NPR logo

On The Hunt For The Nation's Best Burrito

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
On The Hunt For The Nation's Best Burrito


On The Hunt For The Nation's Best Burrito

On The Hunt For The Nation's Best Burrito

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Anna Maria Barry-Jester has been traveling the USA, eating, photographing, blogging and ranking the nation's burritos for the site FiveThirtyEight. She tells NPR's Tamara Keith about the epic journey.


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.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.