Saturday, October 27, 2012

California Dreamin'

LA is known by many as the birthplace of the Americanized burrito. According to Wikipedia: "In 1923, Alejandro Borquez opened the Sonora cafe in Los Angeles, which later changed its name to the El Cholo Spanish Cafe. Burritos first appeared on American restaurant menus at the El Cholo Spanish Cafe during the 1930s."

And what better place for the birth of burritos, than The City of Angels? Beneath all that asphalt and breast augmentation, lies an enduring Mexican heritage. The land that is now LA was destined to be settled by the Spanish, welcome its independence as part of Mexico, and finally to be sucked up by America in 1848. It has seen its share of plight and violence, class struggle, and cultural clashes. Perhaps the burrito, the embodiment of American overabundance with Mexican flavor, is the perfect amalgamation of these two cultures. Peace will prevail, wrapped in a flour tortilla!

I was in LA for 3 days and managed to eat 3 burritos in that time. Three for three, not too shabby. With the wealth of Mexican food in that part of the country, I could probably eat a burrito for every meal through an entire year, and still have more places to go! It was quite impressive, and if I had free rent and a chauffeur, I'd consider living there for a year to do just that. However, the plastic society would probably get to me after a while, and I'd come back to Portland not only fattened up, but severely resentful. Perhaps burrito coma bliss would keep me content and disconnected though.

 Lucy's Drive-in

First matter of business upon arrival after a 6 am flight? Breakfast, of course! I heard about Lucy's drive in on a website that rated it as LA's best budget breakfast burrito. It wasn't too far from the airport, so I figured, why not? This brightly colored hole the wall place, on the corner of two expansive roadways (damn LA, you have wide roads!) was inviting, yet disconcerting. We were starving and tired, so we really didn't care what we ate, as long as it was in the shape of food.

I got my breakfast burrito with eggs, bacon, cheese, and beans (I asked for potatoes but maybe they didn't have any?). Beans on a breakfast burrito may sound a bit strange, but it was actually pretty damn tasty. The eggs were fluffy, the bacon crisp and salty, and the smidgen of refried beans glued it all together. The tortilla was perfecto and fresh. Could there be better breakfast burritos out there? No doubt, but this sufficed just fine.

La Azteca Tortilleria


Mission style church across from La Azteca
This tortilla-making LA institution is easy to miss, yet it's been in operation for 65 years. I read somewhere that they make the best burrito, so off we went on a burrito-inspired adventure to East LA When we arrived, the owner informed us that they were closed, then proceeded to take our order anyway. Perhaps he could see the desperation in my eyes, perhaps he knew the distance I had traveled to sample this burrito. No, not the journey from Oregon, but the trip across LA.

So I ordered the Chile Relleno Burrito, a rich yet simple concoction of fried up, cheese stuffed, egg battered, fire roasted poblano, refried beans, and pico. The chile was tender and savory with a touch of sweetness, gooey cheese oozing out with each bite. The tortilla was flaky and scrumptious and obviously fresh. However, I was disappointed overall with the supposed best burrito around. It was far too greasy, and you should all know I like my fair share of grease, but this was beyond my threshold. It could have thrown more of a punch, a kick to the teeth, if you will. I wanted more, more than it could give. This chile relleno burrito couldn't touch that of my neighborhood place, Super Torta.

Perhaps one thing I learned from this experience is that you can't trust the publicity one place receives over another. It's those little nooks and crannies yet to be discovered, that hold something genuine. These are the places I aspire to find. If I had more time to search in that giant monster of a city, I'm sure I could have found pure burrito perfection.



Holy Guacamole

So this place wasn't in LA per se, but in Santa Monica. What a strange-ass "town" that was!  I was next to the ocean, and I really wanted those famous baja fish tacos you always hear about. What was a girl to do? So I heard about this place, and how they had deep fried fish tacos and burritos, and I thought it would make me very very happy.

I was wrong. It sucked. The end.