Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Saga of the Five Pound Burrito

Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe
812 North Evergreen Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

There's a lot to do when preparing for a wedding. Call me naive, but I had no idea the amount of time, effort, and money that went into these things. It seems that as our big day moves closer, there's more and more to do. Our nights revolve around seating charts, flower arrangements, and the dreaded wedding timeline that I'm not too fond of.

It's another wedding task that brings us up the 5 Freeway on this recent Sunday afternoon. We are meeting up with the officiant of our wedding. We're going over what we would like him to say, what we want him to wear, and he's trying to get a handle of our history. This turns out to be a two hour meeting, and I knew where I wanted to eat on the way home. I had not eaten anything more than Ritz Crackers and peanut butter all day, so I was pretty famished when we arrived at Manuel's Original El Tepeyac.

El Tepeyac has been at this location in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles since 1952. Run by the Rojas family, they started their restaurant business in downtown LA in 1942, then moved their restaurant to Lincoln Heights for a brief time after that, and finally ended up here. They also have another location in the City of Industry. Up until two years ago, El Tepeyac was run by the charismatic Manuel Rojas, who at the age of 77 got up everyday to get the kitchen going, and passed out shots, hugs, and kisses to customers of his beloved restaurant.

I heard about El Tepeyac when they were featured on Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" in 2009. Their five pound burritos really caught my attention, and I made note of them again when they were named number 23 of chow down places to eat in all of the US. Pretty good for a restaurant that's a lot smaller on the inside than I imagined, with a friendly staff, and a pretty good sized menu. The combo plates that were coming out of the kitchen looked good sized, and I knew I had a tough battle on my hands trying to finish one of their burritos. Let's see if I could finish one of their massive burritos.

After we were seated we were presented with their freshly made Tortilla Chips and Salsa. You could tell that these were freshly fried by the glistening grease coming off of the chips. Served warm, these were one of the better tortilla chips we have had in a restaurant. The smooth, verde salsa had a good kick to it. I tried to abstain from having too many chips, because I had a big meal coming for me.

Before we get to my massive meal, let's take a look at Katie's selection on this evening, the Chicken Salad ($10.75). This was a pretty big salad in its own right. It featured lettuce, tomato, bacon, jack cheese, tortilla strips, and of course chicken. As is her custom when eating Mexican, Katie also ordered a Small Side of Guacamole ($2.25), as if she did not have enough food. Although this salad was good sized, they kind of skimped out on the chicken. We thought it was kind of weird that there was no dressing on this salad, so Katie added some salsa to it, and then ordered some Tortillas ($.75) to make some tacos out of this mound of produce. She easily made three tacos, and still had some salad left to take to work the next day. She'd probably try something else on her next visit to El Tepeyac.

The pictures of this Manuel's Special Pork Burrito ($24.99) do not really capture how enormous this thing actually was. Five and a half pounds of burrito on this plate, and it was really intimidating when it came out of the kitchen and was placed before me. Inside the burrito was rice, beans, guacamole, and red tomato based chile verde pork, and then it's topped with jack and cheddar cheese and even more pork chunks. I immediately went to work on this burrito, since I had pretty much starved myself all day to challenge this burrito. I had no chance. The burrito was really good though. The chunks of pork were tender, and really tasty. The inside of the burrito was good as well. Lots of guacamole, beans and pork, with it all spread out nicely, so each bite had a little bit of everything. I always hate when you have a section of a burrito where its all beans, and another where its all cheese. This was a very well balanced burrito. Did I end up eating the whole thing? Keep reading to see if I conquered this Manuel's special burrito.

Not even close. When I saw it with my own eyes, I kind of knew there was no chance I would be walking out of here finishing this. I probably had close to three pounds of it, and had the rest the next day for dinner. It was just as good the next day. I walked into El Tepeyac very hungry, but couldn't do it. Still a good burrito, but next time I'd probably get one of the smaller versions.

Needless to say, I left El Tepeyac stuffed. It was a pretty uncomfortable ride down the 5 Freeway back home, but the food here was worth the mild discomfort. Looking around the dining room, I think I might try their nachos, combination plates, or breakfast items on future visits here. All looked to be real good, and big portions. Even though the 5 pound burrito challenge is kind of a novelty thing, it still tasted great, and I have no reason to believe that the rest of the menu would be anything but great as well. We experienced really good service on this evening. Mary, our waitress, took real good care of us, and made sure we had iced teas to go for our trip back home. For the amount of food that we had, I do not think the prices were too out of control. Eating this burrito will give me the energy I need to continue on with the wedding planning. Well, after a nap at least.

Out of five hills, (because tepeyac translates to this, and this restaurant is in the very hilly area of Boyle Heights), five being best to zero being worst, Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe gets 3.5 hills.

For more information about Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe, go to their website here:

El Tepeyac Café on Urbanspoon

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