Inspired by Los Angeles, Highly Opinionated is a series in which Eater NY writers debate a hyper-specific, often-debated food obsession in New York City. This month puts the spotlight on breakfast burritos, a regional dish that has made local strides in recent years.
If you didn’t set an alarm, you might have missed it: Good burritos, almost as good as those you’d find in San Francisco or Santa Fe, are showing up in New York City. They’ve multiplied in recent years, especially between the liberal breakfast burrito hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s a reason: Like the Chicago dog or chopped cheese sandwich, breakfast burritos abide by exacting, regional formulas that shift based on the origin of their maker. To fulfill them, chefs import flour tortillas from out of state and put french fries where they previously didn’t belong.
Restaurants that make breakfast burritos have blood pacts with Albuquerque and Austin; San Diego and Santa Fe. Imported green chiles are a must at New Mexican restaurants. Greasy, grated hash browns are required at spots inspired by San Francisco. Not everyone follows the rules, but in New York City, the scene has finally come far enough to crown a victor.
A good breakfast burrito can cure a hangover without sending you back to bed. The eggs are almost always scrambled, although there’s at least one example where they work when fried. Meat isn’t required, but a high-quality flour tortilla is. Cheese is the glue that holds it all together, but it wouldn’t be a breakfast burrito without the crunch of hash browns, tater tots, or french fries. Beyond that, anything goes.
To find the best breakfast burrito I resigned myself to a diet of scrambled eggs, hash browns, chorizo, and American cheese for two weeks, often consuming competitors side by side. All of the contenders came from independent restaurants dedicated to breakfast burritos, not from ghost kitchens or chains. The majority are located in Brooklyn: Ceremonia Bakeshop, Foster Sundry, Girasol Bakery, Santa Fe, Super Burrito, and Ursula. Three were based in Manhattan, two in Queens, and one in the Bronx.
The differences between the burritos were stark. Some had chorizo, while others opted for mushrooms and Spam. A few used homemade flour tortillas, but most imported them from out of state or purchased them from restaurant suppliers. Only one was made with a whole potato. These are my three favorites in the city.
The overall favorite: Super Burrito
The frontrunner this time around was the breakfast burrito at Super Burrito. It checked all the boxes: Greasy chorizo, neon yellow eggs, melted cheese, and crisp hash browns wrapped in a superior flour tortilla that’s flown in from out of state. The restaurant’s chef, Eugene Cleghorn, makes a burrito that nods to San Francisco, where he grew up. Like a perpetual stew, a pile of grated potatoes simmered on the flattop grills of restaurants like San Jalisco Mexican Restaurant and Pork Store Cafe at all hours. The reason he added the burrito to the menu: “So I could make hash browns,” he says. By cooking potatoes, Super Burrito raised the bar for New York burritos. Price: $12. 320 Bedford Avenue, near South Second Street, Williamsburg
The new-school pick: Golden Diner
Samuel Yoo’s modern diner in Two Bridges is home to Manhattan’s top breakfast burrito, and it gets extra points for being served all day. The non-traditional burrito is made with ultra-crisp hash browns, cheesy scrambled eggs, and a thick schmear of refried black beans. For the full experience, add sausage: The sturdy, gray links might be the best breakfast meats you taste this year. The only complaint concerns the pico de gallo that is included by default: It causes a portion of the burrito to go cold sooner than the rest. Ask for it on the side and you have a perfect burrito. Price: $14. 123 Madison Street, near Market Street, Two Bridges
The traditionalist: Santa Fe
The breakfast burrito at Santa Fe BK does something that 95 percent of burritos in this city can’t: It scratches the itch. A thin, homemade flour tortilla is the base for a snack-sized burrito that costs around $10. They are pre-made in bulk and kept warm under a heat lamp at the front restaurant. When the ingredients are this good, that’s not a bad thing. The flavors of sausage and green chile seep into the soft scrambled egg, and the addition of hash browns makes a handheld burrito feel like a full meal. The burritos are dispensed from a takeout window at the front of the restaurant that rarely has a line. Price: $11. 178 N. Eighth Street, between Driggs and Bedford avenues, Williamsburg