There’s not necessarily a ton of new ground to cover in the ongoing and comprehensive best burrito debate. It’s been vigorously discussed by both respected publications and drunk college kids for years.
But if you’re not sure where to start in the Great Bay Area Burrito conversation or you just want a primer, here are 13 places that should keep you full and whet your appetite for more. If we missed your favorite burrito share it in the comments.
- La Taqueria (Mission): No, it’s not exactly under-the-radar. It even won FiveThirtyEight’s “best burrito in America” title after an extensive bracket and contest, but there’s a reason for that. La Taq is the grandaddy of the Mission-style burrito. Stand in line, bring cash, and enjoy your carne asada (though there are also vocal advocates of the carnitas). Note:La Taqueria is temporarily closed. Scheduled to reopen on January 16, 2017.
- El Farolito (Mission): It’s likely you already have an opinion in the best of the Mission burritos debate — maybe you’re a fan of Pancho Villa or Cancun or Guadalajara — but it’s hard to ignore the two biggest players in the game and one of those is El Farolito. It may be a favorite of 1 a.m. drunks, but even sober the meat is juicy, the toppings plentiful, and the salsa fresh. Here it’s all about the al pastor.
- Papalote Mexican Grill (Mission and Western Addition): The original Papalote was so popular — particularly after an appearance on Throwdown with Bobby Flay — that it expanded to the Western Addition. At both locations it’s all about the salsa. Slather some on top of your Triple Threat Burrito — marinated chicken, prawns, and carne asada — and you’ll have a quintessential San Franciscan meal.
- HRD Coffee Shop (SoMA): It’s not exactly a traditional burrito with its Korean mash-up, but it is a popular one. The specialty is the smothered burritos with shrimp katsu, but the crowd favorite is the kimchee burrito with spicy pork or bulgogi beef.
- Sonoma Taco Shop (San Rafael): Sonoma may not be as well known as some of the other local favorites, but among its fans it’s known for the fresh ingredients. The popular Santa Rosa location closed earlier this year, but if you’re in the North Bay then you want to stop at the San Rafael taqueria for a California-infused Mexican meal. It’s won awards for its fresh and healthy ingredients.
- Taqueria San Jose (San Rafael): If you’re a vegetarian, this isn’t necessarily the place for you. Tucked under the freeway, San Jose is really about the meat, and lots of it — though you won’t want to skip the salsa bar either. Among locals it’s a favorite, especially with the nearby high school students.
- Grilly’s (Mill Valley and Fairfax): A distinctly Marin take on Mexican, Grilly’s has its devotees. Fresh fish tacos and huge chicken taco salads (along with agua fresca) may be what it’s best known for, but the sauteed shrimp burrito with mango salsa isn’t bad either. Think of this less as a late-night taqueria and more as a family-oriented community restaurant.
- Gordo Taqueria (San Francisco, Albany, Berkeley): With three locations in the city and three in the East Bay, Gordo’s has a steady customer base and a healthy reputation for churning out top-end Mexican food. Start at the Albany shop. The burritos are big, the flavors are fresh, and add hot sauce.
- Picante (Berkeley): The idea with the primarily organic food at Picante is that there’s something from every part of Mexico. And it’s all made fresh daily, down to the corn tortillas — which you can watch being cooked and grab hot. The vegetarian menu is also extensive. Sit outside on the patio with your burrito and a 100% agave tequila margarita.
- 3 Hermanas Mexican Home Cooking (Richmond): A sit-down restaurant in Richmond, 3 Hermanas is run by three women who cook up the food as you order. It may not be as trendy as taquerias on the other side of the water, but if you want authentic burritos try the desebrada (shredded beef).
- Iguana’s (San Jose): Home to the famous “burritozilla,” Iguana’s was featured on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food for its five-pound monster burrito. Can you take it down? Or, if you’d rather a more reasonable sized meal, the family recipe al pastor keeps people coming back for many smaller bites.
- Dia di Pesca (San Jose): It’s right there in the name: this place does seafood right. The specialty is fish tacos, but it didn’t expand from a food stand to a brick-and-mortar restaurant on the basis of one dish. The burritos are also delicious, with local and sustainably-sourced ingredients inside — including sliced cucumbers and grilled peppers.
- Taqueria La Bamba (Mountain View): Since the 1980s, La Bamba has been a South Bay staple. At one point it had three locations, but was forced to move from its original spot and consolidate. The food, though, hasn’t lost any of its luster. The restaurant offers both Mexican and Salvadoran food. You come for the fresh tortillas and salsa. You stay because you’re too full to leave.
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