Sunday, October 12, 2014

Burritos! We try Rancho Bravo in our first burrito adventure

Burritos are a San Francisco classic. The burrito as we know it today, popularized by Chipotle and others, actually originated in San Francisco's Mission district, and is known as a Mission burrito. This designation is to differentiate the Mission burrito (all ingredients tucked safely inside of their tortilla cocoon) from more traditional burritos, which are smothered in sauce and require a fork and knife to eat in the presence of others.

Recently, FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's (of election prediction algorithm fame) blog, which provides analysis of current events through a quantitative lens, applied this quantitative approach to ranking burrito goodness. Using a complex ranking method incorporating Yelp reviews, a statistical measure they termed the VORB that I won't get into and the opinions of burrito experts. FiveThirtyEight's amazing burrito correspondent Anna Maria Barry-Jester visited the top 64 burrito establishments in the US and pitted them in a tournament to determine the best burrito in America. If you haven't looked at it yet, I highly recommend it. Barry-Jester is a fun writer, and obviously, there are few things more satisfying for your stomach and your soul than a delicious burrito.

After months of travel, FiveThirtyEight crowned La Taqueria in San Francisco as the best burrito in America. Thankfully, Forrest and I visited before we left (and before it actually won- which was lucky, as we've heard lines have gotten out of control since its coronation) and therefore can attest that it was a magnificent burrito. It is a tightly wrapped, sturdy, delicious, perfect burrito. The meat is amazing, the seasoning and fillings are perfect; controversially, it doesn't contain rice, but I think this really highlights how delicious the meat is. This is all just to say that Forrest and I have experienced the best burrito in America is, so we know where the burrito gold standard lies.

Therefore, in addition to our quest for the best ice cream in Seattle, we clearly must also hunt for the best burrito. We decided to cheat in our first foray and try out the taqueria that was Seattle's sole representative in the FiveThirtyEight burrito bracket (the burrito bracket was regionally balanced, meaning that all regions needed at least some representation; it's clear that there was a struggle to find a Pacific Northwest representative). After a morning of exercise and errand running, Forrest and I headed to Rancho Bravo to try their burritos.

Racho Bravo is clearly old-school; they don't have a website (just their Yelp page) and there is no sign obviously marking their location. You order your burrito at a window outside and can stay and eat at one of two long, covered, outdoor tables. It's hard to beat the prices; we got our burritos for just shy of $6 each. Forrest got the Bravo burrito and I got a Rancho burrito; it's easy to miss the difference, but the Bravo burrito includes sour cream and diced tomatoes, which the Rancho burrito leaves out. We waited just a couple of minutes for our burritos to arrive, hot off the griddle. Immediately after removing the foil, it became obvious that these are not burritos with strong structural integrity; the burritos started disgorging their ingredients after just the first couple of bites. The contents were standard and average; lots of cilantro, raw onions, seasoned rice and meat. Nothing blew me away; the meat was dry and a little tough, although nicely seasoned and salty. The onions added nice crunch and flavor, but obviously were just raw onions and didn't help elevate the burrito. The Rancho Bravo burrito filled the emptiness in my stomach, but not my soul.

So, our hunt continues; it's clear from this visit why Rancho Bravo didn't advance in the FiveThirtyEight bracket past the first round. We'll keep looking though, and hopefully find a better contender!

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