It was just like any other late weekend night for Martin Guzman, the owner of Taqueria Los Coyotes, with scores of drunken 20-somethings buying burritos.

Little did he know on that October night that one of these coolsters was about to introduce a recipe that might very well change how San Francisco sees burritos.

The young man from San Diego asked for a California burrito.

“I told him to show me how to make it and he did,” Guzman recalled. “It has french fries, carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, cheese.”

Since then Guzman has adopted the California burrito, which has its roots in San Diego County, where it is a staple of Mexican food. It now makes up 20 percent of his sales, he said.

He added that young college students — the majority of those who buy it come from all over San Francisco to get the California burrito, which he advertises through banners at the restaurant and word of mouth.

“Before I used to buy one box of fries for two weeks, now I buy 10 boxes for one week,” he said. “The distributor asked me ‘Do you sell hamburgers?’ No, just California burritos.”

He’s not the only one: Last month Tortas Boos Voni in the Excelsior District introduced the California Burrito to its menu. They take a healthier approach, replacing the french fries with cooked potatoes.

The appearance of the California burrito in San Francisco’s Mexican restaurants isn’t surprising to the city’s many San Diego transplants. Any influx of people from a different region brings with it their traditions and food — the very phenomenon that has made Mexican food so prevalent in California.

In recent years, the number of students coming to San Francisco from Southern California, where the California burrito is widespread, has been on the rise. San Francisco State University, for example, has had a 21 percent increase in students from San Diego, from 839 in 2005 to 1,075 in 2009, according to university records.

The number of students from Los Angeles has increased by 25 percent, from 1,340 to 1,805, and students from Orange County have increased by 32 percent, from 658 to 970. Meanwhile, students from San Francisco have decreased by 15 percent, from 5,987 to 4,987.

It hasn’t stopped with burritos. While researching the California burrito, Guzman came across carne asada fries, another Southern California staple. Restaurants like Olivos in the Tenderloin have recently begin serving carne asada fries — essentially the California burrito minus the tortilla.

Guzman, who has owned his restaurant since 2004, said he’s just following the market and is considering introducing guacamole fries — a plate of fries topped with melted cheddar cheese and guacamole.

“I am a person who listens to their customers,” he said.

(Full disclosure: The author was raised in San Diego County and attended San Francisco State University.)

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. Theres a burrito place in berkeley that i’m slowly convincing to make me cali burritos. I just ask for a carne asada with only fries, sour cream, guac, and cheese. Its nice to know it’s catching on. The place is off Sacramento and ashby right next to the liquor store on the northeast corner. Mob it

    To all skeptics: If every single taco shop in San Diego (and I mean that literally, every single one) sells california burritos, it must be good right?

  2. the difference potatoes taste totally different than french fries, thus ruining an otherwise perfectly good california burrito

  3. This “California Burrito” is actually a modification of Carne Asada Fries, which actually came first, and not the other way around. More specifically, if anyone should be compensated it should be the Roberto’s Alberto’s, Jilberto’s Taco Shops, etc. from which the Carne Asada Fries originated in the mid 80’s or so and then spread to other spots throughout San Diego County. It should be noted that those other shops who began carrying these two items, in many cases were former employees of the various shops mentioned above who then went on to start their own restaurants.

  4. I think saying “the 405, the 101” etc is more of an honorific (like “The Rock” or “The Mission”). It’s a car culture thing.

  5. John- I get off 280 at San Jose, usually. Sometimes I get off 101 at Cesar Chavez.

    But I can hardly blame you if you don’t know how freeways are pronounced in SF – actually the real culprit behind this dastardly perversion of our culture is the outsourcing of radio jobs to studios in LA, where some guy is reading a script: “Look out for traffic on the 405”. It is just too much to ask him to correctly say, a few seconds later, “look out for slowness on 280 around Serramonte” — which is the only correct way to say it for at least 250 miles.

  6. Hey Author,

    Any other places in the Bay Area doing this? Anything in Oakland or the East Bay?


    1. Oakland: I am sorry to say that I don’t know of any other places in the Bay Area that sell California Burritos. Sorry. But taqueria Los coyotes is right off the 16th and Mission BART and Tortas Boos Voni is pretty close to the Balboa exit. Hope that helps and thanks for reading.

  7. The use of “the” in front of highway names is a sure sign of a SoCal infiltrator; also anyone who refers to “the” BART. I think I prefer rice and beans sound better on a burrito than fries, but I won’t knock it until I have tried ti.

  8. Glory be to whatever. So good!

    And to Concerned: where do you get off? I get off the 101 at Cesar Chavez. At least the southern transplants pronounce Cabrillo correctly. 🙂

  9. We’ll take the burritos but please stop the lamentable infiltration of the word “the” in front of highway names. For the new arrivals: It is “101” or “280”, as in “Get on 280 at San Jose”. It is not, never, “Get on the 280”.

  10. Rigo, fantastic. Not the burrito, but a new celebrity journalist in our hood, our city. I’ve long appreciated your writing; but you should be on screen a lot more.