Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's what's on the inside (of the tortilla) that counts

A few years ago I found a small monthly tear-off calendar at work and put it on my desk. On it I taped this picture:

Each time I ate a burrito I would mark it on the calendar. I called it my Burrito Calendar. I love burritos.

In light of this I have decided to bring you my Top 5 Burritos in Portland list. There are many, many possible criteria for a list like this, but I have simplified the process. I have simply ranked these stuffed tortillas of goodness in the order of how much happiness they give me while I am eating them. So, without further ado, because prior to this statement there was so much ado, I give you...drum roll...the list.

Trivia: "Burrito" is Spanish for "little donkey". Also, "Boca Raton" in Boca Raton, Spanish for "Rat Mouth".

Honorable Mention: King Burrito
Ingredients: Unknown

Listen, I have never been to King Burrito. I don’t even know where it is. But one time I attended a networking luncheon put on the Portland Business Alliance and everyone had to go around the room and tell their name and where they worked. I stood up and said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and, sadly, I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan which means I’m basically a loser all the time.” You probably think that has nothing to do with King Burrito. Well, it kind of doesn’t and you’re a know-it-all. Pipe down and let me explain. The next time I had to give my name, rank and serial number I was at a South Portland Business Alliance meeting and when it came to me I said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and I LOVE to eat burritos. I’ve eaten 34 of them this year (this was in March).” After that people came up to me and told me all sorts of things about burritos. A recurring theme was a food cart called King Burrito. If that young, eager Farmers insurance agent is this worked up about a burrito served out of a wagon then I’m all in and you, King Burrito, have just narrowly missed my top 5.
Note: See, I told you I've never been there. I just checked the website and it turns out it's not a cart at all, it's a hole in the wall taqueria!

Ingredients: Carnitas
White or Brown Rice
Black Beans, but the Pinto Beans w/ Bacon are equally good
Corn Salsa
A little Sour Cream
A TON of Cheese

I know, I know…I’m choosing a huge corporation with a major ownership stake by McDonald’s as my #5 burrito. So what, you hoity toity snobby food critic? It’s freaking delicious and it’s big enough to make me full. The employees are great because, as corporate (as opposed to franchised) employees they have to do pretty much anything you say. They are friendly and helpful and, hey, owner Jim isn’t breathing down their neck about food portions like Jen does over at every Subway shop in the Milwaukie/Clackamas area.

At Chipotle you are basically on an assembly line of delicious tortilla stuffings. The key here is you can never have too much cheese, so you order like this: “Put on a ton of cheese. Just when you think you’ve put on too much add one more handful.” It has taken years to perfect this request because they are trained to put on small sprinkles thereby making you ask for more countless times like the girl giving free haircuts at the beauty school who is too scared to cut anything off. BUT…they HAVE to give you as much as you want despite however many fingerfuls it takes. Tell them to keep going until you say “stop” and you’re golden…or white, since the cheese is an amazing blend that looks the color of a Wisconsin girl in winter.

Ingredients: Refried Beans
A Chile Relleno

I know I know…you’ve been to Muchas Gracias and you love the Oregon Burrito. Good for you. Go write your own blog. As for me, I too have had the Oregon Burrito and it’s decent. I happen to think the potatoes take away from the flavor instead of soaking up the flavor, but maybe I caught the OB on a bad day. Here’s my take on burritos: if you can put a relleno in the middle of it, it’s good. I first encountered this in a crappy hole in the wall down in LA with my dad, stepmom and sister. My dad took us to the most likely place to get shot in the entire city so we could have some authentic LA Mexican food. People don’t smile in that place…that is until I bit into my chile relleno burrito! Then I was smiling and I think my obvious lack of gold teeth targeted me as an outsider.

That said, I brought that mentality back to Oregon with me. So, screw you Oregon Burrito, I’ll take the Mexican Burrito. Oh…you can’t find the above item on the menu at Muchas Gracias, you have to ask for it special. Just say “Give me the KeenKeith special”. They will look at you like either a) they don’t speak English well enough to know what you’re saying or b) you’re an idiot. After you get past that embarrassment you simply say “can you squirt some of your lardy lard lardy beans onto a tortilla, smother it in cheese then add a relleno?” They will say “yes, that will be $4” and you’ll be the fattest, happiest person on the block.

Ingredients: Seasoned Ground Beef

Thought I was kidding, didn’t you? Well I’m not. They cook up the meat with all this crazy crap in it that doesn’t seem to go together at all, then they serve it to you in this yellow wax paper as if to say “no, we really are Latino”. I have yet to meet anyone who loves this burrito the way I do. It’s tied for number one for me and I struggled with this because it’s on an equal plane with my numbers 1b and 1a.

So you get this burrito, you unwrap it and wad up the yellow wax paper and set that aside. You then grab the green sauce and just drench the tortilla with it and dig in with a fork and knife. No regrets…no regrets.

Ingedients: Chile Relleno
Refried Beans

The above is a description of the Super Burrito. Running a close second is the Chile Relleno Burrito which is just as wonderful as the dangerous Los Angeles burrito my dad risked all our lives for. Honestly, the only way you can do wrong with Super Torta is by not going there. They have tongue on the menu which in and of itself makes it an authentic experience. You can also buy rock candy out of their quarter machine. Rock candy? Yes, rock candy. I have always assumed that's because there's so much poverty in Mexico that people have to eat rocks there.

Interior: Shredded Beef
Sweet Rice
Refried Beans
Exterior: Cheese
Sour Cream
Sweet Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

“What?!?!!!??!! Salad Dressing? Grosssssssssss!” Shaaaaaaadup. It’s awesome. So this is another assembly line burrito. They have a location in Clackamas in the Home Depot parking lot on 82nd. They are opening a new west side location, I think it will be in Beaverton.

So the shredded beef is amazing. It tastes like Yankee Pot Roast…which is weird because Yankees are Northeast and this place is definitely shooting for Southwest. I don’t care about that. What I care about is how mouth wateringly good the meat is. How sweet and soft the rice is…and most importantly how tangy delicious that salad dressing is. It’s literally the best salad dressing I’ve ever tasted and I don’t even bother with the salad anymore. I could drink that stuff straight from the container. Instead I have them soak the burrito with it.

The Latino workers look at me like I’m nuts when I ask for the salad dressing, but the white guy knows us and doesn’t even ask. He doesn’t eat his burrito that way, but he can identify with our American urge to smother everything with sweetness. The only think that would make this place better is if I could find a way to actually bathe in the sweet vinaigrette. I’m sure it would make my skin soft, smooth and scrumptious.

Well, I hope you're able to visit all of the above fine establishments. Also, visit this place just north of SE 92nd and Foster.
I have never been there but the following is a list of reasons you should patronize this establishment, which also happen to be reasons I will soon be trying it out:
1. The interior walls are bright green which makes it light up like lime sherbet at night.
2. Check out the police car. Ever gone to a crappy restaurant with police officers eating there?
3. Note the nutty yellow bird on the's practically screaming "I'm delicious!"
4. Some dude apparently likes to mess with his bicycle in the alley.
5. Look at orange shirt guy. Any Mexican food place in a neighborhood where you have to constantly be looking over your shoulder MUST have great food. I'll bet they even serve tongue.

If you have yet to develop your burrito pallet I suggest you get on that right away. The burrito craze has grown so wildly that there is a section on Weidler over near Lloyd Center that has a Muchas Gracias, a Chipotle, a Taco Bell and a Q'Doba Mexican Grill within a half block of each other.

Oh, disclaimer: burritos will make you fart.


"Keen" Keith said...

It has come to my attention from a couple of places now that El Burrito Loco should be on this list. Feel free to comment with your own favorites. By no means is my experience comprehensive!

Ben Storment said...

Once I ordered an asada burrito at El Burrito Loco and chomped down on a massive piece of asphalt. No Joke!
Almost broke my freaking molar.

Ben Storment said...

Once I ordered an asada burrito at El Burrito Loco and chomped down on a massive piece of asphalt. No Joke!
Almost broke my freaking molar.

"Keen" Keith said...

I have found the trick to a great burrito is often being specific about how you order it. "Sans road materials" might have been a good idea in this particular case.

andrewtheshaw said...

You didn't even mention the fake brick facade on El Pato Feliz.

andrewtheshaw said...

You didn't even mention the fake brick facade on El Pato Feliz.