the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Can-cún, Taq. (Mission/19th St.) MissionOMR: 8.08
2288 Mission
cross street: 19th St.
ph. 415/252-9560
Map Visits: 8
Despite occasional threats of gunplay and a curiously absent hyphen on its front sign, this celebrated shop remains Can-cún’s flagship location. It’s up for debate as to what’s more colorful: its rose-strewn shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe or its rowdy clientele. And that sure can be one deafening jukebox a-rockin’ over there. Be sure to have a beverage at the ready as you coat unremarkable chips with some of the most ferocious green tomatillo salsa in town. Cash only. Breakfast and beer available. Open real late.

Will My Health Be Violated?

03/29/13Super Carne Asada$6.508.42 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); temperature (10); meat (9); beans (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: spiciness (7); tortilla (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Eliciting hoorays and hrumphs in one fell swoop, this sizable-enough slab fared quite well, although our panel of judge-grumps couldn't help but wonder how devastatingly great it could have been had the tortilla been better grilled and the ingredient mix more smartly assembled. So many elements were full-on ragin' — the all-melted / all-in cheese, the marvelously juicy carne asada, the avocado-driven army of vegetables, the killer refried beans, plus the crash-proof design and perfect succession of hot bites — that we could almost overlook the aforementioned faults. Almost. Our celebrated panel, however, isn't compensated with seven figures and all the lard they can stand to simply “let things slide,” so this otherwise delicious dunch took a minor header in the mustachioed bottom line due to its unflatteringly chewy tortilla and ungainly separation of steak and rice, even if its overall flavor and intangible craftiness were the stuff of Can-cún legend.

07/19/11Super Pollo$5.998.08 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); size (9); tortilla (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); sauciness (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: rice (7); ingredient mix (7); meat (6)
Clang: beans (4)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Were it not for its low-profile poultry and subterranean-profile refried beans, this ultramega stumpy slab would have surely ratcheted up a mustache rating north of 8.50. But, nooooooooo. Nevertheless, its champ grilled tortilla (gaffled only by saucy soak-through at certain points), myth-making spiciness, and that usual Can-cún vegetable magic all helped it weigh in heavily enough on our panel’s scoresheet and in our panel’s belly. And let’s please not overlook the pillowy melted cheese that softened so many bites along the way, or the extra-flavorfulness of pretty much everything on hand — including the salsa roja that, though overaggressively applied*, still had its way with our taste buds. But why was the pollo not asado? Did we not clearly say “asado” to the man taking our currency? We did. Oh well. These things happen...and so do six-mustache meat ratings. Finally, this burrito’s intangible charms cannot be overstated, so we won’t even make an attempt to do so.

* Some slurping required.

06/07/09Super al Pastor$5.997.67 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); size (9); temperature (9); beans (8); cheese (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); burstage abatement (7); tortilla (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Like someone trying to shoehorn their body into clothes two sizes too small for their own good, Taq. Can-cún’s al pastor slab burst uncomfortably at the seams, top to bottom. It's never a good look when avocado slices, cuts of pork, and more than anything, saucy saucy sauce sauce poke out of the tortilla like that. Despite all the attendant difficulties, there were certainly some enjoyable moments here (intangible charm was one), and it’s true that only one element, the laughably overslathered salsa roja, was a complete disaster. But holy mother of pearl, when Can-cún’s legendary veggies — hell, when everything — gets this sauced to the nines, there’s bound to be hell to pay at some point. In this case, hell received its compensation in the form of an otherwise nicely grilled tortilla rendered sodden, a graceless ingredient mix, plenty of drips/plops, and an overall feeling that we’d simply gaffed by ordering the pastor in the first place. This burrito was grossly overweight and sadly proud of it, and as much as it wasn’t trying to hide what it was, this bald approach didn’t work in anyone’s favor — least of all the napkin dispenser.

07/07/08Super Carnitas$5.997.83 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); cheese (9); size (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7); sauciness (7); tortilla (6); meat (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

OK. Let’s go to the phones.

Jerry in Bernal here. Love your site, really great stuff. It’s a tremendous service you offer the community. How’d Can-cún work out for you today?
Not bad, I suppose, Bob. Kind of surprising to get a steamed tortilla from the Can-cún kitchen, though, and the mix somehow managed to wedge all the refried beans along each coast of the burrito, with damn near nothing in the middle states. Thanks for the call.

Hi! We met last year at a Mediabistro party...I gave you my card. Terri from Advanta Marketing in South Park. Anyway, just wondering what you thought of Can-cún’s carnitas. Charry? Fatty?
Were you the one who cornered me at the bar and wouldn’t stop prattling on about “deliverables”? Pretty sure you may have been. Gotta tell you, Bob, I wasn’t too impressed with the fried pork today. Drab taste, and yes, a little fatty. Kind of a minor turn-off. In fact, it may have contributed to the burrito’s disappointing overall intangibility.

Hey there – it’s Maria from Divisadero Heights. I read your site every week. So how’d Can-cún almost clear eight mustaches today if it sounds like everything was merely OK at best?
Don’t get me wrong, Bob. There was lots to enjoy this afternoon: much melted cheese punctuating most every bite, one hot bite after another, and a totally dominant veggie ensemble. Onions! The whole mess was sized to please, and the spiciness never did quit. Thanks for being a loyal reader. Did you know your neighborhood is a figment of your imagination? It is. We’ll take one more call.

Hey guy! Al from the shop. Did you get greasy fingertips today? Alright, buddy.
Bob! Great to hear from you. Nah, only a couple napkins’ worth, I guess. Had to downrate a mustache, though. When's the next duck-hunting trip up to Medford?

12/16/07Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$7.208.46 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); size (9); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Towering intangibility, positively infernal spicing, and an overall agenda of deliciousness were the hallmarks of this latest meisterslab to emerge from Can-cún’s kitchen. But even as much as this burrito ruled, it still had a few issues that never got ironed out, such as the increasingly unimpressive ingredient mix and ever-encroaching presence of rice (not our favorite breakfast burrito inclusion, admittedly). The generous bits of fried egg impressed us, as did the propulsive flavor of all that finely diced chorizo, even if the modest level of grease oozing forth from the meat turned us off. The adequate refried beans were treated unkindly by Can-cún’s kitchen mixologist, all bunched at each end of the sizable slab like that. As for the grilled tortillawork and level of spice, Can-cún has always had those parts of the process down pat, and this effort was no exception: Swilling of champ horchata ensued after most of the nearly 20 fiery bites available here. And of course, avocado and melted, gooey jack cheese. Need a replay? OK. Avocado and melted, gooey jack cheese. First down!

09/11/06Super Carne Asada$4.808.33 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); beans (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); meat (8); rice (8)
Shrug: burstage abatement (7); size (6); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

This Can-cún location admittedly got off on the wrong foot with our cantankerous judges panel (see 1/5/05 review, below), but relations have warmed considerably in light of our two charmed 2006 visits. Despite this burrito’s substandard length, and the fact that a gang of rice grains virtually owned its entire west side, there were enough sharp-witted elements on hand to ensure an impressive, heart-of-the-eights Overall Mustache Rating. Heading this slab’s achievement list was the liberally grilled tortilla, the fusillade of hot bites, and the kind of mouth-searing tomatillo that turns macho men into whimpering, Jarritos-swilling sissies. And although it could have been a little less grease-spouting, the carne asada commanded respect top to bottom. Bits of crunchy, chopped onion seemed to punctuate every bite, and weren’t those refried beans all that and a vat of lard? Burstage abatement’s fortunes took a hit due to a few too many tortilla folds and a small side cleave that caused some mild angst early on. Veggies: champ, as usual here.

06/09/06Super Pollo Asado$4.808.50 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); vegetables (10); temperature (10); meat (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Finally, a Can-cún burrito to match all the Super Bowl-level hype. This fairly bumble-free slab got it done with a benevolent attack – principal elements included Can-cún’s usual masterful medley of vegetables, enough melted jack cheese lining the inner tortilla to warrant a collusion investigation, a flawless sweep of hot bites, and a grilled tortilla so impeccable, it would have ratcheted up 11 mustaches if Nigel Tufnel were in charge. Although they caused no real damage, we couldn’t overlook the pair of tortilla cleaves that reared up, and the whole shebang was hamstrung by a certain gawky unwieldiness. But the grilled chicken was a real surprise – marvelously charred, generously marinated, and a genuine linchpin from top to bottom. It enabled us to get our heads around the minor overabundance of pale rice and the absence of robust sauciness. And three cheers for all that avocado. All told, an admirable shot at glory from this vaunted shop. What a food.

01/05/05Vegetarian$3.807.36 Mustaches
Cheers to the grilled tortilla, the meter-rattling spiciness, and the masterful ingredient mix. Jeers to the vaguely unimpressive size, late burstage, notably inconspicuous avocado, and limp feel that characterizes most veggie burritos on today’s market. Soggy bottom = sieve-like bummer.