A visit to San Diego to see family and friends always includes a stop at one of our many favorite Mexican food joints. For me, eating a burrito in my hometown of San Diego evokes many fond memories of growing up, since these small Mexican shops seem to be more prominent than chain restaurants down South.
There is a plethora of Mexican food in San Diego and we have specific places to go to when we feel like something in particular, whether it be potato flautas, spicy shrimp burritos, fish tacos, greasy quesadillas, huge bean and cheese burritos, or the elusive California Burrito.
As if East county weren't rural San Diego enough, Bertha's is located on a side road in Santee and you would miss it except for this sign. Luckily, Devin used to live in an apartment complex right across to the street from Bertha's and this Mexican shop used to be one of his frequent haunts.
Before even stepping into Bertha's small dining area, it's good to note the liquor store right next door because they sell Mexican Coca-Cola.
You can tell this is Mexican Coca-Cola because it's made with real sugar instead of sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. So while we waited for our order to be cooked up at Bertha's, we walked over to the liquor store next door to pick up some Mexican Coca-Cola because what could be better to wash down our burritos?
Bertha's vegetarian burrito is called a Supreme Burrito and includes all the basic components of a vegetarian burrito: beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and tomatoes. Guacamole is included in the Supreme Burrito, unlike some Mexican restaurants which charge extra for it. The Supreme Burrito is a standard vegetarian burrito made with a fresh, chewy flour tortilla, but it was missing something that I can't put my finger on. What I love about the food from these little hole-in-the-wall Mexican shops are the tortillas made with lard. These tortillas are thin and delicate, allowing the flavor of the filling to shine through unlike those hard disks pumped with preservatives found at the grocery stores, yet resilient enough to withstand a heavy dousing of the house hot sauce. I loved peeling off the extra tortilla folds from my burrito and dipping them into the hot sauce.
These little tubs of hot sauce added a lot of flavor to my Supreme Burrito. Although you can see the seeds from the chili peppers used to make this hot sauce on site, it wasn't as spicy as I would have liked. Three tubs of this hot sauce provided enough salt and sourness to make my Supreme Burrito decent, but I was still left longing for a vegetarian burrito from Cotija's.
A California Burrito, simply put, is a basic carne asada burrito (assembled with carne asada, sour cream, and cheese), with french fries added. Outside of San Diego, not only is it difficult to find Mexican shops that sell this version of the California Burrito (it seems to be a very loose term outside of San Diego), but I have heard of incidences where the cooks will refuse to create this concoction and instead, one is forced to order a carne asada burrito with fries on the side and then assemble the California Burrito oneself. Although I no longer eat California Burritos, I remember the simple addition of fried potatoes to heighten the already semi-euphoric experience of ingesting a carne asada burrito. A superb California Burrito will have the french fries spread across the width of the burrito so that every bite contains fried potato. Another requisite to the perfect California Burrito is juicy carne asada so that the french fries absorb the beef juice. Some of you may be horrified by this and maybe that's the reason why California Burritos are in fact a hidden treasure only found in San Diego. I can't say for sure that the California Burritos from Bertha's are the perfect specimen, but Devin sure enjoys them, whether for their outstanding medley of flavors or out of pure nostalgia.
Bertha's Authentic Mexican Food
8667 Fanita Dr.
Santee, CA 92071