If you are living and studying English in San Diego or San Francisco, there is one very important thing you must know: Californians LOVE burritos. What you find inside the burrito will vary greatly depending on the city you live because burrito cultures in San Diego and San Francisco vary tremendously!


San Diego Burritos

San Diego’s proximity to the Mexico border makes it an obvious place for delicious Mexican food, but city chefs have definitely given the burrito its own unique flavors. San Diego burrito culture is based on two staples of SD Mexican cuisine: carne asada and California burritos.

Carne asada burrito

Carne asada is Spanish for “beef,” and a carne asada burrito has plenty of it! True carne asada is marinated in many spices and then sliced very thinly before it is grilled. A carne asada burrito includes grilled beef, cheese, and salsa all wrapped in a deliciously fresh tortilla. Simple and tasty!

California burrito

No one knows the origins of the California burrito, but locals claim that it appeared in a local taco shop in the 1980s. Unlike the simplistic carne asada burrito, a California burrito has many more ingredients: it typically includes carne asada, french fries, cheese, and then some (or all) of the following: pico de gallo, sour cream, onion, and guacamole. French fries in a burrito? Trust us: after one bite, you won’t find it strange at all!

Burrito suggestions for CISL San Diego students 

Where should you eat a burrito in San Diego? Truthfully, the city is home to hundreds of Mexican food restaurants, and most are delicious. If you would like to stick with the original, try one of the over 60 Roberto’s restaurants. The Roberto’s restaurants started  in the 1970s by Roberto Robledo. After he experienced success, many other restaurants ending in “-berto’s” popped up around San Diego, including Allberto’s, Filberto’s, and Hlberto’s.

Another suggestion from a local? Check out the spin-off of the carne asada burrito: carne asada fries! You will not be disappointed . . . and you also will not be hungry for about 24 hours!


San Francisco Burritos

At the same time as carne asada burritos were inceasing in popularity in San Diego, the Mission District taquerias were creating the burrito that is now the staple of San Francisco’s burrito scene: the Mission burrito. Made using an assembly line of workers (each with a different burrito-making task), the Mission burrito uses a large tortilla (always wrapped in aluminum foil) with carne asasa, rice, whole beans, sour cream, and onion.

Who invented this deliciousness wrapped up in foil? Febronio Ontiveros, the owner of a corner grocery store called El Faro, claims that he invented the “super burrito” by adding rice, sour cream, and guacamole to the traditional meat, bean, and cheese burrito. According to Ontiveros, this led to the Mission-style burrito. Wherever it was invented, everyone in San Francisco agrees that the burrito increased in popularity in the 1970s and 80s.

If you are studying English in San Francisco, where should you go to try a delicious Mission burrito? The Mission, of course! This incredible neighborhood is known for its delicious Mexican restaurants and street vendors. In fact, six of the top ten burrito joints on Yelp are located in the Mission. Chances are that you can’t go wrong with a Mission-style burrito from SF’s Mission District.