On the move

There are few things that make a person feel hungrier than a day spent moving. And, as I recently found out, there are also few things that make a person feel more broke than buying a house. I think you can see where this is heading. Last Saturday, I felt both famished and impoverished, with the added bonus of being grimy and sweaty from hoisting boxes. The situation wasn’t pretty (nor was I), but I did find a solution: Los Jarritos, a souped-up but super-cheap taqueria and burrito joint.

The burrito, it turns out, is the perfect post-moving food. I know pizza and beer are traditional, probably because the pizza people will bring the food to your new door. But if you’re going to go get the beer, you might as well go out for Mexican food, too. It’s cheaper; it’s more filling; and, if you’re like me, you’ll be delighted to get out of a chaotic house.

Plus, at Los Jarritos, you’re not confined to beer for liquid refreshment—though the place has plenty of it. You can get an agua fresca in yummy flavors like tamarind or jamaica (hibiscus), or a smooth, cinnamony horchata. If you’ve never had horchata, it’s a sweet, milk-like drink made from rice, and it tastes like the best rice pudding that Grandma never made. Los Jarritos also has blended drinks, such as strawberry daiquiris. Ordering one occasioned a bit of tumult behind the counter; the cocktails seemed to be a newish item. It was presented with aplomb, though, in a stemmed glass with an umbrella perched in the slushy, brightly sweet cocktail.

Umbrellas and stemmed glasses are by far the fanciest touches you’ll find at Los Jarritos. The horchata comes in a paper Coke cup. Chips are self-serve: the first little basket is free, and subsequent ones cost a quarter on the honor system. There’s a salsa bar with choices that range from innocent to incendiary. I liked the roasted-tomato salsa, which was fairly thin, with dark flecks and plenty of heat.

Ordering is done at the counter, and this is where the first challenge comes in. The menu is so extensive, and the prices so rock-bottom, that it’s hard to decide what to get. There are basic burritos for less than $2, and super burritos for about double that, as well as specialty plates like chili verde with rice and beans for only $4.50. Chili verde is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and Los Jarritos makes an excellent version. The pork was meltingly tender, and the green sauce was tangy, with just a little heat. It came with piping hot, soft flour tortillas.

My husband opted for the super burrito with carnitas, which was really astonishingly large. It easily could have been a meal for us both. It was also delicious, with flavorful cubes of pork, rice and beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and cheese. What distinguishes one burrito from another, assuming good components, is the even distribution of its elements; at Los Jarritos, the burrito rollers clearly know what they’re doing.

Our eyes being habitually bigger than our stomachs, we also got an order of nachos supreme as an appetizer. They were the only real disappointment of the meal, because they were covered not in cheese but in Day-Glo orange cheese product. Though the other toppings were good—tasty shredded chicken, guacamole, beans and so forth—the cheese goo made the whole dish meretricious. This fakery was a sorry contrast to the chips, which were excellent, made from tortillas and not of the extruded variety.

It might be better to skip appetizers to save room for dessert. There’s a full bakery case of pan dulces and other sweets. Even if you’re full, you might want to take home a little bag to go with your coffee the next morning. A sticky phyllo-nut tart, like open-faced baklava, was especially tasty. But the crowning touch is the paletas: popsicles, some made of fruit juice and some milk-based, in a gorgeous array of pastels and jewel tones. With flavors from strawberry to tamarind-chili, there’s something for everyone. They’re cheap, too: a dollar each or $7.50 a dozen. I briefly entertained visions of buying boxes of them to serve at a housewarming party. Then two recollections, both unpleasant, seized me: First, I had dozens of boxes to unpack before I could even think about having a party. Second, we wouldn’t have a refrigerator for five more days.

What we were going to eat in the interim was a puzzle, but we might well head back to Los Jarritos for food and menu options that are a cut above those of the average taqueria. We’ll be in good company. Los Jarritos attracts everyone from young families to partygoers and starving artists in droves. But the restaurant gets a real vote of confidence from the table of workers from the Wienerschnitzel next door, who were still in uniform and hastily eating their burritos. I’ll bet they get a discount at their workplace, but, no doubt, the deals and the food are a lot better at Los Jarritos.