A taste of the Mission at Juan’s Flying Burrito

When people ask me what I miss most about living in California, aside from the obvious answers like my family or the beach, my most common answer is Mission-style burritos. Often I find myself craving the huge, inexpensive burritos loaded with well-seasoned meats, rice, beans, cheese, shredded lettuce and tomatoes and served with free tortilla chips, salsa and tasty condiments like whole pickled jalapenos. A feast such as this would easily feed me for two meals and all for less than $12! While there’s nothing exactly like this in New Orleans, I can get pretty darn close at Juan’s Flying Burrito.

John and I have been to Juan’s on many, many occasions and at both locations, but last week we headed for the original on Magazine Street. Perhaps it’s the loud music blaring through the restaurant with chefs singing along while they work, the heavily tattooed servers or the eclectic decor (who doesn’t love a chandelier made from Patron bottles?), but we prefer this location to the Juan’s on Carrollton Avenue – even though the Mid-City restaurant is closer.

We arrived late in the lunch hour and after some dithering about where to sit (I wanted the best light for pictures), we opted for one of the larger booths in front. Dani and her 2-year-old daughter Posie were with us and we all pretty much knew what we wanted until we spotted the colorful, chalkboard specials adorning the walls and were forced to make some adjustments. Our server was prompt, helpful and before we knew it, our drinks and appetizers arrived in a flurry.

It was hard to make everyone wait while I snapped shots of one special, their house made Chorizo Queso. The aroma of the cheese and sausage together was overwhelming, so I worked fast and got the best images I could before the first chip was dipped. Everyone agreed that we had made an excellent choice after tasting the creamy, melted cheese and the warm, cinnamon-rich chorizo…even Posie! We made quick work of the queso and had to request another basket of their fresh, crisp tortilla chips in order to scrape up every last drop.

Before we finished inhaling the appetizer, our entrees arrived. Posie was feasting on her own order of creamy, fresh guacamole while Dani enjoyed their Shrimp Quesadilla with an extra helping of sour cream. John fell back on one of our favorites and their namesake dish, the Flying Burrito which features grilled steak, gulf shrimp and chicken with cheddar, jack, yellow rice, black beans. salsa and guacamole in a grilled Chipotle tortilla. I veered from the norm and chose another special, the Shrimp Hooligan burrito that touted “twice the shrimp” and I can confirm that’s not a lie. Plump Gulf shrimp were rolled into a grilled spinach wrap with jack cheese, refried beans, rice, sour cream and salsa. Though it was delicious, after a glut of queso dip I was able to finish less than half of the monster burrito (John had the same problem), but I wasn’t complaining, because now I didn’t have to worry about what I was having for dinner…

Juan's Flying Burrito on Urbanspoon

Juan’s Flying Burrito

Remember when you were a kid, enduring the dull pace of yet another day at school, longing for the free days of summer to begin?  I find that as an adult, I don’t have very many things to look forward to.  Sure, I am anxious for a week or two away from work each year or seeing a beloved local band, but it isn’t quite the same.  For some reason, it doesn’t hold the same promise of unexpected pleasures and adventure as it did when I was young.

Just recently, I began a diet that requires cutting out extra fats and carbs, eating five, small balanced meals a day and drinking plenty of water.  I am never hungry, but I dearly miss the delicious meals this city has to offer.  Fortunately, once a week, I am allowed to “cheat” and eat whatever I want for one meal.  Thursday has been renamed as my “Official Cheat Day,” and now I have something to look forward to.  By the way, it’s been two weeks, with two cheats, and I have already lost 15 pounds.

This week, I have been looking forward to a spicy “Creole Tex-Mex” meal at Juan’s Flying Burrito, and that is exactly what I got.  After work, my boyfriend and I headed over to the Magazine Street location, which is my favorite even though I live closer to the Mid-City Juan’s. Perhaps it has something to do with nostalgia (it was the first restaurant I visited when I moved here 6 years ago) or because of the funky art, the cool coffee can light fixtures, the “alternative” vibe of the servers or the chef’s singing along to old 80’s tunes in the open kitchen, but I always choose the original Juan’s.

We were seated almost as soon as we walked in the door and started off the meal with their chips, salsa and guacamole.  I am always pleased with Juan’s crunchy tortilla chips and fresh salsa. The guacamole was tasty, too, with big chunks of avocado, a nice spicy kick and creamy consistency. We also ordered some margaritas, on the rocks with salt, and were pleasantly surprised to realize it was still Happy Hour. The margaritas came in tall pint glasses and were, as the waiter aptly put, “very happy.” Actually, Juan’s is having a summer “Happy Hour Special” that runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday.  Now there’s an excuse to leave work earlier!

The specials board was advertising Barq’s BBQ Chicken Nachos with cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole, and the waiter’s recommendation made it sound even more tempting, but I already had something else in mind. For my entree, I ordered an “Al Pastor burrito” which consists of slow-cooked shredded pork and grilled onions with pineapple salsa, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, pinto beans and yellow rice wrapped in a flour tortilla. My boyfriend got Juan’s “Flying Burrito,” grilled steak, Gulf shrimp and chicken with cheddar and jack cheese, black beans, yellow rice, salsa, sour cream and guacamole, all rolled in a grilled tortilla.

The “Al Pastor” was deliciously sweet and spicy, hot enough for me to sip a little too strenuously on my margarita, resulting in both a cold headache and a pleasant buzz.  My boyfriend’s dish was tasty as well, overflowing with meat and perfectly seasoned. Portion size is never a problem at Juan’s…

As we rolled out of the restaurant excessively sated, we began planning our dining adventure for next week. My new eating regimen has me not only looking forward to a healthier lifestyle and continued weight loss, it has also brightened my palate for the dining experiences ahead.