There’s no debating it: L.A. is a corn tortilla town. Places to find proper flour tortillas — the kind that are stretchy, soft and buttery all at once — are few and far between.
For a while there was Nick’s Taste of Texas in Covina, which specialized in brisket tacos served on fluffy homemade tortillas, but it closed in 2014. The ones at La Azteca Tortilleria are pretty stellar, too, especially wrapped around a molten chile relleno and a spoonful of refried beans. HomeState, the new-wave breakfast taco joint in Los Feliz, pats out wonderful Austin-style flour tortillas, but they’re more akin to thin biscuits than what you’ll find in Northern Mexico.
The title of greatest flour tortillas in Los Angeles currently belongs to a relative newcomer, Burritos La Palma, which opened in El Monte in 2012. Burritos La Palma began as a small chain of tortillerias and burrito stands based in Zacatecas, Mexico, opened in 1980 by the Bañuelos-Lugo family (whose members, in a cross-border twist, grew up in California before moving back to Mexico). Alberto Bañuelos, is the man behind the El Monte location, the only outlet in the United States. The thin “taco-sized” burritos at La Palma have as much in common with the hulking creations you’ll find at Chipotle as a chihuahua does with a Tibetan mastiff. These burritos are suave little bundles filled with braised meats such as beef birria or deshebrada, the toasted flour tortillas fitting as snugly as a slim-cut suit.
The heart of Burritos La Palma, as Bañuelos insists, is its tortillas artisanal, rolled out every day by hand in the restaurant’s small kitchen. The tortilla's secret lies in its high-quality ingredients (fresh flour, sea salt and good lard) and the absence of added preservatives. The result: incredibly flavorful tortillas that crisp up beautifully on a comal but can be kept in the fridge to extend their shelf life. The restaurant sells packages of tortillas at its El Monte location and has begun supplying Grand Central Market's Chiles Secos, a small Mexican market that has been selling molé pastes and other goodies since 1975 (the tortillas are currently available at Grand Central Market on weekends only)
In Mexico, Burritos La Palma delivers tortillas daily to restaurants and grocery stores, and Bañuelos hopes to similarly expand his L.A. operation in the future. For now, head to El Monte or stop by Chiles Secos at GCM to score a package of obsession-worthy tortillas (once again, weekends only at Chiles Secos). Your burritos will never be the same again.
Burritos La Palma, 5120 Peck Road, El Monte; (626) 350-8286.
Chiles Secos, C-12, 317 S. Broadway, downtown; (626) 652-8561.
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