There is no denying the allure of the breakfast burrito. Sturdy, satisfying, and available with startling ease around Los Angeles, breakfast burritos are as personal and regional as any taco stand or coffee shop could hope to be. Any Angeleno (if they’re doing it right, at least) should have a list of favorites to break open in case of hangover emergency — or, really, any given Sunday when the craving hits.
And yet, for all the talk of who makes the best breakfast burrito in town, there is one restaurant that rises above reproach: Lucky Boy Burgers. The longstanding roadside stop along Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena has been doing their take on breakfast burritos for decades, and draws hundreds of daily fans from across Los Angeles County. Here’s how the magic gets made.
There’s More to Lucky Boy Than Breakfast Burritos
To hear current owner Christina Karagias tell it, Lucky Boy is about so much more than just the breakfast burritos. The third-generation owner of the company (they’ve got another location across Pasadena on Walnut, and Karagias also operates different restaurants further east) is a pulse of energy when she steps into any room, smiling and helping and waving to locals all in one step. But she’s quick to let the world know that at Lucky Boy, the burritos aren’t everything.
“We have a lot of vegetarian products, our burgers are really good too,” she says from a corner booth. “The breakfast burrito wasn’t even on the original menu.” According to lore, it was added sometime in the 1970s after a customer on the go decided to ask for his breakfast all rolled up into one big handful.
Time has done wonders for the Lucky Boy slate of available options. Tacos and burritos are now much more prevalent, owing to growing demand in Mexican-food obsessed Southern California. Almost nobody orders the traditional Greek diner staples like the gyros anymore, and over the years the restaurant flirted with big dishes like chicken-fried steaks. These days, it’s all about the burgers, the chili cheese fries, and the breakfast burritos.
What Goes Into Every Single Breakfast Burrito
Though Karagias declines to name the official number of breakfast burritos that Lucky Boy serves in a single day (“I don’t want to make anybody feel bad,” she notes with a smile), it hovers somewhere in the 250 range. At $7.30 a pop, that’s a lot of cash for a walk-up window with some limited indoor seating — to say nothing of the sandwiches and burgers and sodas being sold as well. It’s hard to argue with the price, considering how massive each burrito is — and how perfectly constructed.
Like any good short-order breakfast operation, the heart of Lucky Boy is the flattop griddle. Stuffed morning, noon, and late night with everything from hamburger buns to breakfast sausage, the plancha is where the breakfast burrito magic happens.
1: The Eggs
First there are eggs. A beaten wash of three eggs make up the body of the Lucky Boy breakfast burrito, and are the first thing to hit the griddle when an order comes in. They bubble up fast and require a quick swirl-through with a spatula to firm up without turning into rubber.
2: The Potatoes
As anyone who tries to knock the Lucky Boy burrito will (quickly) say, potatoes are also a major factor here. They’re more home fries really, cubed up bits of softened russet potatoes that get crispy at the edges thanks to a long, low run on the griddle. Crucially, they’re also a great retainer of passive heat from the flattop, which helps to melt cheese and heat breakfast meats together. It’s a synergy of flavor that means no one is getting a single, solo, potato-only bite when they dig in.
3: The Bacon
Like any worthwhile breakfast burrito, Lucky Boy also doesn’t skimp on the meats. Sausage and bacon are the most useful choices for post-drinking success, but chorizo is also a popular option these days. One important note: Lucky Boy stops serving chorizo in the morning (usually because they run out), but keeps up the bacon and sausage all day. It’s also worth pointing out that the bacon here is fried, not griddled, so there’s less of the chewy, greasy bite one might expect from a big pile of bacon wrapped inside a tortilla. Classicists, as a result, should opt for the sausage.
4: The Cheese
Breakfast burrito cheese is like hamburger cheese: simple is best. Lucky Boy leans in on pre-shredded cheddar, the kind of bagged stuff that’s easily found at every supermarket in the universe because it melts perfectly in second. Even the big, clustered chunks of cheddar that hover in the middle of the finished breakfast burrito cave in and get cheese-pull-stringy eventually — just in time for those last few bites.
5: The Tortilla
Finally, there is the tortilla. Big and initially stiff out of the bag, Lucky Boy’s flour tortillas earn a crucial turn on the grill before assembly. That not only heats them up enough to be pliant (there’s a lot of protein and potato to wrap around, after all), but provides aesthetically superior grill marks that also make for tiny, crispy mini-bites as diners work their way down the wrapper. Add in the eggs, potato, cheese, and meat, and the whole hefty package becomes a lesson not only in supremacy, but simplicity. There are no frills here, just lines of wide-eyed diners who know where to get the good stuff.
Lucky Boy Burgers
640 S. Arroyo Parkway