The Two Oldest Burritos in San Francisco
|Taqueria La Cumbre: Forty years of burritos.|
There are two restaurants in San Francisco with legitimate claims to being the inventor of the Mission-style burrito ― which can be identified by its girth (the size of a baby elephant's leg), its carb load (plumped out with rice), and its variability (tailored to individual tastes). Was the ur-burrito served by La Cumbre in September 1969, or by the original, Folsom Street location of El Faro in 1961? SFoodie doesn't really care. However, SFoodie just recognized that we haven't eaten a burrito from either of these two venerable taquerias in years.
|Deluxe steak burrito from La Cumbre.|
SFoodie intended to get our standard order ― a grilled-chicken or carnitas regular burrito with whole beans and avocado. However, every burrito making it way down La Cumbre's assembly line contained carne asada, and the grill cook was cooking beef as fast as he could supply it. So we ordered a steak burrito and, just because we were feeling hometown pride, made it a deluxe, adding guac and sour cream (La Cumbre's super includes lettuce and tomato, and that just ain't right).
|The original El Faro: open since 1961.|
The next day, we rode over to El Faro. The flagship store is clearly of its time (i.e., the same era as the rise of Hardee's and Arby's), but it's still around and still well maintained. In fact, El Faro still has locations in downtown S.F. and Concord, not to mention a successful chain of imitators (El Farolito).
But if El Faro's super carne asada burrito is the Eve of the Mission burrito, the species has since invented the wheel and written language. We watched the cooks spoon refried beans over the rice, followed by chopped steak that had been floating in its own juices on the steam table. Afterward came a shower of cheese, a fat, liquid dollop of guacamole, and a big white squiggle of sour cream. When we picked up the burrito, it sloshed; when we bit in, it spurted ― Mexican beef stroganoff. You may accuse SFoodie of being biased, not to mention disrespectful of our predecessors, but the next time the burrito hunger descends, we're back to our normal haunts.
Taqueria La Cumbre: 515 Valencia (at 16th St.), 863-8205.
El Faro: 2399 Folsom (at 20th St.), 647-3716.