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La Azteca Tortillería’s Chile Relleno Burrito Is a Serious Contender for the GOAT of Los Angeles

12:45 PM PDT on August 3, 2021

    Welcome to Local Gems, our new monthly restaurant column presented by White Claw, the official hard seltzer of L.A. TACO. Each month we’ll honor neighborhood institutions that make delicious food and have stood the test of time all over Los Angeles. Read, order, share, and don’t be afraid to rep your community’s local gem in the comments.

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he build-up to your first visit at La Azteca Tortillería lasts all the way to that first bite. The small eatery, long-established in East Los, is lauded in streets and Yelp alike for serving some of the best burritos in the city. Non-locals may have been tipped via Jonathan Gold, who was known to love their “formidable” burritos, or by national burrito tournaments.

    The lack of parking or the crowd outside of La Azteca Tortillería as you drive by maybe your second indication of its popularity. Once inside, you can see the walls are gilded with plaques of raving reviews. The view from the counter also allows one to witness the kitchen staff prepare handmade tortillas. The same deliciously chewy tortillas have been made since the restaurant first opened in 1945. 

    The suspense for that first hulking bite builds up even as you unravel that bright yellow paper revealing the famed chile relleno burrito, the restaurant’s signature item. The carne asada and roast poblano chile oozing with cheese makes an indescribable aroma and a hyper-photogenic cross-section. 

    La Azteca signage.
    La Azteca signage. Photo by Daniel Suarez for L.A. TACO.

    Despite all the rave and testimony, finally sinking your teeth into that melted cheese and poblano bliss feels like being blindsided. The whole and flaky handmade flour tortilla beautifully encapsulate an even crispier coating around the poblano. You may need reminding to stop and take a breath or wash it down with one of their house aguas frescas. 

    “My parents used to come here when I was a little girl, now they watch my kids, and we come down and pick up food for our family,” said customer and resident Cristina. She says that while it’s great to see a small business become so popular, she longs for days with smaller crowds.

    “It was a hidden secret for a long time, and while we’re super happy that people love it, it sucks for us locals. Now it's a miracle if you can find parking,” Christina said. There isn’t much street parking near the restaurant, but La Azteca is currently accepting phone orders for takeout if you can’t wait in line. For customers, masks are required, and there is no seating.

    Masa at Tortillería Azteca.
    Masa at Tortillería Azteca. Photo by Daniel Suarez for L.A. TACO.

    The restaurant’s reputation beckons to burrito lovers even from across state lines. Customers such as Penn from Portland who said that he makes a trip to La Azteca every time he comes to L.A. “This is always a stop. Coming from Portland, there’s nowhere to get food like this,” he said while grabbing his to-go order, “Long story short, it's the tortillas that bring me back.”

    Even with an extensive record of critical appeal, their choice of breakfast burritos and tacos still attract new customers like Norma from Chino Hills, who found that spot thanks to a coworker, or Dylan from Glendale, who was returning for the third time. “Today, I was like, ‘I gotta get La Azteca.’ The chile relleno burrito is my favorite,” Dylan said.

    Despite the scramble for parking, the crowd, and the sweltering L.A. heat, it’s all worth it as you dive into the folds of that heavenly chile relleno burrito. 

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