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