America's Best Burrito? You Be the Judge

Burrito

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Photo by: gkrphoto

gkrphoto

On the flour-tortilla-wrapped face of it, finding America’s best burrito sounds like an impossible quest. For starters, how, given all the burrito-serving restaurants across the United States, do you taste all possible winners? And how, given the myriad permutations of burritos — the sheer volume and variety of techniques and fillings and flavors — do you compare different prospects? And then, how exactly can you quantify which is the best?

You’d have to be full of beans and un poco loco to even try such a thing, right?

Well, we don’t want to pass any judgments, but the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight.com recently flung itself full-force at the challenge, biting into burritos and crunching numbers — as only the site founded by statistician Nate Silver can — to arrive at a quantifiable winner.

The site’s method included assembling a group of experts to pick 64 top contenders from all 67,391 burrito peddlers nationwide, then sending Anna Maria Barry-Jester, its burrito correspondent (how’s that for a title?) on a road trip across the country and back again, in search of a verdict.

“I snarfed breakfast burritos, burritos with french fries, and an avant-garde burrito stuffed with Cap’n Crunch-encrusted tilapia,” Barry-Jester writes. “I gobbled burritos from trucks, stands, and brick-and-mortar establishments (not to mention a couple of vending machines). I bought a six-pack of burritos in New Mexico for $11 and a haute burrito in Phoenix for $18.50.”

Eventually the intrepid burrito eater narrowed it down to the “final four” contenders: the Chile Verde Burrito at Delicious Mexican Eatery, in El Paso, Texas; the Bean and Cheese with Green Chile at Al & Bea’s Mexican Food, in Los Angeles; the Carnitas Burrito at La Taqueria, in San Francisco; and the Carne Asada Burrito at Taqueria Tlaxcalli, in New York City (specifically, the Bronx). After giving them numeric scores in several categories (tortilla, primary filling, other ingredients, presentation and “flavor profile”), Barry-Jester called it a wrap and crowned a winner: La Taqueria. The win earned San Francisco burrito-bragging rights.

“It’s not necessarily the burrito you’ll want to eat every day, and may not even be my personal favorite (I'll leave you guessing on that),” Barry-Jester says of the winner, “but it’s a technical marvel with a monumental first bite worthy of a national title.”

Of course you don’t have to drive across the country, or even leave the house, for a great burrito. Here are a few ultra-tasty recipes — all given five stars by our readers — to satisfy your burrito craving in the privacy of your own home (where you’ll have fewer witnesses when you eat them and start making appreciative noises):

And if you have a favorite burrito from a restaurant near you, why not share it with other readers? After all, we all have our own ideas of what makes a burrito the best – and true deliciousness is not always so easy to quantify.

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