14 Legit Spots to Try San Diego’s California Burrito

Stuffed with carne asada, french fries, guacamole, cheese, and more, California burritos are a San Diego staple.

Here in San Diego, we don’t take things too seriously, until it comes to our beloved California burrito. This carne asada and French fry-stuffed behemoth was invented here, and has been diligently filling our bellies and soaking up our late-night booze ever since. Whether eaten alongside a refreshing craft beer or on the shores of one of our beautiful beaches, California burritos are so intertwined with life in SD that they’re practically embedded in our DNA. Considering how many places serve our hometown pride, how does one go about narrowing down your options when your stomach is growling and your wallet is light? We’ve done our due diligence and, our waistbands notwithstanding, have come up with 14 of our favorite California burritos in one handy list:


La Perla Cocina Mexicana
Photo courtesy of La Perla Cocina

La Perla Cocina

Pacific Beach & Point Loma
$$$$

La Perla offers two California burritos, a standout regular-style with layers of carne asada, fries, pico, and guacamole, but for a cheesy explosion in every bite, try the Oaxacalifornia Burrito, with all the usual fillings tucked into a big Oaxaca cheese quesadilla. Try it wet for an enchilada-style version that’s as messy as can be, and worth every saucy stain on your t-shirt.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

¡Salud!
Photo courtesy of ¡Salud!

¡Salud!

Barrio Logan
$$$$

¡Salud! takes traditional Mexican proteins ranging from al pastor, carne asada, carnitas, fried catfish and pollo asado, then layers, stuffs, and tucks them into sturdy tortillas. Its Califas burrito piles your choice of meat with french fries, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, and crema in a flour tortilla, but it also comes tacoized for a new take on the old classic. Try it with any or all of the fresh, lively salsas, from creamy mild to tongue scorching. There’s a respectable number of local beers on tap, daily agua frescas, and a short list of cocktails, including the Hooch Horchata and Vampiro Michelada.
How to order: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis. Order online via Toast for pickup.

Santana's Mexican Food

Multiple locations
$$$$

No list of heavy hitters would be complete without a nod to the OG of California burritos, Santana's. While no one really knows the origin of the California burrito, Don Arturo Santana is often given credit for inventing it in the late 1980s. While most locations became Fresh MXN along the way, four Santana’s outposts still bring you the original. It's the burrito you craved as a kid and still love today—with homemade fries, Mexican salsa, cheddar cheese, and your choice of meat (carne asada, grilled chicken, achiote chicken, carnitas or adobada). It’s open from 7 am until 11 pm daily.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call or order online from your favorite location.

El Azteca Taco Shop
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

This no-frills, strip mall spot started out as a sit-down joint in Pacific Beach in 1980 before it moved to its current location to embrace its inner hole-in-the-wall. It boasts the usual suspects: burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, with its enormous California burrito being the standout. Known for its sheer size, which is roughly equivalent to a small baby, this delicious beast comes with chopped up carne asada, french fries, guac, pico, and cheese, and a red and green salsa for those of you (aka all of you) who like it hot.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-466-4113 to order takeout.

Rudy's
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Rudy's

Solana Beach & La Costa
$$$$

This staple nails everything, from its well-cared-for carne asada, to its house-made salsas (available for purchase!), to its Mexican markets filled with specialty items like that salty paste candy you used to love as a kid. The California burrito features tender flap meat that's marinated overnight, then cooked over an open flame, with french fries, cheese, sour cream, and tortillas so fresh that there's still flour on top.
How to order: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis.

Don Bravo
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Don Bravo

Bird Rock
$$$$

Don Bravo represents one of the more eclectic entries on this list, boasting a more upscale vibe than your typical burrito joint, plus some non-traditional offerings like hamburgers, ceviche, and churros. These burrito slinging veterans use slices of grilled Angus beef, which equals more tender carne than you'll find at the run-of-the-mills. Add ocean views and alcohol (frozen margaritas, bottled Mexican beer) and you’ll be glad you decided to class it up a bit.
How to order: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis. Call 858-454-8940 for takeout.

Rigoberto's Taco Shop
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Rigoberto's

Multiple locations
$$$$

This tried-and-true favorite is about ten inches long (no wonder it's a favorite) and filled with high-quality carne, fast-food style fries, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and of course, cheese. It's not incredibly overwhelming, plus the seven locations boast nod-worthy salsa bars and drive-thrus, and they're open 24 hours. With a location on Garnet, smack in the middle of PB, Rigoberto's California burritos have saved many an inebriated evening.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call your favorite location or order online for takeout.

Saguaro's
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Saguaro's

North Park
$$$$

If you're in North Park at midnight and you've been drinking, there's a good chance you'll be saying "I need to go to Saguaro's" because A) it's super close to the bars, B) it's open 24 hours, and C) it's delicious even if you haven’t been drinking. Saguaro's meat is flavorful, with a slight hint of chipotle to it. It comes with pico, but you’ll have to add guacamole or sour cream as a side.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-291-7746 for takeout.

Lolita's Taco Shop
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Lolita's Mexican Food

Multiple locations
$$$$

Somewhat of a household name in America's Finest City, Lolita's was founded by Joaquin and Dolores Farfan, who have been some of the top burrito slingers in San Diego since they opened their first location in Chula Vista in 1984. The California burrito is their calling card, and comes with carne asada, guac, sour cream, and crispy fries, but their carne asada fries are also bomb. Another location opened outside Petco Park, boasting six beer taps and tons of flat screens, so we can eat (and drink) our feelings when the Padres… they're GOING to win. Someday.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call or order online from your favorite location for takeout.

JV's Mexican Food
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

JV's Mexican Food

Linda Vista
$$$$

Jesse Verduzco's spot's sheer breadth and depth of good burritos, from the Surf-N-Turf to the Hawaiian, might be—dare we say—unrivaled in SD. But if you are going to go the traditional route, the California burrito is made with carne asada, short and thick fries, guac, sour cream, salsa, cheese, and the biggest tortilla you've ever seen. Grab some buñuelos on your way out.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Sarita's
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Sarita's

Spring Valley
$$$$

Tucked away in Spring Valley, Sarita’s is a perfect little ode to the best of traditional, hole-in-the-wall Mexican food. Its California burrito is practically the size of your arm, so it’s economical and satisfying for the most enormous appetites. Fans rank it high on their list of favorites, in part because it comes loaded with plenty of sour cream and guac, so you never have to ask for more. It’s also open 24 hours to ease your late night cravings.
How to order: Indoor and patio seating is available on a first-come basis, or order at the counter for takeout.

Lucha Libre
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Lucha Libre

Mission Hills & North Park & Sycuan Casino
$$$$

This high-energy, Mexican wrestling-themed taqueria has an entire section of its menu dedicated to the California burrito, with options that go beyond the traditional, including pork adobada, carnitas, birria. However, its most famous for its Surfin’ California, a massive 14-inch flour tortilla stuffed with piles of carne asada that's been soaked in a lime marinade, shrimp, chipotle mayo, house-made french fries, pico de gallo, sliced avocado, and cheese that you can order until 2:30 am.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup or delivery via Toast from Mission Hills or North Park.

Roberto's Taco Shop
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Roberto's Taco Shop

Multiple locations
$$$$

The Robledo family opened the first Roberto's in San Ysidro in 1964, and whether or not it was the first real "Mexican taco shop" as the chain claims, we're not sure. But, we do know that the majority of burrito aficionados who sing Roberto's praises appreciate the convenient locations, and consistently quality product. Plus, those views overlooking the estuary/ocean at the Torrey Pines joint are perfectly paired with a California burrito that comes with carne asada, french fries, salsa Mexicana, and cheddar.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Nico's Mexican Food
Photo by Natalie Holtz for Thrillist

Nico's Mexican Food

Multiple locations
$$$$

Showing up in almost every “best of” list, Nico's has three locations in San Diego and fifteen in Arizona. Jose Carreon (son of the founders), runs the original Ocean Beach location and says that he tries to keep it old school, sticking to what his Mom and Dad started. The average-sized California burritos have the perfect balance of carne asada, crisp fries, melty cheese, and cool sour cream—the only bummer is that guac isn’t included, but trust us, it’s worth the extra charge.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.
Natalie Holtz is a contributor for Thrillist.