since moving down to (mostly living) in Southern California last year, i've gone through several popular chains of burrito joints. my early enthusiasm for Baja Fresh has almost completely faded away. currently, my faves are La Salsa - they really have great salsas like the mango and habanero - and Poquito Mas, a smaller chain that notably pops their burritos into the oven after getting wrapped up for a semi-crunchy outer shell.

today, while (uncharacteristically) shopping around Rodeo Drive, i stumbled upon my current favorite, Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill. they proudly tout themselves as going “beyond just fresh” with 100% certified organic and GMO-free (whatever that means) black beans, pinto beans and long grain rice, 100% premium grade fish, and similar 100% promises about their meats (which i don't eat).

their attention to quality really sets them apart. their salsas are exceptionally rich and full in tomato taste, almost like an Italian sauce. in fact, they also serve stone-fired pizzas here - i know purists are recoiling in horror. i said it's my personal current favorite, not most “authentic” - which i wouldn't be a good judge of anyway...

their “killer” salsa isn't quite that ferocious - i'm obviously still here to write about it - but it sure is capable of setting your mouth ablaze (for comparison, it is quite a bit hotter than La Salsa's habanero). of course, trying to extinguish the flames with liquids only spreads the burn around further. the masochist in me applauds!

there are less than twenty of this chain throughout Southern California plus one outlet in Folsom, Northern California. none are down in South Bay so i'm definitely going to have to seek out the other locations.

for the record, favorite burritos (none “authentic“) in other parts of the country include the Route 66 vegetarian chorizo burrito at Burritoville in N.Y.C., the camarones burrito at Tacos Guyamas on Capitol Hill, Seattle, and the Super Fish burrito (plus extra white sauce and habanero sauce) from Taco del Mar in the Puget Sound area.