Okay, so it’s not a real showdown. LA vs. SF burritos are so different that it’s impossible to compare the two. Whichever you choose, your stomach is the real winner. Here’s our short list of mighty burrito spots in each location for when you’re in the mood for a hefty (and tasty) meal.
San Francisco created the Mission-style burrito — a burrito known for being huge and packed with extra rice and other ingredients. This savory baby swaddled in foil can be topped with salsa at each foil unraveling or smothered in tasty mojado sauce.
Known for its classic Mission-style burrito, Pancho Villa has been a San Francisco cornerstone since the 1980s. The blast of a small mariachi band fills this bare-bones dining hall while ten hands-on-deck carefully assemble each burrito behind the counter. Vegetarians are welcome — Pancho Villa makes a killer soyrizo burrito — and if you’re looking for something adventurous, you should definitely check out the chile relleno burrito. The line steps lively as diners load up at the salsa bar on fresh green and red salsas, pico de gallo, and pickled veggies.
Only a very delicious taqueria puts its hard-earned dollars where its high ceiling is. El Metate is a stand-out taqueria that could be a banquet hall with its maximalist Mexican scenic decor and French doors framing sidewalk views of a lesser-traveled SF street. Burrito lovers can wash down the famous carnitas burrito with a Corona and lime while soaking up the sun or hiding out inside. Be warned: no matter what you’re in the mood for — shrimp, chicken, steak, pork, or veggies — your burrito will be large enough to require a knife and fork. A smattering of housemade salsas makes for a consistently classic taste and texture.
Market, restaurant, and caterer in one, La Palma’s minimal outdoor seating and 1960s candy-colored lettering leave burrito lovers in a summer mood. Any authentic Mexican grocery requires thick, fresh tortilla chips with a definitive crunch, and La Palma brings the crunch. Chips pair seamlessly with their generous Mission-style burrito lovingly crafted since 1953. La Palma makes their own corn and flour tortillas for their grocery and burritos-made-to-order, with attention wherever possible to GMO-free, preservative-free, and organic ingredients.
Even for regulars who aren’t vegan, Flacos is enjoying plenty of buzz for punching up vegan and vegetarian burritos at a fair price. This cozy neighborhood spot across the bay in Berkeley is a detour from the expected Mission hub and aims to be authentic while keeping the food interesting. Burrito faithfuls know to head to Flacos on “Huarache Wednesday” for a delicious open burrito in a corn tortilla with a mountain of brown rice, choice of beans, and tasty veggies — radish, cabbage, onion, cilantro, salad, and salsa.
How could LA food not reflect the fused-together cultures within each neighborhood, especially when the kitchen travels by truck and the food is enjoyed outside? On the off-chance you’re experiencing taco-fatigue, try the culturally-shapeshifting LA burrito instead. You won’t regret it.
In sparkling Silverlake, Tacos Delta is a burrito-seeker’s no-frills oasis. An order-up window and patio ushers in an LA outdoor dining experience with character. From Baja-style fish to the conventional chicken and steak fare, this spot is famous for their tacos and chilaquiles, but the breakfast burrito is the quiet hero of the day: eggs with your choice of chicken, chorizo, machaca, adobada, or bacon, finished with potatoes, refried beans, and cheese.
Now busy with four Los Angeles locations, Cactus has been around for over 25 years and is a tried-and-true burrito go-to with old-school prices. With cheese and avocado in addition to the usual rice, pinto beans, and meat, this burrito has heft, and the options go on forever: chicken and beef fajita, shrimp and fish, vegetarian, California, tongue, chile relleno — always topped with cilantro and onions. Each location is a little bit different, and LA’s heart is with Cactus Taqueria #1, their original Hollywood location with an order-and-pick-up window and seating in the shade.
While the brick-and-mortar Kogi Taqueria lives in Palms, Kogi’s truck locations vary each day throughout Los Angeles — including Glendale, USC, Downtown, Venice, Long Beach, and Sherman Oaks. As the name implies, renowned street-food chef Roy Choi fuses Korean barbecue with Mexican food. The “OG Kogi Style” burritos come with spicy pork, chicken, or tofu, but you can also try their “world famous” short rib burrito, which is burrito-and-barbecue fusion at its finest. This place is known for their balance of flavor and texture, and Kogi fans get the “Kimchi Upgrade” for the full effect.
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Chef Ocho, aka Keith Samuel Garrett, is pioneering the African-American taco movement flourishing in South LA with the AFNG (All Flavor No Grease) Watts location and fleet of taco trucks covering Los Angeles. Chef Ocho’s fusion burrito sparks new flames with pico de gallo, ketchup, and hot sauce options along with your choice of meat, all wrapped in a flour tortilla with a special “Poppa Green” sauce and drizzled artfully with sour cream. LA locals are not only lined up to support Black-owned business, but also to get a taste of a unique history-in-the-making.