Blog comment response about burrito survey.

I was reading an old blog post, and found an annoying comment, and responded at length with some info which i've learned in the past decade or so.

John 2/3/14, 2:03 PM

The problem with this list is that only 2 of these places are actually in The City of Los Angeles. 3 if you count Culver City, which technically is it's own city. While they do lie within the boundaries of LA County, I'd wager you'd be hard pressed to find an Angeleno willing to drive to Montebello or Alhambra to grab a bean and cheese burrito. Are you really telling me there are no decent b & c burritos in Hollywood? Not to mention the valley. I think this list is totally bogus.

My response:

This dude needs to learn some history. It's not pretty. The B&C burrito is an unusual food because it's "poverty food". It lacks meat. Yet, it's found a niche in LA because there are a lot of people, not just Mexican Americans, who really like it and keep eating it. It's not a big money-maker, because people want meat burritos, but it's old restaurants that keep up the tradition.

So, a lot of these restaurants are in historic Chicano communities formed in the early and mid 20th centuries. [Edit - some predate that and go back to early California. I think areas like Pico Rivera predate the Mexican American war.]

Most of Hollywood is not an historic Mexican American / Chicano area. The old Chicano taco there is Benito's, who made the "rolled taco" aka taquito. The Chicanos were allowed into Silver Lake, but the main areas were Echo Park and Chavez Ravine. A bit east of that was north Main, a Mexican shopping area, which was torn out to build the Hollywood Freeway.

So, there's not a lot of good old B&C in LA near Hollywood due to gentrification, the destruction of Chavez Ravine, and freeways destroying their commercial community.

The places where the B&C flourishes is where the old Mexican restaurants got a foothold, and the community got an economic foothold or even became more middle class. (Alhambra, Pico Rivera, East LA, etc.) A lot of these restaurants are OLD, and predate the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

So, there probably are good B&C shops up in San Fernando and Pacoima and some other SFV areas where Mexicans were allowed to live in the 1940s onward. Try to find them.

The B&C is kind of like the "soul food" of their community - something made in poverty and oppression.

But there's something else to consider - by the 1980s, the standard Mexican food was becoming the taco, and the taquerias were showing up here and there. These were appealing to the new immigrants, who wanted to eat meat, and when meat was more affordable than in the past. They were less limited by racist rules, so they set up shop in a broader area.

But, these newcomers didn't know what a burrito was, much less a specific type of burrito that was refried beans and cheddar cheese. I believe more of these Mexicans were coming from further south in Mexico, and they don't use pinto beans. I doubt if they like melted cheese. So the classic B&C is like an alien food, and not even available at some of these restaurants. I know, because I've tried to get them there, and it's often a special off-menu order, and they only have the whole beans and white cheese.

So something like the B&C persists because it's on the menu of restaurants whose owners know this old burrito, and keep selling it for old LA people and the new ones who learn it and like it.