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California Burrito: The One Thing You Need To Eat in San Diego

California Burrito: The One Thing You Need To Eat in San Diego

The iconic California burrito was invented in San Diego, making it a must-try item for everyone who visits the city. Team


4 min read

February 07, 2022

Crispy french fries are tucked next to smooth sour cream, flavorfully marinated carne asada, creamy guacamole, and perfectly shredded cheese. That’s right, we’re listing the ingredients for the California burrito. As its name implies, this legendary burrito was created here in the Golden State—in sunny San Diego, in fact. As if the gorgeous waters, the best surfing spots, perfect weather, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation weren’t enough, San Diego gets to add “creator of the California-style burrito” to its resume—proving yet again that it’s the place to be.

Traditionally stuffed with carne asada, cheese, guac, sour cream, salsa, and french fries, the iconic California burrito was invented in San Diego.

History of the California Burrito

There’s debate around who created the burrito synonymous with San Diego. Some claim it was invented by Santana’s, others firmly believe it originated from one of Roberto’s Taco Shop stops. But one thing is clear: The California burrito is undoubtedly the brainchild of a San Diegan. Given the dish’s deep roots in the area, it’s no wonder it has become one of San Diego’s most iconic and beloved foods

Although the burrito is named after the Golden State, it is rare to find this style (especially done well) throughout the northern two-thirds of the state. But luckily, Los Angeles and San Diego have happily kept the tradition going since the ’80s. The California burrito competes with San Francisco’s classic Mission burrito—a large rice and bean-stuffed burrito that originated out of the Mission District—but for many Southern Californians, the meat-and-potato filled California burrito from San Diego far outranks the rest.

These are the Best places to get a California Burrito in San Diego

When it comes to mastering the California burrito, a few San Diego hotspots have it down to a science. The next time you find yourself heading south, make sure to check out our favorites among the best places to get California burritos in San Diego.

Frequently confused with the Mission, California burritos are just as gigantic and have multiple fillings.

Nico's Mexican Food 

Known for its medium-sized California burritos, Nico’s Mexican Food joint has been ranked on many “best of” lists for a reason. Since it has been making the dish for decades, Nico’s understands the importance of perfectly combining the ingredients for the California burrito so that each bite is as good as the last.

Roberto's Mexican Food

With numerous locations throughout the region, Roberto’s Mexican Food is a classic spot that has rightfully earned a place on the list of best places to get California burritos in San Diego. Aside from offering all of the ingredients you would expect in this wondrous creation, Roberto’s also gives diners the option to add guacamole and any other favorite toppings for the full California experience. 

They may be small, but don't underestimate their ability to satisfy, especially at these top taco restaurants.

Mike’s Taco Club

Mike’s Taco Club is the real MVP when it comes to satisfying textures. Not only does this eatery pile on the sour cream, but it also includes guacamole as a standard ingredient—which is a move we definitely support—ensuring the dreaded dry burrito remains a figment of your imagination. Indulge in every last bite of creamy, seasoned perfection that is bound to make you forget your previous San Diego burrito eating ways.

Lucha Libre

Lucha Libre is not your average taqueria. With two locations in San Diego, this kitschy, pink, and Mexican wrestling-themed taco shop serves a mean San Diego burrito. Their menu also features a host of delicious classics with gourmet twists, the Surfin’ California burrito being one of their top-sellers. More good news? This awesome joint is also open till 2:30 a.m. on weekends—the perfect place to go when you have the munchies after a night out.

JV’s Mexican Food

JV’s Mexican Food is perhaps the complete opposite of Lucha Libre. Modest and simple with a variety like no other, this cool spot serves mouthwatering burritos ranging from the Surf-N-Turf to Hawaiian. The California burrito in this San Diego joint is made with carne asada, fries, guac, sour cream, salsa, cheese, and the biggest tortilla you've ever seen—it’ll have you hooked.


Lolita’s is practically a household name in this corner of the state. With more than 30 years of experience serving delicious San Diego burritos, this authentic Mexican restaurant has a cult following of loyal locals who swear by their food. If you’re after their California burrito, you’ll be glad to know that every mouthful gives you an explosion of flavors with carne, guac, sour cream, and crispy fries. Pair your burrito with a side of carne asada fries and you have yourself an A+ meal.

Rudy's Tacos was founded in 1973 and has since expanded to 11 other locations!

Rudy’s Taco Shop

Rudy’s Taco Shop excels at crafting every dish on their menu, from the carne asada to the homemade salsas. However, the standout is their California burrito. Prepared in a San Diego kitchen, this burrito is filled with flap meat marinated overnight and grilled over an open flame, adding a unique depth of flavor. Accompanying the meat are classic fillings such as french fries, melted cheese, and sour cream, all wrapped in a tortilla so fresh it might still have a dusting of flour on top.

Taco Surf Pacific Beach

Proudly serving Mexican food since 1989, Taco Surf is a famous laid-back eatery that the local beach and surfing communities adore. This awesome spot in San Diego allows you to customize your own California burrito! Choose between four protein options and add up to four toppings of your choice to eat the burrito of your dreams. Pairing that with an appetizer? Taco Surf’s tortilla soup is one of the favorite options on the menu—the thought of it alone is making us drool.  

Don Carlos Taco Shop

Over in La Jolla, your purveyor of top-notch California burritos is the family-owned Don Carlos Taco Shop. Opened in 1983 by Costa Rican immigrant Carlos Herrera Sr., this beloved San Diego burrito spot is still as popular as ever today. Don Carlos’ burritos are topped with the unbelievably yummy house enchilada sauce—they also serve amazing tacos, nachos, and chimis. Definitely one of the best places to get a California burrito in San Diego, Don Carlos is the taco shop to seek if you find yourself on a getaway in La Jolla someday.

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