Dulce’s breakfast burrito boom: Inside USC Village’s latest hype

It’s not just the friendly staff, warm atmosphere and good coffee that draws students to the USC Village Dulce day after day. Many come specifically for the breakfast burrito. 

Burrito bonanza · According to Dulce management, more than 17,000 breakfast burritos were made during Spring 2019 semester at USC. Photo by Saul Rubin

The USC community gobbles up breakfast burritos in an outsized way compared to other Dulce items. The question ‘why? is a Mystery Gang worthy mystery. So I sought to figure it out.

The USC Village Dulce, which opened its first brick and mortar location in 2011 in Little Tokyo, never expected the breakfast burrito to become a top seller. If you look at their menus, it says breakfast items are only sold until 11 a.m. even though they can now be ordered all day.

According to statistics gathered by general manager Eugene Lee, the kitchen made more than 17,000 breakfast burritos just in the past semester.  They sold more than four  times as many as the second-highest kitchen-prepared dish (their pesto chicken sandwich) during the spring 2019 semester.

“Our average burrito sale when we first opened was around 50 [or] 60 [per day]. And then last year we were hitting 100 and we were going crazy, ‘oh my gosh we’ve sold 100 breakfast burritos.’ Whereas now we’re selling 200 daily,” Lee said. “Because the demand for it was so high, we ended up serving it all day.”

The breakfast burrito contains bacon, sausage, avocado, salsa, scrambled eggs, potatoes, red onions, jack cheese and a spicy mayo that Pierson Carlsen, a senior majoring in cinema and media studies, dubbed “a tantalizing mystery.” It’s also convenient, tasty, and, according to Lee, cost-effective, giving a student the most “bang for the buck,” especially when compared to other shops in USC Village.

“If you look at all other shops [at USC Village], I think an average food item is a little bit more than ten bucks,” Lee said. The breakfast burrito currently costs $8. And as for convenience: “You just need to unfoil the burrito, and you can eat it wherever you’re going,” Lee said.

“I don’t usually eat bacon and cheesy things, so it’s kinda like my cheat meal,” said Helen Gratch, who graduated in May. “I like how it’s a whole breakfast in one thing.”

In an effusive compliment, Carlsen called the breakfast burrito a “succulent beast that often goes unnoticed.” However, based on the numbers of burritos sold last semester, the breakfast burrito is clearly no longer a neglected menu item.

While Lee, who has been working at Cafe Dulce for nine years, loads up his breakfast burrito with avocado, bacon and sausage, none of the other employees interviewed mentioned the breakfast burrito as their favorite item to eat.

“When I first started here I literally had the burrito like three times a week,” said Elaine Oh, one of Dulce’s assistant managers. 

As Oh worked longer however, she began to branch out and found a new favorite: the apple tuna sandwich, which — based on the list provided by Lee — comes up at a distant ninth, at 1650 sold in the past semester.

Kevin Castillo, another assistant manager, said he believes the success of the burrito stems from its ingredients. However, he prefers the off-menu breakfast bowl to the burrito, customizing it a certain way with no mixed greens, adding turkey and Dulce’s spicy mustard.

The breakfast sandwich is “actually our staff favorite, but a lot of people don’t know about it,” Lee said. “We make our own bread in house, over easy eggs, and then we have ham, arugula and a spicy mustard on it. A lot of people say that it’s better than the breakfast burrito.”

When Lee asked if I wanted to get a burrito to go, I had to think hard. After all, I had never tried the breakfast sandwich. However, I can now confirm that while the sandwich is tasty, it’s definitely no breakfast burrito. The hype is justified; the breakfast burrito is truly the best Dulce has to offer.