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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, July 2008back to archive

Bite. Chew. Mull. takes a succinct look back at the month in San Francisco burritos that was.

Our taqueria sage addresses reader queries with his usual lack of tact and aplomb in Dear Beano.

Obstinate Reader Commentary...hmm.

Of course, we all know why we're all here: (epilogue)!

Club Slab is open. Pull up a food.

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Raising and Raiding the Salsa Bar, In One Fell Swoop

If months in our line of work were baseball teams of yore, June 2008 would be the all-or-nothing Oakland A's of the 1970s: championship-caliber for seasons at a time, with the odd unwatchable travesty sprinkled in to give even the most bubble-headed fan something to carp about. Four of June's eight burritos had enough ass-kicking, name-taking chutzpah to claw their way to 8.50 mustaches, the level we reckon separates the really good slabs from the truly great ones. One such foiled meal, at the Outer Sunset's El Burrito Express, became only the 15th 9.00-mustache (or greater) effort on Burritoeater record, a feat that pretty much speaks for itself considering we've got close to 600 burritos on the books by now.

As for the month's equivalent of a 54-108 train wreck of a season on the diamond, look no further than the black sheep of El Castillito shops at 250 Golden Gate in the Tenderloin: 5.83 unspeakable mustaches, hrumph.

TAQ. REINA'S (Crocker-Amazon), 6/2/2008, Super Tinga Chicken: 8.50 mustaches
In retrospect, this burrito was probably better than its wordy review, which includes cumbersome, lumberjacks, and two stunt-uses of aesthete.

TAQ. EL BALAZO (Bayshore), 6/6/2008, Super Pollo en Molé: 8.08 mustaches
The second-greatest car wash slab on Burritoeater record. The greatest also occurred here, in 2005.

PASILLA MEXICAN GRILL (Financial District), 6/9/2008, Spicy Chicken: 8.50 mustaches
Expecting a sorely sucktacular lunch at Kearny and Pine, our panel was ambushed by high-rating taste and hell-bringing spice. June's biggest surprise -- thumbs-up division.

PAPALOTE (Western Addition), 6/16/2008, Super Carne Asada: 8.58 mustaches
Hardly Papalote's finest work-in-foil. But as many acolytes know by now, even an average Papalote burrito lays waste to most everything else in town.

TAQ. EL CASTILLITO (Civic Center / Tenderloin), 6/19/2008, Super Birria: 5.83 mustaches
A shameful abomination of the proud Castillito name. June's biggest surprise -- thumbs-down division.

GREEN CHILE KITCHEN (Western Addition), 6/22/2008, Super Roasted Chicken: 7.25 mustaches
Irrefutably delicious, yet as poorly executed as an inmate on the business end of a firing line armed only with Velcro balls.

DOS PIÑAS (Potrero Hill), 6/25/2008, Super Chicken Molé: 7.50 mustaches
Saucy carnage everywhere.

EL BURRITO EXPRESS (Outer Sunset), 6/28/2008, Super Bronco Chile Colorado Beef: 9.00 mustaches
Truly professional-grade burritowork. Slab of the Month, June 2008.

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Live From The Aviary!

Birds -- some of prey, others of poultry -- seem to make a recurring appearance in this month's issue. This was unplanned. You know, sometimes our Mr. Cook receives a random glut of questions about birds. These things happen. So do unprovoked potshots aimed squarely at La Taqueria's silly burritowork.

Queries somehow incorporating large amphibious reptiles and three-toed sloths into the San Francisco taqueria discussion are also welcome:

Dear Beano: Just read about this fall’s Slab Scrum in the new Blargh. Who’s invited to this year’s tourney? I'm laying strong odds on Papalote to reclaim the crown it narrowly lost in '06.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Forget laughter -- does anyone remember hype? Have you lost all faith in the lead-up drama of the event? Can't you at least wait until opera season? Hold your win-, place-, and show-horses, and tell your bookie out in Elko to chill, too. The 2008 Scrum's still a ways off.

Dear Beano: I follow your site closely, and I've noticed how the few chicken molé burritos you review rarely seem to rate well. There was that recent one at El Balazo, but it seems like that's the first good molé slab you've had in awhile. Am I a conspiracy theorist, or am I onto something here?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Your note prompted a trip to the Burritoeater records room, which not only resulted in my intern pulling an 83-LP Beatles bootleg set off the shelf, but our infamous "Molé File" as well. After plumbing its molé-splattered folders, it turns out you're indeed onto something with your penny-ante Woodward & Bernstein shtick: Molé burritos do tend to usually result in ratings best described as "undermustachioed." We turned up evidence of only three molé slabs that have crested eight mustache in the last year or so -- from Taq. El Balazo, La Corneta, and Papalote. I reckon this is attributable to molé's penchant for invariably making itself the alpha ingredient in any burrito party it's invited to.

Dear Beano: Hey, it's your one Morocco-based reader here. I'm moving, though: Once I settle in Qatar in August, I’ll have a look around for some of those famous falcon-meat taquerias.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I've always wanted to be able to say Welcome back, Qatar with a straight face -- and there, I just did, alright. I also hear falcon molé is a kingly burrito centerpiece.

Dear Beano: Your site is a wonderful resource -- well written and systematic. Let it be said, though, that the Burritoeater rating system reflects a specific concept of a "perfect" burrito, and that this in itself is entirely subjective. Though unacknowledged on your site,'s "perfect" burrito is, appropriately, a San Francisco "Mission-style" burrito. Mexican food is regional, as is California-Mexican food (which I consider to be as authentic in its own way as any actual Mexican cuisine), and there are countless variants on the burrito formula.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Thanks for the plaudits, although I bristle at your use of "unacknowledged": Considering that our marketing wizards decided on San Francisco's Top Resource for Taquerias and Mustaches as the site's tagline over three years ago, I guess all of us around here figured it was pretty much implied that the local style would be held up as our gold standard. Surely this unapologetically provincial, hands-on-the-hips stance of ours explains our continued disdain for the floppy, soppy nuthin-slabs produced by the San Diego-philes behind the counter over at La Taqueria. I said it.

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FWIW, IMHO, Etc. Etc.

Someone recently suggested revamping to allow reader commenting. (Direct quote: It would be the Yelp of San Francisco taquerias!) For one thing, isn't that what is for? For another thing, isn't it enough being the of San Francisco taquerias?

We've got a system, and it's proven workable. One of the rustic types here on Burritoeater staff who always wears a plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he calls it "separating the wheat from the chaff"; the rest of us know it as "keeping Internet idiocy at bay." Al down in Receiving simply calls it the 'LOL!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!' Bylaw.
Step one: E-mail us and say something vaguely informed about San Francisco taquerias.
Step two: Wait a few months or years or so, and perhaps we'll reprint it here.
There you have it. Everyone wins: Our pals at Burritophile continue to grow their user base, you get something weighty off your chest, and we rake in content for Obstinate Reader Commentary.

(Comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial staff's discretion.)

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"There's a burrito shop on the corner of Naples and Excelsior -- it used to be called Azteca Market, but ownership just recently changed and it's now called Don Chuy's Mexican Market. The one thing I find to be different about this shop is the unique type of cheese they use in their burritos. I believe it's American cheese, which melts into the rice, giving it its flavor."
("Unique" is certainly one way to describe that taqueria's cheese. Another way: "five-mustache." -Ed.)

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"You need to revisit Pancho's on Polk. I think they have one of the best chicken burritos ever."

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"I miss the San Francisco taquerias soooooo much! I moved to Phoenix two years ago, and the Mexican food's just different here. I used to love El Faro on Folsom, El Balazo on Haight, Chunky's in the Tenderloin, Can-cún on Mission, any of the El Castillitos, La Corneta on Mission, Pancho Villa, Vallarta on 24th, the Tonayense trucks along Harrison...there were some others too, probably."
(There are one or two others, yes. But you've got most of them here. -Ed.)

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Yours, in delicious horchata,