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Off the Beaten L.A. Burrito Path

Los Angeles may have hellish traffic, earthquakes, and rarely enough parking, but baby, it’s also got burritos. This list is by no means definitive– after all you can’t swing an unproduced screenplay without hitting a fantastic burrito place and people have firmly-held opinions. Consider below simply a short list of easily overlooked places to eat a warm, spicy, cylindrical piece of culinary heaven.

El Sauz Mexican Food – Cash Only
4432 San Fernando Rd, Glendale, CA 91204

Situated on a wide corner, El Sauz blesses you with not only incredible food, but also a parking lot, so it’s already a winner. In terms of engineering, this burrito probably can’t be beat. It’s perfectly rolled, abundantly filled, and stands up on its end when you need to put it down for a swig of soda. But really it’s the layering that deserves some attention. The tortilla has a slight crispiness to it, the meat is seasoned well, packaged between thick layers of salty black beans, cheese and a lower layer of spicy salsa. The unique thing about this salsa is that it has a magical slow burn that allows you to really taste the other ingredients before it kicks in. It’s a small menu, but you can’t order wrong.

Cactus Taqueria – Cash Only
950 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038

There are a couple of locations for Cactus, but the one specifically referenced here is #1 on Vine. It’s a glorified stand with outdoor tables that are hard to find empty. One of the nicest things about Cactus burritos is that they’re less greasy than some others around town. It’s the kind of burrito you could eat daily and not feel too guilty about. Spring for the slices of avocado they offer: it adds a creaminess not often found in burritos. Cactus also boasts one of the bigger self-serve salsa bars, plus your usual radishes, carrots, and peppers. I don’t know the name, but try the dark red, maroon-looking salsa, which will add a smoky flavor.

If you’re not feeling like a burrito (strange but forgivable), they’ve got a huge menu of other options. Check out Super Fries: everything great about nachos, except they trade the chips for french fries.

El Unico Pollo Taquero
4481 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 20029

You will smell this stand long before you see it, a rare case when this is a good thing. They grill their chicken over mesquite coals out front and, in a genius marketing move, a giant fan sits by the grill by wafting the smoky, delicious smell out onto the sidewalk. The tortillas are homemade and man, can you taste the difference. Even if homemade tortillas were all that set this place apart, it would be enough, but it’s not all. Each burrito is stuffed with the meat of your choice, rice, refried beans, cheese, and thick cuts of onion. It’s garnished with a few chips, radishes, and cup of green salsa. Certainly its meat is on the milder scale in terms of spice, but each bite is perfectly full of all the ingredients and portioned to leave your tank at exactly full. Plus, they offer $0.99 tacos, in case you need a top off. A few colorful picnic tables are available under a covering or you can get it to go, but why would you leave that grill smell before you have to?

Leo’s Taco Truck – Cash Only
415 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Leo’s offers pork freshly shaved off of a large rotating spit. I could stop there, but they don’t, so we continue. If you’re feeling adventurous, in addition to the normal burrito meat choices, Leo’s offers tongue, which a few others do as well, and is worth a try. But their rotating pork deserves a quick word: it’s uniquely seasoned, with a fair amount of sweet (possibly nutmeg? Maybe cinnamon?) mixed in with the spice. The salsa is definitely on the spicier side, livening up the milder meats, like the chicken. Plus, you get a pretty stellar view of downtown to go with it.

Corner Cottage – Cash Only
310 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the only time I listen to this advice is when I have time for a breakfast burrito at Corner Cottage. It’s a popular spot, so give yourself a little extra time if you’re picking one up on the way to work, but you will be so glad you got up earlier. It comes stuffed with piping hot, freshly scrambled eggs, thick cuts of potatoes, and melted cheese. Then you get to jazz it up with crispy bacon, sausage, ham, or steak. You can get it with salsa in it or on the side: either works well. No matter how you get it, you only have until 11 am when they stop serving them and switch over to their teriyaki bowls. Their burritos keep you feeling full for hours afterwards, but don’t weigh you down. The perfect start to the morning.

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