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Top Five: The Fabled Breakfast Burrito Trail of York Boulevard

Highland Park may have become synonymous with headlines about flipping Craftsman homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking price and retenanting, but there is one timeless dish that has survived the gentrification and has continued to thrive: the breakfast burrito.

While many of the original working-class residents of many different backgrounds have been driven out, the Latino roots of the neighborhood are still evident as you stroll past the boutique shops and speakeasy sandwich bars. Highland Park’s most bustling business areas are made of the neighborhood’s two main streets, York and Figueroa. The former used to be an area that was known for boasting almost two dozen auto body shops at one point. As the economic picture has shifted, so have the businesses and yet one essential factor remains: people need to eat and the breakfast burrito is at your service.

In Southern California, the breakfast burrito is almost as ubiquitous as sunshine and listening to Sublime. It’s the kind of symbolic dish that one can grab to go even if you’re here for a brief layover. It is universally accepted as both a hangover food as well as something intimate that you share over a cup of coffee when you need just a little more juice for your day. It is representative of the community it seeks to feed through its ingredients.

Behold, the fabled breakfast burrito trail of York Boulevard.

Penny’s Burgers — The Works Burrito

Penny's Burgers is centrally located on the corner of Figueroa and York. Its location is a gateway to the neighborhood as you watch the two main thoroughfares meet at the busy intersection. The windowside service and its outdoor seating are one of the longest standing and most favored in the neighborhood. Penny’s is known for both its burgers as well as it quick-service Mexican-American staples. The Works burrito is a lavish affair coming packed with sausage, bacon and Canadian bacon. It is a substantial layer of meat that cradles hard scrambled eggs topped with lacquered bits of American cheese.

The foundation of it all is a warm bed of griddled hash browns with the right ratio of both soft and crispy bits. This burrito is served with green salsa and it is zesty enough to convince you to eat the whole damn thing. The flour tortilla that it is wrapped with is of the grilled variety that wishes you a good morning and sends you off on your day, like a mother who kisses their children before they head off to school.

6300 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA, (323) 254-7223

The Highland Cafe — The California

Keep on truckin’ down York and you’ll run into The Highland Cafe. While it has quickly become a mainstay for the new generation of residents seeking a chill breakfast on what has been called “America’s coolest street,” the owners are lifelong residents of Northeast Los Angeles. Its breakfast burrito should be in the shape of California since it makes a nod to San Diego’s notorious style of adding fries to things but through the lens of an Angeleno. This means cramming a generous amount of french fries drenched in a red enchilada-like sauce. The other usual suspect is there in the form of omelet-like scrambled eggs. Nonetheless, this burrito is special because it gets a boost from the most delectable glob of mashed avocado that sits perfectly in the center -- almost serving like the heartbeat of the entire affair. When consuming the California, this cosmic mishmash of spicy, crispy and eggy filling will envelop your sense of reality.

5010 York Boulevard,  Los Angeles, CA, 90042, (323) 259-1000

Jugos Azteca — The VIP Burrito

It would be remiss to not include the strongest Instagram game on the block. Efrain Peña and his staff have become stuff of legend to anyone who follows along on their frequently posted instagram stories. Greeted by his familiar, raspy voice and friendly bravado, and opting for the bacon and chorizo (double the fun) selection upon his suggestion. It’s easy to see why this place is always packed by both old and new residents alike. The contents of the burrito itself are equal parts crispy bacon and soul-confirming, meaty pieces of Mexican chorizo.

Although, not to be outshone by the large chunks of home fries that are both soft as they are warm. It gets better, with enough slices of avocado in there that would probably cost double if it was on top of toast a few doors down. There is also an outlying ring of Monterey jack cheese that is always welcome in the kingdom of breakfast burritos. It is served with a side of grilled onions and seared jalapeño, even if you didn’t ask for it and for it because this is how this neighborhood rolls. If you want even more heat, ask for a side of their potent salsa Mexicana.

And how can you say no to one of their aguas frescas made every morning for $1 more?

5213 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90042.  (323) 243-8579

Delia’s Restaurant — Chorizo Burrito

Entering Delia’s feels like you’re entering someone's home. There’s a friendly, familiar atmosphere as soon as you step foot inside. Their low price point has been feeding local students from Occidental College for years. The breakfast burrito that shines through their menu is the option with chorizo. As you take a seat in their garden dining area, sitting beneath the Virgen de Guadalupe mural, she will watch over you as you enjoy every bite of your first meal of the day. The burrito is wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and it is not a coincidence that it unwraps like a present. The chorizo is crispy and juicy with the right amount of charred ends. It comes mixed in with loose bits of scrambled egg and a decent amount of hash brown. Together, this cylinder of sustenance is enough to hold you over on those days when you just might have to work through your lunchtime or class time.

4501 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90041, (323) 256-7841  

Pete’s Blue Chip — Sausage Burrito

Pete’s is not on York Blvd, nor is it in Highland Park as the rest are, but is still worth the mention and drive farther up north. Just follow the Angeles National mountains to one of the most flavorful breakfast burritos in Northeast LA. After placing your order at the counter, you can feel extra classy as you slide into one of the faux leather seats while Sinatra plays over the speakers. The specimens here are stuffed to the brim with large, soft curds of scrambled eggs, mixed with hefty pieces of chopped sausage.

The standout feature for a Pete’s breakfast burrito is their pico de gallo salsa. The blend of tomato, onions, and cilantro packs a punch. It delivers such a deep wallop of flavor that you almost forget what else you were supposed to do that day. It goes without saying that there is also plenty of grilled potatoes and shredded cheese in there. Just don’t sleep on both of the house salsas. Make sure to ask for both red and green. They’re the colors of the Mexican flag, after all.

1701 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90041, (323) 478-9022

This post was originally published in January, 2018.

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