Burrito lovers are like fingerprints – no two are alike. It’s never a big detail that divides us on where to go for Mexican food, just enough small preferences that leave lasting impressions. So lock up the bike and journey outside the perimeter of the Mission District. We’re driving across the Bay Bridge to eat some of the best burritos the East Bay has to offer.
El Novillo Taco Truck - Guadalajara Restaurant parking lot
Hours: Mon to Sun 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Taco trucks dominate East Oakland, and among them El Novilla rules. Owned and operated by the Pelayo family, the truck is located in the parking lot of Guadalajara Restaurant, also owned by the Pelayo’s. The menu consists of pretty basic fare with Lengua (beef tongue) and Cabeza (beef head) being the most adventurous selections. The Pollo Burrito has a nice flavor right into the first bite. The chicken is perfectly charred and if we’re going to do the math, the ratio of beans to rice to salsa works perfectly. Conveniently located near Fruitvale BART, El Novilla is your new go-to place for authentic burritos.
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Hours: Mon to Thurs, Sun – 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri to Sat – 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Strike up the Mariachi band and find a seat. Burritos at this Berkeley haunt begin life with a clean conscience. All meat served is raised without antibiotics, choosing hormone-free beef, lamb and pork. Vegetables are local, organic and sustainable whenever possible. Vegetarian burritos are as savory as the Pork Mole and Pollo Asado burritos. La Mission is a little pricier, but the benefits outweigh the financial drawbacks.
Hours: Mon to Fri -10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat to Sun -10 a.m. to 12 a.m.
With its bright yellow tables and booth seating, walking into El Farolito might make you feel like you are about to eat at Subway, but that’s where the similarity ends. The burritos are wrapped tight like you’d swaddle a newborn and weigh just as much. The menu offers a wide variety of pairings; popular items include the Lengua (beef tongue), Sesos (beef brain) and Al Pastor (spicy pork) and a selection of tasty salsas. Items are cooked fresh and when you tear away the foil there’s no wet bomb waiting to explode in your lap. Wash it down with a Mexican coke or beer, and when your appetite returns in a week or so, do it all again.
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El Taco Zamorano Restaurant
Hours: Mon to Thu 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri to Sat 8 a.m. – 11 p.m; Sun 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
For some reason, words like pequeño and poco have lost all meaning inside this family-owned restaurant. Brace yourself – it’s going to take a few seconds to wrap your brain around all the food set in front of you, so imagine how long it will take your stomach. The super burrito, appropriately titled since gargantuan doesn’t roll right off the tongue, can easily take out a small child. Corn tortillas are handmade onsite and dishes boast the most appetizing colors and fragrances. If you’re looking for authentic Mexican cuisine, El Taco Zamorano can’t be beat.
Hours: Mon to Sun 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Favored and frequented by locals – a quick tell about the food and how good it is – there’s plenty of seating available at this taco truck stand located on International Boulevard. Priced for value, regular burritos cost $4 and super burritos $8, which is a very fair price for this vertical meal you just doubled in size and girth. The menu remains on par with what’s offered by countless other taco trucks so flavor, freshness and fillings become deal breakers. Burritos never seem overstuffed or unbalanced with any particular ingredient and meat is cooked to perfection. Grab a glass of horchata and dig in.
Robyn Chelsea-Seifert is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Creem, Hit Parader, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and International Musician. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.