Who amongst us can say where, really, the best burrito may live? It seems unfair to say San Francisco has it better than, say, Los Angeles. And it seems just downright uncool to point out that time and time again the Paris of the West is praised for some of the best-wrapped tributes to rice and beans in the entire country. Here in the Bay Area we already know what’s good: burritos are plentiful enough that it’s like they’re flowing through the streets like wine in Rome, or falling from the sky like meatballs. There are both change-makers and innovators in the region, as there are originals and architects of the medium. Whether you’re reading in burrito-deprived wherever or in one of California’s other burrito capitals, here is a list of San Francisco’s finest 17 burritos.Read More
Where to Find San Francisco’s Most Super-Sized Burritos
From Mission-style staples to vegetable-forward favorites
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.
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.
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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Pancho Villa Taqueria
Pancho Villa, a spinoff of nearby Valencia Street El Toro, has been in the game since 1987, which means plenty of time to develop a lengthy menu of burrito options. Steak and prawns? Chile relleno? Yes and yes. Still, classic orders — carnitas, carne asada, and so on — are your best bet, and be aware that “super” here includes lettuce on top of guac and sour cream. Also of note: The salsa bar is one of the city’s best, so if you’re picking up something, don’t forget to scoop some of your own — otherwise you’ll be eating dry chips when you get back home.
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.
Burrito legend has it that Febronio Ontiveros created the first Mission burrito in 1961 at his grocery store on the corner of 20th and Folsom. To feed a group of hungry fireman, 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.
Taqueria El Farolito
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, and two in close proximity in the Mission, with its newest outpost in North Beach. Go for the super — an incredible value — and bring cash.
The Little Chihuahua
And if you’re looking for a burrito that’s still filling, delicious, but slightly less of a rice-filled gut bomb, then mini-chain the Little Chihuahua might just be the ticket. With locations in Noe Valley, Lower Haight, and on Polk, this spot specializes in California-fied Mexican fare like the Fried Plantain and Refried Black Bean burrito that sports sour cream and a smoky chile salsa.
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.
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: It followed 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).