El Pelón Taqueria’s Burrito Ranked One of the Country’s Best

Nate Silver and David Chang choose three New England establishments in their FiveThirtyEight ‘Burrito Bracket.’

nate silver

“Burrito” image by Shutterstock

Political prognosticator. Celebrated sabermetrics guru. Writer and editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog. Nate Silver is many things, but there is one attribute most people don’t know: the acclaimed statistician is a self-proclaimed “burritophile.” Before he became a household name for accurately predicting the outcome of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Silver was using his statistical proficiency to dissect the best burritos in his Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago. Silver whittled down his 2007 search to five taquerias, then got distracted, building the concept that would eventually become FiveThirtyEight. Since then, Silver’s followers have been beseeching him to resume his aborted search.

This summer, not only is Silver revisiting his neglected, NCAA-style Burrito Bracket, he’s conducting a national search for the greatest burrito in the country.

That’s what we’re about to do. We’re launching a national, 64-restaurant Burrito Bracket. We’ve convened a Burrito Selection Committee. We’ve hired an award-winning journalist, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, to be our burrito correspondent. She’s already out traveling the country and sampling burritos from every establishment that made the bracket. 

Of the 64 contestants vying for the vaunted title, three burrito specialists represent the New England area: El Pelón Taqueria near Fenway, Anna’s Taqueria in Brookline, and Los Coco’s Tacos in Kittery, Maine.

Art by FiveThirtyEight

Art by FiveThirtyEight

So how do you narrow down a field that contains over 67,000 competitors? To address that problem, Silver has used crowd-sourcing site, Yelp, to create an overall rating system he’s dubbed “Value Over Replacement Burrito (VORB).” He then employed a crew of “burrito experts” like David Chang, Gustavo Arellano, and Bill Addison of Eater National to select 16 challengers is four regions of the U.S.

David Chang, of the Momofuku Restaurant Group and editor of Lucky Peach magazine, was responsible for sifting through the thousands of candidates in The Northeast bracket. He travelled a geographic area extending from Missouri to Maine to find the 16 most worthy examples. El Pelón Taqueria scored an astronomical 15.4 on Silver’s VORB scale and was rewarded with the No. 2 seed in the region. Of Anna’s Taqueria, Chang gave the backhanded compliment, “Nothing is great but the sum of the parts makes it very good.” Regardless, Anna’s fell just short of the top four and scored the fifth overall seed. Maine’s Loco’s Coco’s was given a respectable No. 9 seed.

So, what happens now? How will El Pelón stack up against intimidating competitors such as La Pasadita in Chicago, Cabo Bob’s in Austin, or its stiffest competition, El Farolito in San Francisco? To answer that question, FiveThirtyEight has sent out journalist Anna Barry-Jester to sample each of the final 64. Instead of six rounds to pare down the field, Barry-Jester is conducting three concentrated rounds to determine a winner. Stayed tuned to FiveThirtyEight to see where New England’s burrito experts rank.

NORTHEAST REGION

1. La Pasadita
1132 N Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
VORB score: 5.3

2. El Pelón Taqueria
92 Peterborough St.
Boston, MA 02215
VORB score: 15.4

3. Los Gallos Mexican Taqueria
951 Wolf St.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
VORB score: 4.8

4. L’Patron Tacos
2815 W Diversey Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
VORB score: 8.3

5. Anna’s Taqueria
446 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446
VORB score: 8.8

6. Cucina Zapata
Ludlow St. & S 31st St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
VORB score: 8.6

7. Irazu
1865 N Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
VORB score: 10.0

8. Lloyd Taco Truck
Buffalo, NY
VORB score: 9.5

9. Loco Coco’s Tacos
36 Walker St.
Kittery, ME 03904
VORB score: 8.3

10. La Michoacana Taqueria
436 Highway 1 W
Iowa City, IA 52246
VORB score: 8.3

11. Mission Cantina
172 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002
VORB score: N/A

12. Northstar Café
4241 N High St.
Columbus, OH 43214
VORB score: 11.5‎

13. Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria
2303 Arctic Ave.
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
VORB score: 3.0

14. Taqueria Tlaxcalli
2103 Starling Ave.
Bronx, NY 10462
VORB score: 8.8

15. Tortacos
9629 Lost Knife Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
VORB score: 7.6

16. Tres Carnes
688 6th Ave.
New York, NY 10010
VORB score: 6.7

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