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The Mission-Style Burrito Was Invented For Hungry Firefighters

San Francisco is known for the stunning Golden Gate Bridge, the funky Haight Ashbury neighborhood, and steep hills that turn a simple walk down the street into a workout — but no trip to this Bay Area city is complete without tasting the local cuisine. Some of the most reputable San Francisco dishes include clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, uniquely thick toast from The Mill, and of course, the Mission burrito.

California as a whole is no stranger to Mexican food, but San Francisco delivers its own spin on the cuisine. San Franciscan Mexican food goes all the way back to 1821 when the Republic of Mexico claimed the area after winning independence from Spain, but today, there is perhaps no food in the city more iconic than the Mission burrito. This hearty burrito is typically filled with heaps of rice, beans, meat (carnitas and carne asada are some of the most popular), cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and shredded lettuce. The whole thing usually ends up being nine or 10 inches long. 

So who is hungry enough to down Mission burritos on the regular? It turns out that these massive meals were originally invented for people who work up a big appetite on a daily basis — San Francisco firefighters.

The original Mission burrito fed neighborhood firefighters

As you may have guessed, the Mission burrito comes from the Mission district of San Francisco. Now a hotspot of restaurants and activities, the district was originally named in the 1700s by the Spanish and contained primarily middle-class Latino households until the late 1900s. The Mission burrito was invented on September 26, 1961, to be exact, right before the wave of young professionals and trendy shops began popping up in the Mission district. While Taqueria La Cumbre also claims to have created the original Mission burrito in 1969, El Faro is the shop primarily credited with the concoction.

Back in the day, Febronio Ontiveros, the owner of El Faro, is said to have made the first-ever Mission burrito for hungry firefighters down the street, according to Serious Eats. And Mexican food historian, Gustavo Arellano, claims in his book, "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America," Ontiveros used enormous tortillas to wrap all the fillings, which he knew about from previously working at Mexican camps.

While many people aren't a fan of rice-heavy burritos, Mission burritos aren't afraid to pile it on, stemming from their original mission to create the biggest burritos possible for their neighborhood firefighters. Even if you're not a firefighter, it's worth it to head to El Faro on your next trip to San Francisco and order their signature burrito — you won't leave hungry.