The best breakfast bur­ri­tos in town

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Molly Boyle

When I moved to Santa Fe, I was wholly un­pre­pared for the zeal that North­ern New Mex­i­cans have for their breakfast bur­ri­tos. Ev­ery norteño has a fa­vorite spot, and quite of­ten, peo­ple’s choices seem to have more to do with tra­di­tion than any­thing else (“We get our breakfast bur­ri­tos here be­cause we al­ways have.”). In an earnest ef­fort to round up the best, we ques­tioned peo­ple all over town about their fa­vorites and tried dozens of con­tenders, track­ing the ra­tio of in­gre­di­ents, the qual­ity of the meat (Is the ba­con too limp? Is the chorizo spicy?), the heat of the chile (we or­dered ev­ery bur­rito with Christ­mas), the fluffi­ness of the eggs, the crispi­ness of the pota­toes, the in­clu­sion of onions and cheese — you name the fac­tor, we’ve ag­o­nized over it. What fol­lows is far from a com­pre­hen­sive list of the best, but that’s a good thing. It means there are al­ways more venues to visit and more de­bates to have — and, most important, more de­li­ciously fill­ing break­fasts to tuck into.

My fa­vorite smoth­ered and hand-held breakfast bur­ri­tos come from a near-and-dear lo­ca­tion: Pala­cio Café, run by Damian Muñoz (for­merly of The Shed) and his cheer­ful, ef­fi­cient wife, Maria. I’ve found Pala­cio’s chile to be some of the most con­sis­tently, pleas­antly hot around. I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of the green, which makes it­self known slowly but dan­ger­ously. The meld­ing of the bur­rito’s in­gre­di­ents is mas­ter­ful: Whether with ba­con or sausage or no meat at all, the eggs are fresh and but­tery, the cheese plen­ti­ful and gooey. Two fac­tors stand out: Rather than home fries, Muñoz puts hash-brown pota­toes in the mix, which works to bind the in­gre­di­ents, and then he grills the tor­tilla. The re­sult is a com­pact, crispy bul­let with stark grill marks on ei­ther side. If you’re go­ing hand-held, you’ve got a car-safe bur­rito that won’t fall apart; if you’ve cho­sen smoth­ered, get ready for a sea of gor­geous, jewel-toned chile and more of that very real, very-much-melted ched­dar. I re­cently had a friend vis­it­ing from Phoenix who drove here with a gift of two In-N-Out dou­ble-dou­ble cheese­burg­ers, sealed and packed care­fully in ice — if I ever leave the Land of En­chant­ment, I’d want some­one to do me the same fa­vor with a Pala­cio hand-held.

Many peo­ple don’t know that the ven­er­a­ble Pasqual’s Café sells a smoth­ered chorizo breakfast bur­rito, and when you tell them it has a price tag of $16.75, they nat­u­rally balk. Some­times you just need an in­dul­gent breakfast, though, and Pasqual’s enor­mous ver­sion wraps scram­bled or­ganic eggs; crispy, well-sea­soned home fries; and ad­dic­tively spicy chorizo in an ex­pan­sive whole-wheat tor­tilla. This fla­vor bomb is topped with a mess of su­pe­rior red and green chile, melted jack cheese, and a scat­ter­ing of scal­lions. Once you start your morn­ing with this high-end, gourmet bur­rito, not only will you not need to eat for the rest of the day, but you won’t want to — noth­ing else will top even the me­mory of it.

The fam­ily that owns Tía Sophia’s makes an in­trigu­ing claim to Tía’s be­ing the first café to call eggs and ba­con in a flour tor­tilla a “breakfast bur­rito,” putting it on their menu in the ’70s. What­ever the ori­gin of the name, the res­tau­rant’s stel­lar ver­sion makes this as­ser­tion seem le­git. I’ve en­joyed th­ese smoth­ered bur­ri­tos many times, but on my of­fi­cial tast­ing visit, I ar­rived af­ter the breakfast cut­off time. Our server, sens­ing my im­mense dis­ap­point­ment, of­fered to serve me a bur­rito with egg, cheese, ba­con — and French fries in­stead of home fries, since the kitchen was done mak­ing breakfast pota­toes. The re­sult was a rev­e­la­tion of tangy, fiery chile; fla­vor­ful eggs and cheese; im­pos­si­bly crisp whole strips of ba­con, and some nicely salty French fries. I was glad for the sub­sti­tu­tion and whole­heart­edly en­dorse the co­er­cion of Tía’s servers into mak­ing this lunchtime ex­cep­tion — if the kitchen will oblige, of course. Ev­ery bite makes it worth­while.

For the ti­tle of sec­ond-best hand­held breakfast bur­rito, I chose three con­tenders: El Para­sol, El Chile Tore­ado, and Posa’s El Meren­dero. Wary of the ways in which loy­alty can blind us to fault, I sub­jected em­ploy­ees of The

Santa Fe New Mex­i­can to a blind taste-test, com­plete with a four-ques­tion sur­vey for each bur­rito. The win­ner by a land­slide was El Chile Tore­ado’s ba­con ver­sion. Re­view­ers praised var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents: ba­con, pota­toes, the sin­gu­lar green chile, and the grilled tor­tilla, which pro­vided a sat­is­fy­ing crunch. Posa’s chorizo bur­rito came in sec­ond, with tasters giv­ing it high marks for the spici­ness of the meat. El Para­sol’s ba­con brought up the rear — a bur­rito that many found too bland in com­par­i­son, though sev­eral did note the fla­vor of its green chile. In­ter­est­ingly, af­ter the bur­ri­tos were eaten, I heard sev­eral re­spon­dents, still un­aware of which bur­rito they had elected as the finest, prais­ing El Para­sol’s (again, that whole tra­di­tion thing). Per­haps we caught El Para­sol — a revered stop on the bur­rito trail — on an off day.

Fi­nally, when my co-work­ers were asked to name their fa­vorite breakfast bur­rito in town, 50 per­cent named Pala­cio Café, more than any other place. One must con­sider the prox­im­ity of Pala­cio to the of­fices of The Santa Fe New

Mex­i­can, but still — how’s that for a rec­om­men­da­tion? Hon­or­able men­tions: Horse­man’s Haven Café, The Pantry, Plaza Café, Ram­blin’ Café, Tune-Up Café.

I’ve found Pala­cio Café’s chile to be some of the most con­sis­tently, pleas­antly hot around. I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of the green, which makes it­self known slowly but dan­ger­ously.

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