As a San Franciscan, when I say “California Burrito,” what do you think? If you’re like me — not a native Californian, but one who has come to her current lifestyle by happy happenstance — you may have learned that a California Burrito is stuffed full of healthy deliciousness. My first experience of a California Burrito was at Boca Grande in Cambridge, MA. (Stop laughing, good burritos CAN be found on the East Coast! Sometimes.) That particular burrito had me blissfully chewing through fresh-scented sprouts, velvety avocado, melty cheese, and the usual rice, beans, salsa, and lettuce. No meat.

However, in San Diego, at a choose-your-own-location Roberto’s, a California Burrito is a carne asada (steak) burrito with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and…FRENCH FRIES! Seriously, french fries. Somehow, this just doesn’t strike me as a California type of thing. It’s, like, the polar opposite of all the fountain-of-youth-giving good fats/antioxidents/superfreak foods that one might expect to find in a stereotyped California burrito.

Roberto’s California Burrito puts me in delirious mind of the Brit après pub special of Chip Butty. For the uninitiated, a Chip Butty is exactly what you want on your way home from a lagered up night. It’s chips (fries) stuffed in a pita, slathered with mayonnaise, and doused with fruity HP Brown Sauce. It’s crazy, it’s artery clogging, but it’s so disgustingly good when you have a belly full of booze. Of course, if you’re feeling healthy, you might opt for the yogurt-based tzaziki over the mayo. I frequently did and staggered home feeling quite virtuous.

Neato Burrito 24 August,2006Stephanie Lucianovic

  • Anonymous

    I was just thinking about california burritos. We had those out in the central valley, stockton, until recently I didn’t know that those are pretty much nonexistant in the bay area. I know there are a lot of san diego transplants are missing those. So I challenge you and your collegues to find an authentic san diego style california up here in the san francisco bay area.

  • Jennifer Maiser

    I was in Boston last week and a friend was trying to tempt me to taste a burrito in Cambridge – not at the place you mentioned but somewhere else. Her explanation was much like yours: “I know you don’t believe in eating Mexican on the EC, but this one really is good, I promise!”

  • cookiecrumb

    Never heard of a “California Burrito.” I’m heading down to the San Diego area soon, though, so I’ll look around. Ew, I’m sorry, it sounds weird. (*I am so not a snob!*)
    When I lived in Virginia (high school, ohgod, ages ago), there was a “California” hamburger: lettuce, tomatoes, maybe even a schmear of mayonnaise… I thought — Not bad! Isn’t that what hamburgers should be?
    We are all such regional creatures.


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for,, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor