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THE PLACE: Admirable local precedent exists for the union of great food and a gas station. There's much-missed Ernie's All American Burger, which shared digs with a convenience store and gas station on Vista Boulevard in Sparks.

In Reno, Deli Towne U.S.A. has served some of the city's best (and brawniest) sandwiches for nearly 25 years just steps from the pumps.

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BURRITO EXPRESS

Address: 2500 E. Fourth St., inside the Valero gas station food mart

Phone: 775-843-0328

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m . Monday through Friday

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And now, let's add Burrito Express to this worthy company. This spot serves Mexican take-out from a corner kitchen in the food mart of the Valero gas station on East Fourth Street, east of Interstate 580 across from Pet Play House.

THE LOOK: It's a convenience store affixed to a gas station, so the creation of atmosphere wasn't a guiding principle. Still, the family owners of Burrito Express do what they can to brighten their nook with colorful flags and mouth-watering food shots and Mexican decals garnishing tiled walls.

You can watch your food being cooked on the grill, stock up on salsas from the condiment bar while you wait, or simply stare at the food mart temptations: slot machines, bro-y sunglasses, and all manner of energy waters.

THE MEAL: "What can I make for you today?" one of the family owners asks me, smiling, as I arrive at Burrito Express late the other morning. Scanning of food shots above commences.

Let's start with two $1.50 tacos: asada and buche (pork stomach). A pastor quesadilla recommends itself, too. So does a torta. Jamon? The kitchen is out of ham. No problem — pork loin will more than do.

Meats hit the grill; aromas ensue; my stomach mutters. Soon enough, my food is packed to go, and I'm threading my way through orange construction cones on Fourth Street as I head back to my office.

At work, the tacos receive a pelting of tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and green or red salsa (both with a hum of heat). The asada is roasty from the grill, the mellower buche bedazzled with juicy pops of fat.

The quesadilla? Its immense, made using one of those super-size tortillas. Sweet, savory, caramelized pastor (with traditional pineapple chunks) spills from the quesadilla triangles; ropes of cheese stretch between, unwilling for the wedges to be separated.

The torta, slicked by the grill, also can barely contain itself. In fact, to get a handle on this bad boy, I have to eat some of the tender pork loin and grilled onion rounds before I take a bite. Once I do, there are tomatoes and spiky jalapenos, and a saucy mix of pork juices and crema binding everything together.

KUDOS: The quality of the food, of course, and the family feeling created even in a corner of a convenience store.

QUIBBLES: More of an FYI: Call ahead to confirm that Burrito Express is open. My first attempt, it's closed during posted hours.

ALTERNATIVES: Breakfast burritos, chilaquiles, an adobada (pork in red chile marinade) burrito, breaded beef or pork tortas, chicken quesadilla, suadero (beef plate) or pastor tacos, or a Mexican hot dog.

RETURN TRIP?: I have a lot of quesadillas and tortas to get through.

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