Contrary to the popular belief that the burrito is a resolutely Mexican delicacy, the truth is that it’s far more of a “Cal-Mex” (Californian-meets-Mexican) success story. You can certainly track down burritos in the northern reaches of Mexico, but you’re likely to find far more complex and embellished versions north of the border – particularly in San Francisco, the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito.
The story goes that, one day in 1961, Febronio Ontiveros, manager of sandwich/taco shop El Faro in San Francisco’s Mission district, decided to shake things up for his daily clientele of hungry firemen by concocting an oversized version of a standard burrito. By piling extra meat, plus cheese, vegetables, salsa, and (for the brave) sour cream atop the burrito’s foundation of Mexican rice and refried beans – before wrapping the entire hot mess in a jumbo-sized tortilla – Ontiveros created what would, within a few decades, become California‘s greatest contribution to lowbrow food culture since the fast-food hamburger.
Today, San Francisco’s 47 square miles are awash in well over 150 taquerias, nearly all of which specialize in Mission-style (a.k.a. super) burritos. As you’d expect in such a bean-and-salsa-saturated market, certain taquerias here merit more credibility than others. Here are five of the best bets for burly burritos by the bay.
LA ESPIGA DE ORO
As San Francisco’s bourgeois factor has exponentially increased in recent years, the city’s Mexican dining scene has seen an influx of stylish, higher-priced options. For the salt-of-the-earth taqueria enthusiast, however, La Espiga de Oro perseveres undaunted. With an inviting open-air entrance, chicharonnes (deep-fried pork skins) on the menu, and ruthlessly grilled tortillas cradling its top-shelf burritos, this family-run operation has been an unsophisticated mainstay along 24th Street in the heart of the Mission district since the early 1990s. Note that the place closes by 7pm most evenings, so don’t delay your arrival into mid-evening (or later).
La Espiga de Oro: 2916 24th St (near Florida St)