Elvis Presley Burrito at Mama's Mexican Kitchen:
Oh, I know what you're thinking. How could one burrito be more important than all the other burritos being served in Seattle these days?
Simple. Because the burritos being served at Mama's were some of the first burritos ever served in Seattle.As with so many of these Essential Dishes, it's not just the dish itself, but the history behind it that makes it an indispensable facet of the City's culinary heritage--an intrinsic part of the whole we have today.
Mama's Mexican Kitchen introduced Seattle to Mexican food. Specifically to the Southern California style of Mexican-American cooking that owner Mike McAlpin learned growing up in a family that ran restaurants all up and down the West Coast and as far away as Hawaii. Mama's has been open for 36 years now, and while the lore of the place might say that it was Seattle's first Mexican restaurant, really it was only among the first. Near as McAlpin can recall, there might have been as many as three other Mexican restaurants in the area at the time Mama's first opened. Three places, one of them a tiny taqueria, to serve everybody in the entire city who was interested in tacos or burritos or mole or menudo.
Today, there are hundreds. And Mama's is still among them--still packing in capacity crowds for lunch and dinner, still serving SoCal food to up-north fans.
Other than history--other than the honor of having been one of the first Mexican restaurants in the entire Seattle area and the gateway drug to many of the city's most notorious taco addicts--one thing that Mama's has that no other restaurant does? An entire room devoted to Elvis Presley. Or a burrito named after the King of Rock and Roll--a gigantic, Left Coast-style burrito full of refritos and carne asada, swimming in red chile sauce and topped with a heavy jacket of melted cheese. There's nothing even vaguely Elvis-ish about it (no peanut butter, no bananas, no fistfuls of Percocet or Valium), but for some reason that only adds to the guilty-pleasure indulgence of ordering and eating one under the frozen gaze of the King.
It's not the best burrito you're ever going to have, but it is unique. It is singular. And it is essential to the understanding of where Seattle's cuisine is coming from, and how we got to where we are today.