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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, March 2005back to archive
We got 154 taquerias, a burrito blargh, a 25-mile shoreline, hella hills, a $113 million budget shortfall, and Karl Malden and Michael Douglas in a Quinn Martin Production. What’s your town got?

This month:


- All Up In Your Web-Grill: Burritoeater.com Site Construction Update
- If You Seso: A February 2005 Burrito Retrospective
- “Dude, That New Michelob Ultra is the Shit!”: And Other Things Overheard at San Francisco Taquerias
- Dear Beano: Letters to the Apocalypse

We got our sesos joke out of the way even earlier than usual this time. Alright.

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BURRITOEATER.COM UPDATE
Saucy Site Soon to Invade Bush Jr.’s Favorite Diversion: The “Internets”


Generous offers for server space: Yup.
Updated list generated of San Francisco taquerias: Sure.
List populated with key information on each taqueria: Done.
Photographs taken of each taqueria: Click.
All archive reviews edited: Boo-yah.
Descriptions written for each taqueria: Swish.
New reviews written: It’s an ongoing task.
Dining visit to each previously unvisited taqueria: Chippin away at that.
Logo: Schwing!
Business cards: En route.
Site designer/developer: Trying to make it happen.
Promotional salvo: God save us all.
Book deal: Horse, cart, etc. etc.

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ANOTHER ROUND OF SLABS AND A BOTTLE OF ANYTHING
Rinse, Lather, Repeat


* Asterisks around taqueria name indicate a burrito recommendation *


LA PACHANGUERA
--> 7.83 mustaches <--
Harrison btwn. 13th St./14th St. (South of Market) 2/1/05
$5.00 – Super Al Pastor
As the wise man/guy says: If you’re Cuban, you’ve got automatic cred. La Pachanguera’s Cal/Mex work held up surprisingly well considering its sharply Cuban-leaning menu. The tortilla may have been overgrilled, and the wrap untight and prone to too many folds, but the barbecued, sauce-enhanced pork kicked a whole lot of ass. And it’s always nice to see fundamentals respected, as the dude in this truck next to Best Buy’s parking lot produced a 100% hot, burstage-proof burrito. Suggested improvements: Darken up the yellow rice, shake up the ingredient mix, and have a dish of refried beans at the ready.


TAQ. SAN JOSE
--> 7.06 mustaches <--
2830 Mission Nr. 24th St. (Mission) 2/3/05
$4.38 – Breakfast (Ham)
Short, stout, and flaming hot work at this longtime Mission burritoteria, which is really all you can ask for at 9:30 in the blessed A.M. The pig’s share of this burrito’s flavor came from the ham, and its eggs staged a fine, well-cooked showing in their own right. Problem was, this was perhaps the most de-sauced burrito – breakfast or otherwise – in recent memory, to the point where the oddball inclusion of rice became a crashing bummer without any sauce to play with. Scattered spice courtesy of chopped green pepper and some nicely melted cheese prevented a total crapout.


LA PLAYA
--> 7.33 mustaches <--
3817 Noriega nr. 45th Ave. (Outer Sunset) 2/8/05
$5.25 – Three-Pepper (Grilled Chicken)
This cozy space, set toward the seaward end of Noriega, is a relatively recent addition to SF's taqueriascape. Although this mammoth beast of a burrito aimed to moor itself upon a calm, pepper/chicken-strewn sandbar, it instead found itself lashed upon dangerously garlic-studded rocks. Spice also apparently crashed upon a stormy sea stack and never made it into port. Still, it was behemoth as behemoth can be, with laudable vegetable content aside from the garlic mutiny. Their menu is posted on a pair of surfboards.


* LA ALTE√ĎA *
--> 8.50 mustaches <--
4581 Mission nr. Brazil (Excelsior) 2/10/05
$5.75 – Super Carnitas
Colorful fútbol jerseys and a big-ass painting of the Virgin Mary adorn the main wall of La Alteña’s Excelsior outlet. Just about everything came up aces here, particularly the expertly melted cheese on the grilled tortilla’s complete interior. The tenderly juicy, braised pork managed to mostly offset this burrito’s lack of sauce, and even the inclusion of pinto beans was (mostly) forgiveable. Best of all, the cataclysmic arm of the melto-cheese pump at the Mission/22nd St. location was nowhere to be found. This one ruled. If you go: Dessert’s available from the corner gumball machine.


* EL CASTILLITO *
--> 8.75 mustaches <--
370 Golden Gate btwn. Larkin/Hyde (Civic Center / Tenderloin) 2/12/05
$5.60 - Breakfast (Sausage)
Civic/'loin spot popular with city bureaucrats, neighborhood streetfolk, and the fuzz. Perfect tens for melted cheese and flaky tortillas are generally the norm at any El Castillito location, and this one kept the winning streak alive. Our only qualm was with the half-and-half look of the ingredient mix – if they fix that, we’re surely looking down the barrel of the elusive nine-’stacher. But when the sausage and the eggs become one, and when there’s avocado and it’s *good* avocado, and when every bite is a hot bite, it’s tough to imagine a better, more complete breakfast burrito in town.


* PAPALOTE *
--> 8.42 mustaches <--
3409 24th St. nr. Valencia (Mission) 2/14/05
$6.14 - Super Carne Asada
The surprise, but deserved champion of the 2004 SF Burrito Playoffs, Papalote has become the quietly infallible kingpin of the Mission’s vaunted taqueria scene – slightly off the beaten path, humbly sized, family operated, and a sure thing every time. From the first bite of this burrito, the steak was just as rad and smoky as it had been throughout its remarkable 2004 playoff run, and the sauciness and extra-melted cheese remained things of beauty. Improvements came in the form of some deliciously pasty refried black beans – a genuine step up from pintos – and our ongoing exclusion of sour cream. But we’d still like to jam their suggestion box with requests for a slightly better ingredient mix, additional length, and of course that spicy kick we continually crave. Papalote’s burritos are rendered with such mechanical consistency, we’ve often wondered if there’s a mustachioed robot assembling them in an unseen corner of their tiny kitchen.


LA TAMBORA
--> 8.17 mustaches <--
2275 San Jose at Geneva (Mission Terrace) 2/16/05
$5.50 - Super Chicken in Red Sauce
One of the least notable eight-mustache burritos of all time. While it managed to rack up several eights and nines, and even a perfect ten for its hell-raising spiciness, when it came to scoring its intangible qualities, this burrito couldn’t get beyond its own adequacy. The long and somewhat slender burrito cradled plentiful avocado chunks and juicy, tender chicken inside its politely grilled, melted cheese-slathered tortilla. And really, its only gaffes were some initial floppiness, an overly tangy element in the sauce, and a bit of seepage that crept in late. But…sometimes the numbers, they don’t add up. If you go: Be aware that you may have to endure KMEL the whole time you're there.


GORDO
--> 7.83 mustaches <--
5450 Geary nr. 19th Ave. (Outer Richmond) 2/18/05
$4.83 - Super Chile Verde
Expectations were low given past experiences at other Gordos, but to its credit, this burrito performed as well as one so pinto bean-laden possibly could. For one thing, all those beans were admirably drained for a change, so no soppy hind end caused a fatal rupture. Expertly melted cheese and lots of fiery green salsa tried to compensate for the overbearing beans and second-rate ingredient mix. Sauciness was laudable, between the aforementioned salsa and the chile sauce from which the piecey pork was lifted, and the cold bites we kept anticipating never reared up due to burrito contents shifting in flight. All told, it was as good as Gordo is ever bound to get – and yet, look at that final rating.


EL BALAZO
--> 8.25 mustaches <--
2560 Marin nr. Bayshore (Bayshore) 2/21/05
$4.90 - Super Carnitas
It’s a rare treat when you can relax with a tasty slab while a cleaning crew works over your Hummer or tricked-out SUV, but dreams like this come true daily at this overlooked El Balazo location, set inside Showplace Square Car Wash. This lengthy, slender, and ultimately high-scoring burrito sported confoundingly mashy innards, and it turned out the culprit was a combination of some overly pasty refried beans and a set of carnitas too soft, tender, and fatty for its own good. This one handled nicely at times – the tortilla was warmly grilled, it was a portrait of perfect construction (helped to no end by its barely fed girth), and its delectably melted cheese and excellent vegetable medley merited many kudos. Nice sauciness and spiciness as well. But in the end, two large, gristly chunks of pork and the aforesaid mashiness made this perhaps the least recommendable eight-plus mustache burritos in town.


* LOS COYOTES *
--> 8.33 mustaches <--
3036 16th St. nr. Mission (Mission) 2/23/05
$4.75 - Super Carne Asada
They’re slow as hell here, but with good reason: Any meat included in your Los Coyotes burrito is grilled to order. Our load of carne asada was brilliantly slathered with cheese *on the grill* all Philly cheese-style, as was the tortilla. So it was a bit of a letdown when the steak’s taste turned out to be merely serviceable (the cheese still ruled, however). A coup de guac prompted a few warm (not hot) bites, but there are certainly worse ingredients that could take over a burrito for a spell – and anyway, it was mighty fine guacamole. Solidly workmanlike overall – nary a perfect nor a bummer rating occurred.


TACOS SANTANA
--> 7.92 mustaches <--
Jerrold at Phelps (Bayview) 2/25/05
$5.00 - Super Carne Asada
This truck’s parked in a location you probably wouldn’t ever happen upon – unless your idea of a good time is driving around the SF Produce District looking for handouts of free lettuce – and it delivered an El Balazo-esque beanpole-burrito with a slender figure. Perpetual sauciness smothered all 17 bites in strong – but hardly tongue-shattering – spice, yet the pinto beans possessed a mildly awkward aftertaste. No singular veggies outstood, although the thin guacamole nevertheless contributed to the saucy shuffle. Steak was fine, although some gristly moments brought its rating down a notch. Almost great, but merely good. That’s two “but”s, one “yet,” and two “although”s for those scoring at home.


TACOS EL TONAYENSE
--> 7.92 mustaches <--
Harrison btwn. 19th St./20th St. (Mission) 2/28/05
$5.00 - Super Pollo Asado
Excellent bits of grilled chicken and a hellacious spiciness possibly endorsed by Satan himself kept this burrito in the thick of things throughout. By the end, its overall intangible allure had outperformed its respectable, yet hardly outstanding rating. A few lukewarm bites did their best to sour this slab, as did an overabundance of rice and the mysterious disappearance of the requisite cheese. Initial concerns about the guacamole’s thinnish consistency gave way to the realization that it actually augmented the burrito’s fine sauciness. Still, the omnipresent chicken was remarkably well-peppered, the pinto beans stood in just fine for our favored refrieds, and the whole thing played slightly over its head, to its credit. Now let’s all chip in and get this truck a Fresh-O-Matic steamer to ensure hot bites all around.

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SLOGGING THROUGH IDIOCY IN THE FOODPLACE
Snippets of Conversation Picked Up at Burrito Retailers Townwide


“It’s got the same alcohol, I swear – it’s just way watered down.”
- Nick’s Crispy Tacos (Russian Hill / Polk Gulch), November 2003

“This thing tastes like a tire that ran over a can of beans.”
- La Mexicana (Tenderloin), June 2003

“Our lab’s mass spectrometer is acting up again.”
- Carmelina’s (UCSF), September 2003

“You missed it – Don Cheadle’s doppelganger just walked by outside.”
- Taq. San Jose (Mission), February 2005

“I got another Escalade in the garage down in South City. This one’s my wife’s.”
- El Balazo (Bayshore), February 2005

“He was going on and on about the advantages of having two penises. I couldn’t deal anymore.”
- Cactus Fresh (Castro), August 2003

“I think your phone just fell in your nachos, bro.”
- Andalé (Marina), July 2003

“Yeah, but The Lion King requires a different kind of endurance.”
- El Balazo (Upper Haight), December 2004

“What kind of meat did you get?”
“Gristle, apparently.”
- El Miramar (since closed), November 2003

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LETTERS TO THE APOCALYPSE
Readers Gouge Beano, Beano Gouges Back – The Full Story at 11


Got a question for our taqueria sage? Perhaps you’d just like to verbally beat his ass eight ways to Sunday? Copy --> paste --> type --> send: sfburritoeater@yahoo.com


Dear Beano: Blargh.
Beano replies: Blargh yourself.


Dear Beano: Thanks for the awesome burrito logs, I'm glad to see them back in my inbox. I'm really interested to see some of the 2003 taquerias revisited, particularly Papalote. While I've been a fan of Papalote in the past, I went just last night and was rather disappointed. The only thing warm in it were the camarones inside, which weren't massive enough – as most camarones aren't, hence the term "shrimp" – to heat up the entire burrito. I ended up with a mostly cold (including the cheese) burrito, with stabbing bits of hot, chewy mini-crustacean. I'd like to demand a rematch if I may.
Beano replies: We’re not making any promises, but we hope to stage another round of burrito playoffs toward the end of 2005. Check future issues of the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly for updates. As for 2004 playoff champ Papalote, their work made us as happy as usual when we visited in February (see above for detailed review). Also, have you ever noticed that “camarones” sounds either vaguely naughty or maybe like it should mean “tiny little Camaros”?


Dear Beano: My wedding is in less than 42 hours and I'm afraid we weren't able to get burritos on the menu. I suppose I could bring some tortillas along and wrap the roast lamb up to make it look like something vaguely resembling a burrito. Lambito.
Beano replies: Nuttin but mutton, indeed. Wouldn’t your idea resemble some sort of meagerly filled-out shawarma? We had a breakfast burrito at Taq. Vallarta on our wedding day. Happy nuptials.


Dear Beano: Let me know when it's time for the IPO!
Beano replies: Our broker tells us it’s a barbacoa market these days. Sit tight.


Dear Beano: How do you define “taqueria”?
Beano replies: TAW-kuh-REE-uh, n. For the purposes of this website, a taqueria is any Mexican food-slanted dining establishment that serves burritos and takes its eat-in orders over a counter (as opposed to via table service). Said eateries are generally very informal restaurants, but vendors operating from sidewalk windows or catering trucks (ie. burrito wagons) also qualify for inclusion in our listings. Taquerias that offer their food exclusively on a take-out basis also qualify. Basically, what all this means is that we don’t have to go to Chevy’s.

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Please forward freely, yet responsibly.

List addition/removal requests, questions, comments, and/or anecdotes always welcome and encouraged:
sfburritoeater@yahoo.com

yours, in delicious horchata,
Beano Cook

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