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Pancho Villa, Taq. MissionOMR: 7.25
3071 16th St.
cross street: Valencia/Mission
ph. 415/864-8840
Map Visits: 6
The Mission’s big-daddy megataqueria comes complete with door-opening security person, consistently big crowds, burritos that often underwhelm, and that one cook going totally apeshit with the meat cleaver next to the grill. The smart money says you’ve been here before — after all, it opened in 1982. It’s always a wise move to spend some quality time exploring Pancho Villa’s champion salsa offerings, as those awards on the wall are no joke. And be sure to tip the busker as he extends an outstretched hat to your table, because that busker could turn out to be Beck. Bottled beer’s available, and it's cheaper during happy hour (weekdays 3PM-5PM). Laying off the booze? Try one of nearly dozen available agua frescas. Open late. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

07/03/10Especial Carne Asada$8.007.25 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); size (8); tortilla (8); meat (8); cheese (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); vegetables (7); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

When the only truly great thing about a burrito is its airtight construction, don’t expect heavy mustaches. Because even though our Pancho Villa burrito averted cold bites for a change, it still couldn’t shake the underachieving hellhound on its trail. What was so underachieving? Well, the rice was a shade on the dry side — actually, the entire burrito was on the dry side — while the overly creamy guacamole seemed inappropriate and the refried beans overstepped their bounds a lot of the time. What do you mean, “overstepped their bounds”? They encroached too far, they wormed their way in too often, they never allowed us to get a full sense of the juicy beef, there was simply too damn much of them. And just as we appreciated the slabmaker lady grilling our tortilla on our request, and as much as we dug the rest of the veggie ensemble’s input, we really missed the spice-kick we crave, and anyway, the cheese was just kind of weird. “Kind of weird”? That’s right, pal: “kind of weird.” And where was the intangibility that brings the zeitgeist-seeking crowds flooding into the place daily? “Zeitgeist-chasing”? And can you be more specific about this “intangibility” to which you allude? Listen, friendo, your little query-jabs are beginning to irritate. Take five before I sic Cujo over here on you. Cujo? Who’s Cujo? I don’t see anyth—

12/18/07Especial Chicken Asada$6.957.67 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); rice (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8)
Shrug: meat (7); sauciness (7); tortilla (6)
Clang: cheese (5); temperature (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

How can such a delicious, spice-fueled, elegantly mixed burrito come up so mediocre in the end? Check those ratings for cheese and temperature, and you’re getting real warm...a lot warmer than this burrito ever was, in fact. The toughest part to figure here was the cockeyed relationship between the excellent ingredient mix and all the brutally lukewarm bites, but the sad fact is that this whole damn slab could have used a trip to some sort of post-construction heating device – the grill, the steamer, a cook’s armpit, anything. And of course, with unhot temperatures usually comes unmelted cheese, and who loses when that happens? That’s right, everybody: our melted cheese-loving judges panel, our readership (who must grow weary of our grousing about the temperature issues inherent in Pancho Villa burritos), and most of all, Pancho Villa and its unremarkable Overall Mustache Rating. Sure, there was much to applaud about this dinner, from the fiery spice index and surprisingly crunchy pico de gallo (credit the unpickled jalapeño) to the tasty and unobtrusive rice. The guacamole was also a winner, but the red chile tortilla became increasingly sodden as time wore on, and although the chicken boasted a nice external char, it was a bit too pink on the inside. A tight tortilla wrap will only take a taqueria – no matter how popular - so far in the San Francisco burrito game. It’s time to turn up the heat, Mr. Villa.

06/23/06Deluxe Carnitas$7.408.08 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); spiciness (10); size (9); meat (9); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7); temperature (7); burstage abatement (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Our recent frustrations with the most celebrated slabmaker in town were happily derailed by this enjoyable dirigible. Thanks to a few improvements in areas where Pancho Villa has struggled in the past (ingredient mix and temperature, chiefly), as well as this effort’s outsized shape and exceptional veggies and carnitas, the Mission stalwart landed on the good side of eight mustaches. An exposed tear at the tortilla’s top end wasn’t a welcome sight upon the initial unfoiling, but things held together well enough to maintain a respectable bustage abatement score. As delicious and perfectly spicy as the pastor roasted salsa was, it combined with the spicy pico de gallo to create a late-slab sogspot. Conversely, a salvo of avocado slices pushed the veggie contingent’s credibility through the roof, and our first dip into this establishment’s big bowl of carnitas yielded some marvelously smoky results. Spanish rice and refried beans, though more segregated than we would have liked, also came up winners. Pancho Villa, alright.

11/27/05Super al Pastor$7.356.92 Mustaches
We wish we didn’t have to struggle to enjoy Pancho Villa’s burritowork, because we’ve always maintained a liking for this famous burrito palace, we really have. We’re fascinated by the continual ebb-and-flow of the ever-present crowd here – no matter how long the ordering line is, everyone always seems to find a seat. They’ve always sized their burritos to please (this one was as lengthy as ever), and there were certainly aspects of it worthy of plauditry – specifically, a delicious medley of vegetables and the exceptional show of burstage abatement. But we couldn’t forgive the vaguely melted jack cheese, merely adequate spice, and more than anything, the brutal ingredient divisiveness. The view from above: slightly dry Spanish rice and stodgy refried pinto beans here; finely ground, tasty, yet lost-in-the-shuffle barbecued pork occupying the center realm; and there, all the admittedly terrific, but isolated veggies (full tomato slices, long-cut onion, jalapeño-intensive pico de gallo, mighty fine guacamole, cilantro, you name it). Come on ingredients now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, etc. etc., because limp-wristed mediocrity like this can’t continue at San Francisco’s highest-profile taqueria.
12/16/03Super Carne Asada$6.456.46 Mustaches
Aerodynamically long and slim, this burrito was designed for speed. Patches of unmelted cheese and overly dominant vegetable content spoke to sorry temperature inconsistencies, and the whole mess was an erring byproduct of the scourge that is ingredient segregation. Meanwhile, the Spanish rice was excellent, the refried beans played their role admirably, and the rare-ish steak displayed a pleasant hint of barbecue. But the burrito suffered an unspectacular finish, and our overall expectations were under-realized enough to warrant a ratings slip.
03/07/03Super Carne Asada$6.457.50 Mustaches
Negra Modelo staged a sneak attack on our notes on this evening.