This warmer weather has me thinking about spending long days in the mountains, hiking and fishing. These early morning excursions mean one thing: breakfast burritos.
Nothing gives me the energy to get up and go like that quintessential New Mexico combination of eggs, meat, potatoes, cheese and chile, all packaged in a flour tortilla. Being a Midwestern transplant, my previous experience with breakfast burritos was limited to those sorry excuses that popped up on the McDonald’s menu during the early ’90s, but now, after living here for 10 years, I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur (I didn’t become “The Fat Man” by accident, trust me).
So, I decided to do a rundown of some of the breakfast burritos in town. To those readers who might suggest that my methodologies are flawed, let me say this: my methodologies are flawed. I admit that this is not a true apples-to-apples comparison; however, I have established some ground rules for the competition.
First, only handheld burritos are allowed. This means smothered burritos from The Pantry are off limits.
Second, meat selection is based on the recommendation of the person taking orders at each restaurant.
Lastly, each one has to be Christmas. Any little burro shop worth its salt needs to serve up kick-ass red and green.
I also wanted to sample burritos from the three typical establishments that serve them: the taco stand, the drive-thru and the sit-down restaurant. This is an equal opportunity competition, after all.
Coming in third and taking home the bronze is El Parasol (1833 Cerrillos Road, 995-8015) for its bacon/Xmas breakfast burrito ($5.30).
I know this will come as a shock to many readers, but while I would put their chicken and guac tacos up against any in town, their breakfast burrito is a bit of a disappointment. That said, the red and green chiles are both tasty, and together, they add a nice amount of flavor and heat without burning the roof of your mouth. Yet the burrito as a whole is a bit of a textural nightmare: the eggs are grainy, the bacon is overly crisp and the potatoes are mushy, making each successive bite less and less exciting.
The silver medal goes to Tune Up Café (115 Hickox St., 983-7060) for its hand-held turkey sausage/Xmas burrito ($7.25). The sausage contains a heavy dose of sage, creating a country-meets-campo vibe. But the eggs are the stars of the show—they are well seasoned and have a light, omelet-like consistency.
Tune Up’s burrito also includes other pleasant surprises, like red potato home fries and Jack cheese, which adds a nice creaminess without an overly imposing cheese flavor. The chiles might be a little bland, but a splash or two of hot sauce remedies that.
The gold medal winner (drumroll please) is the Polish sausage/Xmas breakfast burrito ($6.25) from El Chile Toreado (950 Cordova Road, 500-0033). Owner Luis Medina’s face lights up as soon as I order it. “You can’t find this anywhere else in town,” he assures.
Located across from the South Capitol office complex, El Chile Toreado is the worst-kept secret in state government. This tiny stand turns out big flavors and tasty eats.
“I always tell people, ‘If it’s not good, at least it’s big,’” Medina jokes as he wraps the hulking beast in tin foil.
Toreado’s breakfast burrito outshines the competition in almost every category. The polish sausage is great—small, crispy cubes of salty, greasy pork. The tortilla is simultaneously toasted and chewy. The eggs are stellar, too, with green chile and onions cooked right in. But even with all these great components, it’s the chiles that set this contender apart: They’re not your traditional red and green.
The red is a cross between New Mexico red and chile de árbol salsa, while the green is a raw salsa made from fresh cilantro and jalapeños. The green chile adds brightness and heat, while the red imparts a smoky, roasted flavor that plays well with others. (To-go cups of extra chile are available upon request.)
And there you have it. Comments, complaints? Sound off in comments and discuss which three would stand in your podium.