Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The ambiance of this little taco shack suggested we were in for a treat. The order hole is barely large enough to serve food through. Classy! I was a little concerned by the wait, though. Generally speaking, a long wait means a subpar burrito. But as we saw yesterday, these standards aren't always true.
Our California burritos were fantastic. They had perfect fries, great carne asada, guac, pico... the only thing missing was sour cream. And as I said, I feel like that's the most important of the 3 variables in the Cali burrito equation; leaving it out is a mistake. If they served it with sour cream this would probably be top-3. Delicious, nonetheless.
Still getting more recommendations than I can keep up with, and I love that everyone is stoked to hear what I think of their pick. But don't be offended if I don't rank your favorite place very highly- remember, I'm just some asshole with a high metabolism and too much free time on his hands.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Jesse Egan you magnificent bastard. I was in OB for the 3rd Annual Ocean Beach Comedy competition so I figured it makes sense to check out another place there. To be honest, I was underwhelmed by Jesse's last suggestion, Rancho's (Day 24, I think), but he's a fucking OB legend so I had to give him another shot.
The choice tonight was Ortega's, and it didn't look good from the outset. A clean, quiet sit-down restaurant. Would Jesse go 0-2? Only one way to find out. I ordered their California burrito and sat at the bar to wait. $7 for it, another bad sign. As I waited, San Diego comic Dirtfoot strolled in for some dinner of his own. He had just advanced in the contest and was having a celebratory meal. Mine was ready in just a few minutes so I headed out, intent on eating it during the 8-minute ride to Live Comedy Live, a free comedy show every Monday held by local comics Christian Spicer and Rajan Dharni.
Holy shit that burrito was freaking awesome! Incredible carne asada, near-perfect fries, and loaded with all the extras. Dee-effing-licious. It's right up there with Nico's for sure. So if you're keeping track, because I'm not really, the best ones so far are Nico's, Ortega's, Don Carlos', and aside from the integrity of the tortilla, the Miramar Landfill roach coach.
I'm actually surprised myself that I'm still enjoying these. The craving just keeps getting stronger, like I'm some sort of non-sparkly California burrito vampire; I must feed on them.
Did that just get weird? Whatev... see you tomorrow.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Rico's shortcoming wasn't so much that they didn't use guac or pico; as I've found out sour cream is the most important of those three. It was that they went really skimpy on the sour. It has potential- good carne asada, good tortilla, great fries- but served as-is I'd say pass on this one.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The last few days have been a struggle. Not because I'm burning out on California burritos, but because things have been so hectic that it's been tough to make time to find new spots. That's all changing this weekend though- I'm off work until Wednesday!
Since I was heading to La Jolla to perform at a comedy show, I decided to hit up a place that was recommended to me by San Diego funny man Paul Hermann- a taco shop called Don Carlos a block away from the Comedy Store. I had tried to go there once before but they had already closed.
That wasn't a problem this time. But I ran into a different problem: the place is too fucking popular. I had to wait almost 10 minutes to place my order. Not a big deal, especially since much of the delay was caused by ignorant tourists not knowing what they're doing. Stupid 'zonies. But after ordering it was another 15 minute wait to get my precious (read that in a Gollum voice). Their Cali burrito was outstanding- everything but guac, thick french fries, perfect proportion of ingredients- but I don't think it's worth a 25 minute wait. If you're in the area and the line's not too long, definitely give them a shot.
Friday, May 27, 2011
What the fuck is Vegan Chicken? Anyway, this place was very much a restaurant, not a taco shop. They don't have California burritos on the menu; the server said he'd just add potatoes to a carne asada burrito. And it cost $8!!! Normally that's 3 strikes. But Jesse is awesome- his word goes a long way. So I figured I'd let those transgressions slide.
He was right- the burrito was pretty damn good. Great carne asada, nicely rolled in a sturdy tortilla... good stuff. Gotta say, though, the potato chunks are less appealing to me than fries. Personal preference, sure, but to me potato chunks can overpower the flavor of everything else. Fries are more subtle and complementary to the burrito as a whole. That's right, I'm getting all fancy now. Good stuff, but I wouldn't Top-10 this one.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Great burrito, so-so movie. I'd definitely recommend Colima's for dinner, and Netflix for The Hangover 2.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
It's kind of weird taking a sub-compact car down a dirt road mostly traversed by 18-wheelers and garbage trucks, driving that car onto a scale meant to weigh those trucks, and asking the attendant "Can a brother get some..." I mean, "Is there a food truck or something in there where I can get a burrito?" Reacting as if this sort of thing happens all the time, she didn't even give me a second look as she said "Yeah, right around the corner."Chuck was right, this Cali burrito is effing fantastic. Served in minutes, monster-sized, and $6; it's definitely a great one. In fact, it might even be the reigning champ if the flour tortilla hadn't been so flimsy and basically fallen apart on me. Shit's gotta stay rolled tight. If you're ever near the Miramar landfill, take a quick side trip to grab one of these, you won't be disappointed.
I'm starting to notice that the ambience of the establishment is definitely a factor in the quality of the burrito. If the place is too clean, or too sit-down style family-restaurant, the burrito is usually subpar. On the other hand if the place looks dangerous, to the point that it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that you got stabbed, you're in for a treat.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Today I went with Rolberto's in Normal Heights and again suggested by local comedian Rene Lancaster. It was cheap, fast, and served from behind security bars. Now THAT is legit. I knew based on that alone that this place would have a great offering, and I was right. This California burrito is near the top of the list, right up there with Nico's. Delicious carne asada, crispy fries, cheese... the only thing wrong with it was they don't use sour cream or guac. Aside from that it was fucking amazing. Seriously, if angels existed, and they were able to have babies, I think this is what it might taste like to eat those babies. Because in all likelihood they'd be delicious. 5 stars, 2 thumbs up, and a Best in Show trophy.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I hit up Casa Adams in Normal Heights. I'd driven past it several times, and although nobody has recommended it I thought it deserved a shot. Once inside, I sensed trouble. The place looked too legit. Too classy. Too much like... a restaurant. And that should have been fair enough warning. They hit on some of the really important stuff: guac, sour cream, and salsa, actual french fries, and tasty carne adsada. But they had too many shortcomings: at $7 I think it's the most expensive one yet, it took over 5 minutes, served in a styrofoam box, wrapped rather loosely, and worst of all- no cheese! W! T! F!!!It's like a Brian Adams cover of a Rolling Stones song- technically it might be correct, but it's got no fucking heart.
Casa Adams- pass. Not a bad California burrito, but why settle when there are so many good places in town?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
In the midst of all the chaos, I remembered someone telling me about a good place on El Cajon near Park. I think it was San Diego comic Adam Wolpe, but I can't be sure. I cruised over there and found a place called Bahia's in strip mall at El Cajon and Florida. Good enough, tonight's destination is found.
They were fast, and among the cheapest so far- $5.71 for a huge California burrito and a drink. The burrito itself was pretty good. Nothing to slap your mama over, but good. They go with sour cream and salsa, no guac. A little skimpy on the cheese, and potato chunks instead of fries. But definitely delicious. If you're in the neighborhood give them a try.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Delicious California burrito. Fast, cheap, and they make it with all the fixin's. I still have yet to find one as good as Nico's- and I think it's mainly because of the fries- but this one is really, really good. Like I said, no use in trying to rank them anymore. At this point it's like trying to rank favorite sexual positions- you're having sex. It's all good.
Poor thing... never stood a chance.
And I think it may be a good thing that I've got a break in the action coming up- Thursday I leave for a wedding in Mexico. I'll be gone for 4 days. I'm fairly certain that if I go anywhere there and ask for a California burrito, they will look at me and say "Que?" Should give me ample time to rebuild my craving and dive right back in when I return. I'm still going backwards on places to eat, too. Every time I hit up one taco shop, I literally get 2 or 3 more recommended to me. 90 days may not be enough...
Monday, May 16, 2011
Totally kidding. I just want to see if anyone's really reading this. Actually I have suffered no ill effects so far, although I do expect that to come to a screeching halt anytime. Today was kind of hectic, I had to grab a burrito in between getting off work and going to tell jokes in OB. Luckily there was a place right on the way, recommended to me by fellow comedian and California burrito aficionado Adam Wolpe. Actually, this place is named California Burrito. Pretty ballsy move, their Cali burrito better be out-fucking-standing.
They serve it with "the works"- sour cream, guac, and pico. Excellent, I think that's the best way to go. Pico isn't as crucial, but the good Cali burritos tend to have sour cream and guac. It's a damn big burrito too, and although the fries could've been crispier, it was really good. I can't rank these anymore, other than to say this was one of the better ones. Ranking California burritos is like rating episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; in general they're all pretty damn good, although there are a few great ones and a couple shitty ones.
California Burrito definitely gets my recommendation.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Their burrito was really good. It met most of the criteria I have set: under $5, ready in less than 3 minutes, no separation of ingredients, and real french fries. Crispy ones too. But again, it wasn't great. Saguaro's makes theirs with the requisite carne asada, fries, and cheese. Once a California burrito reaches this stage, you'll find a lot of variance in production: guac, sour cream, and pico de gallo may or may not be present in varying combinations. Saguaro's does just pico de gallo. I find that the best ones have at least guac, and usually sour cream.
Incidentally, the festival was all kinds of fun. Good music, lots of eats, and cool art. Not to mention we spotted local comic and national headliner Matt Zint, and OBC favorite Kim Thompson. Onward we go.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
A tiny place up in Leucadia, I was pretty sure I could count on a good California burrito. And I was right. Served fast, decent size- not too overstuffed- and under $5. All good signs. From the first bite I knew this one would be near the top of the list. Great carne asada, cheese, sour cream, and really good fries. But after getting halfway in, the fries almost disappeared. That's about the only thing keeping this one from being just a step below Nico's. If they hadn't skimped on the fries you'd be hard pressed to find a better California burrito, especially in North County.
Definitely recommend Juanita's, probably top 5. Or top 6 maybe? Who am I kidding, I'm not keeping that close track of this stuff. I'm 15 days in, people, plus I have a real life to worry about. I have to go back and re-read this thing to remember which ones I liked. All I know for sure is that Nico's is the best, and El Portal is a pox on humanity.
Friday, May 13, 2011
I headed to Filiberto's in Encinitas. Just grimy enough inside to let me know it's authentic, with fast service and great food. This would probably be among the best so far. Great carne asada, crispy fries, guac, cheese... the only thing missing on this stop was sour cream. Other than that it was pretty effing good. Definitely top 5 so far, maybe top 3. Not that I'm really keeping track that closely, but you know.
And what would Day 14 be without some crucial error on my part? Today's mistake is brought to you by poor planning and Red Robin. Let's just say that if you're making a list of what NOT to follow a California burrito with, chocolate shake would be right near the top of that list. I don't think I'll puke today, but it's possible I won't not puke. Figure that one out, grammar nerds.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
David warned me their guac isn't the best, but one of my senseless, self-imposed, arbitrary rules on this journey of self-destruction is "no alterations." The service was pretty damn quick. In fact he ordered carne asada fries before I ordered my burrito, and mine was ready first. A good sign according to my scorecard. It was a tasty California burrito. Better than Rudy's, better than a lot of others if only for the fact that they used fries. The fries weren't quite crispy enough, but they were good. Not a great burrito though, because there was no guac or sour cream, and they went a bit heavy on the pico de gallo. But definitely recommendable.
How do you follow a good burrito lunch? With an awesome matinee movie. Fast Five was everything I hoped it would be... fucking amazing! It was like Ocean's Eleven, but with cars and lots of punching people in the face.
Later on in the day, I realized I had made a huge mistake with today's burrito: I ate it too damn early. By 9PM I was craving another one like they were made out of crack. And to make matters worse, I was a block away from Nico's, the reigning champion. No way I could handle two in one day, though. Especially since the ever-present feeling of being about to puke at any moment was finally fading after almost almost a week. Lesson learned: B90X is a dinner-or-later activity.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I feel like I'm on the verge of puking about 30% of my waking hours. But I'm starting to think it's psychosomatic. I mean, one burrito a day isn't that bad, is it? It's not like I'm Morgan Spurlock over here. I think I figured it out, too: I rarely eat beef. Chicken and fish, all the time. But the only time I'll eat red meat is the occasional burger. So maybe 12 days straight of carne asada is taking it's toll, and my stomach is all "Hey, asshole! Slow the fuck down!"
Which I guess brings us to today. I checked all the recommended shops on Google maps, and Lolita's (thanks, Kim Thompson) was on the way home. They make a damn big California burrito compared to some of the other shops. And they were fast too. I'm starting to notice that the places that serve the fastest tend to be better. But I have to admit, I was disappointed that they served it to me in a styrofoam container. That shit needs to be wrapped in paper! I can move past that though. Presentation isn't the most important thing here.
The carne asada was delicious, they used real fries (which were crisp! a huge plus) that were packed so tight in there they were poking through, and had just the right amount of cheese and sour cream. It was a really good burrito. Really good. But not great, for 2 reasons. First, it wasn't wrapped very tightly. And that actually matters for a good burrito. But the more important shortcoming was the same problem Rudy's had yesterday- segregated ingredients; you might take a bite that's all fries. I think the problem here was the burrito was just too big. Bigger isn't always better. Remember Anthony Michael Hall and that other kid, when they were creating their dream girl in Weird Science? They almost gave her a huge rack, but opted not to. "You make 'em too big and you risk spraining your tongue." Wise beyond their years, those two.
So yeah, I definitely recommend Lolita's. Really good burrito, but not the best.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I went to Rudy's, another Solana Beach taco shop. It was kinda 'meh.' It was a good burrito, but it wasn’t great. Just good. Sort of like the Honda of the California burrito world. The carne asada was a little dry, and the composition was a little off. You’d get one bite of just meat, then a bite loaded with sour cream. And aside from fries those were the only 3 ingredients. Shouldn’t it have guac? Cheese? I think at this point I have metamorphosed into a California burrito snob. No, that sounds too pretentious. This is a dish that should be served to a certain standard. I'm more like a California burrito sommelier. Fuck it, who am I kidding? I'm not that classy.
My friends are starting to worry about my health. The recurring pukiness (new word, a bit more accurate than "nausea") is getting to me. Plus, there's no end in sight-I feel like I’m fighting a fucking Hydra. No sooner do I take down one taco shop, when 2 more are suggested to me in it's place. This battle will never end, so I might as well go out like a warrior. Come home with your plate, or on it.
I feel like I need some volunteers to help me out. Sort of like a spotter at the gym, or a coach, or wingman. If anyone wants to grab a burrito with me just holla. Still to be visited:
- Don Carlos
- Santanas (MXN)
- roach coach at the landfill (which I strangely feel could be the best one)
- Taco Fiesta
- a place off Washington in North Park that local underground comic Adam Wolpe is finding the name of for me.
- El Azteca
- Serrano's Super Salsa
Monday, May 9, 2011
Back in OB, I finally found Nico’s. Apparently I was looking on the wrong block. Holy shit this thing was incredible! Fast, delicious, and they used fries. Crispy fries, which I've learned is key. Best California burrito ever!!! The quest is over, but the journey continues- no way I'm quitting now.
Update: It’s been 2 hours since I finished it. Arguably the best one so far. And yet I’ve been fighting back the urge to puke for the past 15 minutes. My stomach is not pleased with the relentless assault I've unleashed upon it. But like I said, no stopping now. Why do I continue to do this to myself? I do it for the kids, man. The fucking kids.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
So far I had been mainly sticking to recommended places. But today I was on my own. Heading out to see Kill the Irishman (good flick, go check it out), I googled Mexican places near the theater. Los Panchos got the nod. But once I arrived I had a bad feeling about this one... don't know if it was the "seafood," the dollar mart, the 'dised' potatoes, or the stingy use of commas. Turned out to be pretty good though. Not great, a bit heavy on the onions.
Yes, that’s a burrito in my pants AND I’m happy to see you. An advantage of being so skinny is that I can sneak an actual meal into the movie theater. The irony of course is that said meal will likely put an end to my being skinny.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Today was Roberto’s in Solana Beach, recommended by a co-worker. The "-berto's" joints are classic California food, so it was about time I tried one. Kind of a long wait but definitely another awesome Cali burrito, this time accompanied by an Orange Bang, both of which sound like terms from Urban Dictionary. Day 8 is in the books, and I now feel slightly disgusted with myself yet oddly satisfied. This must be what Catholic priests feel.
It was around this time, inspired by another fellow comic Feraz Ozel, that the quest got it's official name: B90X.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Back to OB for today's entry. I was looking for Nico's, which was proclaimed California burrito champion by Ryan Kimble, guitarist for Behind the Wagon (another awesome local band you should totally check out). But I couldn't find it. I opted instead for a staple of the OB community- L Rodeo.
By far the fastest service yet, maybe 3 minutes.And it was damn good. Definitely in the top half of the samplings thus far.
And now the first signs of trouble. It’s gotten to the point where my stomach hurts just thinking about them. I almost puked during a movie later that night… hours after eating it. I liken it to an abusive relationship; I know I'm just going to get hurt but I keep going back.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Each new place I went to was like a new Christmas present to be unwrapped. I was even more stoked for Lalo's once I got there- they are the sister store of Livingston's, yesterday's reigning champ. This time the wait was almost excruciatingly long though. 17 minutes, I think. And by the time I got where I was going, literally about 5 minutes away, it was cold. sadface
I'd definitely say "pass" on this one.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I had been told Livingston has one of the best Cali burritos in town, so it had to be one of my early stops. The wait was a bit longer than most of the other places, but damn was it worth it. One of the best yet, and they used actual fries! This is probably my favorite so far. And the fact that it's in OB makes it even better.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
For today's entry, I opted for a place close to work in North County: Beach City Cafe. I have long been a fan of their breakfast burritos, so I was sure their Cali burritos would be worthwhile. It was good, definitely filling, but they lose points for using potato wedges instead of fries.
That's one thing I've found early on. The cardinal sin that many places make is using potato wedges, not fries. A subtle difference, but definitely noticeable. Part of the mission is to order from each place with no substitutions, just the way they make it.
Monday, May 2, 2011
And since the burrito was so Goddamn big, I saved half of it for lunch the next day. Day 3 is now official.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Having set the wheels in motion, I was determined to not let this project lose steam before it had even begun. It was a hectic Sunday, so I was in a mad scramble to find today's fare as the sun slowly faded. On my way to the grocery store, I saw El Portal, a fast-food looking Mexican joint. Why not? I ordered up my new favorite meal and went on my way. Sadly, it was disgusting. An embarrassment to both California and burritos. There is no way I'd recommend this to anyone. Avoid at all costs.