Ozi Magaña is a longtime San Francisco–based visual artist. One of his favorite subjects to portray is also one of San Francisco’s most iconic: the Mission-style burrito, which Magaña paints and draws and emblazons on T-shirts. But while his work is beautiful, what first caught our attention was a dedicated Instagram account where Magaña documents his ongoing journey to find his favorite Bay Area burritos—a quest he takes very seriously. That’s why we turned to him to create a list of the city’s eight can’t-miss burritos.
My first burrito experience was when I was a kid. My parents are both from El Salvador, but the Bay Area, where I spent most of my childhood and where I live now, has always been home. I was raised by a single mom, and a burrito was one of the ways she would feed me quickly without really having to cook anything. Burritos were always in my life and always what got me through the day.
You’ll find great burritos throughout San Francisco, but a majority of the city’s best burritos are located in the historically Latino Mission District. This neighborhood is where the namesake Mission burrito was born—piled high with meat and (sometimes) rice, and wrapped expertly tight with aluminum foil. Any Mission burrito comes stuffed, but order a “super” burrito, and it will arrive packed to its limits with guacamole, sour cream, and cheese. The Mission burrito has become so ubiquitous that when you hear the word burrito, it’s likely some version of this San Francisco classic that comes to mind.
How do I find my favorite burritos in a city full of them? If I’m going to a new taqueria, I always try their carne asada (seasoned and grilled steak) first. You can tell a lot about a place by the way they cook their steak. As for salsa, I’ll always get a hot salsa. I really like my burritos spicy, taking breaks between bites just to calm the tone a little bit. Another pro tip: Ask to have your burrito put back on the stovetop after it’s rolled to get a nice crisp on the edges. Some restaurants call this “dorado style.”
Now for the don’ts: I never put lettuce in my burrito; it gets too soggy and it ruins the whole thing unless you’re a very fast burrito eater. And I don’t always add cheese—that depends on the day, and if I want to treat myself a little bit. At a great burrito spot, forgoing rice means the butt end will be filled with all the flavorful juices from meat, beans, and salsa that otherwise would have been absorbed. But if the components aren’t balanced, going rice-free can result in an overly greasy burrito.