In his new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, Gustavo Arellano, the scribe behind the syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican! and editor of New Times' sister paper, OC Weekly, says there's no known etymological origin for the word, burrito -- even where it was created is a mystery.
We love to eat these tasty, tortilla-wrapped meals all the same. And when it comes to getting our mitts around one in the Valley, especially old-school style, here's a list of 10 of our favorite joints to score one.
Taqueria La Hacienda #1 This classic food truck on Buckeye at Second Street (next to The Meat Shop) serves up all the traditional favorites -- lengua, cabeza, tripa, buche, pastor -- but you'll want to make sure to order up its asada. Spicy and peppery and with bits of garlic, onions, and tomatoes, it's a meaty treat. Want breakfast? Order up the green chile breakfast burro for some a.m. deliciousness.
Sure, this hip little hangout on 16th Street with a simple menu of Mexican flavors like Oaxacan black mole, Mexico City-style chicken tinga, and cochinita pibil from the Yucatán, says tacos in the name, but its burros are tasty, too. Try all three, especially the luscious mole with its rich, flavorful sauce and shredded chicken, and don't forget a trip to the stellar salsa bar and a cup of dreamy horchata with fruits and pecans.
Burritos get super at this Hispanic supermercado chain with seven locations in Arizona. Hit up the sprawling eatery inside the market, where fresh-cut meats, homemade tortillas, and fresh produce await in abundance. Where to start? Try a tasty chicken burrito with mole, carnitas burrito, or breakfast burrito. And don't forget to stop at the aguas frescas stand. Plus, you can pick up all the ingredients at the market to make more burritos at home.
With an stark exterior and a dining area that feels like Grandma's kitchen, this in-the-middle-of-nowhere restaurant in Phoenix serves up some damn fine burros -- that is, when they're open (breakfast and lunch only, anything else "by appointment.") Take advantage of the mighty good machaca or go with the green chile or red chile beef all for around four or five bucks. Eating light? Get two chicken burros with a salad for $6.75.
The Ochoa sisters, who own these two cheerful Mexican diners (one in Phoenix and one in Ahwatukee), use family recipes and fresh ingredients for their delicious dishes -- like the burritos. Red and green signature sauces pair nicely with the well-seasoned carne asada, bulky breakfast burritos, and the simple but satisfying Veggie, filled with grilled vegetables, beans, and potatoes. For fans of the spicy, order up the Food Network-featured bombero sauce for an extra kick.
This inconspicuous, bare-bones hole in the wall in Central Phoenix is home to inexpensive but delicious Sonoran-style eats, and its burros are simply stellar. Along with tasty asada, lengua, and pastor varieties (all around five bucks), you'll want to make sure to order the chicken burro, packed with outstanding grilled meat, shredded cabbage, frijoles, and creamy guacamole. It's easily one of the best of its kind in the Valley.
This food truck at 16th and Van Buren streets has been slinging Mexican food out of its mobile kitchen long before gourmet hot dogs and crème brûlée hit the food-truck scene -- and it consistently churns out some of the best burritos in the Valley. Nearly big enough for two meals, these babies are pure carnivorous bliss, packed with your choice of grilled meat -- none of that rice-and-beans filler -- and plenty of pico de gallo to kick up the flavor.
Tacos Atoyac This bare-bones shop in a weathered strip mall on the city's west side from dynamic duo Pablo Lopez and Dan Maldonado boasts street-style Oaxacan eats on the (super-) cheap -- including giant-size burros. Bite into a spicy shrimp, chicken, or go with the near-buttery goodness of the pork al pastor (one of Maldonado's favorites) and see why it's a popular pick among the restaurant's regulars.
A Valley institution for over 30 years, this tiny building in a Central Phoenix neighborhood has no signage, a limited menu, and no indoor seating, but that doesn't seem to matter to the throngs of folks who regularly wait in line to score a burro. Made with excellent tortillas and deliciously messy, there's the spicy red chile burro with moist, shredded beef, or the stellar green chile version, packed with pork so tender you barely need to chew.
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Founded in 1968 by namesake Carolina Valenzuela, this Valley legend with three locations boasts dreamy burros wrapped in its famous homemade flour tortillas. Start simple with the plain bean, take it up a notch with the green or red chile, or go all in with the Oaxaca special, stuffed with beans, chorizo, potatoes, and cheese.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists: 10 Favorite Burrito Joints in Metro Phoenix 10 Favorite Spots for Wings in Metro Phoenix 11 Things to Eat and Drink Before You Leave Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Hot Sauces and Salsas Top Ten Spots for Mac 'n' Cheese in the Valley Three Favorite Espresso Shots in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eleven Favorite Favorite Places for Sushi in the Valley Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Cupcakes Eleven Favorite Barbecue Joints in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Wine Bars Ten Favorite Phoenix Irish Restaurant & Pubs Six Favorite Specialty Cocktails in Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Craft Beer Bars Ten Favorite Gourmet Pizza Shops in the Valley Five Favorite Japanese Restaurants in Phoenix Ten Favorite Margaritas in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Coffee Shops in Phoenix Five Favorite Thai Restaurants in Metro Phoenix Eleven Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Happy Hours Five Favorite Sonoran Dogs in the Valley Ten Favorite Hot Dogs in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Desserts in Phoenix Ten Favorite First Date Restaurants Ten Favorite Burgers in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Downtown Phoenix Restaurants for Late Night Dining Ten Favorite Vegetarian Entrees in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix