Vegetarians in Burritoville | April 10, 2009 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - April 10, 2009

Vegetarians in Burritoville

A comparison of local burritos' healthier versions

by Sheila Himmel

Early burritos were enormous, overstuffed creatures that could've fed bears in winter. Then came a tide of sad and soggy fusions, doomed by ingredients like eggplant. Many people still prefer monster burritos, but in the spirit of a dish that is after all a Cal-Mex collaboration, now we have healthier choices.

If we dispense with inappropriate vegetables and detour around the deep-fried meats, burritos provide value in healthy hand-held meals. In the economical meatless versions, beans and rice combine to provide a complete protein. Serious vegetarians may have to ask about lard-free tortillas.

Mountain View offers many sources, but the Golden Triangle of Taquerias would have to be the intersection of Old Middlefield Way and Rengstorff Avenue, just off U.S. 101. They are La Bamba, La Costena and Taqueria Los Altos.

Palo Alto's burritos are lightly sprinkled in each of the three commercial districts. Downtown recently lost Andale, but Adam Torres hopes to open Sancho's Taqueria on Lytton Avenue. Meanwhile, get veggie and chile relleno burritos at Sancho's in La Tiendita Market, 510 O'Connor St., East Palo Alto, and two locations in Redwood City.

We ordered roughly the same vegetarian super-burrito at five stops, with whole pinto beans and medium-spicy salsa. Size-wise, they were similar.

Our sixth stop, the Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto, does not have a burrito. It is a charming sit-down restaurant featuring regional specialties, including a handful of street foods. We sampled two vegetarian items from the takeout menu.

Here are the results:

Los Altos Taqueria

C

$4.49

2105 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View

650-965-7236

Cheapest on our tour and serving the most in-house diners, Los Altos Taqueria let us down with veggie burrito drenched in sour cream. Lettuce got very soggy. Burrito could use more beans, but comes with chips and salsa. Children's version is $2.50.

La Costena

B+

$5.29

2078 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View

650-967-0507

www.costena.com

Most beautiful. Cut it in half and admire the cross-section of fresh, discrete ingredients. Beans don't mash up. Choices in rice: Spanish, white and brown. Thin tortilla, concentrated in folds at both ends. Bean and rice chico burrito is $2.39, with vegetables, $3.99.

Taqueria La Bamba

A-

$6

2058 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View

650-965-2755

Best overall. Certainly the best aftertaste. Satisfying in every way. Well-proportioned ingredients in a thick flour tortilla, with a taste of guacamole and salsa in every bite.

Como Esta Taqueria

B-

$5.95

2605A Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

650-321-1517

Best variety of vegetarian burritos. No lard. Good salsa choices. Worst guacamole, bland and pureed like baby food. Brightly printed, readable stickers tell you which burrito is which. Veggie super filled with rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and tomato. Good chile relleno burrito — not heavily crusted. Tofu burrito has too many green bell peppers. Chico veggie is $3.75.

Three Brothers Taco & Meat Market

B+

$4 for vegetarian burrito

2220 University Ave.

East Palo Alto

650-324-8801

Best value. Once called Tres Hermanos, Three Brothers offers a classic, fully stuffed flour tortilla, oozing sour cream, spiked with cilantro and onions. Shredded Jack cheese clumped up, but iceberg lettuce was inoffensive. Sliced avocado plus guacamole.

The Oaxacan Kitchen

Ungraded, extra credit

2323 Birch St., Palo Alto

650-321-8003

www.theoaxacankitchen.com

Unlike burritos, these Oaxacan street foods cool off quickly and are not meant to be reheated. The tlayuda is constructed like a tostada, on a large, freshly handmade, then toasted corn tortilla. First a spread of mashed black beans, then fresh tomato, queso fresco, cabbage, salsa, avocado slices and guacamole. Great guacamole. Memela ($5) is similar but smaller, with black beans and dark mole. Vegetarian quesadilla ($6) features melted Jack-like cheese with a tad of cilantro.

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