Juggalo Eats and the Quest for the Mystical Burrito Man
"I've heard of him. I've never seen him though. I think he's, like, a unicorn or some shit."
"I dunno, but they got burritos over at the turkey-leg stand."
I grew frustrated and spiritually congested. On top of that, we kept being teased by a young man juggling two giant smokers--each time we passed, he had just sold out or had another round almost ready. Eventually, we managed to catch the kid with the grills while there was a crowd of six people jealousy eying a group of security guards wearing neon green shirts. The guards had somehow ordered from the grill-master ahead of time and were picking up their goods just in time. We spoke to the chef himself behind the only haze of smoke that wasn't drug-related and learned he's a Juggalo that goes by Skinny Vinny, based out of New York. We listened intently as he rattled off the list of people at the festival going straight to him for food, including Violent J himself.
Drew Ailes Skinny Vinny.
But no story of celebrity encounter and an underdog grill champion from a small town in New York could derail my determination. It was necessary to find and consume these burritos. We met up with our trusted photographer, Nate "Igor" Smith, with the sole purpose of probing him for information. Quick on his feet, he immediately began leading us through alleyways of tents and campers. We stopped again to ask for help and got pointed into one direction. We peered into another tent and were sent the opposite direction.
Discouraged, we started talking about giving up. It was obviously a wild goose chase concocted to torture Gathering poseurs. Out of sheer desperation, we approached a dim tent in the distance with a guy on a megaphone trying to sell us drugs or beer. We approached them and asked for help.
"Y'all are looking for the burrito guy, huh?" one of them asked, talking softly with the megaphone now silenced. "I can give you directions."
"Take us to him, and I'll buy you a burrito," I stammered without hesitation.
The kid kept to his word and minutes later we found ourselves in front of shielded old fireman's truck from 1978, converted into a food-truck operation with an older dude sporting long hair and a braided beard manning the grill. His name is Bill Huntsmen and he bravely plunged his hands from the warm girll into icy temperatures to sell us cans of root beer Faygo for only $1. He was humble, wise, and kind. He ran the operation with a real cool cat named Bruce Wayne Hall on behalf of the owner, Jesus Ayala. We watched as he separated slices of American cheese and gingerly placed them on tortillas freshly set on the flat-top.
Nate "Igor" Smith Bill Huntsmen, the "burrito guy."
This is the first year out of the past several that Ayala himself was unable to attend. Because he is getting on in years he stayed home this time, and the Alton, Illinois resident reportedly will soon move back down to Mexico. "He wants to go home and be with his family," Huntsmen explained.
The secret burrito recipe is Ayala's, who passed it on to Huntsmen and Hall. You can order them with varying degrees of heat, along a scale from one to ten. "I personally can't do more than a three," Huntsmen told us. "Jesus will try to get me to eat his habenero ones. He says, 'They're not too hot.' I tell him, 'Yeah, not for you!'"
"Why do you think Mexicans live so long?" he continues. "They eat that hot stuff, and it kills all the bacteria in the body. Just flushes it right out."
Entranced, we watched as our burritos were prepared. Priced at a reasonable $5 each, they had meat and some sort of potato mixture, along with Ayala's secret spice recipe. And they were incredible -- superior by miles to all of the carny food that had dominated the rest of the week. That night, Daniel and I slept with an unprecedented feeling of content in our rented Toyota poser van. The next day we went back for more, naturally. Again we found Huntsmen and Hall sitting in chairs in their hidden hiding spot. We asked about the secrecy. "Yeah, we park somewhere different every year. They want you to buy a vendor's license, and those are expensive," Huntsmen told us.
When we finally moved along, we left with a sense of reverence. Huntsmen corrected us when we said "thank you sir" as we each eagerly grabbed our culinary prizes. "It's fam here," he says. "No need for the formality." Huntsmen then grabbed some more tortillas and threw them on the grill--another group of starry-eyed adventurers had found the beast of legend, the mythical Burrito Man.
Drew Ailes The best thing you can eat at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
"What can I get you guys?" he asked them as we walked away. "Burritos" was the response. The best damn secret Juggalo burritos you will ever eat.
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