East L.A. It’s a phrase that awakens a voice in my head: “Don’t let your car break down here.” But such stereotypes often just keep one from experiencing colourful, unpretentious neighbourhoods. That’s certainly the case when I venture to *La Azteca Tortilleria, on a Latino commercial street that certainly seems safe enough, at least at mid-day.
As you may have read in one of my recent San Francisco posts, a Mission District Mexican joint was voted as having America’s best burrito, beating out, among others, perennial top pick La Azteca. I had to find out for myself and, sorry, it’s no contest.
La Azteca’s chile relleno burrito with asada meat (about $7) may well be the best burrito I’ve ever eaten. Longtime owners the Villa family start each day by grinding the corn for their fresh tortillas. You can certainly taste the quality in this lightly toasted wrap.
But that’s just the warm-up for what’s inside—a smoking hot mix of good steak, beans and the kicker, a whole chile relleno dipped in egg and then fried. I can’t fathom why this isn’t a more widespread practice, though Villa daughter Cynthia admits she couldn’t bring herself to eat a relleno burrito till late adolescence.
I pour on some house-made pico de gallo to heat things up a little more. Then I launch into this big, bad boy, living dangerously by eating it in the front seat of my car. It’s so good, I’m nearly halfway through before I remember to grab my camera.
La Azteca Tortilleria (they don’t bother with things like a website or Facebook page)
4538 East Cesar East Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles
Tuesday to Sunday 6 am-3:30 pm. Closed Monday