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Fonda, La Inner SunsetOMR: 8.01
712 Irving
cross street: 8th/9th Aves.
ph. 415/681-9205
Map Visits: 10
With bi-level seating inside, a few tables available outside along the Irving sidewalk, and nine kinds of meat on the menu, La Fonda has helped bring taqueria respectability to the outside lands since its 2005 opening. The catch? None really, unless you can’t bear having to request a foil wrap for your burrito. Breakfast available all day; bottled beer and wine, too. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

11/20/13Super Cochinita Pibil (Pork)$7.757.83 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); meat (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); sauciness (8); ingredient mix (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: rice (7); vegetables (7); cheese (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

While it's true that we were never on the business end of any massively spectacular/legendary burritos here at La Fonda, we could always count on this pleasant little place for solid performance. However, toward the end of our tenure in the corner suite atop Burritoeater Towers, La Fonda seemed to settle into a complacent, high-seven-mustache groove. And while there's certainly no crime involved in that sort of ambition-skirting, this burrito — kind of dull at its worst, perfectly adequate at its best — came off as distinctly unimpressive in the end. Underwhelming elements? Well, the cheese could have been better-melted, the rice less intent on staging its own sort of coup, and the spiciness far (far) more robust. On the flip side, the pork was smokily flavorful, the full ensemble mostly played well together, and the whole package managed to retain enough intangible credibility with our grizzled panel to score an extra pair of hairy ones come burrito-ratin' time. And goodness, was it well-built. Otherwise: Shrug.

02/08/12Super Broiled Steak$7.757.92 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); spiciness (9); beans (8); cheese (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); tortilla (7); meat (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

What’s this? A merely OK burrito from this traditionally excellent Sunset slabbery? Its slightly stunted size was an early indicator that we may be in for something less than eight mustaches, and sure enough, between the festival of adequacy that was the ordinary tortilla, outmatched vegetable contingent, and just-happy-to-be-there steak, things turned out just as unspectacularly as we feared. You may ask yourself: Just what exactly was the vegetable contingent outmatched by? Rice! Lots and lots of semi-mushy rice, peas and all. It wasn’t all shrugs here, of course, evinced by the heavy-duty spice, fully realized refried beans, and gracefully melted cheese — and on the absolute top end of our mustache scale, the champ construction and nonstop barrage of hot bites. But the laggard intangibility rating here speaks volumes.

04/04/11Super Grilled Chicken$7.758.25 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); beans (9); rice (8); vegetables (8); sauciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: size (7); tortilla (7); meat (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

La Fonda’s sure got the eight-mustache shuffle down by now, doesn’t it? Cast aside one wayward effort in 2008 (see below), and it’s been nothing but delicious times at this most inviting Inner Sunset slabbery over the years. The Fonda’s latest success story was based around a rock-sturdy foundation of foolproof construction, unceasingly melted cheese, and hot bites galore, with a killer heap of refried beans aiding this burrito’s winning ensemble that much more. Indeed, several seven- and even six-mustache elements reared up throughout, but none spelled major trouble — not the too-lightly grilled tortilla, not the sparsely applied poultry, and certainly not the slightly stunted length. We would have doled out nine mustaches for the mix, but the overly ambitious scoops of Spanish rice gaffled that idea since our ingredient mix category also encompasses ingredient portions. Intangibility was nobody’s fool, though, and hooray for that.

03/11/10Super Cochinita Pibil (Pork)$7.758.42 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: vegetables (7); cheese (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

From its litany of exceptional moments to the smattering of shrugs it elicited, La Fonda once again demonstrated its commitment to eight-mustache credibility with this solidly bitchin’ burrito. Sized to satisfy and armed with a smartly grilled tortilla, this pork-stuffed slab weathered the unfortunate inclusion of lettuce (our ordering gaffe) and scattered pods of unmelted Jack cheese. How? Take a look at all them nine-mustache apples up there — from rad sauce occurrences and minimal construction angst to all-hot bites and one hell of a smooth ingredient mix, many good things were in the constant offing here. Burly chunks of tender, achiote-swabbed pork punctuated most every bite, and there was no questioning the intangible charm of our foiled lunch.

04/25/09Super al Pastor$6.208.33 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); temperature (10); cheese (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); beans (8)
Shrug: rice (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: vegetables (4)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Although La Fonda’s breakfast burrito made little impact on our rigorous 10-Mustache Scale™ in 2008, its P.M. slabwork continues to amaze. This typically strong effort relied on a hellaciously grilled tortilla, sharp adherence to fundamentals such as burstage abatement and temperature, persistently delicious salsa, and booming spice to deliver good times at our balcony table. Ms. Slabmaker Lady kindly indulged our lunch in a lengthy post-construction stint on the grill, which helped us overlook this burrito’s paucity of greenery — other than some stray grilled onion and a mere hint of guacamole, veggies seemed to be fully on leave. We appreciated the tiny chunks of roasted pineapple that accompanied the pork, which itself earned quiet raves. The ingredient mix may have cordoned off the Spanish rice a bit too much, but intangibility picked up the slack throughout. You could say we’re fonda La Fonda. (Terrible. Just awful. –Ed.)

04/05/08Super Breakfast (Ham)$5.207.50 Mustaches
Swish: beans (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); eggs (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: meat (7); vegetables (7); tortilla (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Resulting in the most ordinary burrito ever tossed our way by this usually on-the-money taqueria, our side trip into La Fonda’s breakfast menu left us with a pocketful of puzzlers. We enjoy a little cilantro, but was that much really necessary? Shouldn’t have some of those miniature grates of jack cheese been better melted? And did that giant great dane out front really just inadvertantly knock La Fonda’s sidewalk planter on its ass? (Yes, it did.) Outstanding refried beans certainly brought the most heat to the proceedings; in other cases, the plumb-ordinary salsa roja sent slab-wide temperatures down noticeably. The ingredient mix brought everything together harmoniously enough, but the sticky-steamed tortilla gave the roofs of our panel members' mouths fits here and there. The cubes of ham weren’t particularly notable, while the eggs with which the square-shaped pork were mixed rated better. Spice worked hard to ratchet up eight hairy ones by burrito’s end. The single-mustache intangibility bonus, however, wasn’t so impressive. Chalk it up to an off-morning behind La Fonda’s counter.

06/19/07Super Tinga Chicken$6.208.58 Mustaches
Swish: sauciness (10); temperature (10); size (9); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

So many storylines to work with here. Where to begin? The wide-as-the-Mississippi side-to-side dimensions? The onion-laced tinga sauce, perhaps? The unfortunate failure to melt cheese upon the tortilla as it grilled? How about the marvelous mush of La Fonda’s refried beans? In any order, this was an excellent burrito - its one moderately fatal flaw (unmelted grates of jack) notwithstanding. We doled out nine mustaches for the grilled (by request) tortilla, which housed a host of credible veggies from a variety of sources: tomato and onion from the robust tinga sauce, cilantro and more chopped onion from the pico de gallo, and chunky guacamole from that one avocado tree down in Tulare County. Pulls of richly peppered chicken, bathed and simmered in that rad tinga sauce we’re mentioning for the third time here already, made its seasoned point every chance it got; meanwhile, Spanish rice and refried beans each wrote $8 checks to the Bank of Mustache. The mix managed to get all ingredients involved, more or less, and there was nothing short of a hot bite on hand throughout. Here’s to dunce-proof slab construction. Here’s to girth on the taqueria plate. Here’s to you, America!

07/31/06Super Molé Chicken$6.208.17 Mustaches
Swish: beans (9); cheese (9); sauciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

La Fonda’s rich, ebony molé sauce was clearly the dominant element of this handsomely sized effort, absorbing everything in its glurgy path - from the quietly contributing Spanish rice and chicken cuts to the fully drowned veggie gang. All that sauce made for a manageably floppy slab, while a hearty slop of exceptional refried beans further increased the mush factor. We stepped out onto a nice, firm limb by conscripting a tomato tortilla for wrap duties, and it tasted like a flour tortilla hued in some sort of pale red food coloring – no harm, no foul. But its steamed introduction to the production process ensured extra some chewiness we could have done without. Cheese was all-melted, delicious, and despite a bit of clumpiness, pretty much all fun and games. Spice picked up the pace as we penetrated southward, which resulted in a slight ding on the ingredient mix rating. Chicken was grilled and tasty, but ever so slightly dry internally. But overall? Nothing here sucked, nothing at all.

02/20/06Super Broiled Steak$6.208.17 Mustaches
Although a repeat 8.50-mustache performance wasn’t in store this time around, things could have turned out differently had the gents behind La Fonda’s counter boldly spiced up our slab, as we requested. But we won’t dwell on it, just as we won’t harp on this burrito’s slightly short sizing and pale, chewy tortilla. Everything else here won out – chiefly, the downright hedonistic, all-melted Oaxaca cheese and marvelous cuts of steak, as well the stunning brown rice and mighty pasty refried beans, which did much to establish delicious, in-slab adhesion. Although we’ve seen some poorly mixed La Fonda burritos on the plates of others, the ingredient integration in ours on this evening was respectable, even if some splotchier rice placement would have yielded better results. Sauciness was outstanding, and with the forgivable exception of one lukewarm, veggie-heavy bite, the overall temperature was excellent. They even worked a fat slice of avocado into the already-impressive vegetable fabric. All that remains is one question: What was the story with that one solitary pea?
06/24/05Super Cochinita Pibil$6.208.50 Mustaches
La Fonda’s menu describes its cochinita pibil as marinated pork with achiote sauce and banana leaf, and it certainly succeeded as the centerpiece for this excellent debut burrito. Large, tender chunks of this fine pork mingled seamlessly with the slab’s support crew (pea/carrot-inclusive Spanish, steady refried beans), and the whole thing displayed the kind of sneaky spice, graceful ingredient mix, and construction comportment we always hope for in a burrito, but don’t always get. La Fonda got it half-right by adding cheese to the tortilla before heating it; problem was, the tortilla was steamed rather than grilled - a shortcut that invariably results in a lower tortilla rating, as it did here. A smart Fresh-O-Matic stint helped maintain the foodpiece’s hot end-to-end temperature considerably. Overly shy guac usage slightly undercut an otherwise fabulous, onion-dominant combination of vegetables, but let’s hear it again for that delicious achiote sauce.