Man Food

My search for the breakfast burrito of my dreams

Joshua Longobardy

Now, I ain't different from any other man; I like my breakfast burritos just as I like my women: thick, hearty and without drama. And I'm flexible, too. Yes, sir: I'll take them light or dark, clean or messy, cheap or less cheap; and Lord knows I'll pick them up from just about anywhere. A bar, a breakfast joint, a fast-food drive-thru, a roach coach or a hole-in-the-wall Mexican taco shop—it really don't make any difference to me.

Because I just like breakfast burritos, man. I mean, what a creation! Originated neither in Mexico nor America, but from the very stomach of man himself, who from the dawn of his creation has woken up each and every morning, without fail, under the tyranny of hunger—that irrevocable and unrelenting urge to hunt down the most satiable food and consume it with as little effort as possible. Yes, sir: That there is the genesis of the breakfast burrito, with its eggs and cheese and meat, and perhaps even some vegetables, like potatoes or peppers, all wrapped in a nice and convenient tortilla, sitting practical and pretty in wait to satisfy man's hunger.

And that's exactly what I was looking for last week when I searched the Las Vegas Valley for the best breakfast burritos available. I brought with me a simple criteria—is it thick? is it hearty? is it dramaless?—and went looking for a breakfast burrito that I could sink my teeth into and go: Yeah, uh-huh: That there's some good burrito.

But Lord knows it wasn't easy. No, sir. For as uncomplicated as the breakfast burrito is, both in concept and form, there ain't but a few good practitioners of its concoction in this gluttonous city.

I of course started my search at Del Taco, not only on account of its popular reputation for inexpensive delights, but also because that nocturnal oasis starts to serve its breakfast burritos—five in total, with the Caliente option being the best due to its jalapeno bacon bits—an hour before midnight, and just before the real fun in this town kicks off. And so as I waited in the drive-thru behind partygoers fueling up for the Friday night festivities, the tension began to rise higher and higher and higher, and then became downright unbearable. I yearned to get the journey started. Thus I wasted no time tearing through the wrapper and consuming the burrito as soon as I received it; but in the end, I was left disappointed. No doubt about it. Del Taco had the essentials down pat, the eggs and (immoderate!) cheese and (piquant!) bacon, but it was all too heavy with grease and chili sauce. And the truth is, I ain't a man who likes them in-and-out kind of burritos, ready to be had as soon as you order it; no sir—I like mine to have a little class, thank you.

It was a consternating start to my journey, which, despite expanding over a week, a dozen vendors and 100 driven miles, would not be completely comprehensive. That is, it was representative of the various purveyors of breakfast burritos in this town, but not as thorough as an academic study would require. Then again, there ain't nothing pedantic about breakfast burritos to begin with, either the good or the bad ones, nor about chowing down on them like a ruthless barbarian, which is exactly what I did. Yes, sir: Just like real men, I ate as many as I could within my time and means. And I did it because, well, food is damn important, and while women have their shopping, and their celebrities, and their gossip, and their interior decorating, and their beautification tools and techniques, and Lord knows what other arts and vanities to consume their time and money, the only thing we men hold tantamount to (and perhaps even above) women themselves is food. Hell, I know a good number of men who would give both their grandmothers for a bucket of buffalo wings, and those ain't nearly as exhilarating as breakfast burritos. You know?

Blueberry Hill Family Restaurant, a hometown hero for us Las Vegans, is open 24 hours, and thus I went to try their version of the breakfast burrito at the insomniac's fitful hour: 3 a.m. Didn't work for me. I mean, I sure did appreciate the beans and rice that came with the breakfast burrito, but in reality that all is just distraction, a diversion of sorts. Like I said, breakfast burritos and women are just alike—they both demand a man's undivided attention. Moreover, it came with cheese and Blueberry's special ranchero sauce settled on top, prohibiting me the honor of grabbing the burrito by its behind and devouring it like a respectable man. Now, I haven't had that problem—not being able to touch the goods—since prom, a memory which continues to assail me because I'm convinced that it marked the beginning of my eternal misfortune with women. The good news for Blueberry Hill, however, is that the diner provides an exhaustive menu featuring several plates that are not just reasonably priced but also weighty with delicious items. The bad news is that breakfast burritos just ain't its bag.

That, too, was the case with Jamms, an affable little restaurant on Charleston and Rainbow boulevards known amongst its faithful weekend congregation for providing the most delightful meals with the most genuine matriarchal love. Now, I could sing the praises of that restaurant, which serves only breakfast and lunch, until my final fading breath vanishes, and the incontrovertible truth is that its menu is nearly infallible; but not even Jamms has solved the riddle of the exquisite breakfast burrito. Theirs, much to my chagrin, was insubstantial, bland and as boring as the marital bed of a veteran couple. In short, it lacked heartiness, and at no point did I arrive at the gourmand's ultimate destination: contentment.

But it wasn't as bad as McDonald's, my next destination, where a disenchanted and defeated young woman served up the two most noisome breakfast burritos known to man. I confess, it's true, I had some, and I'm in all certainty not proud of myself for doing so, but we all have our screwups. You know? They were small and rudimentary and a bit rank, and they twice made me verp (a burp with vomit, of course) in my mouth, and the sole reason I've included them here is not so much to demonstrate the scarcity of great breakfast burritos in this town as to warn virgin hunters to be wary of McDonald's.

Now, I went to PT's Pub on South Durango Road during the torpor of Las Vegas' midmorning hours, and in the good company of Jessica, a real comely and voluble 28-year-old bartender, I experienced a stellar burrito. It reminded me of the breakfast burrito's musical ability to make life bearable—and, even further, enjoyable. Yes, sir: I'm talking about fat pieces of sausage, sharp cheese spread thick and gooey, two eggs scrambled and spiced, just the right amount of green peppers—all wrapped and evenly dispersed in the warm embrace of a flour tortilla. And, further, the locals' bar inspired an epiphany in me for which I'm forever grateful: the complement booze provides the breakfast burrito its pure masculine brilliance. Had the breakfast burrito not been so dry—perhaps if it had a little salsa, or a tortilla not so flaky—I would've concluded my search right then and there, as Jessica bused my plate while my fingers were still picking off the crumbs. But alas, the journey continued.

And it did so at Taqueria Neza, a taco shop owned and operated by authentic Mexicans on Sunset Road, just south of Green Valley Parkway. With two types of breakfast burritos for under $5—the huevos rancheros con chorizo and the machaca—and a breathtaking little Mexican squirrel named Gloria serving both with broken but amiable English, the outlook was promising. Without manners I picked up the machaca burrito just as Gloria put the plate on the table before me, and I took a bite worthy of a Roman king. It leaked. That's good. Means the burrito is eager, too. Full of flavorful juices (not runny grease or watery runoff, now, but real natural juices), and covered with tummy-warming sauces, the eggs and meat and cheese were ground together and enveloped in a homemade tortilla. It was awesome, but its ultimate praise was that I needed two hands to hold the damn thing.

The problem, however, is that the tortilla easily came undone, and that ain't cool. I'm looking for a burrito that's tight and fit. For no man wants a loose burrito. You know?

Nevertheless, I walked out of Taqueria Neza a happy man, and satisfied for the moment. It was the same feeling I would later experience after leaving Rosarita's Beach Taco Shop on West Horizon Ridge Parkway; but it was just a sample of the satisfaction I would even later derive from Roberto's on Eastern Avenue and Horizon Ridge Parkway, where there are three specialty breakfast burritos offered around the clock.

Only at that specific location can you find the little white board on which the directions to paradise have been scrawled with a speedy hand. Each of the three options on that white board adds a special treasure to the breakfast burrito. Like ham. Like bacon. Like potatoes ... mmmmm ... potatoes ... And if you know some Spanish—and your way with words, in general—it is quite possible to talk the little birds who work behind the counter into adding bacon and potatoes to your ham breakfast burrito. And what joy it is! A single bite of the burrito rolled me into its splendor, and after five bites more—with still a good two manly bites left—I had to resign. Yes, sir, it was too much—too much eggs and cheddar cheese and ham and potatoes ... mmmmm ... potatoes ... and chorizo and moon-like tortilla thrown in my face—to finish.

Now, I had to go to the Studio Café at the MGM to try the Strip's take on the breakfast burrito. From the time I ordered, it took more than 45 minutes to arrive, and when it did: Right on top was a brittle square of half-melted sandwich cheese.

The sides of sour cream and guacamole were nice, and unexpected, but in all certainty did not warrant the difference between the Studio Café's $11 burrito and the next most expensive burrito I had tried in my search, which was $5.95.

But the next morning, I had a breakfast burrito from Faustos Mexican Grill, on South Stephanie Street, and it was like an orgasm without the sex. Yes, sir. I had indulged in Fausto's glory on a prior occasion, but decided that I needed to return to see if it was as good as it tasted in my memory. It was. A soft and satisfying tortilla, wholesome eggs, zesty chorizo, silky cheese, and hearty potatoes ... mmmmm ... potatoes ... and when I approached the very end of the burrito, in that fleeting moment in which I prayed to the Lord either that the pleasure of immersing myself in the delectable synchrony of all those fresh ingredients would spread itself over a lifetime, or that I would die right then, in the midst of one of this world's greatest gratifications, it happened: From out the treasure chest of that voluptuous burrito, so warm and irresistible, squirted a stream of burrito juice. It was the ultimate sign of a great burrito, and it was beautiful.

Now, of course, I ain't trying to claim that I found the perfect breakfast burrito—no, sir. For that is a fugitive fantasy that we eating-and-drinking men chase after our entire lives; and if we ever were to find it—that mystical concerto of eggs and meat and cheese, wrapped tight in a tasty tortilla, huge and hearty and simple to order and devour—then there would be no need to ever lay teeth on another breakfast burrito again. You know?

But for men like me, who find unadulterated happiness in nothing more than a good breakfast burrito, possibly even served by a good-lookin' little woman, the journey, in truth, is where all the fun's at.

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