A few months before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the chance to stop by one of my favorite Tijuana restaurants to grab a bite to eat with Bebo Bernal, head chef and owner of Sonora Mía. If you’ve read my previous article, “Sonora Mía: Sonoran Cuisine at its Finest,” you already know all about Sonora Mía’s excellent mesquite grilled steaks, hearty soups, and more.
My Usual: Burro de Arrachera
As I mentioned in my article, “Burritos: Invented in Mexico, Not the United States,” Sonora Mía is my favorite place to eat a burro de arrachera. I stopped by for my usual burro, a freshly crisped tortilla sobaquera the size of a car tire, packed with perfectly grilled, tender arrachera (hangar steak), served with a fiery chiltepín salsa on the side. The arrachera is cooked to the perfect doneness. with a beautiful pink brown hue. It’s never overcooked, and always so flavorful. The meat is so soft that you’d think that you were eating veal.
Knowing how much I love eating Sonora Mia’s burros, Chef Bebo asked me if I wanted to try one of his experimental new dishes from his secret menu. I was intrigued. He had always led to me to the promised land when it came to my meals, so how could I resist? I was then introduced to a burro that will change the way you think about burros: the caterpillar burro.
A Burro Like No Other: The Caterpillar Burro
The caterpillar burro is a burro containing sirloin asado, pinto beans, and queso Monterrey, completely enveloped in fresh bacon. It’s named the caterpillar burro because the burro is chopped every two inches or so, with each piece layered slightly to the left or right of center, giving it the appearance of a caterpillar when seen from above.
This design isn’t simply for visual effect. To be able to pull off such a burro, particularly with something as fine as sirloin, there needs to plenty of ventilation for the hot steam from the carne asada, bacon, beans, and cheese to be able to escape vertically, without overcooking the meat. The segmenting and layering allows for plenty of ventilation. Additionally, the meat is properly rested before placement, and Chef Bebo ensures that the beans are not too hot before adding them as well.
The taste of this burro is intense. The first thing you’ll taste is the crispy bacon, then the tortilla, which has absorbed some of the bacon fat to give it an absurdly good taste. You will next arrive to the beans, cheese, and sirloin asado.
Though I love bean burros and burritos, I’m normally not a fan of filling them with carne asada and beans at the same time, because it’s so easy to overcook the meat. However, Chef Bebo’s variation is an exception to my rule, due to the carne asada, beans, and cheese being expertly kept at reasonable temperatures and allowed to ventilate properly.
The flavors of the ingredients compliment each other so well. The starchiness of the beans helps to counteract the richness of the bacon, and the queso Monterrey compliments the sirloin asado perfectly. The caterpillar burro is served with fresh guacamole, and crema de chile morita, a creamy salsa made with chile morita. This is a rich burro. You’ve been forewarned. Make sure to bring another person with you, should you want to finish this in one sitting.
Meat and Potatoes Evolved: Sonoran Chips
After eating myself into a food coma via the caterpillar burro, I didn’t think that there would be room for more, but my chef friend had other ideas, so I let him surprise me once more with another invention of his: Sonoran chips. Sonoran chips are freshly made, kettle-cooked potato chips, topped with chicharrón de res (yes, you heard that right: beef rinds), guacamole, crema Mexicana, pico de gallo, and a mountain of crumbly queso fresco for good measure.
Sonorans love potatoes. The state is known for its cultivation, as well as its dishes such as papanchas, which are grilled potatoes stuffed with carne asada and a multitude of other toppings. Chef Bebo took this further by frying his own crispy potato chips and swapping carne asada with crispy fried beef rinds. Sonora’s love for cheese and cream is displayed in full in this dish, which features generous portions of both.
Sonoran Chips are like the mutant love child of papanchas and carne asada chips. They satisfy your taste buds in every possible way. They’re crunchy, beefy, salty, creamy, cheesy, earthy, and spicy (because you naturally have to have them with chiltepín salsa) at the same time. They can only be enhanced further with a glass of Bohemia Oscura.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
These are just a few of the items on Chef Bebo’s every expanding secret menu. Ask about it next time you order food to go from Sonora Mía.
Sonora Mía is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, 7 days a week.