Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Un burrito muy grande

Inside the Tribune Tower, an old journalistic maxim on the wall reads, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

In the front window of La Bamba, a Mexican fast-food restaurant on Halsted St. at Wrightwood Ave., a neon sign says, “BURRITOS AS BIG AS YOUR HEAD.”

I thought I’d check it out.

“¡Hola, amigo! ¿Cómo estás?” says Francisco, a short, thin man wearing a “La Bamba” baseball cap, as I approach the counter.

“Yo no hablo español,” I reply slowly. “Yo hablo francés y inglés.” (“I don’t speak Spanish. I speak French and English.”)

With that established— and after an another attempt by Francisco and his co-worker behind the counter, Juan, to get me to speak more Spanish— I soon come to the point.

“The sign outside says, ‘Burritos as big as your head.’ I want to try one.”

“What kind you want?” asks Francisco. He goes through the list of meats they offer, stopping at chicken. “The chicken is very good,” he encourages me.

“You sold me.”

La Bamba, 2557 N. Halsted St. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

He hands me a Styrofoam cup to fill with water from a nearby dispenser. I do so and take a seat at one of the Formica-topped tables with wooden benches.

I’ve barely been seated a couple of minutes, or so it seems, when Juan walks over with my plate.

“Holy cow!” I exclaim. “Woooooah.”

There, on a piece of wax paper, next to two little plastic cups of salsa, lies a behemoth of a burrito. A pale-grayish/cream-colored tortilla with brown spots has been wrapped around a filling that’s probably three inches in diameter.

As for the length of the burrito… Lacking a ruler, I use my hands to measure the width of my head. Then I compare that to the burrito.

It’s at least a good inch longer than my head is wide.

I can’t believe it.

I start to cut into the thing towards one end. It feels like I’m a doctor struggling to make an incision.

Then I cut lengthwise down the middle, since it would be practically impossible to eat the whole width of the slice at once.

I take a taste.


Tasty. Rich.

There are beans, chicken, tomato, onion, and lettuce. There’s cheese in there somewhere, too, though I can’t taste it yet.

“Everything is prepared in the day,” explains Francisco, who wears something of a bashful smile and speaks good, though halting, English. “Everything is fresh.”

He shows me a package of extra-large, flat, corn tortillas that the restaurant (part of a chain) has used to encase its, errr, flagship product ever since opening 18 years ago.

“Hello,” says a woman who’s just walked in, as I return to try to make more progress against my formidable opponent.

“¡Hola, señorita!” replies Francisco. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she says.

“How can I help you, señorita?”

She orders a beef taco and then takes the table right behind mine.

I turn around. “Had you ever been to this restaurant before?” I ask.

“Yeah, a couple times,” she responds, smiling.

“Have you ever had their burrito?”


“It really is as big as your head,” I assure her.

As I continue eating, the hot salsa I’ve been adding gets to be too much. To counteract the spice, I order a horchata, a sweet rice drink (or so I’ve been told in the past).

“Small, medium, or large?” asks Francisco.

“Small,” I say.

The cup is ten inches tall.

I begin to drink the milky, brownish-white liquid. Delicious! It tastes like liquid rice pudding with cinnamon.

I’ve gotten through about half of the burrito when I ask Francisco to wrap up the rest for me.

The contender. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

“How many people who order a Super Burrito actually finish it?” I ask him. (Super Burrito simply refers to the largest size, the one I’ve ordered; there are also small and medium varieties.)

He thinks for a moment.

“This one guy, he come in every Sunday,” he says. “He order three Super Burritos.”


“He’s big guy,” he adds, gesturing to the side with his hands.

Three Super Burritos in one sitting— now there is someone I should profile.

After saying good-bye to Francisco and Juan, I walk out of the restaurant with tomorrow’s lunch in hand.

As for fact-checking La Bamba’s advertising slogan… the information’s solid.

I checked it out.

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