Your friend is visiting from Tulsa, or Denver, and you've promised them a full dose of the Bay Area while they're in town. They pass on a few of the specifics they'd like to cover: hang-out at a beach, take the ferry to the city, and try one of these NorCal burritos they've heard so much about.
The first two are no-brainers, with a wide selection of quality beaches and ferries leaving on the hour. Where, however, will you take this pal with the discerning palate to properly introduce them to that most majestic food item, the burrito? Fear not! I have tackled and now offer up my final findings on the quintessential questions: where can you get the best burrito?
I took it upon myself to visit four of San Anselmo and Farifax's most popular taquerias with this goal in mind.
For the purposes of my quest, I’ve devised a list of five criteria: quality, consistency, zing, construction and the leftover factor. I’ve also committed to eating a chicken burrito with sour cream, guacamole and cheese at each place in order to establish a common standard.
Often lost amongst the rows of stores in Red Hill Shopping Center, Burritoville is a common stomping ground for Drake High students in search of quick lunches and hungry window shoppers that stumble upon this small tacqueria.
After working my way through double-wrap foil (a classy touch for heat retention and drip prevention), I found a pleasantly diverse offering of chicken, rice, bean and sauces. A balanced burrito refrains from horizontal layers that punish the consumer with bites consisting solely of sour cream or guacamole. My burrito was well dispersed, but poorly structured.
With one-third of my meal remaining, I found the remnants of my nub losing shape. You should always be able to eat a good burrito in two sittings - the majority fresh from the restaurant and a lunch leftover. This is not to say it's wrong by any stretch to consume your food at once; merely that the burrito's architecture should always lend itself to being rewrapped and saved.
Overall, a tasty offering but lacking in to-go eloquence.
I was obligated to deviate from my standard order, because the culinary wizards at Taco Jane’s like to play with their staple ingredients. Make no mistake: the surest recipe for disaster lies in tampering with the golden formula of burritos. It takes a special kind to swap ingredients and still maintain the well-rounded satisfaction provided by more traditional elements.
Keeping this in mind, I got a chicken mole burrito, complete with bell peppers, onions, beans, rice and cheese. Also included was a hearty portion of chips, two kinds of salsa and a lovely side salad. Opening my to-go box, I saw that I was dealing with a strictly fork-and-knife burrito. It’s only fair to present a mole burrito in this fashion, with a coat of sauce warming the tortilla.
Everything was perfect, although it is my professional opinion that you take care of the side salad first, as the heat from the rest of your meal will congeal things to an unpleasant extent. The ingredients were fantastic, and I was able to enjoy a full lunch (again aided by a fork and knife) the next afternoon with minimal quality loss.
Best designated as a restaurant with tacqueria powers, Taco Jane's is a delicious, if upscale, burrito supplier. When dining in, be sure to get the black salsa and agua frescas, as I suspect they were stolen straight from heaven. Investigation pending.
My friends will tell you it's the best burrito in Marin County. My friends will also tell you this while at the drive-through line at Taco Bell.
I don't mean to negate their earlier assertion. Mi Pueblo is clean, hearty Mexican food. Eating-in is the recommended course of action here, if only because the atmosphere is reminiscent of the cozy, crowded decor found in Southwest authentic tacquerias.
My burrito arrived on the dry side, but not detrimentally so. The produce selection and quality is top-notch, so moisture can always be added in the guise of avocado, chopped tomatoes and more. If vegetarian options are vital to anyone in your party, Mi Pueblo also has some veggie-heavy choices that aren't just a standard burrito minus the meat.
Their green salsa is renowned, and rightfully so. A smooth and spicy affair, this fresh chile-infused concoction has nabbed a few top honors and blue ribbons at local competitions. I personally prefer a chunkier salsa, one with some crunch in it, but if you dig green chile be sure to have the staff ladle a layer over your meal before tucking in.
Regarded by many as the most quintessential Cali-style burrito place around, Grilly's is a bit hit or miss. My chicken burrito was fine, but not fantastic. In fairness to the menu, other more exotic offerings did pique my interest (read: mango chicken, shrimp). Informal polls amongst friends and colleagues returned a mixed bag of praise and complaints.
The innards of my burrito were a bit mushy, and the use of sharp cheddar in lieu of more traditional queso was a no-no for me. Like Mi Pueblo, Grilly's offers a lot in the way of fresh produce, but at some point doesn't having cauliflower in your burrito start to really tear at the basic definition of the product? I dare say it's not old-fashioned to try and maintain the purity of what makes a burrito from being drowned in the rising swell of world wraps.
In this small eatery's favor are the sizeable portions at average prices. For a wallet-conscious diner, you're sure to leave on a full stomach. The quality of what's made that stomach full is unfortunately subpar to neighboring competitors.
The Best Burrito
For take-out ease, delicious ingredients, second meal value and overall quality, the best burrito in San Anselmo/Fairfax is....Mi Pueblo!
Join me next month as I search for the best bar! Two drink minimum required.