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Intestinal Apocalypse Weekly, February 20, 2004back to archive
A-one, a-two, a-one-two-three-blargh:

- Burrito Travails: 2/16 - 2/19
- Complete Semifinals Results
- Complete Finals Schedule And Preview: 2/23 - 2/29
- Kicked In The Taco: Letters To The Apocalypse

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Week Serves As Warm-up Round For Finalists

Having all but secured berths in the finals of the 2003-04 San Francisco Burrito Playoffs, Taqueria San Francisco and Papalote Mexican Grill each kicked down quality work during this, the closing week of the semis. TSF in particular wielded a heavy-duty hammer, announcing in no uncertain terms its kingly ambitions via the strongest recorded playoff effort to date – a 4.69 OMR. Truly bad-ass.

A total of 14 elements are examined during our time with a burrito. The first 13 elements are rated on a 0-5 mustache scale, with a maximum of two bonus mustaches allowed for intangibility. A burrito's Overall Mustache Rating is determined by dividing the total number of mustaches awarded (variable) by the number of burrito elements (a constant 13). The taquerias with the top two OMRs from the semifinals now move on to the head-to-head finals, slated to begin Monday, February 23rd, 2004 on USA Network.

This past week's results:

** TAQUERIA SAN FRANCISCO ** (seed: 1 odds to win title: 5-4)
Overall Mustache Rating For This Burrito --> 4.69
Ratings By Category --> size: 4.5 tortilla: 5 steak: 4.5 rice: 4 beans: 4 cheese: 5 sour cream: 4.5 vegetables: 5 sauciness: 4 spiciness: 5 ingredient mix: 5 temperature: 4.5 burstage abatement: 5 (intangibles: 1)
24th St. at York (Mission) 2/16/04
$4.75 - super carne asada
--> Second semifinal visit
Comments: If last week's 4.46 effort was a re-affirmation of TSF's long-held (yet recently in-doubt) heroic status in the SF burrito underground, this herculian 4.69 was a galloping stampede of bulky greatness, with every single one of the 13 categories receiving at least a four-mustache rating (that's a playoff first); strangely, this slab was somewhat smaller than the previous week's monstrosity of flavor, but six perfect ratings don't lie; a slippery hint of lime underscored the entire piece, from the grilled-to-flaky tortilla and surprisingly marinated carne asada to the off-the-meter medley of vegetables and one of the wisest ingredients mixes we've ever witnessed; the spice kicked us right in the taste buds, and they even worked a minor miracle with the sour cream this time out; harbinger or fluke? let's go back twice more next week and figure it out.

** PAPALOTE MEXICAN GRILL ** (seed: 7 odds to win title: 8-1)
Overall Mustache Rating For This Burrito --> 4.31
Ratings By Category --> size: 3 tortilla: 3.5 steak: 5 rice: 4 beans: 4 cheese: 5 sour cream: 4.5 vegetables: 4.5 sauciness: 5 spiciness: 2 ingredient mix: 5 temperature: 5 burstage abatement: 5 (intangibles: 0.5)
24th St. nr. Valencia (Mission) 2/19/04
$6.14 - super carne asada
--> Second semifinal visit
Comments: A paragon of consistency on the SF taqueria landscape, PMG's super carne asada burrito dropped anchor in heady 4.31-4.46 waters for the third consecutive time this playoff season; as usual, size and tortilla ratings were the weak links, and their level of spice inclusion can't always be counted on to deliver the hot goods, but every other element here was on-point as usual, due in no small part to their ridiculously tasty steak, hyperbolic sauciness, and all-time ingredient mix; it's virtually guaranteed that if these amazing burritos are made by robots, those robots have mustaches.

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Committee Spends $60-$65 In Semifinals, Including Tax / Tip

Once Taqueria El Castillito flubbed its second opportunity in the semis, it pretty much became a two-taqueria race between Taq. San Francisco and Papalote Mexican Grill -- both in the Mission, both on 24th St. (Granted, when two entrants are gunning for two spots, the competition is often less than fierce.) Still, we got to eat eight fine burritos, and if you don't spot the beauty in that, you are probably a first-rank stooge.

** Complete Semifinals Results **
1 Taqueria San Francisco: 4.58 (!)
2 Papalote Mexican Grill: 4.38 (!)
3 Taqueria El Castillito: 4.19 (?)
4 Aguila De Oro Taqueria: 3.96 (?)

(!): Advances to finals
(?): Retreats to wherever semifinal-qualifying taquerias retreat to

Capsule looks at each semifinalist's performance, arranged by semifinal OMR, in descending order....

1 ** Taqueria San Francisco **
24th St. at York (Mission)
semifinal OMR: 4.58
quarterfinal OMR: 4.15
pre-playoff seed: 1
comment: ballyhooed gorilla all set to either destroy everything in its path or soil its shorts -- at top of game all of a sudden on eve of finals

2 ** Papalote Mexican Grill **
24th St. nr. Valencia (Mission)
semifinal OMR: 4.38
quarterfinal OMR: 4.35
pre-playoff seed: 7
comment: steady deliverer of low-size / high-taste burritos set to capitalize on any opportunity afforded by potential Taqueria San Francisco slip-ups

3 ** Taqueria El Castillito **
Church btwn. Duboce and 14th St. (Duboce Triangle); three other locations in Mission, Castro, and Tenderloin
semifinal OMR: 4.19
quarterfinal OMR: 4.39
pre-playoff seed: 3
comment: couldn't keep up with TSF's monster slabs and PMG's easy-does-it efficiency -- crapped out on back stretch

4 ** Aguila De Oro Taqueria **
3rd St. at Thomas (Bayview)
semifinal OMR: 3.96
quarterfinal OMR: 4.15
pre-playoff seed: 4
comment: semifinals' happy-to-be-here inclusion wrapped up copper medal from round's get-go

(Note: OMRs do not carry over from prior rounds. Require further explanation? Got a troublesome facial goiter? E-mail us here:

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Time To Go Apeshit

It's a rich storyline: Two taquerias. Two burrito styles and sizes. Two clienteles. Two sections of one neighborhood. One street. ONE CHAMPION.

On an east-end stretch of 24th St., at the corner of York, sits a fairly under-the-radar corner taqueria. Its seemingly overarching name, Taqueria San Francisco, belies its borderline-anonymous status on the local low-end Mexican dining scene. It's a place frequented by Outer Mission denizens, primarily of Mexican-American bloodlines, who call in gigantic orders to go. Decorated in a style best described as Contemporary Hispanic Pool Hall, its food is a paean to the wondrous simplicity of the Mexican kitchen. In short, its menu is lo-fi, cheap, authentic, and above all, mighty tasty.

Roughly a half-mile to the west up 24th is Papalote Mexican Grill, a dining spot easily characterized as the Blaine to TSF's Ducky in the Pretty In Pink-inspired biopic of these all-24th St. finals. It's a colorful, albeit small room, and whereas you're liable to hear belching tuba-pop on the juke at TSF, PMG's house stereo is firmly situated on the Joao Gilberto / Brazilian rhythm axis. No way is it a posh place by any stretch, but there is a slight upscale element, if only in the bright decor and miniscule fruit/salsa garnish served with every order. Put it this way: when your friends from Lafayette roll into town, you'd take them to Papalote before Taqueria San Francisco.

So even though we've painted an instant portrait here of class warfare as fought through rice, beans, and steak stuffed into a grilled tortilla, there's more to the picture here than meets the eye. In this case, it's what meets the mouth that's of paramount importance.

(OMR averages below culled from each taqueria's three playoff burritos)

size ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 4.67 PMG: 2.83)
tortilla ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 5.00 PMG: 3.67)
steak ‡ edge to PMG (PMG: 5.00 TSF: 4.17)
rice ‡ edge to PMG (PMG: 4.33 TSF: 4.00)
beans ‡ (shrug) (TSF: 4.00 PMG: 4.00)
cheese ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 5.00 PMG: 4.50)
sour cream ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 4.17 PMG: 4.00)
vegetables ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 4.83 PMG: 4.67)
sauciness ‡ edge to PMG (PMG: 5.00 TSF: 3.17)
spiciness ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 4.00 PMG: 3.33)
ingred. mix ‡ edge to PMG (PMG: 5.00 TSF: 4.17)
temperature ‡ edge to PMG (PMG: 5.00 TSF: 4.67)
burstage abatement ‡ (shrug) (TSF: 5.00 PMG: 5.00)
(intangibles) ‡ edge to TSF (TSF: 0.83 PMG: 0.50)

Clearly, the only apparent hole in Taqueria San Francisco's game is its lack of emphasis on sauciness. Papalote, meanwhile, can only hope to not have its size / tortilla / spiciness weaknesses exploited by its heavyweight counterpart down the street. The whole hoohaw kicks off Monday night at Papalote:

M 2/23: Papalote Mexican Grill (Mission: 24th St. nr. Valencia)
W 2/25: Taqueria San Francisco (Mission: 24th St. at York)
F 2/27: Papalote Mexican Grill (Mission: 24th St. nr. Valencia)
Su 2/29: Taqueria San Francisco (Mission: 24th St. at York)
Su 2/29: Champion crowned!

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Letters To The Apocalypse

We look forward to fielding most of your questions, comments, and anecdotes, except maybe the ones about gyros and comic books:

Dear Committee: You do recognize, of course, that all that you've been doing could be published in book form. Seriously. Fodors better watch they back.
The Committee dips its pen into its inkwell and dangles it above the blank paper: Anyone know any interested publishers?

Dear Committee: You truly are taco loco. Feel free to quote me on that.
The Committee copies, pastes: Congratulations! You've been quoted.

Dear Committee: WARNING: Disaster waiting to happen – Taqueria El Zorro on Columbus/Broadway. After this reader's consumption of several area cocktails, he entered El Zorro at 12 midnight Friday evening last week. After a super carne asada burrito, his stomach hasn't been the same. The HORROR. THE HORROR. The HORROR. The horror...the horr...
The Committee takes a seat on the front porch rocker: Reminds us of the time years ago the Committee got a little schmackered with Col. Kurtz hisself one night and ended up at the Taq. El Castillito on Mission near 17th for no good reason other than to apparently want to turn its collective gut into a veritable Molotov cocktail. The following day the term "bowel-shattering" was born; El Castillito was avoided at all costs for years on end. Fast-forward to last June when, on our townwide taqueria tour, we figured we'd have to bite the burrito-bullet at some point. Wanting to get it over with, we cautiously wandered down into the El Castillito on Church near Duboce in a completely sober state. Shortly we emerged with a new profound respect for this taqueria, whose super carne asada would ultimately receive third place (out of 101!) in our stupid little contest you've been forced to follow these last few months with these damn newsletters. Now everyone knows Taqueria El Zorro clearly isn't on the top-shelf level of El Castillito – it received 3.5 respectable yet inglorious mustaches in our final report published last month – but wethinks you owe the place a fair shake in the form of a return trip apart from an indulgent evening of fru-fru, mini-umbrella-strewn adult beverages and/or Bud Light. And if as a result of this return trip you again suffer from what our Australians friends call the Curious Turtle, then you've got a point.

Dear Committee: It goes without saying that Jack Kirby was the king of comic books. His clean lines and use of panels has influenced not only the comic book industry, but modern film cinematography. People like to mention his work in creating the Hulk, Captain America and the Silver Surfer, but I don't think enough people pay enough respect to Kamandi. Kamandi was the "last boy on Earth" and wasn't based in a single representative city - he had the entire globe! This gave Kirby the chance to create a whole world and some of his most creative work can be found in fictional lands like "The United States Of Lions" and the "Gorilla Communes" and the "Wild Human Preserve. My question to you is this: Seeing that the "Wild Human Preserve" roughly covers the area we call Latin America -- do you think Jack Kirby saw the Latin American countries as somehow wild or untamed, and if so, how do you think this underlying prejudice against Latin America has inadvertently affected the comic book industry?
The Committee scratches its collective head: False?

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Thanks to all those readers who foist this silly business upon the inboxes of others.

Questions, comments, anecdotes, list addition/removal requests always welcome and encouraged:

yours, in lard,