The best chile relleno burrito I've ever had came from a tiny, rundown, one-room restaurant across the street from a Tijuana courthouse. The gal took out a pan of fresh chiles, pulled one out and wrapped it with a still-warm handmade tortilla. I think it cost me two bucks, which was nice, considering that every last penny I had that day went to pay what I've come to think of as for-Americans-only fees to retrieve my stolen-then-recovered Honda Civic.
As it turns out, getting your car out of the confusing, often sketchy Tijuana legal system is probably more painful than having it stolen and never recovered, but that mouthwatering, deep-fried, cheese-stuffed chile was almost worth the daylong trials and tribulations. Almost.
I love chiles rellenos (literally, “stuffed chilies” in Spanish), and since moving to California and discovering the beauty of stuffing those things into a giant tortilla, I've been on an unofficial quest to find the best chile relleno burritos in town. So, here it is— my top spots in descending order. Five unassuming Mexican-food spots that, in my opinion, know how to make a mouth-watering chile relleno burrito:
La Central Market, 2001 National Ave. in Barrio Logan. The chile relleno burrito at La Central—like a 7-Eleven with a taco shop tucked inside—gets the top spot for two reasons: One, the guy who makes them uses poblano chiles, which are heartier and more flavorful than their California counterparts. And, two, he doesn't undermine the poblano by stuffing the rest of the burrito with unnecessary garnish. Here your burrito comes with nothing but the chile relleno itself, a little extra sauce, a tiny bit of lettuce and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Price: $3.80
Bahia Mexican Restaurant, 1985 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. Who doesn't love a good salsa bar? Bahia's salsa bar includes a good green salsa and two reds, plus a tasty selection of roasted chilies. Grab a few of the little light-green guerito (Spanish for “lightskinned”) peppers and throw them into your burrito, though it's just fine on its own, consisting of a California chile—a skinnier version of the poblano—Mexican rice, sour cream, sauce and lots of cheese. But the addition of the peppers and a little bit of the green salsa makes it even better. Price: $4.62
La Herradura Taco Shop, 3131 University Ave. in North Park: The best thing about the chile relleno burrito at this low-key taco shop are the tortillas and the green salsa. The tortillas are fresh and flaky, and the green salsa is made with from roasted tomatillos. This burrito is stuffed with a poblano chile relleno, beans, sour cream, salsa and a little extra cheddar cheese, so bring a big appetite. Price: $4
El Zarape, 4642 Park Blvd., in University Heights. A chile stuffed with cheese and covered in egg-batter breading isn't exactly healthy, but I feel like the chile relleno burrito at El Zarape may be a touch better for you than the ones served at other taco shops. The burritos here are a little smaller and a little less grease drips out with each bite. The relleno here is made with a California chile, rice, beans, sour cream and a little enchilada sauce. Crank the heat up a notch by throwing in some spicy carrots from the salsa bar. Cost: $5.71
Filiberto's, 3446 University Ave. in City Heights: If you don't see the point of eating Mexican food without putting gobs and gobs of guacamole on everything, Filiberto's is your spot. The chile relleno burrito at this legit, bright-yellow-and-red taco stand comes crammed with a California chile, lots of guacamole and salsa. Best thing? It's open 24 hours and has a drive-through. Cost: $4.45