When I moved to San Diego a couple of years ago from Manhattan Beach up the coast, the last thing I figured I would have trouble finding is a good wet burrito.
I mean it’s San Diego for cryin’ out loud. That should be as easy as seeing sunshine. It’s closer to the border than the Los Angeles Beach Cities and has more Mexican restaurants per mile than pretty much anywhere except, well, Mexico.
Well it has largely turned out to be an exercise in frustration. Here, burritos and tacos are pretty just the meat and the shell. The tacos and burritos I know and love contain chopped lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. Burritos have rice and sometimes beans but this is surprisingly missing in San Diego. My friend and fellow local blogger James Hills of Men Who Blog calls this “Baja style.”
“Oh, well that’s Taco Bell style,” he says about the tacos and burritos I know, as if I’ve been eating at a certain fast food chain (I’ve never eaten at a Taco Bell, by the way).
“No,” I say in protest. “That’s the way every taco and burrito is in Los Angeles.”
Whenever I asked for that here the restaurant staff would give me a puzzled look and act as if I’m from another planet. When I asked if I could get it “wet,” they would pour cold red sauce on the burrito.
So when I go back to Manhattan Beach – which I do about once a month to film the live video podcast PubClub LIVE! – I would make a beeline to El Tarasco, a little counter of a restaurant in El Porto (north Manhattan Beach) to plop down and get the Junior Super Deluxe, a wet burrito as big as my forearm.
In the massive tortilla is meat, rice, chopped lettuce and tomatoes. It is topped with cheese and a delicious red sauce. All that goodness is then placed in an oven. Out comes a hot burrito, the sauce clinging to the tortilla with cheese melted all over it. I’m always so thrilled to have it that I wind up eating the whole thing.
I had all but given up finding this same wet burrito in San Diego until late one night after an evening patrolling the South Park bars, including the Whistle Stop, James stopped in a corner joint called Sombrero (2201 Fern St.). On its menu was a wet burrito.
Well I nearly wet my pants! I asked the employee if it was baked with the sauce and cheese on it and she said “yes.” I then asked if came with rice, chopped lettuce and tomatoes. Again she answered “yes.” Had I really found a true wet burrito in San Diego!?
The real test is in the taste, of course, and by golly it was pretty danged close to El Tarasco. In other words, it was awesome. The price: just $12.
So yes, San Diego, there is a wet burrito in town. I’ll keep looking for one at other Mexican restaurants but I know I can always get a good one at Sombrero.