On the left, Dos Toros’ beef burrito; on the right, Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen’s rendition of the same dish (click to enlarge).
The burrito is the centerpiece of Cal-Mex cuisine, evolving out of the Mexican burro, which features a normal-size tortilla wrapped around a modest filling of beans or meat. The name is comical, because it assigns a diminutive ending to a product that is much, much bigger…
California, where the burrito was invented by an immigrant population that substituted flour-based tortillas for corn-based, and, in recognition of the abundant food supply of their new country, transformed the burro into the much more opulent burrito.
New York underwent a burrito revolution in the 1980s, during which such mini-chains as Benny’s and Harry’s duked it out for your burrito dollar, vying with each other to produce the biggest and most bulging specimen.
Now, we have two kinds of California burrito available in the city. Dos Toros, near Union Square, creates what it claims is a Mission-style burrito associated with San Francisco, though the owners come from L.A. This burrito is dense and heavy, and has a sophisticated mix of potential seasoning sauces, including crema, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a choice of hot sauces.
Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen, on the southwest edge of Soho, seeks to replicate a Los Angeles burrito, with the meat, cheese, and beans going inside the flour tortilla, and the rice and beans outside. This burrito has a closer connection to the original burro that inspired it.
We purchased a beef burrito from each place, and made a careful comparison.
Next: The statistical analysis
The exterior of Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen affects a kind of Aztec cool.
We submitted samples of both burritos to our Fork in the Road kitchen laboratories, and here are the results:
Dos Torros Carne Asada Burrito
Weight: 1lb, 2.6 oz, which equals 18.6 oz
Price per oz: 39 cents
Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen Beef Burrito
Weight: 15.6 oz + 1.5 oz rice and salad = 17.1 oz
Cost: $7.50 (@ lunch)
Price per oz: 44 cents
Next: Tasting Notes and Conclusions
Lunchtime, Dos Toros is swamped with burrito eaters.
The Dos Toros burrito is made with carne asada–flame grilled tidbits of steak with a vaguely smoky flavor and a satisfying beefy taste. The cheese component is provided by what looks like white American cheese, which is annealed to the inside of the flour tortilla in a steam contraption that also heats and stretches the tortilla. Red or black beans are available, but you’ve got to pay extra for guac, so we skipped it. Pico de gallo, crema, rice, and a couple of types of hot sauce further fill the wrapper. The scotch bonnet sauce is incredibly wonderful on the beef burrito.
The Lupe’s burrito is made with shredded beef in a chile colorado, a brick-red chile sauce common in Sonoran cooking. Tastes good but without apparent heat. The burrito is constructed with the beans, cheese, and meat inside, and rice and roughage on the outside. The burrito is likable, and a ladle of further chile colorado is poured over the top, making it impossible to eat this burrito without a knife and fork.
In our experience, it’s the rare burrito that can be picked up and eaten, and Dos Toros qualifies. In addition, the beef is mighty tasty, though not particularly authentic. While the Lupe’s burrito may be said to more clearly reflect the history of the burrito in California, its taste is pallid compared to the one from Dos Toros.
Dos Toros wins, with a tip of the hat to a very good product at Lupe’s.
Dos Toros, 137 Fourth Avenue, 212-677-7300
Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen, 110 Sixth Avenue, 212-966-1326