Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blind Burrito Tasting in The Mission

Blind Burrito Tasting of 2011!
The Mission-style burrito is a point of great contention. 
A 14+" tortilla filled to the brim with rice, beans, avocado, sometimes meat, sometimes sour cream and cheese, sometimes lettuce and/or salsa then wrapped tightly in tin foil, the Mission burrito is a behemoth of a thing. 
While some Angelenos have been known to criticize Bay Area burritos, the great debate locally lies in which Mission Burrito establishment can lay claim to title, 'The Best Mission Burrito'. It can become a very heated battle.
colorful decorations at Taqueria Cancun
DH and I are no experts on this matter, though we've each eaten enough behemoth burritos to be. For my money and my vote, I am always split between Taqueria Cancun and El Farolito. DH advocates Castillito is best but is never as heated on the debate and will usually concede to play the peacemaker.
Truth be told, the Mission burritos don't seem all that different in composition or appearance from one another, so how could there be such strong opinions on the matter? The only way to get to the bottom of these subtle differences would be to conduct a blind tasting.
Upon learning that our recent houseguests were not only excited about trying Mexican food in the States, but specifically in trying burritos here, we knew we had to conduct the test with them.
4 bags of burritos; a very beautiful thing
DH and I tag-teamed Mission street, and within 10 minutes time had 4 bags of burritos in our hot little hands!
For the taste test, we opted for our 3 combined favorites: Cancun, Castillito and Farolito. The 4th was Papalote, one we'd never tried but came highly recommended by a trustworthy source. In hindsight, Papalote should not have been included only because it is a completely different style eatery, more upscale Mexican Grill than bare-bones Taqueria. As Shannon said, perhaps it was good to have a 'ringer' in the bunch. 
In an effort to reduce variables, all burritos were vegetarian with black beans, guacamole/avocado, sour cream & cheese. El Farolito & Papalote charge extra for guacamole/avocado, cheese & sour cream FYI.
a very packed Dolores Park
Onto our beloved Delores Park to conduct the Blind Burrito Tasting of 2011!!!
I have never seen the park so packed full of hipsters of all kinds. DH always manages to have a funny insight about the 'scene' at Dolores Park, be it a 'Where's Waldo?' reference or a 'Warriors' reference that really captures the moment perfectly but I digress...
I numbered the 4 burritos, then split them in 2 and each couple shared a half. Since I numbered the burritos, I disqualified myself but happily partook in the eating! 
Burrito #1
The first burrito was met with enthusiastic praise by all three judges. Among the initial responses to Burrito #1:
-"creamy & delicious!"...Shannon
-"well distributed ingredients"...DH
-"muy suave"...Manu
For me, a little toast on the outside tortilla goes a long way. Not only does it add to the overall flavor and enjoyment of the burrito, it shows the burrito-maker cared enough to set the finished burrito on the griddle for just a minute or 2. It's the little things.
Burrito #2
Burrito #2 received a less enthusiastic response. This burrito tasted "heavy on rice" and "light on avocado". The "waxy tortilla" had "very little toast" on it. After only a few bites, the judges were ready to move on to the next.
great toast marks on Burrito #3
The first thing the judges noticed about Burrito #3 was the ample grill work on the outside of the tortilla. What also set this burrito apart was the pico de gallo salsa in the burrito. That said, the burrito was "heavy on rice" and "light on avocado & sour cream". Actually, the sour cream & avocado were all in the 'butt' of the burrito, evidence of "poor distribution". The general opinion of No. 3 was that it's a "good, solid burrito lacking good distribution". For Manu, this burrito was the winner. The way to a Spaniard's heart is through tomatoes! ;-)
Burrito #4
Burrito #4 tasted like "a simpler version of #1". The addition of lettuce in #4 was controversial; appreciated by DH and disliked by Shann, who preferred the onions & cilantro in this burrito. "Good distribution but a little lackluster" was the general opinion of Burrito #4. 
In the end, the votes were in and Burrito #1 was the winner. Burrito #3 was the winner for Manu, and was the close 2nd for Shann and DH. Everyone agreed #2 was the least favorite of the bunch, but no one would refuse any of these burritos given the chance.
And now for the unveiling!...

#1 Taqueria Cancun:
Taqueria Cancun exterior
Cancun Burrito; winner!
8.6 score
$5.41; including chips & (2) 1 oz. salsa containers (cheapest; 1st place!)

#2 Papalote Mexican Grill:
5.7 score
$6.83; including paltry amnt. chips & (1) roast tomato salsa (last place)

#3 Taqueria El Farolito:
7.9 score
$6.87; does not include chips, unlimited salsa
(largest/ most expensive) 2nd place!

#4 Taqueria El Castillito:
7.5 score
$5.62; includes chips & unlimited salsa
Castillo Burrito

All in all it was successful burrito tasting. By no means was it a definitive tasting, but everyone learned a lot and ate a lot more; a true measure of success in San Fran!
The Butts!


  1. This scientific needs a do over. You left out Pancho Villas!

  2. Ha -- I love that you tagged this post with "Where's Waldo" !! Also, I'm volunteering to participate in the blind burrito test of 2012 should there be one. -Stu

  3. Guessing from the off the record comments we've recieved, I'm thinking that for the next Mission Burrito tasting, we'll have to open it up to the great unwashed masses!

    Let's hope the great Portero Hill Sardine sampling is just as popular!


  4. go check out el metate on bryant and 22nd. the. best. veggie burrito. ever.


  6. Pancho Villa used to be the best in the city, but they upped their prices to astronomical prices, AND started putting peas and carrots in their rice. Awful! The new king is Castillito (or at least their Al Pastor is).

  7. +1 to the last few commenters, Pancho Villa never seemed like anything special to me, and El Metate has the best veggie burrito I have ever eaten, although it includes vegetables beyond black beans and avocado so it might not qualify for your test.