Few people know that the first restaurant-style burrito appeared on the menu at El Cholo Spanish Cafe in Los Angeles back in 1930. But it wasn’t until 1934 when it made another groundbreaking debut in Erna Fergusson’s collection of regional recipes from New Mexico, “Mexican Cookbook,” that the little tortilla bundle of deliciousness was launched toward mainstream. The easy recipe and accessible ingredients quickly took the dish from novelty to staple, and ever since, burritos have been popping up on menus all over Los Angeles. Unfortunately, unlike the fool-proof pizza, when burritos are bad they’re just plain bad. So to avoid a mouth full of disappointing mush, here are five places to get the best burritos in Los Angeles.
Hours: Sun to Thurs—8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Fri to Sat—8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Way back in 1974, the very first King Taco “restaurant” was actually a converted ice cream truck and became a pioneer for others to follow. From tacos to tamales to burritos, you can’t go wrong when choosing from this menu. With authentic Mexican food made from fresh ingredients and food of consistently high quality, this restaurant has definitely earned the “King” in its name. There are multiple locations, so check out the website for the one nearest you.
Al & Bea’s Mexican Food
Hours: Mon to Sun—10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This Mexican mom and pop stand has been a staple of the community since its opening in the early 70s. It’s been featured in movies and is preferred over craft services by actors shooting on location nearby—and for an actor to pay for a meal when free food is available speaks volumes. One bite of the bean and green chili burrito or fried burrito you’ll see why it’s a Hollywood favorite.
Hours: Mon to Sat—8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun—Closed
Another bonafide burrito maker from the 70s is Burrito Express. This place not only features a wide variety of burritos along with daily specials and specialty burritos, it also has a sense of humor. Care for the Ross Perot burrito? It’s packed with beef, pork, chicken, beans, rice, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Like its name, Burrito Express likes to say this burrito is “full of it.” Customers like to say it’s delicious.
El Chato Taco Truck
Hours: Mon to Thurs—9 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Fri to Sat—9 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Sun—Closed
There is nothing like a burrito to satisfy the munchies before, during and after a night of drinking. Some of the regulars at the local bars around Olympic and LaBrea are only regulars there because they’re such fans of El Chato Taco Truck. And with meat choices like cabeza, lengua, buche and tripes, you might need some liquid courage to try them for the first time. Drunk or sober, it’s just really good food.
Related: Best Gourmet Food Trucks
Hours: Sun to Wed—8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thurs to Sat—8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Las Fuentes is one of the best kept secrets in the valley when it comes to Mexican food. Styled with folkloric art and vibrant colors, this little gem is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Large portions make this a great place for families. And you don’t have to be a gringo to try their delicious “gringo style” burrito (packed with beans and meat and topped with ranchera sauce and melted cheese), you just have to be hungry.
Related: Dining on a Dime
Kristine G. Bottone is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.