There’s nothing simple about wrapping beans and meat in a tortilla. No, indeed. To make a top-notch burrito, as the restaurants listed below do, you have to consider ingredients, proportion, even seasoning and cooking time. Making an excellent burrito is an art. Go forth and learn from the masters. By Jessica Allen.
More: NYC’s 7 Best Tacos
While New York has many terrific taquerias, few are open 24 hours. When we need a fresh and feisty chorizo taco or an overstuffed chicken burrito at 3 in the morning, El Aguila in East Harlem gets our vote. (There are two locations in East Harlem and one in New Jersey.) Of course, the food’s equally good at 12 or 6 pm, 9 am or 9 pm. Billing itself as 100% Mexican, El Aguila lets customers choose from an array of fillings and toppings. You don’t need to know Spanish, but it helps—at the very least, try “por favor” and “gracias.”
Tres Carnes specializes in “Texas-smoked Mexican fare,” in which the meat (chicken, brisket, or pork shoulder) is cooked low and slow. Atop whatever you choose comes pico de gallo, roasted corn, super-spicy salsa, and guacamole, along with green poblano rice or Mexican yellow rice and pinto or black beans. We never have enough room, but we’ve heard excellent things about the churro donut. This fast-casual restaurant in the Flatiron feels like a party, with loud music on the stereo and street art on the walls.
The Náhuatl word “ollin” refers to the relationship among the sun, the earth, and humanity. A meal at Cafe Ollin, in East Harlem, whether you get a bigger-than-a-Big Mac cemita, a plate of tacos, or a burrito stuffed with fried pork (carnitas) or spicy goat (chivo enchilado), evokes a harmonious earthiness as well. Here, good eating trumps everything else. Remember to order a horchata too, made with almond milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon, vaguely reminiscent of eggnog but thinner and more refreshing.
With seven restaurants and food carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Calexico is almost always nearby. That’s a very good thing, because when the craving hits for these burritos, you don’t want to have to travel far. Instead, you want to belly up, order the bean burrito with black beans or refried pinto beans, cotija cheese, guacamole, and chipotle “crack” sauce, and spend the next several minutes of your life in a pleasure zone. Other types include carne asada, pollo asado, and chipotle pork.
Brooklyn’s Sunset Park boasts a seemingly endless array of options for Mexican food, from food trucks to carts to sit-down restaurants. Alas, this isn’t grade school, and not everyone’s a winner. In addition to tortas, tacos with tongue or pig’s trotters, among more prosaic stuffing, and other staples of Mexican cooking, this restaurant makes a mean burrito, almost the size of an infant. If you get confused about what to order or overwhelmed by the options listed on the very long menu, just close your eyes and point—you won’t be disappointed.