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Little Chihuahua, The Lower HaightOMR: 8.16
292 Divisadero
cross street: Page
ph. 415/255-8225
Map Visits: 7
El Pequeño Dog debuted in 2007, drew a fervent neighborhood following within a few short months, and busted our rating curve with a 9.42-mustache magnum opus before the decade was out. Mercifully, there’s no actual yippy-hound involved in this shop’s marketing strategy; rather, any Little Chihuahua advertising would likely involve generous amounts of warm chips, friendly counter staff, and real colorful plates. Achtung!: Habanero salsa sightings routinely made at the salsa counter. Unique brunch dishes (eg. Mexican French toast) available on weekends; beer (bottled and draft), wine, and cinnamon-rich horchata available all week long. And you may well hear Black Sabbath. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

11/11/13Fajita Pollo Asado$10.987.83 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); sauciness (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7); meat (6)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

In 2009, our panel had its taste buds blown clear away here by a 9.42-mustache masterpiece of a fajita pollo asado burrito. Four years on, we returned hoping (however guardedly) for similar results; in the end, though, we were left hanging just short of eight hairy ones. Certain elements of this respectably sized slab, most notably its consistently scorching spice and sharply flavorful veggie contingent (onions! so many onions), scraped the toppermost reaches of our ratings scale; its intangible might proved equally formidable as well. However, little else here turned out spectacularly great, from the occasionally suspect ingredient mix that promoted cool-leaning, vegetable-heavy bites, on through the minor hind-end unwieldiness and the way the burrito's level of overall moistness landed on the juicy side of saucy. The too-gently grilled tortilla and role-playing refried beans toed the seven-mustache line with shrug-worthy obedience, while the two truly disappointing aspects of this foiled lunch — its alarming paucity of meat and non-starting cheese participation — were the real reasons its overall rating turned out to be an $11 letdown.

01/29/12Super Chile Verde Chicken$8.257.67 Mustaches
Swish: beans (9); temperature (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); cheese (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6); burstage abatement (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Between serious construction concerns, a creeping overabundance of both sauce and spice, and a complete absence of ten-mustache element ratings, this burrito sadly inflicted a bit of harm upon the Little Chihuahua’s mostly gleaming reputation. Even before it turned into a drip-a-thon, this sure was a gangly thing to eat, and once the gallon of (admittedly flavorful) chile verde kicked in and pretty much took over later on, it became an even trickier task to hold it all together; our meal eventually culminated in an ugly in-foil burstage-fest. Spice, meanwhile, was over-the-top even for our panel’s bold palate — to the point that we down-rated for too much spice, and that almost never happens on our watch. On the positive side of the ledger, the chicken was fine, if hardly outstanding, while the rice remained charmingly low-profile throughout. Further resentment over the sledgehammering spiciness (jalapeños and all) stemmed from how it obscured the refried pinto beans’ delightful smokiness, while all that chile verde turned an otherwise excellent grilled tortilla into a sodden mess. There was just too much wrong here for it to earn two bonus mustaches for intangibility. Then we washed our hands.

11/29/10Super Carnitas$8.257.92 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); beans (9); cheese (9); spiciness (9); meat (8); rice (8); burstage abatement (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: size (7); temperature (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Why? Why only 7.92 mustaches for this young, yet storied taqueria? Because of an ingredient mix that centralized the meat, sequestered the rice and beans, and shoved the cheese to one side. Also because of a few sudden temperature dips caused by a lack of intermingling between the pico de gallo / guacamole contingent and the hot elements, and because of too much salsa that prompted slurping before (and drips after) just about every bite. Still, the Little Chihuahua’s perennial deliciousness persevered through these disappointments, driven forth by top-tier refried beans, a killer-grilled tortilla, and thoroughly melted cheese. The terrific-tasting carnitas, while pushed in the right direction by some mighty spicy moments, would have rated even higher had its texture not aped that of chile verde pork; indeed, the meat seemed more stewed than roasted. Dimensions were on the short side, and the slab on the whole probably didn’t have to be so squishy. But despite the problems on hand here, we couldn’t deny our lunch’s intangible credibility, even if we had to reach for a napkin after pretty much every single bite.

12/27/09Breakfast (Sausage)$8.958.17 Mustaches
Swish: eggs (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); tortilla (8); meat (8); beans (8); cheese (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

The Tiny Dog’s breakfast slab stayed the eight-mustache course, ratcheting up no perfect element ratings along the way, but smartly averting any major clangs by the same token. Its Achilles heel — a smattering of sauce drips that increased to a steady trickle by the time we reached the increasingly soppy hind end — was the only unfortunate turn taken by this otherwise fine, if not quite championship-caliber burrito. Spice was totally on the mark from the get-go, bold without overwhelming everything around it. The scrambled eggs were on their fluffy game, the melted jack performed well enough, and all those chunky potatoes sure did fit the bill. The ingredient mix was capable, but well short of outstanding in the way it forced the lion’s share of refried beans to the tortilla’s top half. (Early bites: real heavy on the beans.) Plenteous cuts of spicy sausage admirably provided meaty counterpoint to all the vegetable/legume/dairy/grain madness going on. And even though the tortilla was gently grilled, it fell prey to overmoisture at the end. Intangible cred was never in doubt, nor was a return trip to the napkin dispenser to combat all the saucy drips.

09/23/09Fajita Pollo Asado$8.959.42 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); vegetables (10); spiciness (10); ingredient mix (10); temperature (10); beans (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged, not even close
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

To tell you the truth, we didn’t think it was possible. Our grizzled judges panel figured no taqueria in town was capable of besting Taq. San Francisco’s record 9.38-mustache colossus, but the Little Chihuahua proved us all silly with this cylindrical foodpièce de résistance. And it really was kind of cylindrical, with the top end so classily tapered like that. Early bites revealed immediate grace/force: a shrewdly grilled tortilla; business-meaning spice; pillowy walls of perfectly melted Jack cheese; hot bites from here to eternity; pretty much the works. Beyond all these ten-mustache-earning elements, this burrito’s true X-factor was its fajitafication, which took this whole dog-and-pony-show-in-foil to another level entirely. Green bell pepper and long-chopped onion led the charge, and hey man, dig all that micro-diced garlic swimming around in there. We adore the guacamole and the avocado as much as any other big-hearted Californian, but with all the other hot veggie action occurring here, we barely missed it this time. Ten mustaches for vegetables, done. Now a few words about the ingredient mix: pretty much unassailable. No element was bunched, no element was sequestered, no element was ignored. This is starting to get ridiculous, we know. Perhaps you’re wondering what we thought of the Tiny Dog’s grilled chicken? Well, we certainly enjoyed it, but with the roasted tomato salsa and roasted vegetables ruling the roast*, the chicken never really got its moment in the sun; these things happen. Same went for the Mexican rice in its traditional supporting role — although its foundational counterpart, these mighty rad refried beans you see here, managed to step out of the shadows enough to earn nine mustaches. Have we missed anything? Ah, those little cleaves in the tortilla were no big thing...we still only needed one napkin. Nicely sized and heaped with the right kind of intangibility, this wonderslab deserved every bit of glory it earned. All hail the Tiny Dog. Arfarfarfarfarf.

* Really sorry about this.

04/22/08Super Carne Asada$7.858.25 Mustaches
Swish: meat (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); size (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

On its second pass through our silly mustache mill, the Little Chihuahua kitchen produced a truly cylindrical slab; far more crucially, it was a truly bitchin’ slab. Sole flaws here included stunted length, overly tame spice that didn't quite heed our call for pepper-flame, and an ingredient mix that stopped just short of bringing everything onboard harmoniously. Enough griping already. Prodigious amounts of diced onion made us real happy, as did the lime-infused (right? lime?) guacamole and totally-on-the-money steak, perfectly cooked at medium well and yet still delectably juicy. And the tortilla!: grilled to flakiness, just as they all ought to be. The refried beans and fully melted cheese each outstood to the catchy tune of nine mustaches, while this burrito’s intangible credibility was never in question. We said it: bitchin’.

10/24/07Super Pollo Asado$6.958.17 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); vegetables (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); cheese (7); size (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We passed on the Little Chihuahua’s in-burrito offer of, eh, cabbage, and this burrito’s OMR emerged the other side all the better. Other than woefully wee length, which resulted in the only element rating to land under our seven-mustache bar of respectability, everything here was pretty much on-point. Spice was wicked fierce, all bites boasted a hot temperature, and most impressively, Mister Slabmakin’ Fella back of the counter kicked down one hell of an ingredient mix. The grilled chicken was tasty and hinted at lemony undertones, while the atypically fragrant beans pleased our panel. Through it all, the melted cheese contributed subtly...real subtly...and while we’d heard rumors of grilled tortillas here, ours showed up steamed and ordinary. But the tomato/onion-rich pico de gallo ruled the school, and the salsa verde wasn’t far behind. Short of the burrito’s shortness, a stirring debut.