We’re halfway done with the first round of our Burrito Bracket now that correspondent Anna Maria Barry-Jester has selected the best burritos from what we define as the West. She’s been all over the region — from Norman, Oklahoma, to Haleiwa, Hawaii, to Seattle, Washington — in the name of finding America’s best burrito.
In case you’ve forgotten the specifics, Anna is going to four regions of the country: the South, the West, the Northeast and California, whose burrito prowess is so well-known that the state is a region in and of itself. She’s tasting 16 burritos in each region, reviewing them in groups of four. The four winners from the South have already been selected. Here are the winners from the West:
— The brisket and queso burrito from Cabo Bob’s Burritos in Austin, Texas. It had some tough competition — the lowest-scoring burrito in this group of four earned a 68 out of 100, just six points lower than Cabo Bob’s score of 74. But its high marks across the board, particularly in the tortilla department, where it scored a 16, allowed the Tex-Mex joint to win out.
“The tortilla had an enormous personality; it was smoky, honey-colored, almost crepe-like when I bit into it. Not the texture I was expecting, but it worked in this burrito,” Anna said. “The queso … was pale yellow, providing a faint oozing creaminess to smooth out the astringent poblanos, sweet sautéed onions and meaty brisket.”
— The adovada burrito served by The Pantry in Santa Fe, New Mexico. All four competitors in this group call New Mexico their home, but none could rival The Pantry’s impressive final score of 88. Presentation, flavor profile and the meat were all standout categories, with scores of 18, 18 and 20, respectively.
“Each small chunk of pork was tender enough to disintegrate in my mouth. The meat lay in an abundance of sauce, thick with red chile, vinegar and cumin,” Anna said of the winner. “I couldn’t figure out all that had gone into the heavenly liquid, but I also couldn’t stop eating long enough to give it much thought. This was the best adovada I’ve ever eaten.”
— The red machaca burrito, found at Carolina’s Mexican Food in Phoenix, Arizona. With a total score of 89, this was no competition. The presentation and the meat both earned 18 points and the tortilla scored 20, all factors in the burrito’s win.
“An injection of juice erupted into my mouth on the first bite. The machaca is awesome — tangy with a little heat, creamy and fatty, but not heavy,” Anna said. “Carolina’s has mastered the balance [of the tortilla] — just the right amount of water to make it pliable and stretchy to impossibly thin proportions, but it holds together until the end, keeping the juices inside the tortilla and off the plate.”
— The green chili and pork burrito from Delicious Mexican Eatery in El Paso, Texas. The burrito held up to the standards set by the restaurant’s name, with a near-perfect score of 92. Its tortilla, meat, other ingredients and presentation all earned 18 points, with its flavor profile winning the maximum 20 points — the first burrito in the competition thus far to get a perfect score in that category.
“What I chose was essentially a stew of green chili, chunks of potato, fatty roast pork and tomato. … Like all good stews, this had been made in the morning, the flavors mingling for hours to create a bouquet. The potato was soft and rich with the juice of the pork,” Anna said of the West’s top-scoring burrito. “My eating companion, a California native who’d never enjoyed the simplicity of a border burrito, told me it made him rethink what a burrito is.”