All ‘yea bro’s aside, I have been known to put down a California burrito or two. If you’ve never had one they are the pinnacle of Cali-Mexi decadence where in a lard and flour tortilla carne asada, pico de gallo, French fries, cheese and sour cream mix to make the most satisfying brick in your stomach you’ve ever experienced.
It’s hardly Mexican. I understand. There are many reasons to question the authenticity of the burrito. It’s just a taco that’s bigger and more convenient. A calzone is to pizza what a burrito is to a taco. And to quote the late Parks and Recreation, “Calzones are pointless. They’re just pizza that’s harder to eat. No one likes them.”
But everyone likes burritos. They’re kind of the lowest common denominator and I will always love food that gets people from vastly different sections of society to taste and experience the same thing.
It had been years since I had eaten a California burrito as I had not been living in California. And while there are a few (really , like three) places in the northwest where you can get satisfying Mexican food, nothing quite captured the magic simplicity of a Roberto’s burrito. In fact I’ve never had as good of a burrito anywhere outside of San Diego. It’s the closest thing I can think of as a regional cuisine for the area. Low end beach food that you taste with salt in your nostrils and a breezy day on your back saying ‘cool dude, no you got my lunch today because I spotted you last weekend—’
Remember? On the way to San Diego, Charles and I shoot the shit exactly like we have since we were teammates in college. We talk about the state of education, mixed-raced children, and the names of teammates we would not see at our Alumni track meet later in the day. And when the topics are exhausted we sit comfortably in silence.
There is peace I’ve experienced communicating with other men. It’s a simplicity where conversations that slip away are let go. It’s the kind of grace and ease that necessitates food as thoughtless as a burrito. Later, we both devour our identical meals in the same silence of the drive down. When we are finished we rise, toss our trash and make our way to the car shielding light from our eyes like we’ve done 1000 times before.
Which I guess is to say that burritos played no small part in the development of many of my closest friendships. Burritos for when you are hungry, for when you could eat, for joy, for crying in your car because you broke up with your boyfriend, for when talking has exhausted itself and you find a sense of peace there with another person.
It is a belief of mine that food does not need to be high minded, rare or intelligent to stick with us. In fact I remember more of these non-conversations than I do small elegant plates at finer establishments. I could argue that I have simple tastes but I think to a degree we all do. Salt, fat, soft and crunchy— The same flavors and textures repeated among the same faces, the two or three of you saying ‘ Yeah, I could probably eat another one.’
When the weather is nice in San Diego (Don’t worry it always is.) you should make it to Roberto’s Very Mexican Restaurant on Carmel Valley road. They use a thinner French fry in their California Burrito which is a more reasonable size. When you are hung over and asking for a swift death make your way to Cotixan’s on Genesse and order their Lunch Burrito with refried beans, eggs, potatoes, bacon, cheese and everything else bad for you that will spell hangover salvation. Make sure you get plenty of Salsa.