Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Great Burrito Hunt

Since moving to California, I have set about looking for my new top restaurants. I like to find places that I can go to again and again. I need craving satisfying restaurants, if you know what I'm saying. I recently found a cool Mediterranean cafe in Van Nuys called Lusy's. Excellent pita bread. Great chicken shawarma. Check it out.

***SIDE BAR: I need to take a moment to extol the virtues of the Yelp app. My cousin recently introduced me to its wonders and I've used it every day since. It was just what I was looking for in other food/restaurant/laundromat/gas station recommendation apps. I've found so many great places through it.

But since moving here, I have not been able to find a Mexican food place that compared to the ones in Arizona. (If you didn't know, AZ has truly great Mexican food. For cheap. Look it up.) So I've tried various places around town, but none had comparable homemade tortillas or the right bean consistency or the correct cheese usage. I should mention here that I judge a good Mexican food place by its bean and cheese burrito. I figure, if you can't get the easy stuff right, you're not gonna get the hard stuff right. 

Same goes for kissing and sex.

So yesterday I decided to solve this problem--HOW TO FIND A GOOD BURRITO IN THE BIG CITY. I decided to go to all the hole-in-the-wall Mexican food places I'd been curious about, pick up a burrito, and let my taste buds do the judging. I had intended to go to 3 or 4 places, but quit out after 2 places. It was all smelling so good and the burritos were getting cold, after all. 

First up was Tony's Mexican Grill. Got great reviews on Yelp (4 out of 5 stars from 160 reviewers--not too shabby). Had its own parking lot, which is a game changer in Los Angeles. Got the bean and cheese burrito to go. Normally their burritos come with avocado and pico de gallo inside, but I like my burritos plain so I got those on the side. It was looking good so far for Tony's. Also, it had a salsa bar that you could take salsa from to your hearts content. I've been to places where they allot you a certain amount of salsa cups. Not cool. Not so at Tony's. They had three bean choices: black, pinto, and refried. I got a half and half mix of pinto and refried. The burrito was ready in a few minutes and came with a bag of chips. Excellent touch, Tony.

On to the next.

Second up was Burritos El Chavo. It also had its own parking lot, but this one was pretty cramped. Only a few spots. I had to move my car so people could get out. It was a whole thing. Here, same deal. Got the bean and cheese burrito. Was ready quickly. However, no chips on the side, like Tony's. Hmpf. Also, no salsa bar. They gave two little cups of a pico de gallo-style salsa which was fine, but I like a little variety in my salsas. 

Now for the taste test. 

Tony's was first. Great first bite. Smooth bean consistency. Very buttery (probably lardy, but buttery sounds better). Nice flavor. Topped with their red salsa, Momma Like. It's a little smaller than I would like a burrito to be, but I've noticed that's typical of Los Angeles burritos. Arizonans like their burritos big, I tell ya. The tortilla was nice, clearly not store-bought or other such nonsense. It came with a mixture of yellow and white cheese. But the yellow cheese gave a nice strong cheddar taste to the burrito. I enjoyed it heartily. The chips--excellent. I can only imagine how much I would enjoy having a batch of Tony's nachos. 

Now for El Chavo. Immediately I'm getting a smoky flavor that was not present in the previous burrito. This is a little heavier of a burrito. The beans were thicker, definitely more chunky. They used a white cheese and it left a nice amount of grease in and around the burrito. This was nice. This tortilla was perhaps a touch thinner. And not in a bad way. It was light like a feather. However, the salsa was not impressive. Almost flavorless. No kick at all. You could've given it to children without worry. That's not a compliment. I found myself using Tony's salsa on my El Chavo burrito. What a mess. But the burrito in and of itself was tasty.

Now for the decision. I'll leave suspense out of it for today. Tony's is the clear winner here. Not only was it better than El Chavo, it was up to the task of being my new Cali burrito spot. 

It could stand next to my favorite Arizona burritos and hold its head high. 

Congratulations Tony's Mexican Grill! You've gotten yourself a new repeat customer. I know I just had it yesterday, but I've already been craving it for dinner. I might be having Tony's again today, folks. That's when you know you've found a winner.

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Thanks for your comments! I love to hear what you guys think! Kisses.