Look, the East Bay might lay claim to the Chester Cheetah-approved Taqueria El Mezcal’s Hot Cheeto burrito. But San Francisco is where the Mission burrito, in all its depth charge-esque glory, was born. The best burritos in the country really are in the Paris of the West — sorry, L.A. — and the history here matches the accolades, such as the James Beard Foundation naming the Mission District’s La Taqueria a “classic” American restaurant in 2017. So yes, California is a Golden State of burritos from nose to tail. But these 17 San Francisco restaurants prove there’s nowhere better for the compact, affordable, beloved Bay Area invention than where it was spawned in the 1960s.Read More
Where to Find San Francisco’s Most Super-Sized Burritos
From Mission-style staples to vegetable-forward favorites
El Farolito, the name of which nods to purported super burrito inventor El Faro, took the original Mission-style burrito and perfected it. These burritos are grilled to perfectly combine their ingredients, with rice, beans, and meat (carnitas and al pastor recommended) into a messy whole that’s far more than the sum of its parts. There are several Bay Area locations, including two that are close in proximity in the Mission, with the newest outpost in North Beach. Go for the super — an incredible value — and bring cash.
The pioneers behind this Filipino-American food truck are not to be slept on. The burritos aren’t exactly traditional but rather take a Mission-style burrito and swim it through the Pacific archipelago, meaning fillings like adobo garlic rice, cilantro cream sauce, and, naturally, the restaurant’s take on classic Filipino sisig. They use pork butt instead of pig face, but it’s still a hearty and flavorful dish, though the menu also includes several vegan protein options.
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Il Canto Cafe
Breakfast burritos count too, alright? And there might not be a better breakfast burrito in the Bay. The simple sausage option is the smart order, drizzled with Sriracha alongside the typical, familiar flight of eggs, bell peppers, and green onions.
Papalote Mexican Grill
Brothers Miguel and Victor Escobedo opened their first Papalote at 24th and Valencia in 1999 and from it they’ve built a salsa empire — their roasted tomato goodness is available by the jar all over the area. Papalote is particularly popular with vegetarians, who dig options like the vegetable burrito — either grilled or not — which comes bursting with a rainbow of produce including carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant.
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There are five locations of Gordo Taqueria, but the 9th Avenue location is where Inner Sunset residents get their fix of big, rice-filled burritos that require at least two hands to take down. The folks behind the counter will griddle your massive flour tortilla to order and then fill it up with all the beans (black or refried), rice, pico de gallo, and meat you heart desires. And if you want some guac, just do like the pros and ask for it “super.”
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Taqueria La Cumbre
Established in 1969, La Cumbre is a must-visit for burrito completionists, but isn’t the best day-to-day pick on this list. Still, as one of two credible contenders for the title of inventor of the Mission-style burrito, a burrito from La Cumbre can be a necessary nostalgia trip in a time when things feel all too unfamiliar.
Taqueria El Castillito
Chef David Chang declared it perhaps the best burrito he’d ever eaten. Judges for FiveThirtyEight’s burrito bracket of 2014 later confessed that El Castillito may have been the “one that got away.” One secret to its success: cheese perfectly melted onto tortillas on the plancha. Of the multiple El Castillito locations in the city, FiveThirtyEight and Chang referred specifically to the Mission Street outpost (between 16th and 17th), with its huge zapata burrito as a favorite (especially for splitting).
Hook Fish Co.
It almost goes without mentioning that when it comes to burritos on the west side of the city, the burritos at Hook Fish Co. are what come to mind. The tortilla-wrapped specimens come with grilled fish, whatever the catch of the day may be (the rockfish is a particular win) or with poke. In the poke burrito, the fish itself is so outstanding that the texture, something like butter or cream, adds to the aioli and slaw in total perfection.
This Folsom Street unsung hero might be the best seafood burrito in San Francisco. The Super Shrimp Burrito is a beachier rendition of the Mission District’s well-loved, shrimp-stuffed affair, a bit lighter on the beans and rice to ensure the necessary warm weather energy doesn’t leave your body after a carbohydrate flood.
Burrito legend has it that Febronio Ontiveros created the first Mission burrito in 1962 at his grocery store on the corner of 20th and Folsom. To feed a group of hungry firemen, the lore goes, he slapped some meat, beans, rice, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole on several layered tortillas before rolling them into cylindrical form. El Faro jealously guards its title as the home of the Super Burrito and the progenitor of the Mission-style burrito (disputing La Cumbre’s claims). This dose of history lifts what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill taqueria into a legendary burrito lighthouse worthy of its name. Go for a super burrito — get it “el gigante” if you’re hungry or splitting — or try the chorizo breakfast burrito.
El Metate’s burritos are skinnier and lengthier than most, helping them stand out from the pack visually — as they also do in quality. Unlike some taquerias’ meatless offerings, El Metate’s vegetarian burrito is packed with vegetables, making it a hit with plant-preferring crowd. For something out of the ordinary, try a chicken mole or chile verde burrito.
La Palma Mexicatessen
This grocery store and deli is where to find the freshest tortillas in the game, so head to the back of the shop to order a burrito on a just-made flour tortilla. The super with roasted chicken is a safe order, or go for their famous chicharrones in burrito form.
Mission locals could have told you in a heartbeat what it took FiveThirtyEight’s intensive burrito bracket months to discover: La Taqueria, as its own sign claims, is “home to the best tacos and burritos in the world,” as it has been since 1973. (Though that honor was clouded some years later, as repeated allegations of wage theft prompted $600,000 in city-mandated fines.) Also of note: La Taq’s burritos are rice-free, leaving more room for perfectly cooked meat, transcendent pinto beans, and sour cream applied by squirt bottle, plus “guacamole” that’s actually just mashed avocados and nothing else.
Al pastor heaven awaits at this deeply dependable Mission Street taqueria with other San Francisco locations in downtown and farther South in the Mission/Bernal borderlands. Its gooey, forearm-sized super burrito (grilled tortillas come standard) and the rest of its menu is available for takeout. Try the pollo asado, which is always juicy and never dry, and get it super, which includes rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, and slices of Hass avocado.
El Burrito Express
Known to west siders as the best spot to slake a burrito craving, this longtime Parkside restaurant also opened a second outpost at 1812 Divisadero Street in recent years. But loyalists still prefer Taraval Street’s location, which in recent years has bulked up its vegetarian offerings and added less-expected options like pineapple, potatoes, and squash.
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Since 1995, the Campos family has been slinging some of the city’s freshest burritos from this storefront in Glen Park Village, a business so successful that its since expanded with locations on Mission Street (between 23rd and 24th Streets), Burlingame, and San Carlos. La Corneta was one of the first classic-style taquerias in the city to highlight which of its menu items are completely free of animal products, making it a favorite for vegetarians wary of co-mingling with meat.
Crispy carnitas make Taqueria Guadalajara the burrito pride and joy of the Excelsior, but another fine Taqueria Guadalajara outpost can be found on 24th Street. This location follows the original, contending for customers with an El Farolito location across the street (as it also does in the Excelsior, where El Farolito operates, too).