Eateries around Laguna Beach offer a unique take on the traditional Mexican dish that’s rolled up and ready to eat on the go.
By Sharael Kolberg
Southern California is known for its authentic Mexican food. Here in Laguna Beach, several Mexican restaurants serve up everything from tacos to burritos, fajitas, nachos, margaritas and more. There’s nothing quite like sharing a bowl of chips and salsa with friends while dining on anything with beans and cheese, washing it down with a tequila-filled cocktail and taking in an ocean view. Burritos are among the most popular menu items at local Mexican restaurants. With beans, cheese and protein rolled up in a flour tortilla, they make for a tasty hand-held meal. Here are a few of the most unique burritos as well as a few diners’ favorites to sink your teeth into.
Asada Tacos & Beer
The delectable short rib burrito—served wet—is covered in sauce and must be eaten with a fork and knife. First, a giant flour tortilla is grilled and covered with Jack cheese, then chunks of tender short rib are added (after being braised for six hours in veal stock, Dr. Pepper and espresso beans) together with cilantro buttered rice, smashed black or pinto beans, lettuce and pico de gallo. The whole thing is then rolled up, smothered with rich salsa ranchero, drizzled with sour cream and garnished with queso fresco, radish, pico de gallo and fresh guacamole. “This is the most popular burrito on the menu,” says owner Scott McIntosh. “We sold over 1,000 of them in September. Our salsa ranchero is darker and more flavorful than most ranchero sauces. We roast a combo of New Mexico and pasilla chiles to give it an almost mole texture.” (949-226-7263; asadatacos.net)
Avila’s El Ranchito
Full of authentic flavors, the Avocado Burrito is a vegetarian option that’s made with a combination of fresh avocado, black beans, Mexican rice, pico de gallo and lettuce—not to mention a zesty chipotle aioli. Delicious and filling, this meatless burrito is served wet, smothered in a tomatillo salsa and covered in melted cheese. “It’s made with love using our family’s traditional recipes,” explains owner Michael Avila. “The tomatillo sauce is straight from my grandmother’s kitchen. The inspiration was to create a meatless, healthy and very tasty burrito.” (949-376-7040; avilaselranchito.com)
The Machaca Beef Burrito at Papa’s Tacos is made with homemade machaca: chuck steak that is twice cooked on the stove with sauteed onions, tomatoes, garlic, serrano peppers, bay leaves and other seasoning. After the second cooking, everything is shredded and then combined with pinto beans and Spanish rice—both homemade—as well as finely shredded cheddar and Jack cheese and lettuce, all wrapped in a large, 13-inch flour tortilla. “Papa’s Tacos’ machaca beef is a traditional, authentic Mexican recipe created by the original founder, who came from Mexico, which was passed down from his family,” says owner Michael Skerly. (949-499-9822; papastacosinc.com)
A combination of potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, kale, onions and jalapenos are grilled and lightly seasoned for the Veggie Burrito at Wild Taco. Thanks to the generous amount of potatoes and mushrooms, there’s plenty of substance to this meat-free option, which also includes pico de gallo and homemade guacamole, so diners won’t leave hungry. According to Nic Salazar, general manager and brand manager for Wild Taco in both Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, the restaurant uses organic eryngii king mushrooms in this burrito. Also called king oyster or king trumpet mushrooms, they are known for a meaty texture and umami flavor. (949-549-4282; thewildtaco.com)
Rasta Taco is known for its Mexican-Jamaican-fusion food that features Jamaican Jerk spices. The Big Up burrito is made with island spiced basmati rice, black or pinto beans, cilantro, onions and a choice of chipotle sauce or chipotle vinaigrette that’s whipped up from scratch. The Vegan One Love option comes with crispy sweet potatoes and grilled zucchini, yellow squash and jicama, served with house-made chips and salsa (red, green or pineapple curry). “We march to our own beat,” says owner Mario Melendez. “At Rasta Taco, all of our items are distinctly unique. The recipes, the ingredients, plating and the menu names are original. We cook, chop and slice all the ingredients fresh every day.” (949-715-1510; rastataco.com)