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When a Silicon Valley Taqueria Assembled the World’s Largest Burrito

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a photo of the world's largest burrito in 1997 wrapping around an entire park in Mountain View, California
Though mostly known for tech, Silicon Valley also engineered the world's largest burrito in 1997. (Alan Chazaro)

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n 1997, when the dot-com boom was booming in the heart of Silicon Valley, the tech-focused region engineered another kind of innovation: the world’s largest burrito.

The burrito weighed about 4,500 pounds, measured more than 3,500 feet long and required hundreds of volunteers to assemble at Mountain View’s Rengstorff Park. (For reference, a Ford Mustang weighs 3,933 pounds; the Empire State Building stretches for 1,458 feet.) In a way, it was one of the earliest iterations of the Bay Area’s over-the-top, “Latinextravagant” culinary ambitions, long before going viral on TikTok or Instagram was even possible.

Though largely forgotten and eventually superseded in the Guinness Book of World Records — the current record holder is a gargantuan, 12,785-pound burrito assembled in Baja California, Mexico, in 2010 — the once-famed achievement still holds weight in Silicon Valley.

La Costeña, a Mexican grocery store in Mountain View known for the customizable burritos it served from the back counter, spearheaded the epic effort along with another local business called Burrito Real (which has since closed). The two taquerias had mastered the assembly line-style build-a-burrito method long before Chipotle popularized it — an approach that made them uniquely well suited for the task at hand.

a van parked in a parking lot that displays a restaurant's claim to burrito fame in 1997
Nearly three decades later, La Costeña proudly displays its former burrito world record in Mountain View. (Alan Chazaro)

Though La Costeña has since relocated across town and no longer offers groceries, the restaurant still slings well-sized burritos at affordable prices in a strip mall lot off East Middlefield Road. Even today, the burritos are often named as some of the best in the city.

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Inside the current location, photos of the record-shattering burrito decorate the restaurant’s otherwise bare walls — an aerial shot that shows the chorizo-and-potato stuffed beast snaking around Rengstorff Park like a baby Godzilla tail.  And there’s an old van parked out front with sun-peeled letters that read, “1997 Guinness Record Worlds [sic] Largest Burrito.” Besides that, there isn’t much physical evidence left. Thankfully, though, La Costena’s moment of glory happened in Silicon Valley, so it was recorded online by first-wave foodies from the Peninsula.

A quick Google search (Google’s main campus is just a couple miles down the road from today’s La Costeña) reveals some brief testimonies, photos and records of the event. A 1997 report from Silicon Valley Business Journal declares “¡Ay carramba! Burrito makers go for record.” Strangely — or perhaps predictably — the special burrito operation was organized by Dan Rosen, a tech worker at nearby Sun Microsystems Inc., in the days leading up to Cinco de Mayo. The event drew a large crowd, which featured news reporters (the original food influencers) from around the state and a young Sofia Vergara when the future star was only known as a co-host on Fuera de serie, a Latino travel show on Univision.

Further internet sleuthing reveals humorous write-ups about the globally-scaled burrito. The now-defunct website SuperSizedMeals.com described it as “the earliest Supersized meal we have on record … circa 1997.” The burrito had to be assembled in coordinated sections in order to meet the 90-minute time limit prescribed by the city’s health department.

a group of Latino kids stand next to the actress Sofia Vergara at an outdoor park
The author’s childhood friend and his brothers attended the burrito fest at the Rengstorff Park in Mountain View, and met Sofia Vergara. (Courtesy Adrian San Agustin)

One blogger outlined how the ingredients came in pre-loaded boxes that weighed 40 pounds and contained tortillas, rice, beans, chorizo and salsa, and had to be distributed and laid out on unfurled aluminum foil at a meticulous but speedy pace: “The tortillas were broken out and laid down with care, 12 per table, as we had been instructed. … Once your section was complete, it was time to leapfrog the other workers and start again.”

All told, according to news reports at the time, the burrito consisted of 123 gallons of rice, 28 gallons of salsa and more than 5,000 flour tortillas.

After its completion, which happened under the “officially edible” time limit, the volunteers celebrated by consuming the world’s largest known burrito. “We ravaged that fattie like a wild pack of dogs,” the aforementioned blogger poetically wrote.

These days, it might seem strange that this record-breaking effort even took place in Mountain View, a tech suburb that isn’t exactly known for being a Mexican food destination or hub of Latinx culture. Back then, however, the city’s Mexican and Central American immigrant populations were far more sizable than they are today. With that came a famed burrito war between La Costeña and its Salvadoran-owned rival, La Bamba, that lasted over a decade. But in 2013, as part of an ongoing wave of gentrification and redevelopment, both restaurants were effectively “evicted” from their original locations, as La Bamba’s co-owner, Leo Munoz, told the Mountain View Voice at the time.

La Bamba has since gone out of business, along with many of the Latino-owned businesses from that era. But La Costeña — and the legacy of its long burrito — remains.

A few weeks ago, I commemorated the achievement by ordering a mole chicken burrito at La Costeña for under $10, which is a steal in today’s economy. For the record, the restaurant’s burrito meat selection is impressive for a sleepy, outwardly-unnoticeable joint in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by tech offices. Besides mole, they offer chile colorado, lengua, pollo borracho (chicken marinated in beer), garlicky al mojo de ajo, fajitas and carnitas estilo Chiconcuac, in addition to the more common options.

a photo of three restaurant employees holding a large burrito between the three of them
Not to be confused with the world’s largest burrito, La Costeña often assembled larger-than-average burritos for hungry customers. (Alan Chazaro)

La Costeña also serves a super burrito that could easily feed two. The dish still attracts a noticeable lunch crowd — albeit mostly tech workers on their break, rather than the shop’s former working-class Latino clientele, who have mostly been priced out. And amateur food reviewers continue to travel from places as far as Austin, Texas, to seek out the former record-holding burrito destination.

Websites like AOL and Ask Jeeves may no longer be around to feed our sense of connection like they once did. But other remnants of the dot-com era, like La Costeña, are still on the map — if you go offline to search for them.

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La Costeña (235 E. Middlefield Rd #1A, Mountain View) is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Though no longer the Guinness Book of World Records record holder for largest burrito, the restaurant still serves a generously-proportioned super burrito that outsizes most.

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