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On The Hunt For The Nation's Best Burrito


And now I'm feeling hungry, maybe for a breakfast burrito. It would have to be a really good one, though. I can't settle for a subpar tortilla stuffed with dried out beans and rice. If only there were a burrito correspondent who could give me some tips. Well, NPR doesn't have anyone staffing that important beat so we'll have to borrow Anna Maria Barry-Jester. She's traveling the country for the website FiveThirtyEight, eating her way through a definitive burrito bracket. Anna Maria Barry-Jester joins us now from San Francisco. Welcome to the program.

ANNA MARIA BARRY-JESTER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

KEITH: How many burritos have you eaten to-date for this project?

BARRY-JESTER: Well, 64 in the bracket, but there've been some extracurricular burritos as well so probably closer to 80.

KEITH: Are you sick of burritos yet?

BARRY-JESTER: (Laughing) You would think, but its this weird sort of a - the more I get to know them, the more they become different objects with such different ingredients that I love them more with each passing day.

KEITH: (Laughing) So I have a burrito specimen here with me in the studio. And I'm going to unwrap...

BARRY-JESTER: Is it in wax paper or tinfoil?

KEITH: It is in both tinfoil and wax paper.

BARRY-JESTER: Oh, that's a good technique. You know, in San Francisco, they're really into the tinfoil wrapped, but a lot of people don't like that because it keeps the moisture in. It can get a little bit gooey or moist in unpleasant ways. So some people use wax paper but then, you know, the opposite can happen - it can dry out if you'll used tinfoil.

KEITH: OK, so I understand that you have a scoring system. So walk me through this burrito. Let's dissect this thing.

BARRY-JESTER: OK, so I rate it on five criteria. The first category is the tortilla.


BARRY-JESTER: I mean, obviously something that's been freshly made, usually in-house is kind of the golden standard. The second category is the main proteins, and so it's the quality of the meat and the flavor and the texture. And the third category is the other ingredients.

KEITH: So that's like salsa or guacamole.

BARRY-JESTER: Exactly, and rice and beans. If it's Korean, maybe it's kimchi. And then the fourth category is the overall flavor profile. Usually, you want something with some sweet, some heat, salt - you know, how it all combines together as one object. And then there's the presentation so that's partly how it's rolled, and then also how all the textures come together.

KEITH: You are a photographer so you've been taking pictures of each of your burrito contenders, but you've been taking a controversial approach to photographing the burrito. Can you describe that?

BARRY-JESTER: It's not the most attractive view of a burrito and I've definitely gotten some feedback that people are horrified that I would do this to a burrito. But I'm taking the burrito and sort of filleting it - cutting it in half down the middle and then opening it up so you can see if there is a lot of rice the colors in that kind of thing. So I think it adds another layer of information.

KEITH: Anna Maria Barry-Jester, burrito corresponded for the FiveThirtyEight blog. Happy eating and buena suerte.

BARRY-JESTER: Muchas Gracias. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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