A Good but Pricey Burrito at Cafe El Portal

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

When I asked you about burritos in New York last week, this was the one I had in mind. Nolita's Cafe El Portal makes a good burrito. Actually it makes one of the better burritos I've had in New York—which is not the same as great—but it comes with a price, $10.50 if you go with the pork filling. Is it ever okay to pay double digits for a burrito?

Before you pass judgment, take a look at that soft, steamed tortilla that keeps its massive payload well contained—a New York rarity all its own. The pork is tender with a bit of chew, naturally sweet and dressed with a subtle but effective dose of chilies. Beans and rice are soft but not overcooked, and the whole mass is bound—but not saturated—with gooey, slightly funky Oaxaca cheese. It's a meat-light burrito, but a satisfying one, huge, well-balanced, and quite filling. Let's also bear in mind this is a full-menu sit-down restaurant with a bar, not a bare bones taqueria.

Of course in California you can get a better burrito for half the cost. And you've named several candidates in other neighborhoods, many in Sunset Park. But this is Nolita, land of twee, overpriced cafes, and Cafe El Portal, which by and large is a decent, friendly neighborhood joint, could probably do far worse without changing their prices. I'm not exactly running back for another, but if a burrito craving strikes me in the neighborhood, I'll know where to go.