The Mission Burrito, An Analysis

Sunde White Illustrates a diagram of the Mission Burrito in San Francisco

Eat this

The other night a couple of friends and I were sitting around talking burritos because if you live in San Francisco, this just happens.  Mexican food is major to us but burritos are our everything.  If you live in the Mission, you can discuss burritos for hours.  Everyone has a favorite spot or two and a couple of least favorites.  We all know which taqueria’s burritos are extra greasy(in a good or bad way), have too much rice, not enough meat, shrimp grilled on too low of heat, passive aggressive burrito makers, open late, who has grilled chicken or boiled, etc, etc, etc.  There’s a lot of info to keep track of to always guarantee a good burrito experience.

We pass burrito information back and forth to insure, between friends, that we will always have the best chance at a good burrito.  Sometimes a taqueria will go downhill, change their hours, have stale chips or watered down sauces.  We all NEED to know this because there is nothing worse than being starving and craving a perfect burrito at one of your favorite spots and no one has told you that they have started to over salt their carne asada and aren’t making their chips fresh daily anymore.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!

But what am I even talking about here?  You ask.  A burrito is a burrito. NO.  I’m talking about a Mission Burrito, aka a San Francisco Burrito.  These large burritos, consisting of rice, beans, various condiments and a protein wrapped in a large, steamed flour tortilla and rolled up tightly in a sheet of thin aluminum foil are our life’s blood.  They are the perfect meal.  No utensils needed.  You can take it anywhere and enjoy one of the best meals of your life from your car, a park bench, the beach or your couch.  They were invented here in the 60’s by either Taqueria Cancun or El Faro, depending on who you ask, but now every taqueria has their own style of them.

BTW, don’t ever fall for a big giant burrito at a sit down Mexican restaurant  with a red or green sauce poured over it that you’re supposed to eat on a plate with a knife or a fork. Just saying the phrase “wet burrito” makes me gag.  It will be soggy, disorganized garbage.  The steamed tortilla will not cut precisely with the cheap butter knife you are provided.  It will pull away elastically and the burrito will end up opening up all over the place and so you will have to suffer the endless marathon of trying to gather all the innards of the burrito onto one fork to make the perfect bite, but it will end up being a bunch of work that only tastes so-so and is smothered in some gross sauce.

A Mission burrito is a sexy thing wrapped in foil that you slowly undress as you ravish it, dripping your favorite sauce from a little plastic container all over it before enjoying each perfectly balanced bite that will include all of its components, if wrapped up properly.

This leads to the one complaint that I and my burrito aficionado friends have that we were discussing the other night.  The super burrito, which will consist of rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and salsa and either a meat or avocado depending on if you’re going vegetarian or not, always has a giant pocket of undistributed sour cream on one end or the other.  You always try to get the end without the sour cream so that as you eat through it all the ingredients end up melding together and compressing into the sour cream so that by the middle your getting a pretty good ratio of everything.  If you blow it and pick the wrong side, you have to eat through two inches of sour cream mixed with a little bit of cheese and rice and maybe a couple pieces of carne asada.

I don’t know why this happens, it just does, but we all agreed on the solution to this conundrum.  Get the Super Baby Burrito.  They use a little bit of a smaller tortilla and less rice so everything can fit into the more petite burrito.  The result is perfectly even distribution of all the ingredients including the sour cream!  This is still a ton of food, it’s just less rice and sour cream.  If gigantic, large appetite people everywhere are reading this and are like, “But I WIlL stiLL bE hUNGry!” Then get two until you realize that one, along with the free chips, will make you super full.

In closing, here is my most current Taqueria info that I am happy to pass on to you.

*For the cleanest, fastest, brightest, most efficient and consistently high quality burrito where the shrimp is cooked on super high heat, they offer pollo asado instead of boiled chicken and they never mess up an order and have a bunch of salsa options that are always really great, go to Pancho Villa Taqueria on 16th between Valencia and Mission.

*For the most classic, old school greasy (in a good way) veggie burrito that substitutes avocado for the meat and has a decent green sauce to top it with and is open late, go to El Farolito on Mission and 24th.  There’s the bigger one named El Faro on 20th and Folsom and I think a few other locations too.

*If you want incredibly rude and passive aggressive burrito makers that will look you right in the eye as they incorrectly make your burrito and smile at you as they pile on black beans when you asked for refried, then go to La Coroneta on Mission between 23rd and 24th.  I used to go there because they offer pollo asado, which not everyone does, and is nearby, but constantly getting super hostile service and wrong burritos made me permanently quit them. They have one in Glen Park and Burlingame, so don’t go to those either.

*El Metate on Bryant and I think 22nd st was always really good before Covid, with friendly service, good sauces and fresh chips.  But recently their chips are day old and they’ve been watering down their sauces and sometimes their meat is waaaaaayyyy over salted so I’m not going to them currently but I am willing to go back to them in the future because I’ve had years of good experiences with them.

*La Taqueria is right next door to me and I am including them because they are famous and their meat is really fresh and good but they don’t technically have a Mission style burrito because they don’t include rice, which I prefer.  Also, they only offer pinto beans and I prefer black beans or refried but their burrito is still really good, obviously, and they don’t need any help from me.  I DO go there for their quesadillas, both corn and flour.  Their flour quesadilla (veggie or with meat) is a revelation where the tortilla is cooked in oil on the flat top grill on super high heat which results in a golden brown, almost flaky pastry quality to the tortilla and the cheese, fresh avo, sour cream and salsa are perfect.  I also love their corn quesadillas which are smaller so I get two or three and they are sooooo good too.

*I’m including Taqueria Cancun which is on Mission between maybe around 18th and 19th(?) Because everyone really loves it here and it is considered an institution but I’ve never been that into their burritos but I’m obviously very particular.  They are open very late and sometimes I wonder if, since people eat these burritos when they are very drunk and hungry, that that might be skewing their opinions of them.

So that’s it for now, but as I said earlier, favorite burrito spots are always changing so it’s up to you to discover your favorite unless it’s one of the two up in Noe Valley on 24th st.  Those are both horrible and tasteless and have hard beans so do not got to either of those.  But do ALWAYS get the Super Baby!!!! Adios!