I've been a fiercely loyal fan of Anna's Taqueria for as long as I can remember. My first taste was many years ago at the Harvard Street location in Brookline, long before they expanded not only the size of that location but their footprint in the city. Super chicken with black beans, sour cream and jalapenos was my go to burrito. I'd mix it up occasionally with a super steak, but that was rare. Going to Anna's has always been about the experience, at peak periods it's akin to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. From the tortilla steamer on down the line, your burrito, taco or quesadilla is built right in front of you. Watch your burrito built up and expertly rolled before taking a seat to eat.
I've never lived very close to any of the Anna's locations so stopping in was always a treat. It was almost always on a weekend, until I started working in Cambridge, a mere ten minute walk from the MGH/Beacon Hill location. Anna's is now an almost weekly staple in my lunch diet, and I am fiercely loyal. I've been vocal about my lack of love for Boloco, Qdoba will do when there is no Anna's around, and Chipotle, well, they are a former McDonald's start up, don't get me going on how I feel about McDonalds. I've also moved on from chicken and almost exclusively order the carnitas, its the best I've had, anywhere, until recently.
There are many other independently owned and operated taquerias in Boston. La Verdad turns out some of the best, no, the best tacos in the city and incredibly reasonable prices, $1 a piece on Tuesday's when the Red Sox are out of town during the baseball season. There is also El Pelon, an institution with a following as fiercely loyal as those that love Anna's. Unfortunately their Fens location suffered a great fire shutting it down some time ago. I hear they are about to open back up in the very near future but they also opened a new location on Comm Ave across from Boston College. I never visited El Pelon in the city before the fire, and never visited the Boston College location, until last night.
On my way home from the city, having forgone dinner for a couple after work cocktails at Eastern Standard, I decided to detour onto Comm Ave and stop in for a burrito at El Pelon. Let me first by stating that there is no experience at El Pelon, I don't know what it was like at the Fens spot pre-fire, but at the Boston College location, the burritos are rolled behind a high counter top. There is no watching the assembly of your burrito, there is no experience. However, the carnitas burrito, with hot sauce, no sour cream, was great. Seriously. I felt like I was cheating on Anna's because I enjoyed it so much. The carnitas was tender, not a dry piece to be found. It was big, spicy, and delicious. But again, no burrito experience.
In this tale of two burritos, Anna's wins. I have only this one El Pelon experience so I can't speak to the consistency of their flavors, texture and rolling, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that since they too have very loyal followers, they're doing something right. The edge goes to Anna's though, for the great burritos AND the great burrito experience.
Stop in to any one of Anna's locations and see for yourself. You won't be disappointed. For comparisons sake, head over to El Pelon too. When you've tried both, let's talk.