The stream of hungry diners who line up at the takeout window of El Burrito Jr. every evening are not drawn by the ambience.
The tiny A-frame shack is on busy Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, and during rush hour the air is filled with an odd combination of car fumes, ocean breezes and salsa. Two outdoor picnic tables are the only dining spots available--and they overlook a run-down gas station.
Ambience, no way.
But what this place lacks in atmosphere is more than compensated for by the hearty Mexican fare. Just walk up, plop down a $5 bill and leave with a bag full of piping-hot, south-of-the-border delicacies.
Order four overstuffed tacos for $3.75. A plateful of taquitos with guacamole for $4.55. The mound of meat they call a super burrito for $3.50.
"Burritos are what most people order," said manager Sergio Pilo. "They're big."
The former hot dog stand was transformed into a quick-service Mexican eatery about a year and a half ago. There's a sign on the roof to attract passers-by, but most of the restaurant's business comes by word-of-mouth.
"They like our service," Pilo said. "We're quick. We surprise people. Everybody's talking about us."
Its proximity to the ocean makes El Burrito Jr. popular with the beach crowd. The "Super Beach Basket," a $9.99 special that includes two burritos, two tacos, two enchiladas and a heap of side orders is a low-budget feast that's conveniently packaged to eat on the sand.
Commuters take over on weekdays when the sun goes down. They say the restaurant has an irresistible late-night pull. As they put it: It's late, you're on the freeway and hunger has set in. The thought of preparing dinner at home causes your stomach to rumble--what better than a quick kitchen that serves food by the mounds?
El Burrito Jr., 919 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. Open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call ahead for faster takeout service, (310) 316-5058.