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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, August 2007back to archive

Bite. Chew. Mull. dons its game face to review July's dozen taqueria visits.

Our man Beano Cook is all-business as he combats contentious reader mail yet again in Dear Beano.

Obstinate Reader Commentary don't take no guff from nobody.

And (epilogue) undermines all that grandstanding seriousness with a whole bunch of fine print.

Pull up a food.

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Inspired By Such Masterworks As The Apple Pie Hubbub, Bad Banana On Broadway, And I'll Take The Alphabet

We're happy to report that we suffered through only a pair of clangers throughout July, instead enjoying several foiled success stories from big Mission names (Taq. Can-cún, Taq. El Farolito), mid-size Mission names (Taq. San Francisco, Mariachi's), and no-names in South of Market (El Norteño) and Mission Terrace (Taq. La Tambora). Most notably, we invested wisely and found ourselves on the business end of a 9.08-mustache all-timer at Papalote (Western Addition edition). Toss those superconductors and biotech firms out the window, people, because nine-mustache burritos are where the money's at nowadays.

TAQ. SAN FRANCISCO (Mission), 7/1/07, Super al Pastor: 8.75 mustaches
The whole exceeded the sum of the parts here, and at our favorite corner table on a sunny summer evening, everything seemed pretty alright for awhile.

TAQ. CAN-CÚN (Mission/Valencia) (Mission), 7/3/07, Super Carnitas: 8.83 mustaches
There was the tiny matter of the marble-sized bone around the fourteenth bite, but we’ll let it go. Other than that, hey, rad burrito.

EL NORTEÑO (South of Market), 7/5/07, Super Carne Asada: 8.50 mustaches
El Norteño's carne asada didn’t say anything offensive or spill a colorful drink on our white trousers – it just lacked that certain yo no se que.

TAQ. DOS AMIGOS (South of Market), 7/7/07, Super Breakfast (Ham): 6.92 mustaches
Those really, really pale refried beans looked like they should have been draped over some biscuits at a roadhouse outside Macon.

OCEAN TAQ. (Western Addition), 7/10/07, Super Carne Asada Fajitas: 7.42 mustaches
The downward spiral continued at this increasingly maligned taqueria. Remarkably dull-tasting meat and a blaaaaand rice/beans foundation will do that to a place.

TAQ. LOS COYOTES (Mission), 7/12/07, Super Chile Rojo Pork: 7.58 mustaches
We mostly took issue with the divisive ingredient mix and down-home pork, whose fatty cuts missed the butcher’s knife more than they should have.

PAPALOTE (Western Addition), 7/14/07, Super Pollo: 9.08 mustaches
On the rare occasion we’re presented with foiled food of this mustachioed magnitude, we can’t help but dream: Why? Why can’t they all be this way?

EL CACHANILLA (Mission), 7/17/07, Super Pollo Asado: 7.83 mustaches
Despite this mammoth slab’s 10-mustache performance on the size front, it’s likely we’ll remember other things about it - such as the piles of cilantro (about a cubic foot of it), and the ill-dispersed red chile bean paste that had us thinking “kim chi” more than “burrito.”

TAQ. LA TAMBORA (Mission Terrace), 7/20/07, Super Breakfast (Ham): 8.08 mustaches
The only vaguely degenerate moments here came courtesy of the moist, thoroughly unspectacular tortilla, which could have used a good grilling...or at least a quick toweling-off.

AZTECA (Castro), 7/23/07, Super Green Chicken Molé: 7.17 mustaches
The biggest fish slapped across our panel’s faces here came in the form of some of the blandest rice in captivity. Meanwhile, spice faded in and out more disorientingly than certain early Hendrix tracks.

MARIACHI'S (Mission), 7/26/07, Super Chile Relleno: 8.36 mustaches
The cheese-filled chile relleno was, itself, slathered in jack grates and salsa roja prior to hitting the tortilla. Championship, right there.

TAQ. EL FAROLITO (Mission St.) (Mission), 7/29/07, Super Breakfast (Chorizo): 8.50 mustaches
A ten-mustache ingredient mix? Ruthlessly melted cheese in pretty much every bite? Hella avocado? It all added up to big numerical doings on our panel’s scoresheet.

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What The World Needs Now Is Emphatic Punctuation!

We've all got people in our lives who love the exclamation point to death. Perhaps it's the Payroll Manager at your office: "Staff paychecks have been lost and won't be here until next Thursday!" Or maybe your mom's the culprit: "When do Grampoppa and I get to see little Hugo again?!" And have you ever taken a good look at those Diamond Dave-era Van Halen albums?: "Sinner's Swing!" "Bottoms Up!" "Everybody Wants Some!!" It's outta hand.

What does this have to do with our San Francisco taqueria sage, Beano Cook? At our last Editorial staff meeting (off-site over rum-laced horchata, upstairs at La Fonda), we railroaded Beano into punctuating each response this month with an exclamation point. He hates the idea, but he hates the idea of losing his monthly Q-and-A column even more. He's onboard.

Send your questions, comments, anecdotes, special horchata mixes, etc. etc. to E-mails containing grammatical agreement errors will be immediately discarded.

Dear Beano: I hope we all know that most of the flavor in a burrito is in the sauce or juice, so a wet burrito (not a mojado) is better than a dry burrito. Yet your concern about juice dripping from your elbows indicates you may have started eating burritos rather late in life, and never really learned how. The best burrito you’ll ever eat will be fairly wet and will be first bitten into, then immediately sucked on. That way the juice goes where it belongs.
Dear Apocalypse reader: There are many possible responses to your note, many of which turn your "immediately sucked on" guns right back in your own face, where they belong. But I'm a classy fellow and won't resort to such infantile hair-tugging. As for your assertion that I started eating burritos late in life, I'm afraid you're right: I didn't have my first burrito until I was 47 years old, so I was a bit tardy in coming around to this food fad. Of course, that was 44 years ago. But thanks for the wisdom you've passed down, sensei. Now I have to go track down some napkins to wipe this mess off my elbows!

Dear Beano: I'm looking for a breakfast burrito that's actually served during breakfast hours. I love Papalote's huevos a la Mexicana burrito, but they don't open until 11AM. I need a breakfast burrito at 8AM - 9AM at the latest.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Early riser, no? I hear that's good for the constitution. San Francisco taquerias do tend to serve brunch-time burritos more often than actual breakfast-time burritos. Of course, brunch is a much more sophisticated meal than breakfast, and this is a very sophisticated town we're dealing with. Some places open relatively early, though: Taq. La Menudo in the Excelsior, and newly re-opened Taq. Vallarta on 24th St. each purport to open at 7AM, and Taq. El Castillito on Golden Gate tries to open by 9AM. And did you see that whole exposé on breakfast burritos in our August Blargh? You'll be shocked at how much you thought you knew about the morning, but didn't!

Dear Beano: I don't fully trust a taqueria that closes before midnight.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Is that right? Well, I don't fully trust people who don't fully trust a taqueria that closes before midnight. Also: !

Dear Beano: Your cred here has taken yet another shredding as you obstinately champion Gordo Taq., as if you’re on its payroll. Dude, first bite cold, second bite cold. You get the idea.
Dear Apocalypse reader: First of all, quit copping my writing voice. It's mine and you can't have it. Got that, friend? As for your chilly Gordo experience, what do you expect when you order your burrito to go, the checkout guy passes it off to you in a thin plastic bag, you sling it over the handlebars of your three-speed, then you ride a mile in summer fog through Golden Gate Park? Your cold bites are not my baggage!

Dear Beano: Why not take a few field trips to the North Bay and evaluate burritos in the Santa Rosa area?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Why don't we all just go ice skating instead? Have you visited that rink up in Santa Rosa? It's magnificent. Slapshot's Hansen Brothers got their start there. So did Lucy Van Pelt!

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Did You Know Sourdough Is Ruined Bread? Neither Did We

One day, a very opinionated person made his (or perhaps her) first visit to While this person enjoyed the concept of the site and the bounty of information offered within, she (or maybe he) searched its pages high and low for a means to publish public commentary. After a good three hours of hunting, this androgynous entity finally gave up the ghost, but not before sending the following e-mail to's non-existent Chief of Community:

"What in the holy hell is the deal here? No commenting feature? I like the idea of the site, but this is so Web 1.0! When are you going to fix this??"

You're looking at our fix, right here. It's called Obstinate Reader Commentary, and here's how it works. You, Joe/Jane Q. Reader, are invited to e-mail us your thoughts on specific San Francisco taquerias, or on the local taqueria scene in general. We'll then edit your submission until the final version barely resembles what you originally sent, and publish it several months later in this space, with no attribution whatsoever. Everybody wins.

(As alluded to above, comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial board's discretion. In fact, count on it.)

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"I suggest you re-visit Tlaloc Sabor Mexicano on Commercial St. soon -- and not for breakfast. Also, judging a “Super” burrito is like judging coffee with way too much cream and sugar in it -- a ruined burrito. Sorta like sourdough is ruined bread."

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"I just hit up a lunch slab at La Salsa on Battery, and your review of the Grande Steak Burrito still holds true. There wasn't quite enough heft to be a "Grande," though, unless I lost something in the translation (perhaps they think it means "Grand," as in noble?). The steak was also a bit scarce. The slab did combine its ingredients well, and it had a tasty, but excessive sauce that added to a drippage factor. Don't these people read your reviews and adapt? You're serving up constructive criticism for their (and our) benefit, and yet they don't learn. It's tragic."

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"I had chorizo tacos yesterday at Taq. El Taco Loco on Mission. And I can definitively say, without a shred of doubt, that they were in no way loco."
(Tacos? Alright. -Ed.)

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Yours, in delicious horchata,