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May 27, 2008 07:51 PM

San Diego style burritos in the (East) Bay?

After spending four years in San Diego and getting addicted to the wonderful (and 24-hour) burrito and taco joints that pepper the city, I have moved up to El Cerrito. I have been completely unable to find a San-Diego style burrito anywhere closer than (of all places) Tahoe.

If you are not familiar with it, the SD burrito tends to
- Be fried a little after being made; the tortilla isn't steamed
- Never, ever be wrapped in foil
- Contain no beans, rice, or other 'filler'
- Be fairly large but not stuffed absurdly full

Several types that I am particularly enamored with, and am looking for are the Carne Asada burrito (Carne Asada, cheese, pica de gallo, sometimes guac, nothign else) and th California burrito (Carne Asada, French or home fries, pica de gallo).

Do any chowhounds have recommendations for a serviceable, SD-style burrito? Somewhere around Bekeley/El Cerrito would be best, but I'm willing to travel significantly further for my fix.

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  1. california burrito thread:

    Close to El Cerrito, head to La Bamba on San Pablo Ave. just north of Barrett Ave. I usually get their carnitas burrito. If you're in the mood for something w/o rice or beans -- get one of their quesadillas -- just tortilla, meat, cheese, guac and sour cream on the side -- it's pretty big.

    Plenty of places in Richmond. Hacienda makes a pretty good, big burrito

    5 Replies
    1. re: kc72


      I have tried La Bamba, which is quite tasty in its own right but the food served there is nothing like a SD burrito. Perhaps the quesadilla . . . I'll investigate.

      I just don't understand why there isn't a SD style taquaria in the bay area, despite the fact that every SoCal person I talk to laments the mission burritos . , ,

      1. re: bsdfish

        There's still nothing around that quite matches the San Diego experience. Believe me. Every trip I take home, I cram my stomach because I miss it so. And, you know, the tortillas are never the same.

        1. re: ATaleOfFiction

          The closest I have found to San Diego Mexican is El Tapatia on 23rd St in San Pablo. I haven't tried the burrito though since they aren't my thing. Lovely ... lovely chivo. For best bang for the buck, if you speak Spanish it helps.

          El Tapatio
          910 23rd St, Richmond, CA 94804

          1. re: rworange

            Just learned that Richmond's El Tapatio is owned by the same family that's behind Aranda's Tortillas. They're getting back to me on retail placements after they hear from their distributors.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Interesting. Looking forward to hearing more.

    2. not sure, maybe give Acapulco in Alameda a try. if I remember correctly, their burritos didn't have much filler.

      1. Okay, please no one flog me for this one... But, what about Gordo's on Solano Ave? I am not really a fan, but it's one of those steam-table places where you can pick your burrito makings which are decent enough and they have a giant griddle behind the counter. I've never seen them fry up a burrito, but I bet they would if you asked.

        2 Replies
        1. re: adrienne156

          When I first came out here I noticed there were two kinds of burrito places:
          the kind where boys made the burritos and girls cleaned the tables and the
          kind where girls made the burritos and boys cleaned the tables. These
          correlated pretty closely with steamed tortilla (girls making) and griddled
          tortilla (boys making). Since Gordo is a boys making place, it might be
          worth a shot.

          [Parenthetically, is there a deeper ethnographical phenomenon at work
          in this division of labor thing?]

          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

            Chuckles, your reasoning always makes me laugh out loud - love it.

            I double majored in sociology and poli sci with an emphasis on policy making at Davis during the whole border hoopla and in a nut shell, there is a deeper ethnological phenomenon at work, but it has more to do with immigration into the States and the kind of work available that effects who we see working in restaurants than traditional gender roles and social norms. I could go into a lot more depth, but I don't think the Hounds wanna hear me on my soap box. :o)

            BUT, bsdfish, I was walking by Gordo's yesterday, popped my head in to ask if they'd griddle a burrito and they looked at me a little funny, but said they would.

        2. How does this differ from a chimichanga?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            the burritos are not deep fried like a chimichanga - more like griddle fried. . a little oil on a flat top and all sides are toasted.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I think the OP mispoke... they tend to griddle the Burrito with a little oil after assembling it.

            2. Adalberto's in Fairfield seems to be the closest. . or a lot of my friends from San Diego think so. .. carne asada burritos, carne asada fries. . .etc. rolled tacos. It's pretty good. .. not mind blowing but close enough to satisfy the most home sick san diegan.

              12 Replies
              1. re: pastryqueen

                Even the name seems to be inspired by the 'bertos empire.

                1. re: pastryqueen

                  I've been and, while close, not really there. Supposedly, there's a branch out in San Diego somewhere.

                  1. re: ATaleOfFiction

                    There is actually several of them there...

                  2. re: pastryqueen

                    Adalberto's has locations in San Diego but I wouldn't call it a San Diego burrito. I also wouldn't call it a good burrito, but one that'll do in a pinch.

                    1. re: fame da lupo

                      But to be clear its a San Diego chain that has expanded to the Bay Area... and not all Burritos in San Diego fall into the criteria discussed here... in fact I wonder if most do. The one time I was suckered in to Roberto's (the original of the 'bertos?) I remember an undistinguished Carnitas, Rice, Beans type of burrito not unlike anywhere else in California.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        Didn't know that, I knew them first from Sacramento. The burritos I ate while living in San Diego didn't seem to have much rhyme or reason to them - I ate many burritos at El Cotixan that if I recall correctly had plenty of rice and beans in them.

                        1. re: fame da lupo

                          Really? I ate a *lot* of burritos at the El Cotixian on Genesee, (though only the carne/pollo asado or the california), and I haven't seen any rice and beans there.

                          Around Berkeley, I recently investigated Picante and it turned out to be nothing like SD style, but still pretty tasty; they certainly got the green sauce right.

                          1. re: bsdfish

                            Hah! I at first thought my memory had failed me, and then I realized that it indeed had, but in a different way than I thought: for my entire 3 years in San Diego I was a vegetarian, which would explain the beans and rice in the burrito. I totally forgot about this when I made that post.

                            1. re: fame da lupo

                              Aha, a not uncommon disorder known as herbivoric amnesia.

                              1. re: fame da lupo

                                For years I ranted that no one made tortas like I had in Mexico city ... grilled with NO lettuce. Then I remember I was working and paranoid about getting sick from improperly washed lettuce and always ordered them "sin lechuga" ... so much for authenticity.

                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Yeah ... I gotta go with it wasn't the norm when I lived in the area ... this is the first time I heard of a griddled burrito as described. Not that I ate a whole lot of burritos, but what I saw served and described on menus were not different from Bay Area burritos. What struck me is there were potatoes in the burritos more than I've seen in this area. Actually the potato burritos were the only ones I tried because I never saw them up here. Those weren't griddled either ... and were wrapped in aluminum foil.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I have never lived in San Diego so I don't have the depth or breadth of experience to be definitive... but my impression is that there has been a relatively recent migration of restaurant concepts from Baja to San Diego (Tacos el Gordo, Mariscos German etc.,) many of which have Sinaloenses pulling the string... which might explain a more recent offering of Sinaloa style burritos (with potatoes, all meat, without beans & rice, quick griddling etc.,)

                              So perhaps the OP should be asking for Sinaloa style burritos to be a bit more precise.