get distracted by all the noise. Make a beeline for the quesarito, which was building a rep at Freebirds long before Taco Bell hopped on the train.
Key West, FL
Despite its growing fame, Garbo's is still operating as a humble food cart next to the bar Grunt's. While the fresh fish burritos have their own following, husband-and-wife team Eli and Kenna Pancamo are renowned for their Korean BBQ burrito, which rolls marinated beef short rib, cabbage, scallions, carrots, daikon, Sriracha, and citrus-soy dressing into one amazing Key West dish.
You know a burrito means business when it requires a knife and fork. The Burrito Grande (or "Baby burrito") at Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food (good one, guys) is so stuffed with meat, beans, rice, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole that it requires two large tortillas. It also requires an iron stomach and fierce determination, because it's legit the size of a fat baby.
San Antonio, TX
You might have some trust issues with a burrito that spells cheese with a "z," but this San Antonio selection is the real deal. The Cheezy Beef features ground beef (duh), Spanish rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, and three types of "cheeze" (queso, cheddar, Monterey Jack). Sounds like it can't get much better, right? Wrong. Habanero's also has a crazed cocktail menu that includes Big Red-A-Ritas and Pop Rocks margs. And if you haven't eaten a superior burrito with a crackling candy drink, have you really lived?
Have you heard the one about the salsa that was so hot, it nearly killed a guy? That'd be the House Hot salsa at Illegal Pete's, which nearly gave Pete a heart attack when he was still honing the recipes. Obviously that's a big sell for spice fanatics, but milder burrito fans will also find a lot to love about the Colorado mini-chain. There's the green chile, which you can smother on any burrito. There's the Tex-Mex-ified pesto sauce, which is made with poblano peppers. But most importantly, there's the Mexican Coke-braised carnitas. Make sure you get those in your illicit tortilla.
It may be a teensy, BYOB, cash-only, Costa Rican spot, but Irazu knows its burritos. Specifically, its cheese burritos. The draw here isn't a carne asada or carnitas but rather a chorizo burrito stuffed with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and lots and lots of cheese. You might wanna add some guacamole to that situation, although you can't really mess this thing up. (Unless you cut it in half. Just don't.)
New Orleans, LA
Juan's Flying Burrito sounds like the name of a kick-ass kid's book (or an especially hilarious B-movie), but in reality, it's NOLA's preeminent taqueria. The mini-chain has three locations and counting, and you have your pick of 11 beautiful burritos at any of 'em. But namesakes are usually the way to go, and here is no exception: The Flying Burrito has steak, shrimp, chicken, black beans, yellow rice, cheddar and Jack cheeses, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole... but unfortunately, zero aviation skills.
Los Angeles, CA
Any good burrito starts with a solid base and, lucky for you, La Azteca doesn't half-ass its tortillas. Seriously: the old-school LA spot might be best known for its from-scratch flour tortillas. But its chile relleno is also pretty beloved, so go ahead and fuse the two together in this cheesy, sexy burrito. And then order a dozen tortillas to go, because you can do that.
The burritos at La Bonita run in the $3-$8 range, so they definitely won't bust your lunch budget. But you aren't compromising on quality here, either. The family that owns this Portland spot (well, spots -- there are two of them) makes everything by hand, including the tortillas. Clearly, it's billed as "food for the people" for a reason. And yes, that includes you, vegetarians: the veggie burrito menu is even longer than the meats one.
Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico is a big breakfast burrito state, so picking a burrito without a hint of egg in it is no mean feat. But La Choza makes it easy with its Burrito Grande entree, which, importantly, comes smothered in green or red chile. We hate to tell you to pick just one, so first order a cup of the green chile stew as an appetizer and then go red, to cover all your taste buds' bases.
Sioux City, IA
You wouldn't expect any decent Mexican food in Iowa, but then there's La Juanita proving us stereotypers wrong. Some especially passionate fans insist it's the best Mexican in the tri-state area, while others maintain it's the main reason to visit Sioux City. The ever-present lines seem to support those theories, but don't worry, the staff are lightning-fast steak-burrito rollers.
It's all about the steak at this family-owned operation, which has been slinging burritos since 1976. Its basic steak, cilantro, and onion burrito is one of Chicago's best offerings. Also, "pasadita" means "come by quickly," so follow the rules and get over there ASAP.
San Francisco, CA
Even if you've never set foot in San Francisco, you know La Taqueria as the victor of FiveThirtyEight's exhaustive burrito bracket, which might've been the most entertaining summer show of '14. (Sit down, I Wanna Marry "Harry.") It kinda automatically earns a spot thanks to that Nate Silver stamp of approval, but La Taqueria didn't just come out of nowhere. Founder Miguel Jara famously sold out of food by 2pm on his first day of business back in 1973, so this place has had a following for a long time. Although you might be tempted to order off the secret menu (yes, it has one), go with the classic carnitas, which earned La Taqueria that title.
In an effort to improve your Spanish vocabulary, this Alabama shop (which has a second location in Nashville) took its name from the literal meaning of the word "burrito." Ironically, it has just one burrito on the menu, but you can do a lot with the classic. The adobada (pork marinated in chile sauce) is what made LD so famous, so you should probably try that before you test-drive the chicken tinga or shrimp. But either way, you're getting helpings of salsa and beans in your burrito -- and unlike at some other places that rhyme with "bipotle," the guac comes free of charge.
Loco Coco's is the work of Luis and Ramona Valdez, two San Diego transplants with a passion for burritos. It began life as a tiny walk-up counter in 2004, but now serves its adoring fan base in a full-on cantina and dining room. Since the Valdezes come from SD, they naturally added a local favorite in their California burrito, a steak- and French fry-filled marvel improbably located in a coastal Maine town. It might just trick you into thinking you're staring at a different ocean -- that is, until the throngs of living L.L. Bean catalogs walk by.
San Diego, CA
San Diego is mighty proud of its burritos, and not without cause -- after all, this city is the pioneer behind the California Burrito, a carne asada concoction stuffed with French fries. For a great example of that, head to Lucha Libre. Its Surfin' California burrito has the requisite carne asada (soaked in lime marinade) and house-made French fries, along with shrimp, chipotle mayo, avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese. This 14in beast got a high approval rating among actual surfers, who are experts in this arena, so you know it's good.
Los Angeles, CA
Manuel Rojas sadly left this world for greener, guac-filled pastures in 2013, but he managed to set up an LA institution before he departed. While all his burritos are made with care, the one that made El Tepeyac famous is the Manuel's Special. You may have seen the burrito on Man vs. Food, but in case you didn't, it's a monster meant to feed two to four people. You'll get a free shirt and victory photo if you complete the challenge, but you'll have to make your way through 5lbs of rice, beans, guac, and chile verde pork all rolled up and topped with cheese and sauce first.
Question: if you're eating at a restaurant that has an octopus burrito, in what scenario would you not order it? We guess if you're on fire and need to be doused in water first, it's OK, but otherwise, you have no excuse. While this South Beach space (with three more FL locations) is ostensibly a cevicheria, the seafood burrito is probably the star attraction. The charred octopus is complemented by pickled red onions, coconut-jasmine rice, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, and queso fresco. They'll even give you some lime-spiced corn chips to go with it, because they're just cool like that.
San Diego, CA
Remember way back towards the beginning of this list, when we told you about how surfers loved Lucha Libre's California burrito? Well, Nico's Mexican Food actually won the whole damn contest. Customers praise the perfect balance of steak, fries, and other sundries in this take, available at any of Nico's three SD locations. Go ahead and get a side order of carne asada fries while you're at it. The meat sweats will be well worth it.
San Francisco, CA
Papalote is the kind of place that makes one-day-only fried chicken & mac 'n cheese burritos, which might automatically nominate it for sainthood. But it's not some stunty shop with no cred to stand on. The salsa is so amazing, there are now jars of it for sale online. And you're going to use your freshly purchased salsa to smother a chile verde super burrito. The sour cream, rice, beans, guac, and pork (that's marinated in green serrano sauce) all make for one delicious beast -- one that even gets the hard-earned fixie rider seal of approval.
Salt Lake City, UT
It's an unassuming little spot in Utah, so you'd be forgiven for assuming it's nothing special. But you'd be wrong, because the burritos at Taqueria El Rey De Oros are A) huge, B) delicious, and C) like, $3. No matter which one you choose -- though we're advocating for al pastor -- just be sure to also get the place's famous pickled carrots. For serious.
1. Anna’s Taqueria446 Harvard St, Brookline
2. Bell Street Burritos209 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta
3. Calexico153 Rivington St, New York
4. Changos3023 Guadalupe St, Austin
5. Chile Pepper1030 W 24th St, Yuma
6. Dos Toros137 4th Ave, New York
7. El Farolito2779 Mission St, San Francisco
8. Al & Bea's2025 E 1st St, Los Angeles
9. El Zarape Restaurant4642 Park Blvd, San Diego
10. Freebirds World Burrito3335 S Figueroa, Los Angeles
11. Gorditos213 N 85th St, Seattle
12. Habanero's Grill13444 West Avenue, San Antonio
13. Illegal Pete's270 South Broadway, Denver
14. Irazu1865 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
15. La Azteca Tortilleria4538 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles
16. La Bonita2839 NE Alberta St, Portland
17. La Pasadita1132 N Ashland Ave, Chicago
18. La Taqueria2889 Mission St, San Francisco
19. Lucha Libre1810 W Washington St, San Diego
20. Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe812 N Evergreen Ave, Los Angeles
21. My Ceviche235 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
22. Nico's Mexican Food4918 Newport Ave, San Diego
23. Papalote Mexican Grill3409 24th St, San Francisco
With five other locations around Boston, Anna's does its part to spread love via choose-your-own-adventure tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more all over the Hub. This taqueria chain is a favorite spot for Boston foodies, and we highly recommend stopping by for some Instagram-worthy eats.
Bell Street's serving up killer burritos and has been named one of America’s 10 best burritos by USA Today, all because Matt Hinton, a Morehouse prof, was dismayed by the burritos Downtown, so he took things into his own hands, wrapped 'em in tortillas and put 'em into yours.
Calexico's got award-winning food trucks and brick-and-mortars throughout the city where you can snag Californian-/Mexican-inspired (Calexico... get it?) eats like quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, and grits bowls.
Chango’s is a casual Mexican joint within walking distance of UT’s campus, serving up items like the “Maximo Burrito” and “Quesadillas Gigantes” for the hungriest of Austin’s students, residents, and visitors. Their burritos, quesadillas, and tacos are served on seriously fresh tortillas (read: they make them in-house), and their chile con queso is not to be missed. They serve breakfast until 11am on weekends, featuring classic dishes like huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos and burritos, and chilaquiles. It’s an authentic taqueria where the portions are “gigantes” with a price point fit for college students.
Chile Pepper gives you a break on Wednesdays when their bean-and-cheese burrito is discounted to $1.49. The classic bean-and-cheese is the way to go thanks to a grandmotherly recipe that's been passed down since 1954.
Dos Toros is the project of two brothers from California who were sorely disappointed by the lack of true West Coast burritos in NYC. Rather than fly all the way home and give up on their NY life, the pair decided to address the problem directly by opening up a number of DT shops, all serving massive, filling burritos that feature handmade tortillas, rice, beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and your choice of meat. In case you aren't looking to go into calorific shock, go relatively lighter with one of their tacos or quesadillas. And wash it down with a cold Corona, because no burrito joint is complete without a liquor license.
Figuring out which taqueria to go to in the MIssion can be tough, but you can’t go wrong with El Farolito, one of the neighborhood's OG burrito havens, which happens to also be within perfect stumbling distance of numerous bars and the 24th Street BART. The super burrito is where it’s at, with a hefty dose of rice, beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, and whatever delicious meat you choose (carne asada is a good call).
Affordably delicious, simple, and authentic Mexican fare, this local favorite has tasty beans, meat, and cheese.
This University Heights restaurant is tiny, but serves delicious, authentic Mexican food. They're praised for their fish tacos, and have an extensive variety of burritos on their menu.
Freebirds is a hippie'd-out chain of burritorias, w/ colorfully psychedelic wall art and an exterior sculpture of a dangling Statue of Liberty riding a motorcycle (obv), which started in Santa Barbara before staking its claim via a schload of eat spots in Tejas, as well as a few in Oklahoma, which were just OK.
This place's got the infamous Baby Burrito . Likely named after the food baby it gives you after eating it, this burrito single-handedly combats even the most insatiable hunger, no problemo. Definitely spring the extra couple bucks to get it wet (smothered in sauce and cheese).
Habanero's goes very old-fashioned with tortillas that are not just handmade, but made-to-order. Upgrades like cilantro-lime rice and papas Mexicanas make this a stand-out
Illegal Pete's is always buzzing with hungry diners picking from an assembly line of ingredients that'll be rolled into Mission-style burritos.
Irazu has a blend of surprises and reliable standards that make it a solid place to stop for eats. Dishing out mouth-watering pepito sandwiches (ribeye steak or chicken), a unique oatmeal shake (surprise!), and a number of delicious empanadas and burritos, this Bucktown Costa Rican spot is perfect for any occasion.
Mainly a wholesale tortilla operation tucked into a not-yet-gentrified Mexican corner of East LA, their storefront's hiding a pair of tables at which to devour one of LA's most lauded eats: a chile relleno burrito filled with a cheese-oozing pepper, beans, and roughly chopped pico.
With two locations in Portland, the family that owns & operates La Bonita must be on to something, right? Right. Find out for yourself as you make your way through their straight forward, no nonsense menu filled with Mexican classics from huevos rancheros to chicken tamales and chimichangas to what may be the best enchiladas in the whole damn city.
This Ukrainian Village Mexi-joint doles out of the usual staples, but their burritos are head and shoulders above the rest, especially their carne asada version that's simply made with steak, cilantro, and onions.
This no-frills taqueria is home to the best burrito in America. The Mission-style burrito has a healthy dose of meat, cheese, beans, homemade hot sauce, salsa, and no rice. The place has been around for 40 years and if the daily long lines are any indication, they're doing something right. Ask for your burrito "El Dorado-style" to get your rice-less bundle of joy thrown on the grill until the outside is golden brown and the inside has melted to perfection.
Lucha Libre Taco Shop in Mission Hills embodies the zany energy of the Mexican brand of masked pro wrestling. In a high-energy space with hot pink walls, framed pop art, and lucha masks all around, tacos and burritos are the true champions. One such knockout is the Surfin' California burrito, a 14in tortilla packed tight with steak, shrimp, avocado, French fries, cheese, pico de gallo, and chipotle sauce. Discounts on various menu items are rewarded to those crazy enough to show up in an actual lucha mask.
Until his recent passing, the patriarch of El T would greet each customer with a shot of tequila. The recklessly generous hospitality continues to this day in the form of the monumental Manuel's Special, which was originally conceived to feed Cal State linebackers. It's a 5lb monster packed with deep-fried pork shoulder stewed in onions, green chile, and tomatoes.
Raw fish is the name of the game at My Ceviche, a Miami favorite serving up ceviche bowls, burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, salads, and sides that highlight fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. If it’s poke you’re looking for, it has that too, in options like wasabi sesame and ponzu shoyu. This fast-casual spot is a hit around lunchtime, so though you should prepare for a bit of a wait, remember that charred, fresh, briny goodness awaits you on the other side.
This Ocean Beach location is the Nico's original -- super-consistent and delicious California burritos are their hallmark, and you can always expect friendly service.
Nicer than the average hole-in-the-wall Mission taqueria but still super casual, Papalote serves up traditional tacos, quesadillas, and burritos in a sit-down counter-order space. Packed tight with rice, beans, pico de gallo and your choice of meat, the ginormous burritos are the definition of bang-for-your-buck and can easily be split between two people. Make sure you complement your order with plenty of chips served with the restaurant's signature roasted tomato salsa, which counts Bobby Flay as one of its many fans.