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Castillito, Taq. El (Golden Gate/Hyde) Civic Center / TenderloinOMR: 7.17
250 Golden Gate
cross street: Hyde/Leavenworth
ph. 415/885-0866
Map Visits: 3
Replacing Taq. Fiesta Taco’s relentless party-all-the-time aesthetic with a more level-headed approach, the newest El Castillito in a town full of them makes its visual mark with a fairly spotless dining room. Still, you’re much better off heading for its second-cousin shop one block west, as this is clearly the weak link in the local chain of Little Castles. Breakfast, beer, mediocre chips, and flammable salsas all available. Cash only.

Will My Health Be Violated?

06/12/11Super Pollo Asado$6.857.25 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (7); sauciness (7); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

While there was certainly nothing worthy of ten perfect mustaches here at San Francisco’s red-headed Castillito stepchild, our panel found plenty to shrug about, from the ill-conceived ingredient mix and globby, often unmelted cheese on through the pale refried beans that never got past their own substandardness. Even the highest-rated element on hand — this slab’s construction — yielded drips here and there. While it was sized like a super burrito ought to be sized, our meal-in-foil featured a nothing-special-at-all tortilla that fell prey to an ingrown situation, and if the heaping helping of pollo asado was uncommonly saucy, it was otherwise quite common-tasting. Pockets of pico de gallo made for a few chilly bites — no fun. But hey, avocado slices, alright. Not awful overall, and undoubtedly a damn sight/taste better than the travesty we endured here in June 2008...but it simply displayed virtually no qualities of a typical Castillito slab of distinction.

06/19/08Super Birria$6.855.83 Mustaches
Swish: meat (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: tortilla (4); burstage abatement (4); beans (3); sauciness (2)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)

Good grief. It’s a bad sign when we have to essentially wring out a burrito, and it’s a real bad sign when the number of napkins used equals the number of bites taken. How could a taqueria operating under the proud El Castillito name allow such a sogfest to occur? What the hell happened to the purportedly adhesive refried beans? Could the tortilla have been any more of a sieve? Would it have been too much trouble to drain the stewed beef before dumping its payload into our slab? The fact that the beef itself was quite tasty was practically the only thing this travesty of a meal had in its corner, for it seemed as if all the usual Castillito cornerstones – melted cheese, ace vegetables, ferocious spice, an impenetrably grilled tortilla – were on leave. A shameful abomination. We left disgusted.

03/08/08Super al Pastor$6.858.33 Mustaches
Swish: size (9); tortilla (9); meat (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: beans (7); spiciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Delivering a slab that boasted massive heft and the sort of rad grilled tortilla / melted jack / sliced avocado action we’ve come to expect from El Castillito, this Little Castle debuted with a porky flourish. The pastor centerpiece was sauced to the nines, and while its moderate grease prevented a perfect sauciness rating, nobody on our judges panel was about to grouse about it – not when the meat was this subtly charred and infused with bits of grilled onion. The rich pico de gallo brought lashings of tang to the event, and the rest of the vegetable contingent was equally on its game. Shortcomings included surprisingly tame spice and an ingredient mix that separated too many of the hot elements from their less hot brethren, thus creating minor side-to-side temperature deficiencies. The Spanish rice enjoyed the saucy bath as much as the marvelous pork did, and the flagrantly fragrant tortilla cradled it all with grace and aplomb. We dream of a day when San Francisco is home to more El Castillitos than Starbucks.