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Paz, Taq. La Civic Center / TenderloinOMR: 7.73
305 Turk
cross street: Leavenworth
ph. 415/673-7550
Map Visits: 9
This tiny Tenderloin burritoteria is packed tightly with a few tables, a cramped dining counter, and an unmistakably edgy, inner-city blues vibe. The joy of the often-friendly staff at being unafraid to grill your fully constructed burrito (yes!) can be sadly mitigated by that special Thug Life™ vibe from certain customers (no!). Crab enchiladas are on the menu, but who could care about that when chimichangas are as well? Novel concept: order, eat, then pay. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

01/13/13Super Chile Verde Pork$6.957.33 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); temperature (8)
Shrug: size (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); sauciness (7); meat (6); rice (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Maybe nothing about this slightly undersized dunch slab sucked enough to earn a clang-level rating, but other than the smartly grilled tortilla and nicely challenging spiciness, there wasn't much spectacular about it, either. A divisive ingredient mix cordoned off the pico de gallo and guacamole, the thin refried beans were clearly ill-dispersed, and the rice (which dominated the burrito's final bites) was on the undercooked side. Facing fierce competition for the honor, perhaps the most faceless element here was the pork, to which our panel barely gave a thought throughout. The chile verde itself was fine, if overly aggressive, while mood-crushing cool bites persevered on the veggie side of the slab. And do you really think this pedestrian meal deserved anything more than one bonus mustache for intangibility? No. No, it didn't.

09/28/10Super Chile Colorado Beef$6.387.25 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: meat (7); sauciness (7); rice (6); cheese (6)
Clang: beans (5); ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Burritos at La Paz have always been an up-and-down proposition over the years, ranging from 8.58-mustache wallbangers (10/20/2008) to 4.92-mustache atrocities (12/20/2003). Our 2010 visit resulted in a sadly sub-mediocre slab, and always looking to point fingers, our blame-gaming panel shone the spotlight of shame on an ingredient mix that made this bite saucy and that one dry, this section meaty and that one not, all while burying the refried beans under a full-on avalanche of slightly aged-tasting rice. Cheese was disappointingly low-impact, but at least the burly chunks of stewed beef (when they reared up) fit the bill; never mind the early drips and crackling pico de gallo that brought down the temperature of a few bites. It all took a toll on the intangibility rating, even if the tortilla was lovingly grilled, which it was.

10/08/09Super Carne Molida$6.258.17 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); rice (9); cheese (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); size (8); tortilla (8); meat (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: burstage abatement (7); beans (6)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

While this juicy ground beef slab certainly had a few issues it never quite worked out — something about us never really feeling comfortable lifting it off the plate, for fear of a hose squirting out the other end — a number of champ-level elements saw to it that quality was upheld at La Paz yet again. Skyscraping spice, a real sharp ingredient mix, and mighty tasty Spanish rice combined with the fully melted Jack/cheddar blend and bullet-proof intangibility to ratchet up a whole bunch of mustaches at once. Sizing was also on the money, while the burrito’s unusually cylindrical shape gave our science-dropping panel the chance to bandy about one of its favorite phrases: "fixed planar closed curve." OK, great, alright, now let’s break out the complaint rock. Mister Slabmaker Fella may have tried to ring out as much of the greasa roja from the ground beef as possible, but this slab remained alarmingly sodden at times throughout its lifespan. Also, more refried beans please? Thanks guy.

10/20/08Super Pollo en Salsa Roja$6.258.58 Mustaches
Swish: meat (10); tortilla (9); rice (9); cheese (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); vegetables (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Rarely do we reprise our burrito order from one visit to the next at the same taqueria, but considering that 27 months had passed since our previous La Paz burrito, we made an exception this time. Anyway, the chicken in red sauce looked real good through the taqueria counter glass, and our repeat plunge turned out to be worth it: ten-mustache poultry, alright. Indeed, the chicken was richly flavorful, juicy, and pretty much perfect. Plenty of other ingredients here ruled – delightfully full-bodied Spanish rice grains, subtly but steadily contributing mini-grates of melted jack, and a tortilla that sported the toasty effects of two stints on the kitchen’s tiny grill-press. Minor sauce drips and a few merely warm bites compromised a couple of element ratings, and considering how surprisingly delicious this burrito turned out to be, it’s a shame it wasn’t a little more buxom overall. Nice veggies, smart mix, slightly low-profile refried beans, unassailable intangibility, the end.

07/12/06Super Pollo en Salsa Roja$4.857.42 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); sauciness (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8)
Shrug: rice (7); vegetables (7); spiciness (7); temperature (7); meat (6); cheese (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Aside from the distinctly three-part ingredient mix – which found an entire side of this burrito exclusively populated with vegetabular content – we can’t really grouse at length about anything here. But aside from construction that could have abated a Utah firing squad, let alone everyday burrito burstage, no elements managed to grab our judges panel by the neck and hold us two feet off the ground (in a good way). The plump-grained rice was moist and tasty, but we counted over 3000 individual grains, and that’s way more than is necessary in any burrito. The cordoned-off veggies induced a few unwarm bites (boo), but it never turn into a serious issue. The red sauce that bathed all the pulled chicken seemed to improve the fortunes of everything in its midst – especially the chicken itself, which otherwise was a blah exercise in contemporary poultry deployment. The jack/cheddar blend could have been better melted, and intangible allure was glaringly lacking. And so much for grilling the completed beast, as was the case on our January 2006 visit. We didn’t really count the rice grains.

01/03/06Super Carnitas$4.858.25 Mustaches
The resurrection is official: hardscrabble Taq. La Paz has become a force in the increasingly burrito-rich Tenderloin. From neck-bursting dimensions and an exceptional framework of veggies on through rock-solid construction and a shrewd ingredient mix, this was a towering slab from bite one. Or more accurately, from before bite one, as the inarguable crown jewel of Peace Taq.’s cylindri-food party turned out to be the hellaciously grilled tortilla, so flaky and aromatic from those 45 or so seconds spent on the grill. It’s true that the carnitas, as exciting as it appeared with all its co-fried cilantro and chopped onion in the counter tray, could have packed more flavor. And a somewhat awkward aftertaste lingered after a few jack cheese-inclusive bites. But these were minor faults overshadowed by not only the greater aforementioned good, but also by a very respectable level of jalapeño / salsa roja-sponsored spiciness and a fully functional supporting cast of Spanish rice / refried pinto beans. Who heaves a sealed, yet still-unfoiled burrito on the grill anymore? The afternoon shift at Taq. La Paz, dammit. (Post-script: We’re elated to report this was a Hi-NRG-free dining experience.)
12/08/05Super Chile Colorado Beef$4.858.17 Mustaches
Every element of this food-blimp ranged between seven and nine mustaches, so just as nothing here was burrichter-rattling perfect, no part of this burrito had us cracking the thesaurus in search of new synonyms for “sucky.” Lengthy and fairly plump, the La Paz slab dealt in surgically precise consistency on this evening, encompassing the full pleasuredome of burrito integrity. A lightly, but effectively grilled tortilla cradled a gracefully mixed cauldron of impressive ingredients, from penetrating sauciness and well-peppered (and cilantro’d) pico de gallo on through a set of rice that, for once, played a properly supportive role in the grand slab scheme. While only three-quarters of the grated jack cheese was fully melted, each bite was supercharged with a ruthless kind of spice that sharply augmented the taste-quality of the plentiful cubed beef. This burrito didn’t come with the clean hot-bite sweep we always hope for, but internal temperatures were always warm and respectable. A few minor drips midway through punctured the perfect burstage abatement balloon, but no other construction mishaps occurred. And three more cheers for the sagacious mix. Are they on the way up, or was this a mere fluke? And will they ever turn down the Hi-NRG clubland mung spewing forth from their kitchen radio?
12/20/03Super Carne Asada$4.254.92 Mustaches
A poor wrap yielded an ugly sour cream bleed early, and holy smokes was this a mighty greasy chunk of big, dumb food. And it only got weirder: the meat's consistency was more in line with ground beef than that of steak; cold bites ran rampant; the ingredient mix needed a rebuild; and the semi-serious burstage concerns (see: poor wrap) seemed to unnerve everyone in the tiny room. There was even corn in the rice. Just an overall awkward taste. At least the price was right.
01/16/03Super Carne Asada$4.257.25 Mustaches
Probably an overly generous rating in retrospect, but we were seduced by its ample size and generous helpings of good carne asada. On the other hand, the Hi-NRG remix of Def Leppard’s ”Love Bites” was quite an auditory load to bear while eating. And it’s always a bummer when a place is out of horchata.