Q: My name is C.W. Steel and I am currently a senior at Texas Tech University (Wreck ‘Em). I grew up in Big Spring and represent what some call the “treeless void” of the Llano Estacado and Permian Basin, where we have breakfast burritos instead of breakfast “tacos.” My group of close friends, who are from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, claim that breakfast burritos just ain’t Texan, but I say that breakfast burritos and breakfast “tacos” are essentially the same thing, equally prized in their respective homelands, equally great, and equally Texan. Can you help resolve this great debate that I have been entrenched in for the past four years? Are breakfast burritos less Texan than breakfast “tacos?”
C.W. Steel, Lubbock
A: Arguments around regionalized vittles that have similar ingredients and general composition but vary slightly in their specific construction are nothing new. Take the case of sub(marine) versus hoagie versus hero versus grinder versus po’boy sandwiches. Or danger dogs, francheezies, and Texas Tommies. Or tomatoes and tomahtoes. Such topics do indeed make excellent fodder for debate.
In Texas, one of the most oft-recurring subjects of this type of friendly but sometimes high-spirited exchange is the supremacy of either breakfast burritos or breakfast tacos as an ante meridiem meal. For the uninformed, somewhere in the general vicinity of the 31st and 33rd north parallels, roughly along I-20, there lies an indefinite line of demarcation that separates breakfast burrito country to the north and breakfast taco country to the south. And never the twain shall meet—except when they do, which happens on menus all over the state fairly frequently. The Texanist, for example, could, if he wanted to, fairly easily order a breakfast burrito in Austin, where he is headquartered, just as easily as you could order a breakfast taco there in the Hub City. These things are not ironclad.
Also not chiseled in stone are the definitions of what exactly it is that makes a burrito a burrito and a taco a taco, breakfast-style or otherwise. Both are the result of the strong “Mex” influence found in Tex-Mex cuisine, but both come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and forms. There are crunchy tacos, soft tacos, puffy tacos, big tacos, taquitos (thanks, Whataburger), and bowl-shaped tacos, among others. As for burritos, there are big ones, like the bean and cheesers the Texanist used to eat multiple times a week during lunch at the Taco Villa near Temple High, and then there are the little brown deep-fried ones of various and sometimes mysterious fillings he used to scarf down at Jito, a surf shop-cum-convenience store on Padre Island. West Texans are familiar with this latter variety via the “World Famous” burritos at the Allsup’s convenience store chain.
A special note from the Texanist: Speaking of Allsup’s, the iconic establishment’s founder, Lonnie Allsup, a Lubbock native, passed away in late January at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Barbara, many family members, and legions of burrito eaters. Please join the Texanist in a moment of silence. And, if you’d like, a chimichanga.
Generally, the differences in breakfast burritos and breakfast tacos are fairly negligible. The most recognizable distinction being that breakfast burritos are constructed of larger tortillas (almost universally flour) and come with a more intricate build that utilizes an origami-like folding and tucking that results in fully-closed ends. Breakfast tacos, on the other hand, are usually smaller, made of either flour or corn tortillas, and have a much more basic single-fold structure. The fillings, the raison d’être of both dishes, can range wildly, although the breakfast taco tends to offer more choices. The Texanist, because he lives in Austin, is most often an eater of breakfast tacos, and prefers fiber-rich bean and cheese; basic bacon, egg, and cheese; chorizo, egg, and cheese; potato, egg, and cheese; bean, bacon, potato, and cheese; chorizo, egg, and cheese; or chorizo, bacon, and cheese. But when the Texanist finds himself in breakfast burrito territory, he’s more than happy to partake in the local fare—with spicy salsa, sometimes red and sometimes green. Variety is, after all, the spice of life, especially when it involves actual spice.
The Texanist applauds your open-minded and genial approach to the squabble in which you have been embroiled for the past four years and is happy to declare you the debate’s winner. Congratulations, C.W. You are absolutely right in your view that breakfast burritos are not any less Texan than breakfast tacos. Both make for a delicious breakfast, both are highly regarded by those who eat them, and both are indubitably Texan.
We live in a big place of diverse cultures and diverse peoples—with diverse appetites—from disparate locales. But at the end of the day, whether you and your Tex-Mex breakfast food of choice hail from Big Spring, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, or Dime Box, we are all held together by the big, warm, fluffy tortilla of Texanness.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available at [email protected] Write to him there and be sure to tell him where you’re from.