Surprising Truths: Noted Burrito Expert Judah Friedlander Still Needs to Try Mission Cantina’s Super Burritos

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This man needs a French-fry burrito. Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan

Comedian Judah Friedlander's enthusiasm for burritos is well known, so when we saw him at Cinema Society's screening of the new Jim Jarmusch movie Only Lovers Left Alive last night, it seemed only right to get his opinion of the city's newest burrito craze: the monsters that Danny Bowien serves at Mission Cantina. But Friedlander not only hadn't tried them, he hadn't heard of them. The screening was held at the nearby Landmark Sunshine, so we tried to remedy the problem on the spot, but alas, Friedlander had to get to a show. Before that, though, he had time to talk about his new favorite Ukrainian spot, the quality of Otto's Tacos, and the great burrito he recently had in ... Grand Rapids, Michigan?

Have you tried the burritos at Mission Cantina?
Where is that? I might have.

It's right down by Mission Chinese, kind of.
What’s Mission Chinese? Is that a restaurant? Oh, I’ve heard of that! Mission Cantina, I don’t think I have. I’ll have to check it out. What do you know about it?

It’s from Danny Bowien. I think you’d remember. He does lamb burritos. It’s pretty creative.
I might have to try out Mission Cantina. Where’s this dude from?

He came from San Francisco, from the Mission.
Well, San Francisco burritos can be good, but in general, they’re not going to be as good as a San Diego burrito.

Why is that? A bean factor?
Probably. What kind of beans does he use?

They’re not refried. They're simmered with bay leaf and something else in there.
It sounds delicious, but it doesn’t sound like the classic kind, which they don’t really have in this city. Although, I went to this Otto’s Tacos. They make a pretty good taco there. Have you had their steak taco? It’s worth checking out. I’m impressed.

They make their own corn tortillas there, and I think they may either double-bake ’em or double fry ’em, and they’re thick, and they’re crispy and chewy. They’re different. And the steak kinda melts in your mouth. It’s new, it’s only a couple months old. It’s on Second Avenue, around 9th or 10th Street. Otto’s Tacos. Check that out. That’s my latest Mexican scoop.

The other depressing news in New York burritos is that I was just in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I had a better burrito there than I’ve ever had in New York City. So step it up, New York! Come on, man. I went to a place called Bobarino’s. I mean, it sounds like it’s going to be terrible. It’s a pizza place. But they also make a nachos platter and a burrito, and their burrito is fuckin’ good! They use all-natural ingredients. It’s a pulled chicken burrito. The chicken is cooked in a very succulent, tender way. It melts in your mouth. They use not a refried or a mashed — it doesn’t necessarily have to be refried, it can be mashed, too — but not with the classic pinto beans, but with black beans, and that’s good too. But yeah, so I will check out Mission Cantina. I’m excited about this.

I have to check it out, too.
And check out your Otto’s Tacos.

I’m back in Manhattan now. I’ve been living in Queens for about ten years, but I’m back in Manhattan, so I’m discovering more restaurants. I’ll tell you where to get the best stuffed cabbage. Ukrainian joint. I believe it’s affiliated with the church on 7th Street. It’s on 7th between Second and Third avenues. And their pierogis are good, too. It blows away all the other joints. It’s only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and it’s run by the church. You can get single pierogis. You can just get one. For 75 cents. Or you can get, like, a bunch. They only have a few things on the menu.

Do you sit there?
Yeah, you just go to the counter, you sit at a table, they call you up, get your tray, sit down and eat. It’s kind of the way the ones in Greenpoint were 15 or 20 years ago. It’s almost like cafeteria-style. It’s really good and it basically just supports the church. But it’s open to the public, just Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But it may not be open past 7 o’clock. It's good. But I’m gonna check out Mission Cantina.

Earlier: Danny Bowien on Going Full Burrito at Mission Cantina

Related: Otto’s Now Serves an Off-Menu Deep-Fried Taco