Burritos salesmen walk the streets toting coolers in many corners of Tijuana. You can find them while waiting in line to cross the border, in small stores, or outside popular dive bars. The coolers contain hundreds of homemade burritos wrapped in paper and a bottle of homemade salsa in an improvised container (such as a Gatorade bottle).
The burritos usually sell for 75 cents, but these are not your standard (huge) California burritos. They are small and simple, usually containing only one or two ingredients wrapped in a flour tortilla. Beans, chicharrón, steak (asada), shredded beef (desebrada), picadillo, eggs and ham, chorizo and potatoes, etc. More of a snack-on-the-go than a full meal.
Though they all look the same, inside they can be very different. Each Tijuanense favors a particular burrito salesman. There is no burrito regulation or enforcement, so eat street burritos from a cooler at your own risk.
Located at the end of 4th Street, on a corner with H, Burritos la Cuarta has been in the same spot for 33 years. They have no name or a sign for their stand. They set up on the street outside a bright green building that is Nancy Panadería ( a bakery). A couple of coolers mounted on a scooter, a small plastic table, and a couple of foldable chairs is all there is. A cooler on the floor contains sodas. Pigeons scavenge for leftovers.
It’s usually a light-skinned short young guy by the scooter who tells you de que tiene (what he has). When he starts running low on burritos, a green van with many coolers arrives and replenishes the stock. Burritos la Cuarta serves desebrada (shredded steak), chicharrón, beans and cheese, asada (steak), and chorizo and potatoes.
“Give me four de chicharrón, two de asada, and two de frijol!” Cars drive by the corner and yell out what they want. The guy scurries to the cooler, shuffles through the bags, grabs the burritos, and swiftly delivers. Burritos are one of the most common foods you’ll see people eating while waiting to cross the border.
My first apartment in downtown Tijuana was across the street from Nancy Bakery. I’ve had the same burritos at least once a month for the past four years. It is not the burritos that I like so much as the salsa. I default to Burritos la Cuarta when undecided about breakfast, and I crave something plain.
I prefer the desebrada and the bean-and-cheese burritos, but no matter which one I get I smother it with green salsa on every bite. The burritos come out moist from the cooler, making the paper stick to the flour tortilla. I usually eat three and call it a light breakfast.
The salsa is mild for a Tijuana salsa. They won’t tell me the ingredients, but it has a dominant jalapeño taste. I ask for extra salsa and use the leftover salsa for my own homemade burritos. If they sold bottles of that stuff, I would buy it.
Burritos la Cuarta also owns other stands around the city in Rosarito, Santa Fe, Colonia Libertad, and Palacio Municipal (City Hall). All of them are known as Burritos la Cuarta, just like their homebase. They sell over 800 burritos each morning in each location, starting early around 6 a.m. until they run out around 1 pm.