During my year-long stint in Connecticut, the thing that I missed most about San Francisco was the humble Mission burrito. Satisfying, economical, and portable, this local specialty served many functions in my California life: as a late-night hangover preventative, as a cheap emergency dinner when I couldn’t bear to cook (or wait to eat), or as the perfect to-go lunch for a sunny afternoon in the park. And though Connecticut’s local specialties of pizza and hot dogs can fill similar roles in one’s eating routine, I never could shake my hankering for a burrito. A real Mission burrito, that is.
Named after the Mission district in San Francisco, a historically Latino neighborhood that has at least one taqueria (burrito shop) on every block, Mission burritos differ from your garden-variety burrito in several ways. One, they’re huge – so big that any reasonable nutritionist would say they’re two meals’ worth of food. Two, they’re wrapped in a snug little sleeping bag of foil, regardless of whether you eat in or take it to go. And while most taquerias offer the mojado (“wet,” or sauce-blanketed) burrito, I’ve never actually seen anyone order one. The basic burrito comes with Spanish rice, beans, salsa, and meat, with optional sour cream, cheese, and/or guacamole upgrades. Each bite is a little different, depending on how the ingredients are distributed in the roll – but the interplay of meaty, spicy, starchy, and creamy is, well, awesome.
San Francisco residents are fiercely opinionated about their taquerias. A difference in taqueria identity (and indeed, one does self-identify by such things) has been known to destroy relationships. Seemingly small differences in style, assembly technique, and ingredient quality are of utmost importance to the burrito connoisseur. In fact, many have chronicled their tireless study of the topic.
I’m a Taqueria Cancun girl personally – what wins me over is that they warm the tortillas on the griddle, leaving little crispy blisters on the surface of the burrito. They also have a way with avocado, using meaty slices rather than guac in the burrito, and the chip-accompanying salsa verde is opaque and rich from pureed avocado. The whole time I was on the East Coast, I dreamed of that toasty tortilla wrapped around carnitas (slow-roasted pork) and pinto beans…those luscious planks of silky avocado…the super-corny tortilla chips that come with…
And so, when my friend Brett picked me up at the SFO airport, his first words to me were as warm a welcome as a lei in Hawaii.
“Up for Taqueria Cancun?”
How well he knew me. I was home.