Everyone has a type when it comes to breakfast burritos — but often the best ones come wrapped in foil, able to retain their heat until lunch or contain the sauce when things get messy. At its core, a proper breakfast burrito is a hand-held flavor bomb with more power than a stick of C4. Once it needs a fork and knife to consume, it’s lost half of its utility. Breakfast burritos are supposed to be portable. There’s something magical about the combination between greasy chorizo or bacon, eggs that keep you full, potatoes that soak up the chile and cheese that holds it all together. A good burrito warms you from the inside, like a shot of room-temperature whiskey.
Where: Santiago’s boasts 28 Colorado locations. Check their website to find the nearest location.
When: Individual store hours vary. Most locations open at 6 a.m. and are closed on Sundays
Cost: $2.55 as ordered
The Lowdown: Santiago’s owners launched their burrito empire 31 years ago. Although the restaurant has grown, adding locations across the state, its quality is unwavering. Santiago’s rotates the meat in its burritos daily. You decide your spice level: hot, mild or half and half. Unlike other restaurants, Santiago’s chile more resembles a green chile sauce than a stew. The sauce is smoother than most others. It’s the same shade of 1950s era wallpaper, a fading pinkish-orange that’s best kept wrapped in its burrito robe. Santiago’s breakfast burritos aren’t huge. Order two depending on your appetite. Make sure to arrive early, before they run out or, order online.
Where: 1550 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver
When: Hours vary. Check their website.
Cost: $3.45 as ordered
The Lowdown: Little Anita’s lies in a strip-mall on south Colorado Boulevard wedged between an Old Navy and a kickboxing studio. The restaurant prides itself on its New Mexican cuisine. Chile aficionados will notice a slight difference from other burritos on the list in the New Mexican style sauce that they use. Little Anita’s is the only shop I visited that offers red or green chile. Their burritos are packed to the gills. Unless your hands are the size of Shaq’s, these monsters are a step up from handheld burritos.
Where: 3023 W. 44th Ave., Denver
When: Closing hours vary, open at 7 a.m. daily
Cost: $5 as ordered
The Lowdown: La Fuente is a small Mexican restaurant at West 44th Avenue and Federal Boulevard. The store’s red lettering beckons hungry locals in for a taste. Teresa, the owner, does a bit of everything. On the day I came, she was running the cash register, checking on customers and helping the cook. La Fuente’s burritos are light on the green chile, but packed with bacon. They offer fair-sized burritos, with your choice of meat. La Fuente allows in-person dining at a reduced capacity.
Where: 3561 Tejon St, Denver and at Denver International Airport, Concourse C
When: Opens at 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, Opens at 8 a.m Saturday, Closed Sundays.
Cost: $4.30 as ordered
The Lowdown: Why would you buy a breakfast burrito from a tamale shop? It’s a reasonable question, but La Casita seems to have mastered multiple disciplines. If you like La Casita’s award-winning tamales, you’ll definitely approve of their breakfast burritos. Burritos come with your choice of meat, or you can opt for a simpler vegetarian option. La Casita will smother your burrito if you’re into that or will add green chile and roll up your creation for you. La Casita uses shredded hashbrown potatoes, which were a nice change from the larger potato chunks that can quickly make a burrito bland.
Where: 3460 Park Ave. West, Denver; 5520 Washington St, Denver and 806 E. 78th Ave., Denver
When: Open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., but check the hours before you go.
Cost: $2.05 as ordered
The Lowdown: Gomez Burritos has three Denver locations. I visited their store on West Park Avenue, near I-25. The store was packed with folks on their way to work: police and paramedics waiting for a call and other regulars. Gomez offers two sizes for burritos, regular and super. I stuck with the regular, overwhelmed by the super-size burrito replica hanging by their menu. With the restaurant’s diverse choices for add ons, it’s easy to fill up on a single burrito. The chile sauce has a strong garlic flavor and packs a nice punch in terms of spice. Gomez offers to smother burritos for a slight increase in price.
All photography by Kori Hazel, unless otherwise noted