In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!
Where is your favorite place to get a burrito? Is it the same place you went twenty years ago? If not, why the change?
Ah yes, the burrito question! A classic San Francisco query that can both forge and destroy friendships, marriages, and family bonds. In fact, my burrito choices have changed during my lifetime! So, let's take a stroll through the Burritos of My Life.
From about the age of five till 10, my family and I lived on Folsom Street, at 20th. Right on the corner was the original El Faro, which is often credited with inventing the classic Mission-style super burrito. Being a mere half block away from home, this was our go-to burrito for all of our time in the Mission, and we continued frequenting it for a few years once we moved to Potrero Hill. Our burrito of choice was a carne asada, that was basically JUST carne asada. And I remember it being very juicy, and very good. Until I tasted better, of course.
When I got to high school, I followed a vegetarian friend's lead, and started getting my burritos at El Castillito on Mission and 17th. I wasn't vegetarian at the time, but did think they made a good one, with big chunks of avocado, and a nice blend of greasy rice and cheese. I also appreciated that you could specify NO cilantro. (I loathe cilantro.)
El Castillito was my go-to until my mid-20's. I was heading home from the Treat Street Bar, (may it RIP), and I stopped into El Farolito at Mission and 24th for that surefire hangover prevention, a super carne asada burrito. After that late-night bite, I was hooked, and it was my number one choice for almost a decade after that first taste.
But recently I've found they're just not quite as good as they once were, and have bitten into more than one disappointing, gristle-filled burrito. So last year I decided to check out La Taqueria, to see what all the fuss was about. I stuck with a carne asada burrito, and have to say, the meat really was the tastiest carne asada I'd had on Mission Street in a long time. The only problem I have with them is their no-rice menu. Since I don't like beans, I kind of need a bit of rice in there to soak up all the meat and salsa juices.
Of course, I have nothing against a burrito that's only (extra) meat, cheese, avocado, and salsa, it's just not one that travels well. So La Taqueria is my go-to if I'm going to eat it immediately. If I'm getting a Purse Burrito™, (def: a burrito you buy and keep in your purse prior to an evening of drinking, and then remember you have once you get home and are starving; also see previous mention of hangover prevention), I'll usually find myself back at El Castillito.
Lastly, I recently discovered my neighborhood deli Le Beau Market makes an amazing San Diego-style burrito (they call it aKilla Cali Burrito), that's got carne asada, salsa, cheddar, guac, and french fries, inside the burrito. Oh, those crazy So Cal kids! Now, it's not a Mission-style burrito that's as big as your thigh, but it does have some AMAZING carne asada in there, and beats all the (limited) burrito offerings within walking distance of my apartment.
Now it's your turn! Tell me why I'm wrong, and where the best burritos once were, or now are.
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.