Hunting for Muscatine’s best burrito

Calumet visits three Mexican restaurants


Yasmine Cruz, Calumet journalist

A fresh wet burrito from the Burrito factor steams from melted cheese.   Photo by Yasmine Cruz

By Yasmine Cruz

The hunt for the best burrito in Muscatine reveals a few restaurants with good authentic food and culture.
Las Lomas Mexican Restaurant, Burrito Factory, and Arely’s Mexican Restaurant and Ice Cream serve amazing burritos.
Las Lomas Mexican Restaurant at 1519 Park Ave., offers a wide spread of Mexican cuisine and a real Mexican cultural vibe. Pablo Malaga, one of two head chefs, demonstrated the art of making a burrito. Malaga had a food order to make a Burrito El Patron.
He started with a meat mixture of steak and chorizo. He threw it on the grill and chopped it with two large spatulas. While the meat browned, he added some onions and peppers on the grill. Malaga added potatoes before tossing the tortilla on the grill to cook it up. When everything was done, he rolled up the ingredients into the tortilla and added a spinach sauce on top.
“I started as a dicer here three years ago, and made my way up to chef just recently,” says Malaga.
He never imagined being a chef even though he loves to cook. Although, he’s only been there three years, he already has a favorite burrito. “The Burrito Fiesta is my favorite burrito because it’s a blend of different flavors and really has a good taste to it.”

Home of the Wet Burrito
The Burrito Factory, located at 600 Park Ave., allows you to see your food being made and create your own burrito. Maxine Garcia is the head manager of the Burrito Factory, a family run business that’s been open for seven months. Garcia says her favorite is the Wet Burrito, a customized burrito covered in hot melted cheese sauce. Garcia says, “Everyone loves the wet burrito, with the cheese sauce on top, the freshly pressed tortilla and the ingredients freshly cut each day.”
For the wet burrito, Garcia grabbed tortilla dough and used a tortilla press to flatten it before tossing it on the grill. Once it was browned on both sides, she slid the tortilla on a plate. Then she added Mexican rice, black beans, and steak. She topped it with lettuce, yellow and white cheeses, pico de gallo and “their delicious guacamole.” Rolling it up in the tortilla, she covered it with cheese sauce.
Garcia says she learned cooking from her mom.
“She was a very good cook and I would watch her in the kitchen.”
Before the Burrito Factory, Garcia owned a restaurant in Texas called Atotonilco.
“We had such a huge menu. We had menudo, burritos, tacos, tortas, sopes, tamales and much more. When I decided to open the Burrito Factory, I took a few items from that menu and brought them here.”
When the Burrito Factory was beginning to open, Maxine knew she wanted the customers to be able to decide what goes on their burrito since some don’t like specific ingredients.
“We offer customers complete control over their burrito and allow them to build it. They have a selection of meat to choose from as well as the cold bar. We even have three different salsas to choose from, from mild to fiery hot.”
Garcia says a normal day for her starts around 9 a.m. Every day she makes the dough from scratch and prepares the meats. Then she chops up everything she will need for the cold bar. Garcia enjoys doing what she does and loves making burritos.
“I like making burritos and I like the factory word to go in my business so I named it the Burrito Factory, home of the Wet Burrito.”

Fortress of the Monster Burrito
Arely’s Mexican Restaurant and Ice Cream, a small restaurant at 506 Mulberry Ave. Despite the size, Arely’s is able to maintain a steady stream of customers. Arely’s is family run by married couple Francisco and Reyna Baltazar. Their favorite burrito is the Monster Burrito, a fifteen-inch behemoth with 11 layers of ingredients.
For this burrito, Francisco starts out by throwing steak pieces on the grill, while Reyna warmed up the beans and rice. The rice and beans are made in the morning and kept warm throughout the day. Francisco moves the meat around with his spatula to make sure it’s cooked before moving it all into a corner of the grill. He grabs two tortillas and starts frying them on the grill, flipping them a couple times before starting to shape the burrito.
He started with a flat layer of beans, he adds rice, meat, cilantro, onions, avocado slices, tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños, cheese, and sour cream. Rolling it into a burrito, he brings it to the grill to brown the tortilla. Then, he cuts it into thirds and serves it with a mild and spicy salsa and chips.
The Monster Burrito seems like the perfect eating challenge. Francisco says, “We’ve thought about turning it into a challenge, but we want people to enjoy the food they eat instead of being in a rush to eat it up.”
Francisco had no previous restaurant experience and Reyna used to sell tortas in Mexico. Despite being small business, the Baltazars say they are able to work because they have the authentic Mexican style.
“We serve food as if it was being sold on the streets of Mexico. Not only do we have burritos, but we sell tortas (a Mexican sandwich), sopes (Mexican deep dish pizza), enchiladas as well as ice cream, shaved ice, and milkshakes.”