New Yorkers can be awfully opinionated when it comes to tacos, and we have good reason to be — because while Californians are generally loath to admit it, our game has grown especially strong. There’s only one deeply rooted, locally-held belief when it comes to burritos, on the other hand, which is don’t bother ordering them; unless you’re slumming it during lunch rush at Chipotle.
That’s because we’ve had exceedingly spotty access to San Francisco’s very greatest treat, the hallowed, Mission-style burrito. Which, to an extent, is largely owed to our distorted perception of flour tortillas; they simply don’t jibe with the culinary traditions of Mexican immigrants from the South — which NYC has in abundance — although they’re commonplace amongst natives of the North, like Sonora, who’ve settled in large numbers throughout California.
Yet it seems that Pepe Urquijo — who originally left San Fran to attend the School of Visual Arts’ Social Documentary Film Program — is perfectly positioned to change that. He understands immigration patterns (having traversed the city in his video essay, “mexhaTTan,” in search of a Mexican on every single block), he’s passionate about food (check out his chronicle of a Queens-based baker in “El Panadero”), and he appreciates the struggle of owning a small business, after trailing a mango vendor around fast-gentrifying Oakland for almost three years (culminating in “Fruit of Labor,” which aired on PBS). But most importantly, he knows his Mission-style burritos, as evidenced by his faithful taqueria, B’klyn Burro, newly opened in Clinton Hill.
In fact, employees need not apply if they’re unable to master the roll; Urquijo insists that a proper burrito needs to stand, unassisted, on end. A generous application of rice, beans, pico de gallo and fresh avocado slices is a must — not guac, he’s quick to point out, no matter how it effects the bottom line — and each distended cylinder has to be snugly coffined in tinfoil, to be pulled away bit by bit as you work your way down, anointing each bite with an assortment of salsas and escabeche from the bar.
As for fillings, don’t expect comatose proteins scooped from steam trays off of an assembly line — shrimp are seasoned and seared to order, and chilies rellenos get stuffed, breaded and fried before your eyes. Incidentally, tacos are a triumph here too…you’ll frequently find staff rolling out freshly made tortillas, formed from masa sourced from Tortilleria Nixtamal.
Even Cali natives will have to concede it; B’klyn Burro is the real deal.
922 Fulton St., (718) 622-8776
Photos by Chris Trigaux