The 20 Best Burrito Spots in All of California
As 2Pac once rapped, "Out on bail, fresh out of jail, California dreaming. Soon as I step on the scene, I'm hearing hoochies screaming. Fiending for money and alcohol and... a list of the best burritos in the entire state of California, especially if it's written by those dudes at Thrillist." Oh, hey, look what we've got here!
What you're getting: Bean & cheese burrito
Bean & cheese burritos -- whether from Taco Bell or the school cafeteria -- are almost always boring and always terrible for you. EXCEPT at this legendary 50-year-old outdoor stall/shack in Boyle Heights, where simplicity triumphs in a tortilla. You don’t feel overwhelmed by an onslaught of rice and greasy meat, but also don’t feel gross from eating nothing but beans and cholesterol. It’s the PB&J of burritos: soothing comfort food that brings out the nine year old in everyone.
What you're getting: Carne asada burrito grande
Long ago, on a road trip to far far away, or, uh, Las Vegas, we discovered Baja Taco -- buried in a strip mall next to a Stater Brothers and constantly busy with a slew of locals, piling up pickled veggies and homemade salsa. The kingmaker, though, is the burrito grande, which is literally arm-sized and packed with enough meat, cheese, beans, rice, and veggies to keep one person fed for a whole weekend. Seriously. We've seen it done.
What you’re getting: Si Food octopus burrito (pulpo)
Burritos and “fresh fish” don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but at Pesca, the octopus is tender, the shrimp juicy, and the crab fresh/buttery. With grilled bell peppers and onions, rice, whole beans, pico de gallo, chopped cucumbers, and chipotle and tomatillo sauce, this monstrosity is worth the almost $9 price tag.
What you're getting: Carne asada burrito (dry)
Despite being wrapped in a thick, fresh, warm flour tortilla, the juice from the carne asada oozes through with each bite. Also, this burrito's been scientifically proven to cure massive morning-after headaches. Proven!
What you’re getting: Carne asada Super Burrito
The yellow, backlit menus occasionally go out. The space is a bit messy, and doesn’t seem like it all logically goes together, as if someone added a kitchen in a dorm room, and didn’t necessarily move all the other stuff. But none of that matters once you bite into the delicious griddled steak bomb that is the carne asada Super from the hidden gem in Duboce Triangle.
What you’re getting: Giro burrito
It sits on what is sort of a changing, industrial corner at Treat and 23rd St. Two friendly ladies are always cooking. The name, which references a type of fighting rooster, does not do justice to the actual contents of the Giro, which includes shrimp, along with the essential components of the super burrito. And what's more, the pickled jalapeños will change you, in confusing but important ways.
What you’re getting: Carne asada burrito
It’s quite possible that El Patio’s Cali-style carne asada burrito is the only reason you’d ever find yourself in Woodland on purpose -- and it would be worth it. Within the wrappings of a deceptively ordinary tortilla, thick chunks of grilled marinated steak nestle between shoestring french fries that manage to stay crispy despite being smothered by perfectly ripe avocado. This, friends, is definitive proof that the best Cali-style burritos don’t all live in San Diego.
What you're getting: Carne asada burrito (wet)
The massive burrito is about the size of the average stomach (poetic!) and comes smothered in three sauces, including green and red chile.
What you’re getting: Surf and turf burrito
Surf is wrapped up in a tortilla with... turf!... plus a healthy dose of pico de gallo and El Z's special sour cream sauce. This burrito isn’t huge, but it makes up for its size in quality. Plus, you can add guacamole, cheese, and whatever else you want to bulk up the plump shrimp and perfectly-cooked steak. Wallet bonus: it's a steal at a measly $6.50.
What you're getting: Quesarito with steak
If you've ever visited someone who was a student at UCSB, you've been to Isla Vista. And if you've ever been to Isla Vista, you've gone out drinking. And if you've ever gone out drinking, you've ended up at Freebirds. Actually named after the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, this quintessential drunchies spot has actually spawned a massive chain in Texas (hell, they even have them in NorCal now!), but the Santa Barbara original still deserves the birthright nod, largely because founder Mark Orfalea remains the sole owner of it. It still turns out one of the heartiest tinfoil-wrapped tortilla footballs in the state, and it does it 'til 3am Sun-Thur, and 'til 4am on Fri/Sat. The move is, and will always be, the off-menu Quesarito, which's basically a burrito born inside a quesadilla's melted cheese goodness. If you're looking for proof there's a just and righteous burrito-loving God, this is it.
What you’re getting: Chile relleno with asada burrito
This East LA institution has been slinging amazing house-made tortillas for more than six decades, and you can to get one of those fluffy bad boys wrapped around a batter-fried, cheese-stuffed chile relleno along with carne asada, refried beans, and pico de gallo. Because this is America.
What You’re Getting: Super carnitas burrito
Just steps away from the "organic this," "local that" eating going on at Google’s HQ, there's a pretty intense burrito rivalry being waged in Mountain View. You’re either La Costeña or you’re La Bamba. Except the rivalry is decidedly one-sided: the majority overwhelmingly prefers La Costeña. They’re wrong. La Bamba shrunk a few years ago from a growing group to just two locations because of landlord disputes (how Silicon Valley), but the burrito, filled with the juiciest of carnitas or tender carne asada, is idyllic. Unlike the massive, bloated with rice and beans, Mission-style counterparts at La Costeña, La Bamba has everything from the rice to the guac in perfect proportion.
Cardiff by the Sea
What you're getting: Charbroiled chicken and black bean burrito with red & green sauce mix
It's got perfectly charred chicken coupled with the right amount of black beans & other stuffing inside so it doesn't explode on the plate. And you can't beat the view of the ocean, right off the PCH.
What you're getting: Carnitas super burrito
Oh, this place? It’s just: THE GREATEST BURRITO SPOT IN THE WORLD, according to Nate Silver’s science and expert panel of tasters. But we’ve been fans of Miguel Jara’s family-owned joint for many, many years. Though, before the hype, it was primarily known for the carnitas taco, the burrito is where it’s at, thanks to its perfect ratio of components, which keeps it juicy but not sopping, all the way through. Also, no one will judge if you still end up getting a taco on the side.
What you're getting: Surfin' California burrito
With a campy Mexican wrestling vibe (would you expect anything less?), LL's most celebrated tortilla-based creation is the Surfin' California burrito (once featured on Man v. Food). You'll be dealing with a 14in tortilla stuffed with lime-marinated carne asada, shrimp, chipotle mayo, sliced avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese. It's as tasty as it is massive, and, as a bonus, it's available until 2:30am.
What you're getting: The Beef & Red burrito
Some people might call you a masochist for ordering the Beef & Red burrito at this East LA stand, and they'd be right. The flavorful red salsa that fills a warm flour tortilla and coats tender beef chunks could probably burn a hole in the picnic table, not that you'd waste a drop. Consider this burrito to be late owner Adeline "Tuchie" Portillo's lasting gift to Angelenos.
What you're getting: California Burrito
With a trio of San Diego locations, Nico's won a Thrillist-conducted poll of surfers' favorite burrito shops, so you know it has to be good. The size isn't overwhelming -- expect a just-right-sized tortilla stuffed with carne asada, French fries (if you're doing it right), and your other preferred burrito fixin's, which Nico's takes great care to distribute equally throughout the burrito, ensuring you'll avoid all those disappointing single-ingredient pockets that have ruined many a burrito experience.
What you're getting: Chile verde super burrito
It's now known for slinging jars of its famous salsa online, but Papalote is always in the running for best burrito in the Bay Area. The massive, glorious cylinders are best filled with long-marinated chile verde pork, which simmers in a green serrano sauce, and blends smoothly with the sour cream, guac, rice, beans and that famous salsa you clearly just bought online.
What you're getting: California burrito
The first Roberto's opened in San Ysidro in 1964, and it's grown into one of the most highly regarded purveyors of the California burrito, executing an impressively consistent level of quality across multiple locations. Pro tip: you aren't going to find many better burrito-eating backdrops than the ocean view at the Torrey Pines location.
What you’re getting: Cochinita pibil burrito
This family-run, dual-location taco stand dishes out some fine tacos and tamales, but you’re going to want to upgrade the Yucatan-style cochinita pibil -- slow roasted pork with citrusy-achiote -- to burrito form, served in a flaky flour tortilla with pinto beans and house salsa.
Trevor Felch, Natalie Holtz, Danny Jensen, Joshua Lurie, Matt Lynch, Grant Marek, Jeff Miller, Sara Norris, Eloise Porter, Wilder Shaw, and Tiffany Tse contributed to this story. They also ate many, many "research" burritos.