Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Al & Bea’s
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
East Los Angeles has the richest offering of old school fast lunch shacks in Southern California. Most lean towards Mexican inspired specialties. The most essential of them is Al & Bea’s. The tiny 1966 stand draws long lunch lines, but serves fast. Locals know that Al & Bea’s has the best bean burrito far and wide.
Bean burritos often are overlooked by the food press, and Al & Bea’s didn’t get much hype until they shocked the world to reach the finals in FiveThirtyEight’s (yes, the political polling website) national burrito taste test. However, long before social science proved that Al and Bea’s was a top burrito among over 67K contenders, locals knew it.
The burritos are a simple, satisfying combination of rich, lard-laden refried beans, generous handfuls of cheddar, and a choice of house red hot sauce or green chile, which is actually also reddish in color. The melted cheddar and beans are so rich together. They are nourishing and simple, with every element perfected. Of course, all the other burritos here are excellent too. Chile relleño is our second favorite, but nothing beats the bean and cheese burritos.
Besides peerless burritos, Al and Bea’s has a small arsenal of other snacks worth trying. Recommended options include surprisingly light and airy taquitos with guacamole; also an order of chips and cheese with a styrofoam side cup of green chili for dipping. The green chile is Colorado-style: saucy, medium spicy with some tomatoes added. In a nutshell, anything on the menu with rich beans or green chili sauce is really good, but a burrito containing both is unbeatable. Real green chile lovers go with wet burritos, which are doused with the stuff, but we prefer the handheld models. French fries topped with green chile and cheese are a good choice for large groups of chile lovers to share.
If you’re craving burgers, Al & Bea’s makes a solidly good one. It’s a thin, griddled patty with the seasonings of a well-used grill coming through nicely. As was the fashion in 1960s Los Angeles, there’s a lot of iceberg lettuce on these. We’re fans of the once-popular bar snack, jalapeño poppers, and Al & Bea’s has stuck with them on their menu, calling them “jalitos.” They’re good if you have a weakness for crunchy, spicy cheese-filled junk nuggets, and they come with a cup of green chile for dipping.
The perfect order at Al and Bea’s is one red sauce bean and cheese burrito, and one green sauce one. Some bravely combine sauces, calling it — as New Mexicans do — “Christmas,” but we appreciate their individual strengths, and how the simple backdrop of beans, cheese and flour tortilla allows them to shine brightly.
Directions & Hours
|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|