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San Francisco is the best city in the world for burritos. Or maybe it’s not—I can’t be sure. If you’re reading this as a Los Angeleesi or a San Diegonian and getting upset, calm down, it’s just my opinion and I’m just one person. But also, can’t you just let us have this one thing? Do you really need to be so greedy? When someone comes to visit me here, I can either take them to a taqueria or a park where someone tries to sell you weed cookies every minute. What else am I supposed to show them? The Twitter building? Just let us have good burritos, please.
What I’m arguing for here today is the Mission burrito, named for the neighborhood it originated in: the Mission. Both Taqueria La Cumbre and El Faro claim to be the OG. La Cumbre, who say they sold their first Mission-style burrito when they were still a meat market, in 1969, has recently even gone so far as to repaint its exterior bright red with tall white letters proclaiming it the birthplace of the mission style burrito, whereas El Faro stakes their claim in the form of a small sign that says they’ve been selling this style since 1961. So I guess La Cumbre wins, based on the size of their sign.
It varies a bit from place to place, but for the most part what you’ll get when you order one (aka a “super burrito”) is a flour tortilla, filled with the meat of your choosing, rice [1. One of the main complaints you’ll hear about a San Francisco burrito is, Oh there’s so much rice! They cover up whatever good flavors are actually in there with all! that! rice! Are you a human who’s eaten in restaurants before? Just order it without rice, it’s fine, you’ll be fine, everything will be fine.] beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole (or just avocado), and salsa. All wrapped in foil.
You might think this sounds like a lot, and it is (especially compared to the more pared-down burritos of East LA), but that’s kind of the point.
The Price and the Size
For some, it’s too much. The tortilla is pushed to its absolute limit. When it comes time to roll a Mission burrito into a taut cylinder, it must be wrapped with the foil, or else the filling will all come spilling out. This is a hefty, inexpensive meal (around $7–$9) whose sustenance you can spread out over the course of a couple days (if you’re reasonable), or eat in one five-minute session (if you’re me or someone like me).
The Foil and the Mobility
As an idiot, I think it’s just a fun tactile experience to unwrap your first bite, like a mini Christmas for your mouth. Make sure you unwrap as you go, not all at once. Again, the foil is essential to the structural integrity. If you want to walk around as you chomp down on this thing (though I’m not sure why you would, are you really that busy?), the foil will keep your burrito intact as you move. If you decide halfway through that you’ve had enough, you can just fold your excess foil over the top until you’re ready to take on the leftovers.
Sheer Volume and the Quest for the Best
Ask ten different San Franciscans what the “best” burrito place is and you’re likely to hear ten different places, for ten different reasons. Some of the reasons might include: Oooh, they griddle the tortillas here longer; or Wow, the proportions of each ingredient here are *just* *perfect*; or This place is close to my apartment. The truth in my experience is, at most taquerias [2. They’re called “taquerias,” but most people order burritos, not tacos. Maybe because the tacos in the Mission are mostly just small open-faced burritos. Or maybe because “burriteria” sounds funny.] specifics like this change burrito-to-burrito, depending on the day of the week and who’s at the griddle.
Beyond the certified greats—El Farolito, Cancún, La Taqueria, which are all within six blocks of one another!—what makes San Francisco a burrito paradise for me is the fact that you can walk into almost any taqueria with a small amount of money and leave with a reliable burrito. Even if we don’t have the best burritos, at least we’ve got the most good ones.