This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

The breakfast burritos at ATHENIAN BURGERS #3 are history, science and sociology wrapped tightly within an orange-tinted flour tortilla. This Buena Park restaurant was originally a greasy-spoon diner, and you can order its heritage from a massive, counter-spanning menu that offers everything from chicken-fried steak to burgers to Mexican entrées categorized as "South of the Border" to a $2.99 two eggs/bacon/pancakes special. But sometime in the past couple of years, a Mexican bought the restaurant and placed a banner outside proclaiming Athenian Burgers #3 as the "Home of the Breakfast Burrito."

Banners don't lie. Athenian Burgers #3 (little is known about the previous two; a fourth exists in Cypress) prepares an incredible nine breakfast burritos, 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. This mass gets wrapped in yellow butcher paper tight enough you can chomp on it during rush hour without fear of its contents spilling on your legs. Each Athenian Burgers #3 breakfast burrito is so deliciously dense that you'll push it away once you've gobbled up three-quarters of the monstrosity. But then you see the bottom piece, the part of the burrito folded into a semi-knot. It glistens with grease, the result of the juices following gravity's laws. Trust us: There hasn't been a more rewarding two inches since the last time you slammed the brakes.

Only one disappointment: the lack of a pastrami burrito. That's no real biggie, though. Even if you don't like burritos—and if so, get the hell out of America, Commie!—you willfind the breakfast plate to suit your yen. Athenian Burgers #3 proves that the races will mix—the clientele is Mexicans, Asians, and that increasing rarity in Orange County, the lower-class, meth-free whites—for the greater good of enjoying a breakfast burrito. And don't worry about the fact that Mexicans own the place: They speak English. "We don't have a takeout menu," said the Cesar Romero look-alike with a hearty laugh. "We have everything here."

And ain't that the damn truth.

ATHENIAN BURGERS #3, 8511 LA PALMA AVE., BUENA PARK, (714) 523-9999.


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