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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, February 2008back to archive

What happens when our panel indulges in nine burritos in December, then takes all of January off? Those December burrito reviews don't appear in Bite. Chew. Mull. until February.

The Web's most notorious advice column, Dear Beano, is back as well -- less all the useless advice, mercifully.

Obstinate Reader Commentary returns in a furious rage! No, wait, that's Rambo. Sorry for the mix-up.

San Diego's enigmatic California burrito gets its due in San Diego's California Burrito: The Enigma Gets Its Due. It's a mini-travelogue of sorts.

And (epilogue) makes a comfortable place to rest your head a spell.

Club Slab is open. Pull up a food.

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We Eat So Many Burritos. We Then Publish Reviews Of The Burritos We Have Eaten.

With a sharply dressed Overall Mustache Rating of 8.09, December looked nearly as good on the runway as its immediate predecessor, the similarly suffixed month of November (8.21 OMR). Impressive work by December, particularly considering its two nine-mustache burritos - one at Gordo Taq. in the Inner Sunset, the other courtesy of Taq. El Castillito in the Mission. Taq. Can-cún and Taq. Guadalajara, both in the Mission, each spun high-scoring winners of their own. Clearly, 2007 went out with a slabular bang. And at the end of the year, who doesn't enjoy a good slabular bang?

EL BEACH BURRITO (Outer Sunset), 12/1/2007, Breakfast (Chorizo): 7.83 mustaches
We compared this burrito to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound in the December Blargh, and we're sticking by that. A notable improvement for this previously undistinguished Outer Sunset burrito shop.

GORDO TAQ. (Inner Sunset), 12/5/2007, Super Chile Verde Pork: 9.08 mustaches
Incredibly, this burrito’s OMR could have gone even more Himalayan had Gordo’s Achilles heel – distractingly squishy construction – not acted up again. A performance like this hints strongly at a repeat Slab Scrum championship later this year.

TACOS EL TONAYENSE (Harrison/22nd St.) (Mission), 12/8/2007, Super Carne Asada: 8.00 mustaches
Five mustaches for the dull carne asada, three mustaches for all that unmelted cheese, and yet, eight mustaches for the whole burrito. Math can be kooky.

OCEAN TAQ. (Ingleside), 12/13/2007, Super Carnitas: 6.92 mustaches
Dreadfully mixed and sized to sate the appetite of a baby gerbil, this short 'n' trim slabette left us a bit hungry and a lot baffled. Question 1A: Why the hell was the line out the door?

TAQ. CAN-CÚN (Mission/19th St.) (Mission), 12/16/2007, Super Breakfast (Chorizo): 8.46 mustaches
Another flawed meisterslab from this Top 20 taqueria, though it was thwarted in the Mission St. breakfast burrito game a couple weeks later by Taq. El Castillito.

TAQ. PANCHO VILLA (Mission), 12/18/2007, Especial Chicken Asada: 7.67 mustaches
Sad fact is, our foiled dinner could have used a trip to some sort of post-construction heating device – the grill, the steamer, a cook’s armpit, anything.

TAQ. EL BALAZO (Upper Haight), 12/23/2007, Super Chile Relleno: 7.45 mustaches
Good grief, what a slog. Was this a burrito or a rice sandwich?

TAQ. GUADALAJARA (Mission), 12/26/2007, Super Pastor: 8.33 mustaches
Fat chunks of grilled onion and periodic shots of guacamole sent the vegetables’ rating rocketing skyward, while the grilled tortilla turned out to be a real asset by slab’s end.

TAQ. EL CASTILLITO (Mission), 12/31/2007, Super Breakfast (Chorizo): 9.08 mustaches
Intangibility could barely be contained by our piddly two-mustache bonus system, as with each passing bite, this slab's date with Burritoeater immortality became gloriously inevitable.

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ALL-CAPS Alert, Dead Ahead

Beano spent our Great Siesta/Hiatus of January 2008 lolling about his back yard at home in the Mission, cursing loudly at hummingbirds and blasting Rod McKuen LPs so loudly, his neighbors called in SFPD. He intimated to a friend that he felt "out of sorts" during the imposed month off, but he's feeling better now. Burritos have that sort of effect on a person.

Wish him continued good health...or perhaps you just want to tell him to take a rocket to hell?:

Dear Beano: I think the inclusion of a corporate chain like La Salsa undermines your site. La Salsa burritos might be acceptable when you're in a pinch, but compared to the pieces of love-filled art at La Cumbre, Gordo, El Farolito, and other family-owned taquerias, they are bland and empty.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I smell a taqueria politics souffle burning. Listen, we love "sticking it" to the "man" and using quotation marks ironically in equal order, but when it comes to burritos, we simply follow the mustaches. It's true that certain corporate burrito slingers have irritating habits like offering white beans or wrapping a necktie around the poor guy taking your order at the counter, but to not include these places in Burritoeater's listings would undermine our site's claim of being a complete resource of San Francisco taquerias. And have you noticed? La Salsa on Battery currently holds the No. 7 spot on our painfully egalitarian Mustache Chart. That said, all those places you mention are pretty good.

Dear Beano: My husband and I are from San Francisco and have been living in London for four years. We missed burritos so much that we decided to open our own taqueria in London called
Tortilla. (We had to name it something the English had heard of.) We are trying to start a burrito buzz in London...who knows what will happen? For now, we will educate just one burrito at a time. Anyway, if you are ever in town, let us know.

Dear Apocalypse reader: Sounds like the mutt's nuts, love. Quite. The best of British to you -- hope it doesn't go pear-shaped. Bob's your uncle. Ta.

Dear Beano: I am originally from El Paso, TX, where Mexican food gets no better, so I take this very seriously. I want to know where Rico Mex falls on your radar.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Years ago, I ended up in El Paso one morning with a powerful hankering for some huevos rancheros. My travel partner and I ended up at an eatery near the city center, where the tortillas and eggs and rice and beans were rich, and the prices were poor. Sadly, the name of the tiny restaurant has withered on the vine of memory, something I wish were the case with last year's visit to Rico Mex.

Dear Beano: I went to a crafts show last weekend, and someone had mustache rubber stamps and buttons in a variety of styles. I think they're crowding your territory.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Hardly. I don't really see Burritoeater breaking into the handmade craft market anytime real soon -- unless you're talking about mustache-shaped pillows. That's our new game here.

Dear Apocalypse reader: Ah, I remember my first beer. Hey, lower your voice there, friend, and why not fire up SpellCheck while you're at it? We hope to pull together another Slab Scrum later this year. It takes "president," I assure you.

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Period. Exclamation Point! Semi-colon; Etc. Etc.

Given our Great Siesta/Hiatus of January 2008, folks around town are chomping at the tortilla bit to have their voices heard on crucial issues surrounding San Francisco's vibrant taqueria scene.

Three select comments made this month's cut, for which each contributor shall receive a Burritoeater mug tree full of mugs.

Got something relevant to the topic at hand that you'd like to share with our monthly subscriber base? Can you locate the caps lock button on your computer's keyboard? Would you like to own a Burritoeater mug tree full of mugs? If you've answered "yes" to each of these questions, why not drop us a note?

(Comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial staff's discretion.)

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"Bronco and Super Bronco burritos at El Burrito Express do not come with rice. Nor should they. Rice is a wasted food opportunity in my opinion, which is why I get the bronco steak and carnitas burritos regularly. Nor are refried beans a normal option. A Bronco consists of meat, whole beans (preferably pinto), jack, avocado, salsa, period. A whole wheat tortilla, extra hot sauce, and jalapeño are my particular customizations."
(I usually don't trust anyone who punctuates a sentence with the word period for a bit of extra "drama," but you sound like an El Burrito Express regular, so your credit's OK here. -Ed.)

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"You really ought to try the grilled shrimp burrito at Papalote the next time you are there. Save the salsa for the burrito, not the chips!"

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"Take another look at Taq. Castillo on McAllister in the Tenderloin. I just had the absolute worst burrito ever there. So watery, so loaded with onion and jalapeño to wash out the other flavors of the pollo verde as to be ridick. Also, surly staff -- when they errored by making me a pollo asado, luckily someone behind me in line wanted just that. I'll never go there again."

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Fries With That? Sure, Why Not?

People have asked: Where'd you people go in January? I had to read in your absence, where they take only two or three bites before they sneak out of the taqueria. It's a joke.

Where'd we go? All over, really. Myanmar, the South Pacific, Buffalo, Cape of Good Hope, Greenland. Nice towns, all of them, and we met some real friendly and helpful folks at the Chamber of Commerce everywhere we went. Problem was, the Mexican-style food was less than the best in each of those locales, so we also made time to visit La Mesa, NM, Tucson, AZ, and San Diego, CA, where we knew we could subsist on delicious variants of our own personal soul food for mere dollars a day.

Chope's in La Mesa had the nine-mustache chimichangas and chile rellenos, the mighty fluffy sopapillas, and of course, the colorful chile sauce for which New Mexico is known. Taco wagon Los Cabritos in South Tucson had the all-time (if junior-size) barbacoa/cheese quesadillas. Surprisingly, we couldn't track down any sort of pork in southern Arizona, while pastor was a complete rumor in the entire region.

Never mind Calexico, CA's ghastly horchata. Just awful.

Returning to the Pacific coast, we dropped in at El Indio and Lucy's Taco Shop in San Diego. Much has been made over the last several months of a bubbling rivalry between San Francisco and San Diego burrito cultures, so we reckoned it was our duty to check in with the supposed adversarial burritowork down in what is perhaps the mellowest metropolis on the planet.

El Indio's California burrito (carne asada, fries, cheddar cheese, that's about it) nearly bored our taste buds clear off. Dry, loosely wrapped, with a smattering of fries and semi-melted orange cheese just sort of hanging around and not contributing much, we weren't impressed in the least. But we like to think we're fair-minded people, and we had a strong feeling that El Indio, locally vaunted as a big-deal place in San Diego, wasn't offering the finest take on this phenomenon about which we were so curious.

Lucy's Taco Shop, on the roundabout recommendation of someone who knows about San Diego burrito retailers, came through more effectively. Sizing was certainly heftier and the steak was tastier than at El Indio, while Lucy's kitchen threw in some gurgly-thick guacamole, pico de gallo, and way more of the fried potato element that makes this particular burrito such an interesting left-turn on our slab map. This burrito felt like the real, unfoiled, slapped-down-on-a-rectangular-Styrofoam-plate San Diego deal, and that's all we were asking for. (Photos are available.)

Now, we're not about to sponsor some silly rally out at Candlestick where we break out burrito-shaped San Francisco pom-poms and start leading chants of "San Diego's burritos stink!" Our lunch at Lucy's Taco Shop was enjoyable enough, and we know enough by now to know that when we're on the road, we shouldn't expect the sort of embellished (and foiled) monstrosities we enjoy regularly in and around the old Barbary Coast. That's why we generally order tacos elsewhere.

But our first burrito back in San Francisco, an 8.58-mustache masterslab from Tacos El Tonayense on Shotwell near 16th St., made us happy to be back home.

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Yours, in delicious horchata,