Usually, I prefer to write about my first experience with a place or dish. I’m more excited by the freshness of it, and that excitement generally transforms into better writing. At El Diablo, however, freshness is never a question. They’re another Chipotle-style custom burrito joint, but they just might be the ones to have perfected it. They’ve only been in business for eight years, but have already expanded to three locations, and I can’t imagine they’ll be slowing down any time soon.
If it’s your first time there, I recommend starting with one of the templates written out on the blackboard menus behind the counter. I’m particularly fond of the recipe simply called “Grilled Fish”: your choice of beans and rice (black or pinto, white or brown) with Chipotle Ranch dressing, honey jalapeño coleslaw, pineapple habañero salsa, sherry cured onions, and cilantro, all of which is prepared in house. I’m not known for my spice tolerance, and when I got these tacos (they can also be a bowl or a burrito), I found them to be a perfect balance of spice and flavor. In case of allergies or extreme dislikes, that recipe is totally flexible, as they build it before your very eyes. I always recommend getting dishes the way they’re designed as an experiment, even if you don’t like every ingredient. Often, I find that the flavors and textures interact in unexpected ways. Swiss cheese is a perfect example: I find that it tastes horrible when eaten on its own, but in a cold cut sandwich or on a burger, the flavor blends in magnificently. Additionally, if you get tacos, you’ll get three of them, allowing for three different builds.
I rarely actually follow a template, choosing instead to strike out on my own. My protein of choice is chorizo; it’s the closest to good old fashioned ground beef. I absolutely hate when larger pieces of chicken or pork pull out of my half eaten burrito, so I try to go with the smallest pieces of protein possible. I don’t mind a messy burrito, so I always load it up with sauces: chipotle ranch, valentina hot sauce, and queso dip as my cheese. It’s a creamy, delicious mess topped off with spicy pico de gallo, sherry cured onions, and cilantro. It’s not a small meal, and it’s absolutely packed with flavor.
El Diablo’s mascot is a paunchy little demon with a pointed tail and pitchfork named Scratch. It’s a clever little homage to the company’s core policy: making food from scratch. It’s more work, and it’s more expensive, but the difference it makes is very clear. I’ve mentioned before that I’m happy that custom burrito joints are in fashion right now; it’s a solid way to give people food they’ll like while also preserving the things that make restaurants beautiful (people who are good at food doing it for the rest of us). In my humble opinion, El Diablo is the best of these, and I sincerely hope to see their growth continue.