April 1, 2010

The Essential SF Meal: Burritos in The Mission


When I asked for recommendations before, and during, my trip to San Francisco, one answer kept popping up: get a burrito in The Mission district. And apparently not just any burrito, but one from El Farolito.

Now with that in mind, it seemed a crime against destiny not to go and try that signature food item of San Francisco. California has some well known names, such as In-N-Out, but burritos are to San Francisco what bagels are to New York. There's a certain art to what makes for a "perfect" final product. So then, onto El Farolito.


First off, the Mission is not the most glamorous of neighborhoods, so the barebones, pretention-out-the-window setup of El Farolito made sense. My friend and I joined the line of construction workers, hipsters, and even suits, to place an order with the man behind the counter who cared only if you wanted your burrito super or regular.

Burrito size

Thar she lays

My friend ordered the Super Al Pastor Burrito with marinated pork, rice, cheese, salsa, beans, sour cream, and avocados. An upside down shot of his burrito reveals the balanced layers of each ingredient, wrapped in a manner that he happily called "the right way to fold a burrito." Cyclists, who have a much bigger presence in San Francisco, should be able to grab these cheap, filling, and fast meals and eat them on the go without the shell tearing. The tortilla was indeed my favorite part, thick enough to hold the filling, but thin enough with a flaky skin to add a little texture.


After a day of continuous food stops throughout the day, I only had room to try the Regular Al Pastor Burrito, which was pretty much just pork, rice, salsa, and beans. I was never the biggest fan of rice, so I asked to have it left out, not realizing what that would mean for my final order. As such, my version ended up being composed of about 80% beans.

I had to dig to find the pork and the salsa, or had to scrape out some of the beans to equal it out. Looking back on it, I should've gotten the Super Burrito. But at the same time, shouldn't good ingredients and a balance between simpler elements still make for a great burrito, regardless?

While it wasn't life-changing for me, it's definitely an item worth trying in San Francisco. There were other intriguing meats on the menu, such as Beef Head Meat or  Beef Brains, for the adventurous eaters. At less than $6 for most burritos, it'll be enough to leave you with enough left over to try the sweets right around the corner.

El Farolito 
2779 Mission St
(between 23rd St & 24th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(Multiple Locations)


  1. I do miss my Bay Area burritos... my favorite coming being pastor from the Ojo De Agua taco truck in Fruitvale, Oakland!

    We just posted a great story on the history and diversity of burritos in California. I think 86'ing the rice was a mistake, but in any case, San Diego and older-fashioned LA burritos would be more up your alley - no rice there in the first place!

  2. Ooh, I didn't realize there was such a variety of burritos. I'll go check out your piece, and maybe I'll be more prepared for my next trip!

    I was just having a discussion tonight about my feelings towards rice. I personally find it unnecessary to pair flour and rice together. But to others, sure, MORE CARBS. Why not.

  3. i still think any burrito in SF beats any burrito in NYC... but next time you should try some tortas on 24th street. there are a few good places.

  4. Justin, I'm not disagreeing with you there. But then again, NYC has bagels. And pizza. And SF has ice cream, and we have gelato. The list goes on, but unfortunately I am just one lone eater.

    Ohh, tortas. Will keep that in mind, since I don't think I've ever had a "wow" torta either. Also, that's where Humphry Slocombe is. Hm, tempting.

  5. Do the super and regular varieties cost the same? If they are, why would you go with the regular?!?!

  6. Nicholas, super is about $1 more. But it was my stomach that failed more than my wallet.