El Burrito Azteca: cheap burritos and tacos

Situated at the corner of North Rosa Parks Way and North Denver Avenue, El Burrito Azteca is a Mexican restaurant specializing in burritos and tacos. With a freshly painted two-toned brown exterior and eclectically decorated interior, the restaurant is approximately twenty minutes from campus, bordering the St. Johns neighborhood of North Portland. The building itself is rather unassuming and is hidden behind weaving powerlines and amidst surrounding buildings. A small outside seating area sits beneath a colorfully lighted sign tethered to the corner of the building’s exterior. The smell of spiced meats wafts from the restaurant’s kitchen.

Once inside, the restaurant boasts a collection of artwork and decor; orange and mint green walls contrast against metal palm trees hangings and small neon signs. Most burritos are priced at less than $6, while a plain bean and cheese or bean and rice burrito is only $4. For another $2.50, you can make any burrito “wet,” smothering your meal in sour cream, red sauce, and melted cheese. With twelve different flavors of Jarritos sodas and a separate bar entrance for those over 21, El Burrito Azteca offers a wide variety of beverage options to complement its food. In the past, there have even been meal specials offering a burrito, chips, a bottle of beer and a shot of tequila for just $11.

I dined at El Burrito Azteca most recently on a Wednesday evening. The restaurant was mostly full, as it usually is.

Rather than indulge in my usual chicken burrito, I instead chose one with ground beef, packed with meat, cheese, rice and pico de gallo. The beef was both salty and savory, balancing nicely with the rice. Each meat is spiced differently, and each has its own unique flavor: the chicken has a smokier character, while the ground beef has a more robust, peppery taste. The tortilla was crispy around the edges and chewy at the center, complementing the soft texture of the melted cheese. The fresh pico de gallo ties the whole burrito together; the snap of fresh onions and jalapenos adds great texture. Bottles of homemade salsa roja and salsa verde add the final touch to any burrito or taco; I personally recommend the salsa roja. It’s spicier and tangier than the salsa verde and complements the tomatoes and onions of the pico de gallo.

Portions are incredibly large for the price, and they only seem to grow in size with each visit. Unfortunately, each time I revisit El Burrito Azteca, the prices also seem to rise; most burritos have increased in price by around $1 in the past year.

While El Burrito Azteca is a trek from the LC campus if you are using public transportation, it is entirely worth the commute. The TriMet 44 line stops directly in front of the restaurant while the Rosa Parks MAX station sits about three blocks away.

When late night study sessions prove too cumbersome for the psyche, one may find sweet respite in the warm embrace of an infant-sized burrito, and El Burrito Azteca is just the spot. The next time you’re visiting a friend at the University of Portland or exploring in the St. Johns area, stop at El Burrito Azteca and enjoy the amazing food it has to offer.

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