We seemed up 100 Chicago burritos to search out the most well-liked fillings

We seemed up 100 Chicago burritos to search out the most well-liked fillings

CHICAGO — Since opening in 2017, Mi Tocaya Antojeria has turn out to be one in all Chicago’s most acclaimed Mexican eating places, choosing up a Bib Gourmand from Michelin and incomes chef Diana Dávila a few James Beard Award nominations for Greatest Chef: Nice Lakes.

If something, I feel the restaurant continues to be underrated. Right here you may discover meals like nowhere else within the nation, as Dávila attracts inspiration from conventional Mexican dishes whereas incorporating Midwestern components and a sprinkling of fine-dining finesse. So it’d shock you to study that one dish that has been a fixture for the reason that starting is a straightforward-sounding steak burrito.

The burrito in query even has lettuce in it, which is seemingly a really contentious addition. Any time I put up a photograph of a burrito containing lettuce on social media, I obtain messages from involved commenters throughout this honest nation, together with an astonishing quantity from California. Did not I notice that lettuce wilts into mush inside a sizzling burrito? What sort of prison would do such a factor?

After I requested Dávila about lettuce probably being a contentious burrito addition, she not solely disagreed however doubled down. “Really, I am an additional lettuce particular person,” Dávila mentioned. “I just like the crunch, and I feel it tastes actually good.” Her solely caveat is that burritos with lettuce needs to be eaten instantly. By no means get one delivered.

The lettuce-loaded burrito on Mi Tocaya’s menu additionally has a particular significance for Dávila as a result of it is a nod to the one served at her mother and father’ south suburban taqueria. She lavished particular consideration on Mi Tocaya’s model, marinating the meat in beer and crafting her personal umami-packed seasoning mix. “I additionally added double steak as a result of I keep in mind these guys who would all the time are available in and order further meat,” Dávila mentioned. This additionally helps clarify why the steak burrito at Mi Tocaya prices $25.60; it will probably feed two exceptionally hungry folks.

However she additionally wished it to look and style like burritos often do in Chicago, which meant retaining the usual fillings. “I really feel like a Chicago burrito just about all the time has beans, lettuce, cheese and tomato,” Dávila mentioned. “I took out the tomato, however the remaining is there.”

The burrito breakdown

Beans, lettuce, cheese and tomato are the commonest burrito fillings in Chicago, and I’ve the info to again it up.

I did what any rational particular person would do and created a spreadsheet, seemed up 100 Mexican eating places identified for his or her burritos and cataloged all of the fillings that got here normal with an order. (Clearly, you may personalize your burrito order, discarding the beans and including triple lettuce if you happen to so need, however I used to be interested by what got here mechanically.)

Nearly all of burritos I examined featured refried beans (69/100), lettuce (75/100), cheese (75/100) and tomato (69/100), with bitter cream (55/100) barely behind. One discovering that notably jumped out to me was that solely 12 of the 100 eating places mechanically embrace rice.

So why had been all of the Californians irate about lettuce if it is such a typical part? In spite of everything, you may discover romaine lettuce at nationwide burrito chains like Chipotle and Qdoba.

What was left to do however create one other absurdly lengthy spreadsheet? This time I logged the usual burrito fillings throughout the nation by choosing 5 to 10 of the most well-liked burrito eating places within the largest cities in the US. Since I could not eat in all of those locations, I relied on a mixture of suggestions from native newspaper articles, Eater lists and social media websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. (In a dream world, somebody would pay me to eat burritos throughout the nation, however till that magical day, this must do.)

The outcomes had been stunning. Normal burrito fillings change dramatically throughout the nation. Whereas there are exceptions in every single place, generally, the farther north one strikes from our southern border, the extra components be a part of the occasion. Each El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix comprise quite a few burrito spots the place fillings are largely shunned in favor of saucy stewed dishes like chicharron en salsa verde and chile Colorado. (For the report, I like this stripped-down type.)

Maybe no state showcases how a lot normal burrito fillings can fluctuate than California. Down in San Diego lots of the burritos lack each rice and beans, favoring cheese, bitter cream and, maybe most stunning to outsiders, french fries. (That is usually referred to as a California burrito.) Head north to Los Angeles, and beans now appear to be a requirement, although rice is not. By the point you attain San Francisco, the burritos nearly all the time have beans and rice, with many eating places layering on cheese, bitter cream, avocado, cilantro and onion.

However one ingredient that’s powerful to search out in all three cities is lettuce. That is true for different West Coast cities like Seattle and Portland. Lettuce reveals up very often in Texas’ two largest cities, Houston and Dallas. The one different locations the place lettuce popped up semi-regularly had been Philadelphia, New York Metropolis and Washington, D.C., cities not precisely identified for his or her burrito-making prowess. (Oddly, if you happen to maintain transferring up the East Coast, lettuce appears to vanish in Boston.)

I ought to cease right here to narrate that there are such a lot of exceptions that I might spend all day pointing them out. La Taqueria, essentially the most acclaimed burrito spot in San Francisco, does not add rice, and in Phoenix, yow will discover burritos full of rice and beans.

Even in Chicago, there is a stunning quantity of selection. Each La Pasadita and Carbon Stay Fireplace Mexican Grill’s steak burrito comes with nothing else however onions and cilantro. There’s not even a smear of refried beans. It is also getting extraordinarily straightforward to search out California burritos, the french-fry-stuffed type hottest in San Diego, due to locations like Diego, Jarabe, Cruz Blanca and Invicto. It was even the October particular at Large Star.

Plus, whereas Chicago is not anyplace close to the Mexican border, a few of my favourite burritos come from eating places that wish to the delicacies of Northern Mexican states like Sonora and Durango. Go to Gorditas La Tia Susy, Gordillas and Taqueria El Duranguito and you will find flour tortillas smeared with possibly a little bit of refried beans however that is it. (These three locations additionally make their flour tortillas from scratch, which is another excuse why I choose this type.) Even if you happen to hate lettuce, there is a burrito in Chicago for you.

However is lettuce actually that dangerous? I was one hundred pc in opposition to the inclusion, agreeing that lettuce wilts into mush subsequent to sizzling carne asada or carnitas. After chatting with Dávila, I’ve had a change of coronary heart. One peculiarity is that there does appear to be a minimal quantity of lettuce required. If solely a small handful is added, the lettuce is not any match for the recent meat. But when added in the precise amount, lettuce provides an plain cooling crunch.

Go to a burrito establishment like El Faro in suburban Summit, and you will find a continuing stream of individuals pouring in to seize a bulging burrito that prices lower than $10. It appears to be like comically oversize, however as an alternative of an amazing heap of beef, there is a stability of beans, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Every chew is creamy, juicy, salty, cooling, savory and, due to some potent salsa, very spicy.

The Chicago-style burrito will not be notably stylish for the time being, and as different kinds of burritos acquire traction, it’d wane much more. It actually is not my most well-liked type (do I’ve to elucidate once more how a lot I really like the Northern Mexican type?) however for many individuals who had been raised in Chicagoland, a burrito stuffed to the breaking level with meat, beans, lettuce, tomato and cheese will all the time maintain a particular significance.


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Diana D·vila, Govt Chef and Proprietor at Mi Tocaya AntojerÌa. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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The steak burrito at Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Chicago’s Logan Sq. neighborhood. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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California burrito from Taqueria Invicto in Naperville, Illinois. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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A Chicago type burrito from El Taco Feliz. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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Northern Mexican type burritos from Gordillas in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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Steak burrito from El Faro in Summit, Illinois. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune/TNS)


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