Why this S.F. burrito costs $22: ‘I hope every damn Mexican restaurant raises their prices’

Ricardo Lopez was long reluctant to raise the prices at his Mission District restaurant La Vaca Birria, where he serves succulent beef braised in a red broth packed into burritos and tacos. But as of late, he simply has no other choice to remain afloat. 

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“I wish there was something else that I could do,” he said. 

Just like seemingly every other restaurant in the Bay Area, prices have been increasing at La Vaca Birria, and customers aren’t always accepting of the change. So in a recent Instagram post, Lopez addressed a customer complaint about high prices and broke down the reasons his popular grilled cheese birria burrito has gone from $11 a couple of years ago to its current price of $22.

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Simply put, the cost of ingredients and labor has gone up. The trend isn’t new: In the past few years, increasing costs have pushed the price of popular foods from pizza to fried chicken sandwiches ever higher, and burritos aren’t the exception.

Key ingredients for Lopez’s beef birria, like USDA Choice grade chuck, have gone up. When he began the business as a food truck about three years ago, it was $4 per pound; two years ago it was $4.50, and now it’s $6. Because the restaurant uses about 2,500 pounds of beef per month, the $2 increase costs $5,000 per month. Other ingredients he uses like onions have jumped in price from around $11 to $80 for a 50-pound sack. Soybean oil has climbed from $20 to $50 per container. Even mesquite charcoal, a key component for his smoky grilled meats, is more expensive.

“Nothing that I can think of has returned to pre-COVID pricing,” Lopez said. 

Labor has consistently been the restaurant’s largest expense. The S.F. minimum wage ordinance has pushed the rate up to $18.07 per hour. Lopez said some of his longtime staffers make above minimum wage, and he tries to keep raises generous. Items at La Vaca Birria are fairly labor intensive, Lopez said: staff cook the birria in the oven a day before it’s served, chill it overnight to remove fat from the broth, then braise it until it’s rich and tender.

The work has paid off. Chronicle associate restaurant critic Cesar Hernandez rated La Vaca Birria’s burrito the Mission’s best, over several long time favorites, praising the “punchy adobo that brought intense spice to anything it touched.”

The customer complaint Lopez responded to appeared to blame this press coverage for the change in price. “Two years ago it was $11…. Today it is $22,” a customer wrote on Google. “The Chronicle wrote an article about the burrito in November. Coincidence?”

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle


  1. $11 for a burrito is too much money.

  2. Martie Holodiloff says

    I always open conversations about the price of gas, groceries and everything else wherever I go.
    People always complain about the rising, never ending cost of living. I ALWAYS reply to them,
    Vote Republican so we can get back to normal.

    California especially is very broken with Governor Newscum heading the charge. California has been
    bankrupt for several years now, he won’t admit how bad it is. He’s painting a rosy picture for a
    catastrophic future as he replaces Californians who have moved out of the State with illegal immigrants,
    destroys parental rights, decimates our educations system and deprives our citizens basic freedoms

    • Steve Douglass says

      You may have some valid points but when you start name calling (Newscum), you lose all credibility. If you don’t like living here with the current administration, you can vote or leave, it’s up to you.

      • Hey Dougl-ASS,
        The credibility loss is yours; Americans can say what they want within the Second Amendment guidelines, so your lefty attempt to shame and indoctrinate doesn’t work. Wake up loser.

  3. Not to mention Newsom not takenany responsibility for paying people in California prisons unemployement insurance. Gas is $2.50 a gallon in Florida. The rich folks are leaving California for places where taxes are lower. No control over imigration … even Black folks I know are complaining about the preferential treatment given to those comming into the US without papers. And all Biden can do is give more bombs to kill and starve to death those in Gaza. What is the World coming to? Burritos in the Bayview are still less than $20. And don’t get me started about Mayor London Breed – does not even reply to letters sent to her office.

  4. Welcome to CaLEFTfornia where crime, theft, and New$um runs a dystopic economy, where taxpayers’ money is being used against taxpayers.

  5. Really??? says

    watched a video, where the rest. owner stated that it used to cost $9 for a large bag of onions that are part of his food prep. It now costs over $80 for the same wholesale bag.

    Look around you …… It is the Democrat Party, and the Socialist view that it is the Capitalists that have money to be taken. No folks it is the confiscation, and bankruptcy of businesses.

    You voted for them, and you allowed illegals to vote, get welfare, and more.

    Bye Bye Kalif.

  6. Bidenomics with severe Newsom contamination.

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