I’ve always been intrigued by the California Burrito, that delicious combination of carne asada, cheese, sour cream and the most important ingredient, french fries — that is native to San Diego. I wanted to learn more about this special burrito, so in the Lick the Plate tradition of interviewing food items (our first was a Cuban sandwich), I recently recorded a radio show with a California Burrito or “Cal Burrito” from Juanita’s that is airing this week on 101KGB and can be found in podcast format at www.lick-the-plate.com.
Highlights from my interview with “Cal Burrito” are below and include a look at its history, definitive ingredients, music to enjoy eating one with, and some other highlights from Juanita’s menu where our favorite California Burrito calls home.
LTP: Let’s start with a history of how you came to be, your origins in San Diego.
Cal Burrito: Well first off, there is no definitive history on my origins, but relatives have told me I originated from what San Diegans call a ‘bertos taco shop of which there are many. You know, all the taco shops that all end in ‘berto’s’: Roberto’s, Rigoberto’s, Alberto’s — there are like 200 of them in San Diego … so you get my point.
LTP: And what are your definitive ingredients?
Cal Burrito: The beauty of my ingredients is their simplicity. I come stuffed with carne asada, french fries, cheese, sour cream and the highly debated guacamole, as some joints include it, and some don’t. Where I come from —Juanita’s in Encinitas — they do not use guacamole unless it is requested by the customer.
LTP: I know this may be a touchy subject to some California Burrito purists, but there have been some creative variations offered on the original. What are your thoughts on those?
Cal Burrito: Well, my initial reaction is to loosen up folks. It’s not like I’m some sacred recipe that goes back hundreds of years, I was born in the ’80s, people … go ahead and do what you like to me! OK, but to your question, there is the Arizona Burrito, which adds pico de gallo and smashed potatoes or tater tots, and the Veggiefornia burrito, minus the meat of course. I’ve also heard of a killer fish version down at The Royal Rooster in San Diego.
LTP: Speaking of Juanita’s, which is my favorite Mexican joint in Encinitas, tell us more about your home there.
Cal Burrito: Juanita’s is an awesome home. How can you go wrong living in Leucadia? The surf spots alone make it worth it, but I need to keep my cred with the locals so I’m not going to mention them by name. Plus, you have to love their slogan of “Keep It Funky,” although that funk is slowly disappearing. But as long as I still have funky places like Lou’s Records and dive bars like O’Hurly’s, I’m proud to call Leucadia home.
LTP: Tell me more about some of the other menu items at Juanita’s you would suggest.
Cal Burrito: Right on Mr. Lick the Plate, you are correct, I am but one of many fine menu selections at Juanita’s. My sibling the fish taco is amazing. So good in fact that in 2010, NY Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton listed it as one of the 15 best things he had eaten that year. I’m still a little jealous over that as he did not even try me!! But besides that, the veggie burrito, carnitas, and fish burrito are all good. We also had very cool calendars this time of year, but the company that makes them went out of business, which is a big bummer.
LTP: Is there a particular demographic profile of people that enjoy eating you?
Cal Burrito: No way, and that’s the beauty of me. I’ve been eaten by just about everyone. Of course, there are the stereotypical surfers coming in post-session and mowing down on me — skaters, stoners, hungover folks, office workers, I even have the occasional super-fit Encinitas power mom order me up then chow down on me right in her car out front.
LTP: There could be a soundtrack associated with every food, what would you suggest goes well with a California Burrito?
Cal Burrito: Great idea! I’m going to take it a step further and set my location as the top of Stone Steps with the following songs to go with me. First off, I have to go with the obvious “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and the Papas, next up “California Stars” from Wilco, then “California” from Joni Mitchell, “Ripple” from the Grateful Dead, followed by “Misirlou” from Dick Dale, and finally “Kick, Push” from Lupe Fiasco.
LTP: Nice selections and love the bonus location. Thanks for joining me this week and the California Burrito education!
Cal Burrito: The pleasure has been all mine Mr. Lick the Plate. It has been an honor and a privilege being on your show and in The Coast News! I must add there is a lot of plate licking going on when people enjoy a California Burrito!
Juanita’s can be found at 290 N. Coast Highway, Encinitas.