Webster’s Dictionary defines a burrito as "an incredibly delicious, tortilla-wrapped Mexican food thing that one should consume immediately and whenever possible in life." Now, while that may be factually incorrect, it absolutely is a true and accurate description, as eating a burrito is always a good, prudent and fulfilling decision.
And guess what? Today you have a reason – nay, an obligation! – to do just that, because the first Thursday in April is designated unofficially as National Burrito Day. Bean lovers, rejoice!
In 2014, OnMilwaukee President Jeff Sherman wrote this about the area burrito scene: "Maybe it's our swift movement into a higher-end food scene. Maybe it's our brats, cheese and beer culture? … All I know is that, for some reason, the ‘Where's Milwaukee's best burrito?’ conversation just doesn't happen as much here as it seemingly does in other cities."
Since then, the city has lost local big cheeses like La Perla and Cempazuchi, but there are still lots of great places to get your scrumptious cylinder-of-flavorful-fillings fix – and, of course, guacamole.
But first, a bit of background: The word burrito means "little donkey" in Spanish, as a diminutive form of burro, or "donkey." There are a few different creation stories for the burrito – early Mesoamerican and Pueblo peoples wrapped and filled corn tortillas with assorted native vegetables – and several regional varieties. The name may have derived from the appearance of rolled side packs that donkeys carried, and it first appeared in the Dictionary of Mexicanisms in 1895 as a term used in the Guanajuato area.
The modern burrito, though, is generally believed to have originated in the late 19th century in the Mexican-American community – perhaps first among farmworkers, or schoolchildren, or city street vendors, but probably not at Chipotle. By the 1930s, burritos were showing up on menus in the U.S. and the word was being used by the American media.
OK, that’s not enough preamble. Let’s get to the good stuff. Here are 10 local places to get an amazing burrito, categorized by 10 kinds you might be looking for, on National Burrito Day.
Comet Café’s breakfast burrito can’t be beat. For $9, you can start your day off strong, with scrambled eggs, cheddar jack cheese and pico de gallo in a flour tortilla smothered in ranchero sauce and spicy sour cream. It’s served with hash browns and you can upgrade to a "Beast Mode Burrito" that adds sausage for $3.
Mr. Senor’s grande burrito says "big" right in the name. And, truly, it is very impressively sized. Some places claim "burritos as big as your head," but the modest, minimalist, amusingly understated and undeniably awesome Mr. Senor’s – a small, storefront pop-up off North Avenue that’s open late – offers a gigantic burrito that actually clears your head, ideal for sobering up even the drunkest of bar-timers. The famous huge burrito is served with a choice of meat, sauce, toppings (cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream) and swathed in a vast flour tortilla.
Guanajuato in Bay View serves 10 different types of burritos, including breakfast, regular, suizo, veggie, ranchero, verde, rojo, Supreme and chorizo – with choice of chicken, steak, pork, ground beef or shredded beef – ranging in price from just $6.75 to $7.75. The burritos are $1-2 cheaper than most similar joints, and you can get the large burrito dinner for $10.95.
4. Huge and cheap
This is the sweet spot, the ultimate overlap set in the burrito Venn diagram (at least for this writer). It’s hard to imagine anyone outdoing Cielito Lindo’s Super Burrito, which is a colossus that costs just $8.50, featuring a tortilla super-stuffed with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, avocado and choice of chicken, pork or ground beef. Pro tip: Get the pork – then don’t plan on any physical activity or thoughtful conversation for a couple of days.
5. Mexican restaurant
El Senorial is considered one of the most authentic Mexican spots in town. The 16-year-old restaurant in Milwaukee's Burnham Park neighborhood recently underwent a large expansion, but its burritos – even if not the most genuine item in true Mexican cuisine – have remained the same: the best around. Most of them are around $7, about $12 for the dinner, and the delectable burritos include regular, bean, suizo, beans and avocado, con chorizo and de lengua (tongue). Yum!
6. Non-Mexican restaurant
We’re not trying to start any authenticity argumentos here, but BelAir Cantina needed a place on this list, even though its Tex/Cali-slanted fare is not exactly your traditional Mexican. Still, BelAir’s burritos are well-proportioned "as big as a Chihuahua!"), eclectic (Korean beef, Gringo and chipotle shrimp are just some of the options) and sensational – near the top of Milwaukee review lists on Foursquare, TripAdvisor and Yelp.
7. Foodie favorite
It’s difficult to argue against an OnMilwaukee staff favorite, and a massively popular online sentiment, that Café Corazon has the most tasteful, classic, elegant and epicurean burritos. With locations in Riverwest and Bay View, Café Corazon presents an extensive list of gourmet burritos, including wet ones (smothered in enchilada sauce and melted cheddar jack cheese), barbecued chicken, salmon, seafood trio and more. The meat options comprise asada, carnitas, chicken, chorizo, ground beef, mechada and shrimp.
For $10, there is either the beloved breakfast burrito, which envelopes scrambled eggs, papas a lo pobre, choice of black or pinto beans, sour cream, choice of meat/vegan option and cheddar jack cheese, and the vegan tofu burrito, a mouthwatering mélange of herb tofu, yellow squash, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers.
8. That’s not a burrito
The National’s breakfast burrito is a whole wheat wrap, black bean spread, avocado, peppers, onions, cheddar, and salsa. That’s not a burrito. That’s a veggie wrap. Still good, though!
We’ve got to include this category, because every year, during OnMilwaukee’s Dining Month, we still have people voting for Chipotle, Qdoba and the like for Best Mexican. Given Chipotle’s 2016 health scare (no thanks, E. coli) and Qdoba’s handsome building on Brady Street – if there has to be chains on Brady, sigh – we’ll go with the latter. Qdoba has about 20 area locations and provides customer-friendly services like online ordering and delivery. Make sure to get extra guac.
The OnMilwaukee office was pretty nearly unanimous on this one. Beans & Barley, the health-conscious, organic-offering, North Avenue café, has been rolling out burritos since 1979 and has about a dozen of them on its menu, including breakfast and kids’ varieties. If it’s vegan you want – they can also do gluten-free – B&B’s sweet potato and bean burrito, featuring oven-roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, Mexican rice and guacamole ($7.50, including tortilla chips and salsa on the side), is the sure winner.
So, there you are, Milwaukee. Now, go forth and celebrate National Burrito Day! Or stay home and stuff a tortilla with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, guacamole and sour cream in your kitchen. No matter what, it will be good because all burritos are always good and you should consume them whenever possible in life.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.