Long before Chipotle and Moes began hawking burritos in South Florida, hometown favorite East Coast Burrito Factory was constructing gargantuan, one-pound burritos and unleashing them like mini Godzillas on the public. The burritos say East Coast, but the style is distinctly San Franciscan with a Florida twist -- Frisco burros are known for their bulging mass, their baby-like size, and their mess of everything-but-the-sink fillings. East Coast ups the ante by turning their burritos into Floritos, huge flour tortillas that incorporate Caribbean and Cuban elements like black beans and rice, fresh seafood, and jerk sauce. Although jerk sauce on a burrito may sound like a foolhardy proposition, this place pulls it off. That plus a chipotle barbecue burrito, as seen above, that's perhaps the best bit of tubular love flung out in South Florida.
What makes an East Coast burrito so good? First, there's distribution of goods. The burrito makers at the tiny shop (and there are two, co-owners Hal Hochhauser and Rebecca Leven) know that great ingredients mean squat if they're not spread around. You have to be able to taste each element in each bite. You'll never bite into a wet load of sour cream or just a mouthful of rice. Everything's spread out nicely. Secondly, they don't put everything in their burritos. Each burro is pretty much restricted to six or seven ingredients, and you can discern each one from the others. Sour cream, cheese, lettuce, salsa, rice, beans, and meat. Guacamole is served where it should be, with chips and salsa on the side. Lastly, those ingredients are topnotch. The chipotle burrito above features shredded pork, and it's juicy, tender, and flavorful. The salsas are housemade too, and they don't hold back on the heat. My favorite is the habanero hot salsa, which is spicy enough to actually give you fits. But it's strangely addictive all at once and is the perfect foil to the starchy, cheesy, cooling bits of the Florito.
There's a lot of other things to love about East Coast. The chipotle chili, beanless and spicy, is badass. Tacos are dressed well, and if you order them to go, the owners are wise enough to serve them disassembled so as to keep them from going soggy. There are cute, individualistic flourishes, like the wedges of cucumber served with every burrito -- you'll discover the reason for these after a round or two with the habanero salsa.
Most important, the place feels like the sort of mom-and-pop joint that you want to give your business to. Hal and Rebecca are exceedingly friendly and courteous. They ask for your name with your order, even if you are eating in, and they call you by it for the duration of your stay, as if they've just met a new friend. Their hands touch everything in there, and nothing gets by that isn't magicked by their presence. And the storefront the place sits in, among the onetime houses along Commercial Boulevard's frontage road, is intimate and old Florida. It has a covered patio out back with quaint picnic tables where you can sit and eat your fat, baby burro in tranquility. I love going there, and I feel like I'm contributing to an enterprise that's really unique to Fort Lauderdale whenever I do.
East Coast Burrito Factory
261 E. Commerical Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Now check out a few more pictures from a recent visit.