Puerto Vallarta is known for it's long list of many charming barrios and at the top of the list is Barrio 5 De Diciembre. A bustling, festive area which is nestled between the beach and the hills, just south of the Hotel Zone. As in most neighborhoods around the city, it's steep, narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with taquerias, farmacias, papelerias, banks, souvenir shops and many other types of businesses and restaurants.
And, as like most of the food establishments here, the restaurants serve the standard local fare like tacos or rotisserie chicken but there is one sparkling jewel on Calle Honduras, 257A that stands alone in it's approach to culinary delights. That hidden gem is called the “Real Deal California Burrito”and it specializes in just what the name implies. Real, California style burritos. This quaint little nook at the bottom of the hill where Highway 200 crosses Calle Honduras, is operated by Raine Durrett, his wife Elizabeth and his mom, Stacie. It's a family affair for sure, as both women are working hard, right along side Raine every day. Now I bet you didn't know, but according to Raine, there are actually two different types of authentic, California burritos. The original California burrito got it's start in San Diego. It consists of steak, french fries, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. It must contain steak and fries for it to be considered a true, California burrito. The other style is the one that most people are familiar with and it originates from San Francisco's Mission District. In fact, it is often referred to as the “Mission Style” burrito. This type of burrito allows for the customer to choose from a variety of fresh, local ingredients like chicken, beef, pork, rice, beans, lettuce, cheese, salsas, etc., so that each one is made to order and completely unique. The “Real Deal California Burrito” offers both styles so you get the best of both worlds. The ability to customize your burrito is what really sets the “Real Deal California Burrito” apart from all of the other restaurants or taco stands in the area. Also, finding french fries in your burrito is an unexpectedly delicious surprise and quite unique.
Raine grew up working in his family's restaurant in Glenwood Springs, Colorado in the U.S. “I got my start working for my dad in our family's restaurant” he said. “It was the only job I had up until I was about 28 years old. That's when we decided to sell the restaurant” he added. Raine went on to tell me that spending that much time in a restaurant teaches you a lot. It gave him his incredible work ethic and it is where he developed his love and passion for the industry.
Additional items that you will find at the “Real Deal California Burrito” are American style, hard shell tacos, carne asada cheese fries, quesadillas, and their newest menu item, a breakfast burrito served all day long. “We strive to make customers happy and go to great lengths every day to put out the best tasting, freshest product possible” Durret said. “We offer vegetarian, vegan, keto and gluten free options as well so there is something for everybody here”
I can personally attest to the fact that these burritos are fresh and delicious. The depth of flavor is remarkable. These burritos are also HUGE! I usually get one and have to save half until later or the next day. I have eaten so many and have had my punch card filled so many times that whenever Raine sees me at the door, he automatically shouts out what I am going to have before I say a word. You will not find a friendlier crew than Raine, his wife and his mom. They are the “Real Deal” when it comes to war, friendly service.
Raine has been in Puerto Vallarta permanently, for 3 ½ years. He started coming here when he was a kid and he and his wife Elizabeth even spent their honeymoon here. “It's been a special place for me for a long time” he said.
The quarantine definitely affected the business. They had to shut down for two months from about mid March until mid May. They re-opened but for only three days a week until they gradually got busier. Now they are rockin and rollin, Monday through Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. That doesn't leave Raine nor his family with much free time but they like to spend what little they have, together at the beach or doing other family activities. Raine is also a passionate Denver Broncos and Colorado Buffalos fan so he tries to sneak in a game on TV if he can.
Raine believes in being the best person he can be and just enjoying life. “I just love the Mexican way of life” he said with a broad smile. “I lived in Mexico years ago when I met my wife and I have travelled all over the place. There is an appreciation for life and enjoyment of the little things that really puts things in perspective for me. It is one of the reasons I have always wanted to be here.”
So, my amigos and amigas, the next time you are in the 5 De Diciembre area, be sure to stop at the “Real Deal California Burrito.” In fact, don't even wait until you are in the area. Just make a special trip. You will be so glad you did. Don't forget to ask for a punch card because I guarantee you will go back again and again.
I think I will pay a visit to Raine really soon and get started on my next punch card. This time I'm going to order something different, just to keep him on his toes.