The Best California Burrito in San Diego

Parker Klein
Oct 4 · 9 min read

For the past two months, I have been on a mission to find San Diego’s best California burrito. I ate too many burritos (10 in total), but thankfully everyone was delicious. In this post, I will discuss what is a California burrito, what each taco shop delivered, and how I came to the conclusion of San Diego’s best California burrito.

First off, what is a California burrito? To me, a native San Diegan, a California burrito is carne asada, french fries, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, all bundled up in a tortilla. California burritos may sometimes be served with guacamole or salsa, without sour cream, with a Mexican (cheddar, Monterey Jack, and asedero) cheese blend, or tater tots instead of french fries, but for this adventure, I decided to order a normal California burrito from each taco shop, however they serve it up.

For the record, every burrito was completed in a single sitting. I did this for two reasons: 1. I am a fatass and 2. The contents of a California burrito will differ from start to finish, so, in order to get the entire picture of each burrito, they needed to be finished.

Now, let’s get to ranking.

#1: Kotija Jr.

Kotija Jr. is an authentic taco shop that serves up the definition of a California burrito. I called in an order to-go and the conversation was optimized for speed and efficiency. Him: “What do you want?” Me: “Order to go, please.” Him: “What do you want?” Me: “California burrito, that’s all.” Him: “Thank you. *click*” No name, no number. Time to eat. Burrito ingredients: carne asada, french fries, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a tortilla. The carne asada was cooked perfectly, tender, flavorful, and crispy on the tips. The french fries still had a crunch. The tortilla was cooked lightly on the stove so parts of it were crispy where you can tear the little burnt parts off. Not too much or too little sour cream and quality, sharp cheddar. The whole burrito was incredible, and I’m not religious, but by the end of it, I was thanking God for creating this world.

#2: Nico’s

Nico’s is a classic. Held the #1 spot until I was reminded of Kotija Jr. Nico’s Taco Shop is very authentic. It is still cash only. You can also find a constantly stirring horchata dispenser. The burrito: incredible. Ingredients: carne asada, sour cream, french fries (they ask if you want french fries or potatoes), cheddar cheese, and a flour tortilla. You should plan your day around this burrito as it is very large, will take you a while to finish, and you won’t want it to end. The fries are amazing and I’m pretty sure they came from McDonald’s. The tortilla is crispy and has the same burnt flakes that you can peel off. The one complaint was that the meat could have been a little more tender.

#3: Cotixan

Cotixan was fire. It was a tough call to put this 24-hour taco shop below Kotija Jr. and Nico’s. Ingredients: carne asada, Mexican cheese, sour cream, salsa, tortilla, and fries. The carne was tender, not too chewy, classic, lots of it, and finely chopped. The Mexican cheese did lack a strong cheddar presence. There was a lot of Monterey jack. The cheese was also melted fantastically. Not enough sour cream. The salsa had nice onions, cilantro, and tomatoes. Tomatoes were white and red, and the cilantro was a nice touch. The tortilla was also perfectly cooked with flakes and tasted great. There was some sour cream leakage out of the side. The fries were cooked well. Overall this was a delicious burrito.

#4: Lolita’s

Lolita’s was high quality. Served up downtown next to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Ingredients: carne asada, french fries, sour cream, and a tortilla. The marination of the carne asada led to the best meat I had. The burrito had some sort of sauce that made the meat taste like gyro lamb, super yummy. There were a few too many fries (almost 60–70% of the burrito), and not enough meat and sour cream. The first couple of bites were full of sour cream but didn’t see much of it the rest of the way. It could have also used more cheese. The tortilla was great. Flakey, tasty. Some fries were poking through the burrito which led to some sour cream leakage. The meat was the real winner and who doesn’t like french fries?

#5: Ortiz’s

I had this burrito right after I had the burrito from Rigoberto’s and Ortiz’s blew Rigoberto’s right out of the water. It was really good. Ingredients: carne asada, french fries, guac, sour cream, Mexican cheese blend, cooked tortilla. The first bite with guac and carne was incredible. Even though I am a big guac guy and California is the home of guacamole (don’t quote me on that), I don’t believe the OG California burrito should include guac. It was a great touch though. So much guac to start died down toward the end. The fries could have been crispier. I like straight cheddar but the Mexican blend was good. Needed more sour cream and guac throughout. Probably the smallest burrito I had which can be a plus if you want to eat back to back California burritos, lol.

#6: Rudy’s

Rudy’s served up a classic and took me right back to my childhood. I started with a bean and cheese since that is what I always had for dinner after baseball practices, but I enjoyed the California burrito even more. Ingredients: french fries, carne asada, sour cream, tortilla, and Mexican cheese blend. The meat was super tasty, moist, tasted like a gyro lamb, and was super marinated. French fries could have been a bit crispier. Good ratio of meat to fries to sour cream to cheese. And a good ratio, for me, means heavy on the meat. The cheese wasn’t melted all the way through, which I don’t like, but the burrito had solid chunks of cheddar, which was great. The sour cream was also super tasty. The burrito overall wasn’t the biggest, but that was nice since I started with the bean and cheese. Overall, super solid.

#7: Roberto’s

Roberto’s is, in my mind, the definition of a southern California taco shop. Seating is only available outside, with no bathroom, and the phone doesn’t always work. Roberto’s is also the home of my favorite breakfast burrito: the loaded hashbrown burrito (pictured instead of the Cali), which consists of crispy hashbrowns, eggs, pan seared ham, crispy bacon, sausage links, and cheddar cheese. The crispiness of the hashbrowns will blow your mind. The California burrito consists of carne asada, cheddar cheese, french fries, sour cream, and a flour tortilla. The flour tortilla wasn’t cooked, no flakes, and not super doughy. The burrito had too many fries, and fries were too soft, which became a ball of potato. The meat was very flavorful, tender, and crispy. It did have some fire pockets of cheddar. Not enough sour cream throughout, which made the burrito pretty dry at times. This used to be my favorite spot for a Cali burrito so I’m not sure if Roberto’s quality is dropping due to their overall success, or if the other shops are stepping up their games.

#8: Caliente’s

Caliente’s brought me back to high school. This was the go-to spot for my friends and me if we were feeling a burrito for lunch. We would all cram into my friend Sean’s car with his bass-thumping to the point where having a conversation was impossible, except for the minute-long call to order 5 California burritos to go. Ingredients: carne asada, Mexican cheese blend, sour cream, salsa, and guac. The tortilla was very doughy, which was a nice change of pace. The cheese wasn’t completely melted (a no-no for me). The sauce of the sour cream mixed with the salsa was amazing. Could have used more guac. Overall, it was a big burrito that took a while to eat, which felt less authentic with the added ingredients.

#9: Rigoberto’s

Rigoberto’s is a classic 24-hour taco shop. There is no inside. You order at a window, they also have a drive-thru, and they have outdoor seating. There is also an added 50 cent charge if you pay with a card. Ingredients: carne, french fries, Mexican cheese blend, and salsa. They do have a Rigoberto’s burrito which is a Cali with enchilada sauce that sounded super bomb, but I went normal Cali to keep it on an even playing field. It was a big burrito. Started with a lot of meat, didn’t end with much so consistency was lacking. The cheese wasn’t fully melted but the sharp cheddar was fire. I didn’t love the salsa/pico in the mix. The meat was a little dry. The fries were a little soggy, still had skin on them, which lead to them being the worst fries. The tortilla was also not too flavorful and was cooked but was not as crispy as you’d like. Overall: they served up a California burrito. It wasn’t the best one, but I was happy.

#10: Sol y Mar (no photo)

Last on the list is a more traditional Mexican restaurant called Sol y Mar. This is a restaurant my family likes to go to for dinner. It is not a taco shop. You most likely aren’t ordering it to-go, they serve you chips and salsa as soon as you sit down, and they have a place you can watch ladies hand make the tortillas. This California burrito is last because if you are really looking for a California burrito, you should get a more authentic experience at a taco shop. Ingredients: carne asada, fries, guac, salsa, cheddar cheese. The burrito was served to be eaten with a fork and knife, but you know I had to eat it with my hands. It leaked salsa and oil from the carne. Had a nicely cooked, flakey tortilla. Beautifully marinated carne. Not enough guac. Fries were seasoned and very tasty. Not enough cheese. This was one of the best-tasting burritos due to the carne, fries, and guac, but it never felt like a true California burrito.

There you have it. My review of 10 San Diego California burritos on my search to find San Diego’s best California burrito. I realize I only had 10 and there are many more in San Diego to enjoy. Some of them may even be better than some of the ones I had. To name a few that I didn’t make it to: Don Carlos, Santana’s El Puerto, Mikes Taco Club, Don Bravo, JV’s Mexican Food, Filiberto’s, El Azteca, Taco Surf Taco Shop, Juanita’s, Lucha libre, Trujillo’s, and La Puerta. If I missed your favorite, please let me know what I need to try next.

Thank you for reading. I do have to add a warning here about the health risks of consuming this many California burritos as they are not healthy and you should probably never eat one if you want to be super healthy. If you ever are in San Diego, and you are looking for a delicious California burrito, please use this to choose the one you are looking for.


Thank you for reading!

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Parker Klein

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Software Engineer @Google, note taker, podcaster, YouTuber, and writer. Creator of Twos, Müse, Aware, 7 Levels Deep, and the Parker Klein’s Notes podcast.

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