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    Smaller, tighter Juárez-style burritos come to Anaheim
    • May 29, 2024

    The problem, if there is one, with the typical burrito found in the United States is its size. For the skinny on a solution, head to Omar De la Vega and Juan Del Rio’s new spot in Anaheim.

    Busting at the seams, most burritos — especially those found in Southern California, San Francisco’s Mission District or even your nearest Chipotle — come crammed with fillings. Beans. Carne. Chicken. Rice. Crema. Cheese. Guacamole. More beans. More cheese. Salsa. Egg. Lettuce. Pork. French fries. Tortilla chips. And more — always more. In the burrito-verse, enough is never enough.

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    But Los de Juárez Burritos, which opened in March, offers slender Juárez-style burritos that strip away the detritus without losing complexity or flavor. Measuring a quarter the size of the aforementioned behemoths, the new-to-Orange-County style of burrito is tightly wrapped with a few ingredients (guisado, a slip of beans and maybe some cheese) inside from-scratch tortillas made with lard and butter, before getting seared a light golden brown on the plancha. The result is an exceptionally juicy burrito.

    “It’s simple and it’s simply delicious,” said De la Vega, who hails from Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. “You have nothing in the middle, it’s just your guisado and your tortilla.”

    Omar de la Vega, owner of Los de Juarez Burritos, outside his new restaurant in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, May 24, 2024. The eatery specializes in long and slender burritos which replicates those from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Guisado often is translated into the word “stew,” but it’s more than that; a guisado refers to a homey dish that is braised or slow-cooked but can also include fried items.

    “Everywhere we went in the United States, if we asked for a burrito, they gave us the same type — short and stuffed. But, it was more rice, cheese, pico de gallo, cream, guacamole and very little meat. Those burritos, truthfully, don’t exist in the city of Juárez,” said De la Vega.

    With years of experience in the restaurant industry, De la Vega and Del Rio did their homework to come up with exacting recipes for their new venue, traveling to Juárez to taste test burritos and bring that experience and those flavors to Anaheim.

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    During a culinary excursion in Mexico, where the two were testing different flavors and dishes for their other restaurant, Jardin Autentica Cocina, located in Orange, they met chef Jessica Francesca Correa Platas, who was selling burritos out of a cooler attached to her bike.

    “The moment we tried them, it sent me back to my childhood, to being 10 years old,” said De la Vega. “I said, ‘This is a burrito.’ From there, this grew from what was a passion project of mine into a reality.”

    Platas heavily influenced what is now the menu at Los de Juárez Burritos. Both the carne en su jugo and pollo en chipotle burritos came from her palate. She also helped create their tortilla recipe.

    Los de Juarez Burritos in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, May 24, 2024 (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Los de Juárez Burritos features a menu of eight burritos: chile relleno (poblano pepper with cheese), deshebrada (shredded beef with potatoes and green salsa), carne en su jugo (flank steak, beans and bacon), rajas (roasted poblano, corn, crema, cheese), pollo en chipotle (chicken with smoky chipotle sauce), chile colorado (beef and potato stew in Mexican red sauce with beans), chicharron (pork cracklings with red sauce and beans), birria (beef in adobo sauce) and frijoles con queso (beef and cheese). Guests can place single orders, combos and family packs, as well as packs of tortillas. A cheese-only quesadilla is also available.

    De la Vega’s favorite iterations are his deshebrada, rajas and chile colorado.

    “The deshebrada and the chile colorado remind me so much of being a kid, of getting out of school and passing all the burrito stands on my walk home,” he said. “It’s one of those moments like in the movies where you taste something and it sends you back to being a small boy.”

    In addition to being downright delicious, Los de Juárez Burritos also breaks the myth that burritos require a multitude of structural layers of beans, rice, meat and salsa to be good. Burritos, he suggests, should be simple.

    Fresh tortillas to cook at home are available at Los de Juarez Burritos in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    “There’s this myth that burritos are these huge things with layers of flavors, but it doesn’t need to be giant to fill you or to be flavorful. What we are selling is guisados that we wrap in tortillas. That’s how we make the burrito,” Omar said. “The burrito, like that, is exquisite and the tortilla is the main actor.”

    Since opening a few weeks ago, the response has been great, especially from people native to this part of Mexico. Omar points out that, in the 35 years he has lived in the U.S. (he moved here from Mexico at the age of 10), he rarely meets people either from Juárez or from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. But some of his earliest customers hailed from that region, coming to see if, indeed, this restaurant really has authentic Juárez-style burritos. He said this made him nervous because that meant the bar was already high.

    “It was a small number of customers, maybe 20 a day, in the earlier days, but they left happy,” noted De la Vega. “So I said, ‘We’re doing something right.’”

    Juárez-style burritos; Deshebrada (shredded beef stew with potatoes on a green chile sauce), left, Rajas (roasted poblano, corn, cerema, rice), center, and Chile Colorado (beef and stew in a Mexican red sauce, beans) at Los de Juarez Burritos in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Then came the chile relleno burrito, which, in less than a month after opening, put them on the map. Chile rellenos, a green chile stuffed with melted cheese, requires a lengthy cooking process, so Omar and his business partner initially added it to the menu as a specialty item. He had no idea the throngs of people that this dish would bring.

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    “I don’t know who it was, but someone took a video and posted it to Instagram. The next day — it was a Thursday, I remember it perfectly — Juan and I were going down to Tijuana to pick up some things. At around noon, I got a call from the restaurant, saying, ‘Omar, we’re out of chiles rellenos.’ I said, ‘Wait, we just opened an hour ago, and we had prepped so much the day before.’ And they go, ‘We just sold 125 burritos and the line stretches to the other side of the building.”

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    Since then, business at Los de Juárez Burritos has been brisk, with new customers turning into loyal ones. Lines reach out the door on the daily, so arriving shortly before opening (doors open at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9am on Saturday and Sunday) is advisable.

    By offering denizens a slimmer and more compact version of a dish unimpeachably beloved by many, Omar said Los de Juárez Burritos has created its own niche within OC’s food landscape.

    “We are not going to fold on what the concept is,” he said. “We have had people ask us for this or that, but we stay with the originality of this project and this product, because it’s the product that we want to sell.”

    Find it: 1101 Lincoln Ave., Anaheim

    ​ Orange County Register