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So. CAL (Roberto-style) Mexican in SF?

  • m

I have lamented the lack of -erto style Mexican food since leaving San Diego in 1997 and have yet to find anything that compares here. I'm looking for the classic Carne Asada Burrito, Steak, Salsa, Guac and that's all; none of this rice filler shamefullness that goes on up here. Though I have broken down and have learned to enjoy somewhat the style here at certain places, it will never be up to the level of set by the -ertos.

Link: http://marc.schoenfeld.com

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  1. Try requesting a burrito at one of the many taquerias in the Mission without rice.

    Just a suggestion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JohnnyP
      Marc Schoenfeld

      It's just not the same. I don't think it would be enough food without the rice and beans because they aren't willing to pack it full of meat like the -ertos do; also, guac is extra and usally diluted heavily more often in the North.

      1. re: Marc Schoenfeld


        Most burrito joints I frequent in SF use fresh avocado instead of guac... hard to water that down.
        Most also will kick down some extra meat for a $1, upon request.

        May I suggest, El Farolito, one of the better burrito joints in my opinion. They will surely accomodate such requests and, perhaps, get you closer to your burrito memories.

        You know, I lived in Washington D.C. for several years and once complained to the Washington Post food critic at the time (Phyllis Richmond) that there was no good pizza, like in NY. She kindly reminded me that every region/city has its unique food history and distinct specialties... and, that's what makes them unique.
        If every pizzeria in every town sold tastey slices like those in NYC, what would be so special about NYC

        Perhaps the same goes for your So. Cal burritos.

        To paraphrase another poster on this board; nostalgia, like hunger, is a wonderful sauce.

    2. I realize this is a long ways off, but if you ever find yourself in Santa Cruz, try Tacos Moreno on Water Street. I don't think you'll be disappointed. As a southern Cal native, currently in NYC, with extended experience in the bay area, I share your sentiments re the burrito situation there. I've written on this topic as well, so we're not alone. Cheers.

      1. r
        Rochelle McCune

        When I moved here many years ago from Texas I was shocked! Rice in burritos, what's up with that????? Anyway, I spent about three years looking for Tex-Mex and SoCal-Mex before I gave up. Even though eventually I found a few dishes in a few places that could approximate what I grew up eating, it is completely impossible to factor in price. I never found the quality & quantity & the same prices as Texas or Southern Cal in one location. ($3 for a bland tamale? I was used to $8 for a spicy dozen!)

        After 16 years in SF, I can accept what's good about the SF-Mex scene and just gorge myself on hometown favorites once a year when I go back to Texas.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Rochelle McCune
          Mike Epstein

          I haven't had real Tex-Mex, but you might want to check out El Paso Cafe in Mountain View. Their burritos have no rice, and everything is yummy (at least to this gringo).

          1. re: Mike Epstein
            Rochelle McCune

            I am rarely in Mountain View, but I'll put it on my list. Whenever I go to a place purporting to be "Tex-Mex", I ask where the owner is from and what makes their food Tex-Mex - that gives me an idea what to expect.

            For me, Tex-Mex is not just about lack of rice - its about fresh, spicy food that doesn't get all of its heat from jalapeno but from a balance and mix of a specific range of herbs & spices. Its hard for me to explain - I guess Tex-Mex is sorta like "Art" - I know it when I see it (or taste it)!

        2. Try La Taqueria, on Mission St at 25th St. in SF. No rice in those burritos--just lots of tasty carne asada or carnitas, beans, and salsa. My favorite are the tacos though--esp. with lots of fresh chopped (not pureed) avocado.

          1. I love this little place in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. Authentic mexican taqueria (birria, slow simmered meats that fall apart in the yummy chile-laden sauces, menudo on the weekends, etc.) Might be worth the drive from the city.

            Los Arcos Taqueria
            3359 Foothill Boulevard
            Oakland, CA 94601
            (510) 532 - 3070 (Voice)

            1 Reply
            1. re: lori
              Marc Schoenfeld

              Thanks. I work in Oakland, so I'll check it out next time I drive in for an A's game. Your description is making me hungry. With real estate costing what it does around here, I guess you need to go to out of the way places sometimes to find the good stuff.

            2. d
              Denise Lincoln

              I grew up in San Diego and moved here 6 years ago. And, for six years, I've been searching for baja-style "roberto's" mexican food all over the Bay Area. Unfotunately, nothing compares. I'm addicted to "rolled tacos" (which, by the way, are the best at Juanitas in SD). They use the actual Spanish name here (taquitos), but they're sad comparisons to the crispy beef rolled tacos with quacaomole and melted cheese found in the SD area. As for carne asada, the difference between the two regions isn't so much the inclusion of rice here, but the difference in seasonings. The beef is just seasoned differently (better, if you ask me), at the "ertos" and SD Juanitas. That said, there is some decent Mexican food in Oakland. Juanitas (not to be confused with the great chain in SD) is on Webster Ave in Oakland and serves great green chicken enchiladas (a house speciality), mole enchiladas, and tamales. They offer a carne asada burrito, which I haven't ordered because I gave up ordering burritos a few years ago unless I was in SD (too sad and disapointing). There's also a great carnitas shop in E. 14th Street in Oakland (the name escapes me), but they're only open Fridays - Sunday. If you ever find good SD/baja rolled tacos or carne asada, post immediately!

              1. They are both good (went to school down there).

                Robertos are much smaller so you can order 2 kinds 8^;

                Robertos Beef Burrito is made with large chunks of slow simmered beef and chiles. Nothing to compare with it that I have found here. My favorite burrito!

                Robertos Carne Asada is made with larger pieces of meat seasoned predominatly with Black Pepper, here its more salty and more tiny.

                Good Guacamole can be found here IMHO, although the fresh for 7 day variety is more common here.

                When I crave the flavors of SD, I either hop on southwest or make it myself.

                You might try a steak burrito at T&B's in Belmont hold the beans and rice, add guac. Thats about the closest thing and it'll cost ya! La Taquaria (sp?) is a little too Martha Stewart for my manly tastebuds. The steak tastes too much like steak there. 8^*

                1 Reply
                1. re: Bung

                  >>"Robertos Beef Burrito is made with large chunks of slow simmered beef and chiles."

                  Is the beef similar to chili colorado? There are several taquarias in town that will make burritos with it upon request.

                2. This is an age old question...and unfortunately, there's no good answer...Where's ROBERTO's style burrito's in Nor-Cal...They don't exsist....sorry. Simply asking for no rice won't cut it...honestly. It's not just the rice or guac differences...it's meat...asada done in a peppery way which Northern california just cannot replicate (or won't.)
                  I agree that La Taqueria is the closest I've come to a berto's burrito...but again, it's not the same. I yern for my old homelands Roberto's (#15)+ 3 rolled w/guac...ahhhhh the white cheese and San Diego sun, how I miss thee.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: DFS

                    As an ex San Diegan, I find the Mexican food offerings here less than desirable. Any news on a Robertos style restaurant opening here? I know they have infiltrated to Arizona and Utah but I have not seen them around here.

                    1. re: MaximuXXIV

                      There is a place called Adalberto's up in Stockton; I haven't had a chance to try it because every time I am in Stockton there's something else food-related going on but it's definitely on my radar.

                      Quick search shows there's also an Adalberto's a little closer in Fairfield.

                      It also came up in the California burrito thread:


                      1. re: Pius Avocado III

                        Finally tried the Stockton branch of Adalberto's and found it even better than the Fairfield branch- the carne asada was far more caramelized and toothsome. The complimentary chips were very crisp and fresh. It's a very popular spot on an early Sunday afternoon.

                        The same day I saw a sign and the requisite yellow and red color scheme and pulled over in Lodi, only to find it was Adalbertaco's, so I got back in the car and hit the Stockton Adalberto's.

                        So, Alberto's-->Adalberto's-->Adalbertaco's.

                        There's another Adalbertacos's in Sacramento.


                      2. re: MaximuXXIV

                        I am an expat SoCal guy as well. I have been known to request, and receive, Alberto's carne asada burritos from friends and family driving between SoCal and Oakland.

                        Yesterday my also SoCal-bred SO and myself went to Adalberto's in Fairfield, both ordering the benchmark carne asada burrito.

                        Proust's madeleine has nothing on that burrito. It bent time and space, we were back in SoCal (the 95-degree heat didn't hurt).

                        This place is 100% legit, right down to the red/yellow color scheme, paper wrappers and flying saucers and 24-hour service. I regret having already eaten when passing through Fairfield again today.

                        Interestingly, there are 9 NorCal locations to just two San Diego locations: Orangevale; North Highlands; Rocklin; Fair Oaks; Carmichael; Stockton; Rancho Cordova; and Sacramento in addition to the Fairfield location we visited.

                        Rolled tacos and California burritos are available. As I mentioned we used the carne asada burrito as a benchmark and based on that I can't imagine the other items are anything less than spot-on.

                        We'll be back (I'll be looking for excuses to drive by any of the locations really) for more items but based on that burrito, I'm confident we have reached the end of the SoCal burrito, California burrito, and rolled taco quests.