SIOUX CITY | Not very many Midwestern restaurants can lay claim to having "the most life-changing burrito in America," but Esquire readers gave La Juanita's burrito a respectable fifth place in the magazine's February 2013's "Eat Like a Man" series.
Owner Christina Bautista said she was pleased by the national attention but wasn't entirely surprised.
"When you use quality ingredients, you will always have a great burrito," she said inside her 1316 Pierce St. restaurant. "People can't get enough of our burritos."
Moving to Sioux City in the mid-1990s, Bautista named the business after her older sister Juanita. It was Juanita who began the family's "lunch truck" restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1970s.
"Juanita would set up shop at parking lots around the city, feeding workers during their lunch breaks," Bautista, a Jalisco, Mexico, native, remembered.
But competition in the lunch wagon business was so intense, the family decided to pull up stakes, moving to Sioux City.
La Juanita has built its reputation on authentic, made-to-order Mexican fare. In addition to its best selling burrito, the restaurant's tacos, tortas and quesadillas have its fans.
Indeed, political pundits Mark Halperin and John Heilemann came to love La Juanita when the duo were reporting and writing in Northwest Iowa during the 2007 and 2011 Iowa caucuses.
Yet it's the local customers who put a smile on Bautista's face.
"It's nice that people ask us to cater their graduation, anniversaries and parties," she said. "That means they want our food for their celebrations."
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