The origins of Oakland’s enormous 15-inch ‘super’ burrito remain a mystery

Why the title “chef” is a problem; pho spot with a decisive parking policy; diner indecision about indoor meals; more Bites.

How big is a Tacos Mi Rancho super burrito, you ask? The top two burritos are your standard Mission-style size, while the “super” version (bottom) is so large it won’t even fit in the frame. Credit: Tacos Mi Rancho/Instagram

As part of a meaty package of stories about the Bay Area’s burrito scene, the SF Chronicle attempted to uncover the origins of Oakland’s “super burrito,” a roughly 15-inch, two pound beast that requires two full tortillas to contain its bounty. Sadly, the source of the trend remains a mystery: while International Boulevard veteran Tacos Sinaloa says owner Guadalupe Bueno was the first to serve the gigantic burritos from his truck around the turn of the millennium, others cite neighboring business Casa Jimenez as the originator of the trend. Still others say that Lake Merritt truck Tacos Mi Rancho started the whole thing about a decade ago. All agree, however,  that the massive burrito is a uniquely local phenom, with area artist and burrito critic Ozi Magaña saying “It’s very much an East Oakland thing. I’m not sure why that is. It’s always been one of those things you learn. I’ll tell people if you order a super, it’s not a fat burrito. It’s a double burrito.”

Put aside your irritation that this Wallpaper* story about the interior design of Emeryville’s Wondrous Brewing Company (1310 65th St. near Hollis Street) says that it “makes its mark in San Francisco,” if you can, and scroll ahead to the haunting photos of the recently opened beer hall’s minimal interiors, which suggest a shadowy and chilly brewery at the end of the world. Architect Farid Tamjidi says that the goal was to “avoid having this room look like a pub or a bar,” as it is “a place to taste the varieties of beer.” Mission accomplished, perhaps?

Student newspaper the Berkeley High Jacket is hoping to guide students to some area restaurants that need help. With Berkeley High School students stuck at home for the past year, restaurants near the school — many of which relied on the revenue brought by the daily lunch crowd — have struggled to stay afloat. Now that kids are returning to the classroom, “the Jacket is spotlighting a few of the best lunch spots for BHS students,” they write. Included on the list is excellent Addison standby Saigon Express (2045 Kala Bagai Way at Addison Street), which since 1995 has boasted a terrific tofu bánh mì worth trying even if your high school days are long behind you.

Alameda Marketplace takeout spot Tahina just got the East Bay Express spotlight for its “insistently herb-forward” falafel served from a location that’s suffered an “unfortunate spell” of shuttered businesses. The California-Mediterranean spot opened just last month, and is co-owned by Rumtin Rahmani, who also owns 16-year-old Marketplace java spot The Beanery.

East Bay restaurants like Berkeley’s Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya, Alley & Vine in Alameda and Oakland’s Ramen Shop tell the SF Chronicle that diners are canceling indoor reservations in favor of outdoor dining, or are not showing up for reservations at all. Ramen Shop co-owner Sam White tells reporter Janelle Bitker that “Once indoor dining opened, everyone was like, ‘We want to eat inside.’ All of a sudden delta comes, and everyone wants to eat outside again. And then in three weeks, smoke is going to come and everyone will want to go back inside.”

Bay Area mini-chain Kevin’s Noodle House started in Oakland in 1994, eventually making a name for itself with reliable Vietnamese food served up at five spots across the Bay Area. Its Walnut Creek location appears just as serious about parking as it is about pho, Beyond the Creek reports, as the restaurant sports a sign promising non-customers who use its spaces that their vehicles will be sold for scrap. Presumably, this is intended as a humorous warning — but still, if you need to drop your car at 2034 N. Main St.,you’d better be picking up some of their shrimp-packed tàu hủ ky or at least a cup of their sweet and highly caffeinated café sữa dá.

In an essay for Eater, Oakland restaurateur and activist Reem Assil questions the use of “chef” as a title that indicates “commander-in-chief, auteur, and career pinnacle.” In the first-person piece, she discusses her time at Jack London Square restaurant Dayfa (she felt like a “token and a martyr,” she said) and argues that using the term “chef” as an honorific (as opposed to a simple job title) is “a cover for abusive behavior for decades.”

Eve Batey is Berkeleyside's interim Nosh editor. Email: eve@berkeleyside.org.