I searched for San Diego’s best California burritos. Here’s what I found.

How many California burritos can one person eat within a three month span without exploding? Apparently, dozens, even if that timeframe also coincides with needing to fit into a wedding dress.

Moving to San Diego as a transplant from Massachusetts 16 years ago meant suddenly learning about the California burrito, one of the world's most perfect Frankenfood items. 

When I left New England, there really wasn't anywhere to get burritos from in my city, aside from Taco Bell, and I hadn't eaten avocado since I was a kid after a traumatizing discussion of "the birds and the bees" while making a salad. (Thanks for repelling me from the fruit for so long, Mom!) 

Photo by Lauren J. Mapp

All that is to say that I certainly couldn't have imagined the existence of such a magical combination of crispy fries, creamy guacamole, brightly flavored pico de gallo, sour cream, stretchy melted cheese and tender carne asada, all carefully wrapped in a tortilla swaddle. 

Only weeks into my new West Coast life, my best friend/roommate and I were hanging out with friends in Ocean Beach when they suggested grabbing burritos as a late night snack. 

I stood in front of the menu, perplexed with a list of terms that I didn't understand, when my SoCal-raised buddy came to the rescue, ordering a California burrito on my behalf. That night I instantly fell in love with burritos and my new hometown. 

California burritos are one of the most quintessentially San Diegan foods, but if you ask 20 people where the best one is from, you can get 20 or more answers. Months ago, I read on Twitter that people often declare allegiance to a burrito shop based on the proximity to their home. 

Armed with this new theory in mind, I wondered if El Zarape really made the best California burrito in San Diego, or was I only obsessed with it because I lived a mere two blocks away? So I embarked on the months-long, often treacherous, journey to try shops throughout the county to find the one I truly loved the most. 

I established some rules so the burritos were all on the same playing ground: no modifications at all, including asking for extra crispy fries or guacamole to suit my preferences; and I only ordered California burritos with carne asada as the meat choice.

While I frankly did not try every burrito in San Diego (one can only eat so many consecutively before worrying about a heart attack), I did devote a significant number of my weekly caloric intake to this mission. 

To read about all California burritos I tried, good and bad, visit The San Diego Union-Tribune to see our interactive, growing map of burrito shops.

Photo by Lauren J. Mapp


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