Thank You Señor Rojas

I was saddened to learn today from LA Observed that master burrito maker Manuel Rojas, owner of the famed El Tepeyac restaurant in Boyle Heights, has died. Susan and I were introduced to the legendary eatery by our friends Arnold and Martha Ontes, who took us there back in 2005, under the stipulation that I promise to eat what they ordered for me.

When our server showed up, Arnold quickly ordered a “Manuel’s Special.” But wouldn’t divulge what the catch was. Did it arrive flaming? Was it the spiciest burrito ever? There lips were sealed. In a show of solidarity, Susan decided to get the same thing and both Arnold and Martha and our server chuckled knowingly.

In a nutshell, the Manuel’s Special is basically two square feet of burrito. It is just about the biggest thing to occupy a plate that I’ve ever seen. When it arrived, the sight of such ginormosity alone was almost enough to take away the intense hunger pangs I was experiencing, but I dug in as best I could. Susan took a few bites of hers, and gave up. I managed to put away about 1/15th of the delicious burrito later before quitting. Ambitiously we got to-go containers and hefted the leftovers home thinking we’d have some more for dinner, but we were just kidding ourselves.

I went there next in 2006. I organized a Boyle Heights bike ride from Echo Park whose midway point was El Tepeyac. This time I ordered the still gargantuan (but markedly smaller) Hollenbeck Burrito — another of Rojas’ creations — for the price of $6.65, pictured below:

hollenbeckburrito

As you can see from that quarter I added for scale next to the plate, the Hollenbeck is still a monster, but far less intimidating than the Manuel’s Special.

I made the mistake of eating pretty much the whole dang thing — nd I say “mistake,” not because it wasn’t delicious, but because I then had to ride all the gut-busted way home from Boyle Heights to Silver Lake, and parts of that roll were pretty painful.

I haven’t been back since because I think I’m still digesting parts of it.

Rest in peace, Señor Rojas. Maker of the best burritos ever.

 

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Will

Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with laonstage.com, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."