The fun of life, as I see it, is in trying the most outrageous possibilities available to you. So when I heard the term “Asian-Mexican fusion,” I knew I had to investigate.

Sunshine and Spice is one of the local food trucks that shows up at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market’s mobile food court. The food court, which appears Wednesday and Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, is in itself an attraction for locals and was profiled in an Arizona State University piece recently:

But back to burritos. Being a lover of cilantro, I couldn’t resist ordering the Asian BBQ beef burrito with cilantro cream sauce. At $8, it seemed a bit pricey, but it was definitely worth it.

The rice tasted like it had been cooked in coconut milk. Instead of the typical tomatoes and beans, the veggies were shredded carrots, cabbage, and other Asian-style veggies that normally appear in stir-fry. The BBQ beef itself was a little sweet and tangy without being overwhelmingly barbecue-flavored.

And the smell was so amazing that I just barely managed to take a photo of it before gobbling it down. Now that I’ve moved to Washington, D.C., this is one of the treats I miss most!

I’ve seen some big burrito, from the Original Del Taco Grande burrito, to the monsters served at the Taqueria San Jose which I once likened to the size of a baby’s torso.

But never had I fathomed the gob-smacking wonder that is behemoth challenger burrito at Cecelia’s Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All 10 pounds of it. Yes, 10 lbs.

If you live in New Mexico for any amount of time, there are a few facts that you’ll learn quickly. El Pinto has good salsa, Michael’s Kitchen has the best breakfast and you cant afford The Compound. Slightly less quickly know is that Cecelia’s has has great burritos.

My wife and I were reminded of this fact while watching a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network, featuring Guy Fieri’s profile of Cecelia’s. Our lips were smacking, so we decided to make the hour drive from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to get down on some of those good eats the following Sunday.

The Cafe is small – really small. If a table isn’t open, you’ll be outside waiting – which we were. After being seated, we chowed on some chile-cheese fries. Note that in New Mexico, fries aren’t topped with Texas-style chili, you top it with real New Mexico chopped green or red chile. Best in the world.

For my entree I ordered a ground beef and bean burrito. Another New Mexico factoid, the state’s official question is “Red or Green?” which means do you want red chile or green chile with your meal. I wanted both, which one indicates in the Land of Enchantment by saying “Christmas.”

The burrito arrived flanked by beans and rice, and smothered in chile. Size – about that of a fat 2-month-old puppy. The red was thick and savory, the green was bright and hot. Simple but good. And as I was about to finish off my breakfast a waitress walked to the middle of the cafe and like a drill sergeant that someone had chosen to take on Cecilia’s 10lb. burrito challenge and that we should get our cameras out to take a picture of the biggest burrito anyone had seen.

 

Indeed, it was huge. The challenger, however, not so much. Maybe 14-16 years old, the young man seemed cocky enough at the outset.

According to the cafe’s namesake Cecilia Baca, in the past year about 50 people, including one woman, had taken on the challenge. Of them only one man – whose picture hangs near the cash register – has successfully completed the challenge.

One woman, Baca noted, had eaten 9-and-a-half pounds of the burrito in the allotted 90 minutes. Patrons gathered round and watched the teen dig in. I stood there in awe for a few moments before finishing my own tasty, if not comparatively tiny, burrito.

Whether the fella finished the burrito, I’ll probably never know. But I admire his confidence. But if he didn’t, he’ll be out some pride and $41 for not competing the challenge.

Cecelia’s, I’ll be back. Keep the 10 pound behemoth ready for me, because I’ll be ready for it.

-Henry M Lopez
March 28, 2011

It all began quite innocently. In Downtown Phoenix, a mobile food court appears every Friday. I’ve been trying a different truck each week, and this past week’s truck was one that featured jambalaya burritos. I posted about the deliciousness on Twitter, but was immediately challenged. You can see the progression of events via Storify.

Fellow burrito enthusiasts Sarah Fidelibus (San Francisco), Jennifer Gaie Hellum (Phoenix) and Henry M. Lopez (Santa Fe) have decided to use our geospatial diversity and our travels to bring you reviews of the best tortilla-wrapped goodness we’ve sunk our teeth into. And thanks to Henry, we’ve got ourselves the beginning of a map to keep track of these culinary joys.

We hope to provide an entertaining gastronomical guide to bean-and-rice lovers everywhere. To prepare, you may want to start by familiarizing yourself with burrito economics with this interactive graphic from Mint.com.

Mint.com