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Where Does a Restaurant Critic Go When He's Not on the Clock?

Burrito Express pork burrito
Burrito Express pork burrito
A. Scattergood

I am often asked where I eat when I am not on the clock, when the agenda includes neither distant anticucherias nor Korean silkworm soup. And the answer I have not quite given, although I probably end up there once a week, is the Pasadena takeout stand Burrito Express, although if pressed I will also profess my admiration for the roast beef grinders at nearby Connal's, the Armenian sujuk sandwiches at Torino and the spicy takeout salads at Garni. It's not a bad neighborhood in which to be hungry.

Burrito Express probably is most famous for a scheme it once had for FedExing burritos to homesick Angelenos around the country, for its rice-laden Ito Burrito, named after the O.J. judge, and for a saucy, overstuffed mess called the JVC. You could get enchiladas, taquitos with truly dreadful guacamole, or nachos. A sign advertises tortas, although I have never seen anybody actually order one.

What Burrito Express does best is the old-fashioned L.A. burrito: honest beans, a bit of cheese and a spoonful of stew. Will it make you forgo the considerable pleasures of Al & Bea's, Lupe's #2 or even J&S? Is it a deadly bludgeon in the war against the atrocities of Fresh-Mex, Mission burritos or food-court wraps? Not quite. But the tightly wrapped burrito, especially when the filling is long-simmered green chiles with pork, is exactly the size of lunch.

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