Fish taco versus California burrito

Getting the best of a local chain

Mano a mano, food style. California burrito and fish taco. Roberto's Very Mexican Food.
  • Mano a mano, food style. California burrito and fish taco. Roberto's Very Mexican Food.

Roberto's Very Mexican Food

2206 Carmel Valley Road, Del Mar

A better view than you'll get at most -berto's.

A better view than you'll get at most -berto's.

When you say "berto's", I think burrito. Adalberto's or Filibertos? Burrito. Aliberto's, Humberto's, or Rigoberto's? Burrito. Or if there's no drive-thru, maybe some rolled tacos.

It's just a fact of living here: at some time or another you'll eat Mexican food from a place with "-berto" in its name. Probably most often it's Roberto. Roberto's has a devoted following, and a bunch of locations.

Arguably the best sits on the southern edge of Del Mar. Not so much because its food is any better, or any different, but because its outdoor seating sits above Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. Well, some call it a lagoon, but I often think of it as an estuary. Either way, it may not have the allure of beachfront, but it's still not a rotten place to eat a burrito. I'm sure we can all remember worse.

I dropped by on a sunny afternoon, naturally, and mixed it up with the beach goers from nearby Torrey Pines. There's always a bit of a line, so I listened to a lot of burritos being ordered, reinforcing the Pavlovian response that goodly Roberto's name invoked. By the time I hit the counter I knew I'd go big: California burrito.

But — and maybe it was the ocean air — my mouth kept speaking: "…and a fish taco," I heard myself say.

Well now, I wasn't really as hungry as that. The California's a filling burrito, and getting to the end of it should have been enough of a challenge for me this day. Deep down I knew I would not finish both.

It's not exactly Sophie's Choice or anything, but if I could only eat one or the other for the rest of my life — taco or burrito — it would pain me to say. I would have to tap my subconscious, maybe spend some time in a sensory deprivation chamber and consult my spirit guide.

But as far as Roberto's is concerned, I could get a definitive answer. My leftovers would tell me which I liked better. The dish I finished eating would be the winner.

You'd think it was the fish taco, right? A little smaller, goes down so easy while a Cali burrito sometimes feels like an endurance test?

Except the fish taco tasted a little overfried, probably because the kitchen's so busy around lunchtime. Meanwhile the burrito tasted so right on, I had to keep trying another bite just to be sure I was sure.

The middle of the taco got better, with less too-crunchy batter than the first bite. But the sour cream and cheese were melting pretty nicely into that carne, and the fries handled the fryer better. This thing didn't even have guac on it and I was devouring it.

And so: burrito by a nose. And so it goes. Roberto's, you may not offer everyone's idea of the best fish taco in town, but whenever I hear even a fraction of your name, I will think of your burrito.

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Ian, Are you ever going to get your old band [Jethro Tull] back together? I was a big fan! ;-)

Jethro Tull? Don't they play at Renaissance fairs or something?

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