Miguel Hernandez’s burrito hustle started with just one customer: his brother-in-law, who’d come to Hernadez’s family’s restaurant, El Tejaban, and request an off-menu, LA-style breakfast burrito. Hernandez would whip one up with eggs, sausage, bacon, and French fries subbed in for the typical potatoes, weaving nimbly between the cooks frying tilapia and tending fiery pots of caldo de mariscos. That’s the origin story of Lito’s Burritos, which quietly debuted in April with what might be the Twin Cities’ most exciting breakfast burrito menu. Ever.
Hernandez runs Lito’s Burritos out of El Tejaban — he serves burritos from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at 3 p.m. the restaurant switches over to its usual menu. Lito’s offers a number of simple egg-cheese-meat burritos, but the real winners are the “Supreme Burritos.” These ones, Hernandez says, will make you want to take a nap. There’s the Breakfast Supreme, which is crammed with eggs, veggies, melted cheese, hash browns, and a bevy of meats: ham, bacon, and sausage. The LA Burrito is classic Californicana with steak, guacamole, and French fries; the beefy birria burrito drips with melted queso blanco; the Chorizo Supreme pairs mild chorizo with fluffy scrambled eggs. Hernandez offers a crunchy cheese shell as an add on, and serves the burritos with a silky verde crema, more peppery morita crema, and fresh salsas. There are other dishes on the menu too, like a birria torta, a chilaquiles bowl, and tacos.
Hernandez defines Lito’s menu as distinctly Chicano. “Chicano’s definitely something that’s been a political statement — there’s a lot of history,” he says. “I view myself as Chicano: the culture of being Indigenous to this land, to this culture, my parents being Indigenous to Mexico — a lot of the U.S. used to be Indigenous to Mexico, too.” His family roots are in Oaxaca, but he was born in LA and lived there for several years before his parents resettled in Minnesota.
Much of Hernandez’s family still lives in Los Angeles — he visits them often. During his last trip, he rented a motorcycle and cruised around to iconic breakfast burrito spots, gathering intel and inspiration. He stopped to chat with Matt Stevanus of pop-up phenom Lowkey Burritos, a muse of Hernandez’s who also serves burritos with a crispy cheese crust. Though the Twin Cities metro has a smattering of great breakfast burritos — Piñeda Tacos, La Loncheria, El Taco Riendo, El Burrito Mercado, and Vivir are all reliable hits, and Órale serves a California burrito stuffed with meat and fries — Lito’s might be the first to dedicate its menu to LA-style breakfast burritos, Southern California’s defining morning meal.
Lito’s also does pop-ups every other weekend — Hernandez recently smoked three briskets for a brunch pop-up with burritos, chilaquiles rellenos with chicharron, and mimosas. He sold out. He continues to evolve the menu: He’ll soon fold in potatoes fried with chorizo in chile de arbol oil, and is adapting his mother’s puerco en salsa roja recipe into burrito form (pork belly instead of pork ribs). Lito’s also offers a coffee menu of mochas laced with Oaxacan chocolate and ice horchata cold brews, all created by Hernandez’s sister. “It’s not just Mexican or American or Tex Mex — it’s like, what can this generation do that Chicano generations before us could do?” says Hernandez. “We’ve been trying to classify year at Lito’s, like, where’s the line where it’s not Mexican enough, or it’s not American enough. To me, it always feels good to be like, well, it’s because we’re evolving to a different culture, which to me is Chicano.”
Hernandez’s goal is to eventually open a small, quick-serve spot in Minneapolis. He’s also interested in making his own flour tortillas, and has been chatting with Kate and Gustavo Romero of Nixta, with El Tejaban’s corn purveyors, and with others around town about the the possibilities of using heirloom corn in some of his dishes. (“Let’s bring it back to our Indigenous values, to what a corn tortilla should taste like,” Hernandez says.) In the meantime, he’s keeping at it at Lito’s, thrilling transplants from California, Texas, and the Southwest who’ve long been on the breakfast burrito hunt.
“They’re like, I’ve been looking for a place like this — finally!” says Hernandez. “That’s been really awesome to connect those two cultures, or at least give people a piece of that.”