Imitators abound, but you can't find Mexican food quite like the kind that exists in San Francisco's Mission District. Over at food porn site The Infatuation, which recently launched an SF edition, editor Max Child slathers on the knowledge for Gentedimontagna, lining up all the burrito joints you wish you could visit for lunch today.
SAN FRANCISCO – Our taquerias serve up fine tacos if called upon, but we’re really the global capital of something far more insidious — the giant meaty burrito. Some claim the Mission invented the burrito, or, at least, one of the pillars of the form.
You’ve probably sampled a brutal corruption of our heritage at Chipotle, but if you’re visiting the city of San Francisco, head south to the Mission to get back to the classics. Here are five favorites.
Classic Dive: Taqueria San Francisco
2794 24th St; +1-415-641-1770
There's a nondescript dining room, a dude rolling tortillas like he’s been doing it forever, and the wafting smell of melting pork fat. Taqueria San Francisco has both the superficial trappings and inherent deliciousness of a world-class burrito deliver-er. As alluded to above, I'm partial to the pork offerings (carnitas and al pastor). But go your own way.
Chain of Deliciousness: Taqueria Can-cún
3211 Mission St; +1-415-550-1414
Can-cún (spelled that way because this isn’t Spring Break, amigos) is an icon in the SF burrito universe. It’s the only burrito-ria with multiple locations that deliver the goods everywhere. But for the iconic experience, venture a couple blocks south of the Mission to the Bernal Heights location. You have the option to slather your burrito “mojado” style (piled with salsa/sour cream/guac). Which is legitimately insane, but possibly worth it. You’re gonna die someday anyway.
The Real Deal: La Espiga de Oro
2916 24th St; +1-415-826-1363
Another classic 24th street option. I knew Espiga de Oro was going to be good when the person in in line in front of me bought a ten-gallon sack of crispy pigskin to go. It's safe to venture down the carne asada path here, too, as it's pretty tasty. But I universally sway pork for the extra fatty flavor. Your mileage may vary. Don’t sleep on the breakfast burrito.
An icon: Taqueria Vallarta
3033 24th St; +1-415-826-8116
Our tour down 24th Street continues with this venerable joint, which offers the opportunity to discuss a classic burrito question — super (with sour cream and guac) or regular? In other words, would you prefer to have your hot bundle of carby meat slathered with a cold mayonnaise derivative and filled with cold avocado pockets, or not? You can probably guess where I come down. But yeah, these are good burritos.
Late Night Hookup: El Farolito after 2 a.m.
2779 Mission St; +1-415-824-7877
You don’t need me to tell you this is a solid spot. It’s all over the Interwebs. But you can’t really eat at El Farolito by the light of day. It’s good, but this place is about the experience of swaying in line with a hundred of your new closest friends, and mainlining whatever meat comes to mind. It’s a classic SF experience.
Just Don’t Do It: NOT La Taqueria
2889 Mission St; +1-415-285-7117
On the other hand, you DO need me to tell you not to go here. Some reasonable minds may disagree, but I've been nothing but underwhelmed. Sorry kids. La Taqueria is a lie.
Bonus! The Best on the Peninsula: Los Gallos Taqueria
3726 Florence St, Redwood City; +1-650-369-1864
On the off-chance you’re down on the Peninsula for, who knows, important fundraising meetings or something, check this place out. Redwood City has some serious Mexican cred, and this is the best burrito in the area. Regular al pastor, every time.
See all the locations in this story.