California Burrito from Sombrero's, Lakeside CAMy whole life I’ve eaten burritos.  I grew up in Long Beach, CA - a “suburb” of Los Angeles with 460,000 residents, the southernmost city in LA County along the coast.  My childhood consisted of the memories in between Mia Lupitas’ burritos smothered in Ranchero Sauce and half-off burritos from El Burrito Jr. when you tore the coupon out of the Seal Beach Sun.  

I’ve spent a hundred life-hours waiting for the Breakfast Burritos from Nick’s Deli, their potatoes seem to soak up the essence of chorizo better than any other I’ve had.  Let’s not forget the Carnitas at Super Mex either; my dad used to take me to the one on 1st and Alamitos before they opened one closer to home on 2nd.  

If you are what you eat, I’m more than 25% burrito.

California Burrito from Rudy's, Carlsbad CA
After living in San Francisco for 5 years I was surprised to discover a phenomenon that emerged while I was away from Southern California, the California Burrito.  My jaw dropped when I pulled into the drive-through of a Cotixan and asked what one consisted of.  

If I were to have guessed the contents of a California Burrito it would have been something with brown rice, black beans, avocado, maybe fish, maybe sprouts, and definitely a whole grain tortilla.  Much to my chagrin, they are something down a completely different path.

In my research at more than a half-dozen Mexican joints in the San Diego area, the common thread that binds them all is carne asada (steak, for you gringos), cheese, and potatoes - which are overwhelmingly in the form of French fries.

French fries?  Yes, French fries.  CA Burritos have more DNA in common with a cheeseburger and fries than they do to any real Mexican food.  No doubt they were the product of alcohol.  They are greasy and dense and warrant a post burrito nap or Metamucil, depending on how well they were prepared.

California from El Cotixan, Encinitas CA
What is most interesting is that controversy abounds at every turn regarding the California Burrito; where it orginated (was it really San Diego?), what restaurant first put it on the menu (many folks point to Santana’s), even what defines a true pure-breed (is it sour cream or guacamole?  Does pico de gallo come standard?).

Urban dictionary user, Ren Daasnes, states that a real CA Burrito has sour cream and if guacamole is substituted then it is an imposter, called a Cyrus Burrito.  Right or wrong, I love her logic.  Besides, how to better honor the founder of the Persian Empire by ordering a Cyrus Burrito at a Mexican drive-through?

California Burrito from La Gordita, Vista CA
In any case, the California Burrito is metastasizing.  It has been sited as far north as Sacramento (at Oscar’s), and I personally spotted one in Isla Vista, just north of Santa Barbara, at Cantina.  When done right, they can be phenomenal; synergistic, just like you would imagine when you combine two comfort foods, the burrito and the cheeseburger.

Be forewarned; however, when done poorly they can be disastrous.  The grease from the fries only fills the gaps in between the gristle of the carne asada and makes the salsa pool at the surface.  The two oils battle for your attention by dripping out the bottom onto your pants, making it look like you may have wet yourself a little while at lunch.

No bueno.

Next time you are in San Diego County, or see one in a higher latitude, check them out.  According to the San Diego Examiner, “Some of the top spots for the Cali meat-bombs in San Diego include La Posta de Acapulco's on Washington, Taco Surf in PB, Trujillo’s by State, Vallarta Express in CLMT and occasionally Santana’s.”


Authordavid koch
CategoriesHistory, Humor