You can hate tacos, not favor hamburgers, even look down on pho, but I dare say anyone who doesn't eat burritos on at least a weekly basis might as well pack up and move to Los Angeles...where you'll find even more burritos. Orange County was burrito country long before those three food items took hold, and the variety of burritos available here is almost encyclopedic--not just in the meat offered, but in the regional traditions. Enjoy, and do yell at me for leaving out your choice!
10. 301 Cafe
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301 Cafe is a Cal-Mex classic on the levels of Mexi-Casa and the Little Onion, one that stopped caring about changing restaurant tastes around 1975. Consider its wet burrito, a mass of beef con chile colorado, the ever-present melted yellow cheese, canned red salsa on top, and pureed guacamole, something out of a Sunset article from the Nixon administration. And yet...it all works. 301 W. Santa Fe Ave., Placentia, (714) 996-8001.
9. El Toro Bravo
Per Shuji: "While two tacos make a very filling and delicious meal, the thing to get here are the burritos: giant things the size of a pro-wrestler's forearm filled with meat, refried beans, and "Spanish" rice. The rice and beans are just rich enough and perfectly seasoned on their own, but absorb their home-made salsas in a way that the tacos just can't manage." Straightforward Mass of mass. 745 W. 19th St., #G, Costa Mesa, (949) 646-4266.
8. Taco Adobe
Taco Adobe in Old Town Orange sells many great burritos, but the best is the off-menu beer-battered one: a properly crisped flour tortilla, crunchy repollo, crunchy fish, and some sort of creamy, garlicky burrito sauce that grounds everything in spicy reality. HINT: Eschew the house salsa, even the Tapatío, and ask for the habanero salsa owner Patricio Dillón keeps chilled in the refrigerator, ready for the next grateful victim. 121 N. Lemon St., Orange, (714) 628-0633.
7. Dos Chinos
Our love for Hop Phan knows no bounds, and while we love his tacos and many other creations, his Latino-Asian fusion is best in the burritos. His curries, coconut sauces, and Sriracha-esque touches get soaked up best inside the rice and meat inside the burrito, the tortilla a perfect vessel to hold everything in. A dish hipsters, wabs, office drones and chinitos alike can love. Follow Dos Chinos on Twitter @doschinos.
6. El Camino Real
This place is owned by zacatecanos yet serves Cal-Mex classics sliced with the best menudo in North County. Yet all I ever order is the chimichanga. It's perfect--not too fried, but still crunchy. You can still tell from my blurry shot that it was lightly fried, so a light golden-brown instead of pure lard. Even though it's covered in crema fresca, you can still pick it up and not burn your fingers. You can still taste an actual tortilla, instead of the flour version of chicharrones. And, best of all, you can subsume this chimichanga in rivers of their salsa de chile de árbol, the manna of God if He ever decides to go to the fiery side and retain His magnanimity and all.
Frank Garcia is probably the only true Tex-Mex cook in Orange County, so why does he merit a mention in a category that Texas has never dominated? He's a mensch, first of all, but more important is his legendary King Burrito: five pounds of meat, sour cream, rice, guacamole--you get a free T-shirt if you win it! Better, though, to split it among friends and enjoy Frank's expert cooking skills. 531 W. Chapman Ave., Anaheim, (714) 740-1108; www.lacasagarcia.com.
The best of the Alberto's clones in Orange County, this Lake Forest gem is not only the best Mexican restaurant in South County, it also serves the best California burrito, that San Diego import of a regular burrito stuffed with French fries--the Chargers will always disappoint, but this beast never will. 23591 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 859-9600.
3. Taqueria Tapatia
Their al pastor burrito is not a burrito of grace, but rather one of slow-roasted pork dripping with a day's worth of juices, of a flour tortilla cooked so it's stretchier than it is crispy--usually a violation of my burrito commandments but acceptable here because it keeps the juices from dripping all over your table. The ultimate drunk burrito. 202 S. Bristol, SanTana, (714) 972-9115; also at 1118 W. First St., SanTana,
I actually don't eat many fish burritos--I like meat more than seafood. Yet the burrito at this standard is so delicious, that it's one of the few restaurants in Orange County that I will actively drive out of my way to visit. Their fish is crunchy, sweet, soft, and these flavors get exaggerated in the comfort of a massive flour tortilla, with their secret sauce oozing out of the little hole at the bottom created by the origami that is folding a burrito properly. 11951 S. Euclid St., Garden Grove, (714) 636-3944.
1. Athenian Burgers #3
Just like the fish burrito, I don't subscribe to the cult of the breakfast burrito, at least in its monstrous modern-day version. This Mexi grew up eating four small burritos of beans and cheese for breakfast--breakfast is supposed to be small, you know?
But then you get to the shrine of breakfast burritos: Athenian Burgers #3 in Buena Park, which features 9 of them, each featuring a foundation of scrambled eggs, melted Cheddar cheese and sublimely toasted hash browns but accentuated with a different meat. You might expect bacon to fill that need, even chorizo, but how about kielbasa? Or runny chili? Steak? Or what about the suicide burrito: bacon, ham and sausage? Whichever you choose, you'll enjoy Orange County's perfect breakfast burrito: brick-big, griddled so the delicate flour tortilla crisps enough to be crunchy, but not so much it shatters. 8511 La Palma Ave., Buena Park, (714) 523-9999.