The #1 Burrito at 6 Popular Fast-Food Chains, According to Chefs
Despite the fact that they may not be the most authentic item to order at a Mexican restaurant, burritos are undeniably a comfort food king in the fast-food landscape. Across all ages, preferences, and demographics, they're a hearty and filling fixture for late-night cravings, taqueria eats, and breakfast. Even chefs can't resist the siren song of a good—or even a so-bad-it's-good—fast-food burrito now and again.
Just like fast-food sandwiches, burgers, and chain entrées, chefs know a thing or two about finding the ultimate burrito, whether it be at a place known for serving some of the best in the country, or one that's particularly regarded for its breakfast wraps. After all, chefs are unabashed about the taco chains they frequent, so why not to up the ante on tortillas?
Here are six chains that chefs love, and what their go-to burrito orders are.
Revered for its authenticity and Mexican street food, Chilacates is a mini chain in the Boston area, with 10 locations scattered throughout the region. It's the de facto comfort fix for Stephen Bowler, one of the founding partners of The Nautilus, a seafaring restaurant with locations in Nantucket and Boston.
And when he's not slurping oysters, he's raving about the burritos at Chilacates: "I like the Chilacates' burritos because they have a great ratio of ingredients, lots of options to customize, fresh toppings, authentic protein choices, well wrapped, and not too big or too full!" Plus, with so many filling options, you're never lacking in choices. Some popular picks include the grilled chicken burrito and the carne asada, though the birria burrito and papas con chorizo (potatoes with Mexican chorizo) provide some unique options.
A reigning champ of burrito supremacy in the U.S., Chipotle has its fair share of fans. These include K.C. Gulbro, chef, restaurateur, and culinary ambassador for Certified Angus Beef. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about good beef, which is what he opts for at Chipotle. "I love the burrito bowls or the taco salads," he says. "Both with barbacoa."
On the opposite end of the protein spectrum, Toni Okamoto skips the meat in favor of veggies. The cookbook author and founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, she likes the Chipotle veggie burrito bowl—with a side of tortillas, extra rice, black beans, pinto beans, extra fajitas, pico de gallo, corn salsa, lettuce, and guacamole. "If I'm feeling fancy, I'll also get sofritas," she adds. "It's easily enough for two meals—and the best thing is that there are no up-charges for the extras I mentioned!"
As the chef of Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, N.H., David Vargas is well-versed in the culinary art of Mexican cuisine. But just because his menu skews modern, with items like falafel tacos and sous vide carne asada, that doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate the wares at Taco Bell, either.
After a long night cooking Mexican food, Vargas likes to head next door to Taco Bell to satisfy his own cravings. "The best part is that it's open late, 12 a.m. during the week and 1 a.m. on the weekend," says the chef. "The Taco Bell managers come into Vida quite often so I have gotten to know them well!" His favorite order here, aside from tacos, is the Beefy Fritos Burrito, which get extra corny crunch from the Fritos chips.
For something a little healthier, chef Tucker Bunch's burrito cravings skew plant-based. A development chef for Sweet Earth culinary innovation, the chef's favorite comes from Chronic Tacos, a California-based chain that now boasts dozens of locations throughout the country and beyond. Being California-bred, the restaurant's menu emphasizes California-style burritos, rolled with crispy french fries. "I especially love that their menu includes several plant-based options, making it a convenient go-to no matter who I'm dining with," says Bunch, who likes to customize his orders with vegetarian fillings like plant-based Chik'n.
Sometimes, tacos just don't cut it. Sometimes, you need something burly and robust to really scratch the itch. That's when chef Jason Santos of Boston's Citrus & Salt hits up Anna's Taqueria for burritos. Being the chef from a Mexican restaurant, he brings a discerning palate to his burrito orders. "I'm personally a big fan of Anna's Taqueria," Santos says of the Massachusetts-based mini chain. "My go-to order is a carnitas burrito with extra cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and pickled jalapeños."
The Cheesecake Factory
While not technically fast-food, another chain worth shouting out for its burrito supremacy is the Cheesecake Factory. When it comes to the menu item, this is the staple chain for Sam Goldberg, founder and host of food travel show, Respect the Chain. Of all the options off the lengthy, globe-trotting menu, his pick is the Factory Burrito Grande. And as the name implies, it's a lot. "First and foremost, the burrito is massive," says Goldberg. "The burrito is so big that it literally flows over the plate. Then you have the melty cheese on the outside with that chicken on the inside and the guacamole on the side to dunk it in. It's perfection!"