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(Photo by Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; illustration and animation by Martin Gee / For the Times)

The best breakfast burritos in Los Angeles

Dining out for breakfast in Southern California is, at its finest, an expression of community and intersecting cultures: Yemeni shakshouka in Anaheim, broiled mackerel with miso soup and salt pickles in Little Tokyo, catfish and grits in Inglewood, banana pancakes the size of hubcaps in Hollywood.

But to narrow the morning meal in Los Angeles down to one emblem? It has to be the breakfast burrito.

The origins of burritos, meals wrapped in flour tortillas for breakfast or otherwise, trace most credibly to Sonora, the northwestern state of Mexico where wheat has been cultivated since the 1500s. The Californian-Mexican connections made the burrito’s eventual presence in L.A. all but a foregone conclusion. Its ubiquity was hastened by the advent of the fast-food frozen burrito in the 1950s — from the same Riverside family that supplied the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino with burger patties.

A task like naming L.A.’s most stellar breakfast burritos could go on indefinitely. I only stopped combing through neighborhoods in search of foil-wrapped torpedoes — some canvases for cheffy individualism, some inventions crisscrossing ingredients from around the globe, some basic energy bombs — when deadlines forced a halt. Given the endless number of burritos served in L.A. at all times of day, I defined a breakfast burrito as including egg (or scrambled tofu for vegan options) in its folds.

Yes, some long-standing stalwarts were left off. I stand by the omissions, though I also consider this list a work in progress.

If you have a favorite breakfast burrito that should be on this list, tell us about it here.

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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

All Day Baby

Silver Lake
As a morning regular at Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener’s reimagined corner diner in Silver Lake, I have been devoted to the impeccably engineered biscuit sandwich. Only this project would push me to stray to the breakfast burrito — a beast filled with fried eggs bleeding their yolks, molten pockets of jack cheese, streaks of salsa roja and crumbled longaniza mingled with refried pintos. A jiggly mass in the most appealing sense, its construction is a feat of containment. The flavors unite powerfully. My loyalty to the biscuit has crumbled.
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(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

All Time

Los Feliz
The patio of Ashley and Tyler Wells’ restaurant has reopened and is again a neighborhood living room for Los Feliz, including the entertainment industry types who love this place. One bite into the breakfast burrito reminds me why it’s a favorite: Every element is seasoned with evident care. Vividly salted potatoes taste like fingerlings you’d happily eat as a generous side dish. They lull among downy, canary-yellow scrambled eggs, salsa verde (more herby than hot), uniformly melted sharp cheddar and a choice of bacon or avocado (or both) to form a pretty perfect union. This one also holds up exceptionally well as takeout.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Angry Egret Dinette

Chinatown
Wes Avila’s Monte Verde is a thing of physical and intellectual beauty: It bundles two fried eggs, asparagus, Parmesan, potatoes and a red pepper sauce that collides with almond salsa into a diffuse sort-of riff on romesco. It is singular among breakfast burritos in the city, but then the same can generally be said of Avila’s culinary sensibility. Angry Egret Dinette, his first project since moving on from Guerrilla Tacos, keeps evolving quietly and compellingly. The takeout operation opened last fall in Chinatown’s Mandarin Plaza. An overhang of greenery shades part of the courtyard seating. Dishes come and go as inspiration dictates. Among breakfast burritos, Hey Porky’s (roasted and shredded pork shoulder with scrambled eggs, black beans, queso Oaxaca and salsa verde) seems to be the mainstay. A summery, textured mix of squash, Swiss cheese and egg laced with pistachios, spiced almonds and brown butter? That one might already be gone.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Cafe Los Feliz

Los Feliz
The must-order morning meal is the lone dish trumpeted on a red and white sign posted beneath the cash register: a breakfast burrito featuring sujuk, the spiced beef sausage that nods to owner Hakob Mazloumian’s Armenian heritage. Its pepperoni-like texture contrasts nicely with the yielding blend of egg, sautéed onion, cheese and potato. Note that this small establishment with its tearoom vibe is not Los Feliz Cafe, a restaurant on the edge of Griffith Park in another corner of Los Feliz. Both serve breakfast burritos, but you have to come to Hillhurst Avenue for the sujuk.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

The Chori-Man

San Pedro
It’s hard to land on a single recommendation between the four versions of chorizo that Humberto Raygoza crafts at his San Pedro shop. The green variation — popping with a forest-top hue that should ripple through fashion industry machinations a la “The Devil Wears Prada” — is the most unusual (and popular). It combines pork and poblano pepper with a clear coriander note that especially stands out in a breakfast burrito. The smoky warmth of guajillo chile rings through the Zacatecano red chorizo; Raygoza makes a vegan red version as well. If you like both sweet and savory in your morning meal, consider the maple-jalapeño chorizo, and if you prefer bolder flavors for breakfast, go for the Argentine style revved with garlic and splashed with wine. The option to ask for more than one kind of chorizo in your burrito exists, but each is so distinct I wouldn’t muddle them. There’s no wrong choice.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Cofax

Fairfax
A magnet for breakfast burrito obsessives since opening in 2014, Cofax manages to capture the breadth of Angelenos’ tastes in its six variations. There are standards (chorizo with the clutch addition of crushed tortilla chips, or bacon paired with Tater Tots and smacked with pickled jalapeños) and a gratifying meat-free option filled with smoked vegetable hash and brightened with pico de gallo. Even smokier: the addition of a Texas-style hot link from sister restaurant Bludso’s Bar & Que. For a while Bludso’s was hosting Ugly Drum as a pop-up, serving Erik Black’s pit-smoked pastrami on teetering sandwiches. Cofax currently has a burrito laced with Ugly Drum pastrami; its sinus-clearing hit of deli mustard probably moves the flavors more in the direction of lunch, but I’m not complaining.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Doubting Thomas

Historic Filipinotown
Naomi Shim’s daytime cafe in Historic Filipinotown is a community beacon, with roomy seating both inside and along the sidewalk. Her crew builds breakfast burritos on a foundation of eggs cooked sunny-side up, white cheddar, and Sierra Gold potatoes that are smashed and lightly crisped. Smoked chile, cilantro and onion charge up the flavors, as does tomatillo salsa on the side. A lacy clomp of braised pork shoulder fills out the standard option; a meatless version lined with avocado is equally sustaining. Though I’m generally trying to stay on topic, it’s hard not to mention a slice of Shim’s seasonal pie as a sweet counterpart to a burrito.
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(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)

Evil Cooks

El Sereno
Craving a breakfast burrito for dinner? On Friday and Saturday nights Alex Garcia and Elvia Huerta set up their onyx-colored truck in El Sereno and serve — among tacos, mulitas and tortas — two burritos fringed with fried eggs. I gravitate to the “chilakilles” filled with queso fresco, guac, cilantro, onion and a smooth and spicy red salsa. For $2 extra you have a choice of meats: If you’ve never before had the couple’s “black pastor,” inky with a paste of charred chiles called recado negro in states around the Yucatán Peninsula, start there. If you hunger for one of their burritos closer to breakfast time, you can find them at Smorgasburg L.A. on Sunday mornings.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Foodminanti’s Court Cafe

Westchester
D’Angelo, Johnny Gill and Betty Wright croon through the speakers at this Westchester charmer, easing you into the day. The Bleu Burrito ballooned with fried lobster and shrimp is too much extravagance for me first thing in the morning, but Mel’s Original is exactly right: house-made chicken sausage couched with spinach-flecked eggs, home fries, peppers, onions and Gouda cheese sauce that anoints all the other ingredients. Ask for guacamole to complement the pico de gallo that comes automatically on the side.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

George’s Burger Stand

Boyle Heights
Armando de la Torre Sr. and his son, Armando de la Torre Jr., the founders of Guisados, took charge of this ’60s-era Boyle Heights institution in 2019. Their diner-style breakfast burrito hits all the marks: hash browns, scrambled eggs, nutty-sharp Colby cheese, salsa roja, excellent with optional sausage. Not too big and not overly elaborate, it’s plainly delicious morning fuel.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Guerrilla Cafecito

Downtown L.A.
The coffee shop sibling to Guerrilla Tacos, founded by Wes Avila and now run by managing partner and owner Brittney Valles, is open daily from 8 a.m. to noon and serves two impeccable burritos. Key to both of them are hash browns, fried as crackly as potato sticks, that form a ring around the rest of the ingredients. The proper breakfast burrito surges with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese melting into generous amounts of mashed avocado and silken pintos. I’m breaking my must-include-egg rule by mentioning the second, which includes the hash browns, cheddar and cubes of grilled steak gilded with two salsas: avocado and chile de arbol. Egg or no egg, it tastes like breakfast and it’s wonderful.
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(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Huckleberry

Santa Monica
If you’ve ever been to Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s bakery-cafe spinoff of their flagship Rustic Canyon — if you have ever agonized over which of pastry chef Laurel Almerinda’s beautifully lacquered croissants and seasonal creations (peach squares!) to order, or stood in line to order Turkish eggs next to an A-list actor nearly disguised in sweats and a baseball cap — you can picture Huckleberry’s genteel breakfast burrito. The eggs are organic. The cheddar is aged. The roasted potatoes are Yukon Golds. The avocado is mandatory. If you add bacon and substitute egg whites (the only modifications allowed) you have a $22.50 breakfast burrito, likely the priciest specimen in the Metro area. Loeb and Nathan are both Santa Monica natives. They know their audience.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Jugos Azteca

Highland Park
Efrain Peña has attracted nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram with his daily orations — and personal testimony — on the benefits of juicing. By all means, order one of the specialty jugos at his Highland Park storefront: I’m a fan of the #12, a quartet of pineapple, cucumber, apple and ginger. Pair it, though, with the breakfast burrito riddled with bacon and chorizo, scrambled egg, avocado slices and splotches of Monterey jack cheese disappearing into clouds of potato. A charred jalapeño on the side manages to complement both the burrito and the juice.
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(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Kumquat Coffee & Tea

Highland Park
Andres Jinhan “A.J.” Kim and Scott Sohn’s Highland Park shop is one of Southern California’s crucial destinations for caffeine geekery. Bags of beans from national and global cult coffee roasters fill the shelves. Baristas make single-origin pour-overs for the purists but also score with slyly brilliant drinks like Cloudy (With a Chance of Peanuts), an espresso finished with cold milk and peanut butter foam. Choose from among three levels of ceremonial-grade matcha. And, yes, the lone hot food item is a breakfast burrito — compact egg, cheese and potato parcels (sausage or bacon optional) perfumed with, but not overwhelmed by, garlic confit. The crew bakes them, and they take about 15 minutes to cook. Consider ordering them online ahead of time (an online search for “Kumquat breakfast burrito” leads you to a link far faster than hunting the page down on the website).
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(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Lily's

Malibu
Lily Castro’s 32-year-old Malibu institution has the classic breakfast meats as burrito fillings: chorizo, bacon, sausage and ham. It was here, though, that I had the best local version of a breakfast burrito filled with machaca, the jerky-like dried beef traditional in northern Mexico. The round, mellow flavor of machaca threads through a combination of refried pintos, scrambled egg, jack cheese, tomatoes, onion and pepper. It’s gushy and immensely satisfying. Enjoy it from an outdoor table in the corner of Point Dume Plaza, catching the view as Malibu’s morning marine layer slowly dissipates off the hillsides.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Lucky Bird

Downtown L.A.
It isn’t listed as a takeout option online, and it isn’t being served (yet) at the new Eagle Rock location, but you can get a righteous breakfast burrito on the weekends at the Lucky Bird counter in Grand Central Market. Hunks of brined, boneless fried chicken tumble with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and onions and peppers sautéed in schmaltz. American cheese wouldn’t be my first choice in this medium, but a gooey, golden halo of the stuff surrounds the rest of the ingredients and it works. Salsa verde is the obvious condiment, but try the spicy honey too.
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(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Lucky Boy

Pasadena
Of the two Lucky Boy locations in Pasadena (both of which serve burgers and many other dishes on their long, diner-style menus), the shingled outpost on Arroyo Parkway makes the breakfast burrito adored by pretty much everyone. A sheath of egg splattered and scrambled on the grill, home fries, wispy slicks of melted orange cheddar and a choice of sausage, bacon or chorizo are all wrapped in a crisped tortilla: That’s the straightforward recipe for comfort. Add avocado to mine, please.
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(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Lowkey Burritos

With a large spatula in one hand and a metal chopper-scraper in the other, Matt Stevanus plonks heaps of cubed tri-tip and minced potatoes on a griddle. After they’ve warmed and crisped, he pours a ring of beaten egg around them and lets it set for a few seconds. He tosses all the ingredients together and then passes off the mixture to one of his team members, who will dollop on cheese, salsa and maybe avocado and crema before packaging it tightly in a tortilla. Then comes the optional but crucial final step: Another cook rolls the burrito in shredded cheese that has transformed to an orange veneer directly on the flattop. You can also ask for sliced jalapeños embedded in the cheese crust; they run down the burrito like buttons on a dress shirt. Stevanus’ footwork and innovations have netted more than 50,000 Instagram followers. Swarming crowds find his weekend pop-ups, which appear at breweries, coffee shops and businesses across the L.A. Metro area. Follow Lowkey Burritos on social media to see where the roving operation will appear next.
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(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Macheen at Milpa Grille

Boyle Heights
Last year Jonathan Perez settled his roving taquería into an open-ended breakfast and lunch residency at Milpa Grille in Boyle Heights. His tacos — complex, saucy, blasted with acid — draw plenty of attention, but his breakfast burritos deserve equal notice. Eggs scrambled with Swiss cheese bring creaminess and nuttiness. Tater Tots, dusted with spices when they emerge from the fryer, lie in wait with their sneaky crunch. Meaty filling options include birria with chipotle aioli, pork belly with avocado salsa (a favorite) and longaniza with salsa macha. There is also a pair of vegetarian choices: mushrooms, marinated in al pastor-style spices and grilled, and Brussels sprouts frizzled to crisp petals. I have a habit of asking for extra avocado salsa and salsa macha to pour over the burritos. The staff is kind about it. Counterbalance the burrito stupor with an espresso or pour-over (using beans from places like Pueblo and Oaxaca) made by baristas Xuan Carlos Espinoza and Joel Espinoza, whose long-term pop-up at Milpa Grille is called Cafe Cafe Mobile.
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(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Mi Ranchito Veracruz

North Hollywood
For lunch or dinner, tamales steamed in banana leaves are the draw at this North Hollywood staple. In the morning, it’s a breakfast burrito swelling with three scrambled eggs and, for an unusual spin that works, mashed potatoes. Birria de res is among the meat options and pairs winningly with the spuds; carnitas would be a close second. Note that these options are available when ordering in person or calling the restaurant. The choices listed on the website lean to morning standards like bacon and chorizo. The juicy, tender-ropy birria justifies the effort.
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(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

The Old Place

Cornell
My colleague Stephanie Breijo suggested we take a Sunday drive to the Santa Monica Mountains for one of her favorite breakfast burritos in Southern California. Morgan Runyon runs a Western-themed compound (first run by his parents in the 1970s) anchored by a restaurant-saloon originally built in the 1880s as the post office for a canyon town called Cornell. Steaks grilled over oak are the draw for dinner. Their charred perfume fills the air in the morning as well: Cubed sirloin is the primo choice for the burrito, layered with potato wedges and feathery, loosely scrambled eggs. Roasted pepper salsa on the side deepens the smoky effect. Find outdoor seating in nooks and corners all over the property. A chopper’s roaring engine occasionally rattles the stillness — the Old Place is as popular with bikers as it is with families — but this is a stunning setting for a few hours’ escape from the city.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Petite Peso

Downtown L.A.
Downtown is a cutthroat arena for breakfast burritos, and Ria Dolly Barbosa recently put forth a strapping competitor. She gives you a choice between two meats — rich, crumbly longganisa or tocino (a Filipino method of curing pork with sugar and spices) — bordered with potato-taro hash browns, fried egg and cubed avocado. The hot sauce on the side cranks up the umami of everything it touches. Barbosa and her crew cook morning to night, and breakfast means breakfast: The handful of smart breakfast dishes are usually available only until 11 a.m.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Tacos Villa Corona

Atwater Village
This Atwater Village takeout window has long been a cornerstone of L.A. breakfast burrito culture, cemented a dozen years ago by a visit from Anthony Bourdain. Much of the notice goes to the chilaquiles burrito shot through with crushed tortilla chips; chorizo is an excellent filling option for maximum texture contrast. As much as I appreciate its crackling quality, the other headlining burritos filled with potatoes had more density of flavor on recent visits — especially with the addition of bacon. The biggest surprise hit: the lighter nopales variation filled with plenty of cactus strips plus spinach, egg, cheese and velvety pintos.
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(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Wake and Late

Downtown L.A.
In early 2020, this downtown breakfast burrito specialist had freshly rejiggered its menu with some outside-the-box creations based on fillings like pesto quinoa. During the pandemic the options have been simplified, and the power move now is to customize: carne asada and tater tots, say, with avocado, grilled onions, pepper jack, cotija and cilantro crema. Uniting scrambled tofu, refried black beans, dairy-free American cheese and eggless chipotle aioli led to the standout vegan breakfast burrito among all that I tried during this gut-busting quest.
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