On a mission for your best burrito, SF.
April 26, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Where can I get the best Mission-style burrito in San Francisco?

I'll be there this Friday night, I've heard a good deal of talk about your burritos, and since I can really only have one (maybe two) representative burrito, I want it to be the best it can be.
posted by adamdschneider to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone's got their holy war opinions. Mine is El Buen Sabor, corner of 18th and Valencia. gmap, yelp.
posted by jessamyn at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Our favorite (mostly) is Cancun, at mission and...19th ish. Check out burritoeater.com for more reviews. Three San Francisco burrito fans will have five opinions on what's best, so, yeah.
posted by rtha at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2010

seconding El Farolito
posted by jammy at 9:12 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Everybody has their own favorites. These are two of mine, and they're always fairly crowded, so apparently, I'm not alone.

, at 24th and Valencia. - Carne asada or shrimp.
Pancho Villa at 16th and Valencia - Whatever meat is being chopped up when you walk in.
posted by toxic at 9:16 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Taqueria Cancun (2288 Mission, near 19th) and La Taqueria (2889 Mission, near 24th) are both good, in my opinion. As is Pancho Villa Taqueria (3071 16th St, between Mission/Valencia).
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2010

Taqueria La Cumbre at 515 Valencia St. is supposed to have a good one...
posted by keep it tight at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2010

Even though I've long moved on to tacos, the answer to your question depends on two things: your meat preference and whether the taqueria grills its tortillas.
posted by rhizome at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2010

Another vote for Cancun!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2010

My #1 is El Farolito with Cancun a close second.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:25 AM on April 26, 2010

Another vote for El Farolito.
posted by avianism at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2010

Castillito makes a pretty good burrito, and they have locations that are not just in the Mission (I'm thinking of the one on Church by the Market St Safeway). As many others have said, Cancun also makes a mean burrito, and they too have locations that are not just in the Mission -- their location in the crack-addict part of Market is actually really good.
posted by kdar at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2010

Last short trip to SF made me an unabashed fan of Cancun on Mission (and I am a vegetarian) with El Buen Sabor a close second. Wish we had anything half as good in Michigan.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2010

Even though I've long moved on to tacos, the answer to your question depends on two things: your meat preference and whether the taqueria grills its tortillas.

- Meat preference? Asada? Al pastor? Chicken? Veggie? Seafood?
- Simple or lots of extras? Rice? Salsa? Cream? Guac?
- Tortilla? Grilled? Steamed?
- Beans? Refried? Black?
- Rice? Tomato? White?

The reason there is a holy war and rarely an agreed upon "best" is that no one place does all of these well. And even if you choose something specific there may not be consensus. Sometimes there is consensus.

The best rice-less burrito is maybe La Taqueria.
The best shrimp burrito is almost assuredly La Corneta.

Beyond that, I dont know. El Farolito seems to do none of the above very well and yet I think they are lacing their burritos with crack (or pork fat which is the equivalent) because they have the burritos I crave most after being away.
posted by vacapinta at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've got nothing to really compare it to (other than Chipotle) but for my one SF burrito I had a Super Al Pastor at El Farolito and thought it was excellent. Mr. Arkham enjoyed his super veggie as well.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:35 AM on April 26, 2010

If I had the money and the time and a private jet, I'd fly out to SF just so I could eat at Taquería Cancún. Dear lord, I love that place.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2010

Hey, guys, thanks for the responses. I love meat with a passionate fire, particularly pork. Rice and black beans are fabulous, I do enjoy sour cream and guacamole, and a grilled tortilla is a happy tortilla. Hope that helps.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2010

Yes again for Cancun. They have three, but the one near 19th is the most fun. The one down where Valencia meets Mission is usually less crowded but not quite as festive. The one on Market near 6th is pretty dirty but mmm just as tasty.

If you get the veggie, get black beans.
posted by quarterframer at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2010

El Farolito. It's the quintessential Mission Burrito. And it's open super super late.

Om nomnomnomnom drunk food.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2010

I like Cancun's al pastor a whole lot, and their carnitas is pretty damn good as well.
posted by rtha at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2010

You can't go wrong with El Farolito or Cancun. I've yet to be disappointed by either place. I really like Papalote, but it's a whole different animal. Everything else I can think of is just OK, but not dream worthy.
posted by kendrak at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2010

you wan't pork? nthing pancho villa. it is, after all, in the heart of the mission. for a reason ...
posted by deejay jaydee at 10:11 AM on April 26, 2010

My two favorite burritos aren't in the mission. Blasphemy, I know.

El Burrito Express is in the Parkside. They do sliced avocado. Nom nom nom. Carne Asada, bolied chicken or carnitas are my choices here.

El Castillito at 370 Golden Gate, in the Tenderloin. (There's another place with the same name, a block away. Not nearly as awesome.) Here, I go for the prawn burrito with black beans. The prawns are cooked fresh after you order, and are SO SO SO good.

OK, now I've made myself hungry.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2010

I love meat with a passionate fire, particularly pork

Then you want one of:
-Carnitas. A shoulder cut roasted for a long time at a low temperature with spices. Like the perfect pulled pork BBQ, it should be crispy in parts, tender in parts, and falling apart.
-Al Pastor. Marinated in chile and traditionally cooked on a rotating spit, shwarma/gyro style. Sometimes merely grilled. The defining character of an Al Pastor taco/burrito is in the marinade, which will vary from chef to chef.
-Chile Verde. (usually pork, but sometimes chicken, so ask). Braised with green chiles.

I do enjoy sour cream and guacamole
This makes your burrito a "Super".

As part of a hazing ritual, newly hired food critic Bill Addison went in search of the best taqueria a few years ago. The resulting article is worth a read.
posted by toxic at 10:14 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

OH, and the El Tonayense taco trucks do AMAZING carne asada tacos. I like the mild green salsa.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2010

Los Compadres taco truck, SOMA.
posted by iamabot at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2010

If you are into pork, don't miss the carnitas at La Taqueria.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2010

Yet another vote for El Farolito. My belly is still fat from the veggie super burrito I ate there last night.
posted by MillMan at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2010

Consult the holy text and read about what you may order, regardless of where you end up going. His reviews are hilarious.

Also, consider The Little Chihuahua in lower haight.
posted by stop sign at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like spicy pork, my favorite is the Al Pastor from El Tonayense. Either the taco trucks on Harrison street at both 19th and 22nd or from the Taqueria on 24th near Shotwell.
posted by zombiedance at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2010

I love meat with a passionate fire, particularly pork. Rice and black beans are fabulous, I do enjoy sour cream and guacamole, and a grilled tortilla is a happy tortilla. Hope that helps.

You want a super burrito, either al Pastor or carnitas, from Taqueria Can-cún on 19th and Mission. (The other Cancun locations are good too, but 19th is the best space to visit.)

Cancun has the best grilled flour tortillas in San Francisco. Super gets you cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Not guacamole, not at Cancun, but really excellent fresh avocado which is great. Their al pastor is good. Their carnitas are good too if you don't mind a lot of fat. I don't know if Cancun has black beans, I wouldn't count on it, but their pinto beans are delicious.

There are many great burritos in SF and most of the suggestions above will steer you fine. BurritoEater is indeed the go-to for reviews. My one caution is avoid Papalote, aka "where white hipsters go for burritos in the Mission". The food's not bad, but it's not particularly good either. There are three better places within two blocks.

If the weather is good, a perfect follow-on to Taqueria Cancun is to walk over to Dolores park and pick up some ice cream at Bi-Rite on the way.
posted by Nelson at 2:03 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the other hand I highly recommend Papalote, as their salsa contains some kind of magic. El Farolito comes in 2nd for me.
posted by grapesaresour at 5:16 PM on April 26, 2010

Lots of people look at Burritoeater's rankings and end up at Papalote- I personally would not consider Papalote a true Mission style taqueria. It's all healthy and expensive and stuff. Every burrito I've ever had there has been weirdly dry, except the mole. Then again, lots of people like it (I offended a friend when I called Papalote "gringoesque", but I stand by that), so maybe there's something about their nine dollar burritos I'm not seeing.

My recommendation would be Taqueria Cancun. I like the one at Mission and Valencia best, followed by the one at 6th and Market. Hate their chips. Their chorizo is awesome, though possibly best in taco form for the uninitiated. Chorizo tortas are my regular order there, and it's an orgy of salty melted-on-the-grill cheese and chorizo and fresh avocado. Yum.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:19 PM on April 26, 2010

I'm a fan of the way Taqueria San Francisco grills the burrito after it's rolled. The aforementioned BurritoEater describes it as "stellar burritowork."
posted by wraplan at 10:57 PM on April 26, 2010

Seconding oneirodynia. If you are looking for a representative San Francisco Mission style burrito, many of the recommendations here are right on the mark.

Many of Burritoeater's suggestions are for what I would call California-style Burritos. These are places that are close to calling their Burrito a "wrap" and proudly offer Tofu burritos in a Spinach tortilla. Nothing wrong with this and they can be tasty but I dont think those places are representative. (In the end, Burritoeater is yet just another guy's opinion - one with a good URL and a catchy rating scheme.)

Or to put this all another way, if I showed up in NYC and had a burrito like they serve at Papalote, I would say "Hey! You can get a good burrito in NYC!" If I showed up in NYC and had one like they serve at Cancun or El Farolito I would say "Holy Crap! The San Francisco Burrito has been successfully replicated somewhere else!!"
posted by vacapinta at 2:02 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I live in San Francisco.

Seconding wraplan's recommendation of Taq. San Francisco, and those who recommended Papalote (the sauce is particularly awesome there, but it's a little more gourmet than the usual Mission burrito, as oneirodynia pointed out). Virtually every taquería in SF will be happy to prepare your burrito with black beans, but you'll need to ask for it. (I always do; they're much easier to digest.)

Taq. Can-Cun and El Farolito are also excellent. Really, you could spend a week in San Francisco eating burritos and not get bored or hungry.

As toxic pointed out, you should order a "super" burrito, which will increase the price by a buck or so and will get you sour cream, cheese, and guacamole/avocado. The upgrade is well worth it, in my opinion.

A proper full San Francisco burrito weighs over a pound, and in some cases nearly two. If you have one for lunch, you will not need dinner--this is from experience.
posted by tellumo at 5:23 AM on April 27, 2010

Thanks everyone! I will definitely be trying out Cancun and El Farolito. Best answers will be doled out when I get a little time.

If you have one for lunch, you will not need dinner

I appreciate the advice, but will say only that you and I are not acquainted. ;-)
posted by adamdschneider at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2010

The burritos were excellent, the trip was great, thanks all. Special thanks to Afroblanco for joining me at El Farolito (I had the al pastor). You guys have a beautiful city.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2010

Just as a follow up, I just had the al pastor at Cancun. It was amazing.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:12 PM on May 19, 2010

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