the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Intestinal Apocalypse Weekly, December 23, 2003back to archive
This week's blargh includes:

- Results: 12/16-22
- Schedule: 12/23-30
- Five-Mustache Scale: Explained
- Coming Soon: 2003 Gas Face Awards
- Our Readers Speak! And We Respond

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Many of you clamor for the complete results to our 2003 SF taqueria tour. The Committee's grandmother always said a little clamoring's good for one's constitution, and right now we're looking at another three or so weeks of clamorage on your part. Patience, people, patience. Boise wasn't built in a day.

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The Committee's taqueria revisits pressed onward this past week with drop-ins at vaunted 16th Street burrito palace Taqueria Pancho Villa, self-grandizing Mission Street taco hall La Taqueria, walk-in-closet-sized Taqueria La Paz in the Tenderloin where they have you pay after you eat, and Taqueria El Zorro just off Broadway in North Beach, which unlike many other places in the area, proudly boasts unsticky booths.

(Note: These taquerias demanded a returning-to on account of their fare not getting their just due the first time around earlier this year, for whatever reason.)


--> 3.5 mustaches <--
16th St. btwn. Valencia and Mission
$6.45 - super carne asada
Comments: San Francisco's ultimate megataqueria comes complete with door-opening security guy and that one dude going continually apeshit with the meat cleaver behind the counter; the burrito itself was a long, rounded, slender slab, built for speed; rare-ish steak, yet tasty with a hint of barbecue (!); perfectly constructed, yet a few issues kept it from the promised land: unwarm bites resulting from an inconsistent ingredient mix...overly dominant cheese, sour cream, guac, lettuce (hrmph), and salsa...average sauciness; expectations were high, it underperformed, these things happen.

--> 3.5 mustaches <--
Mission nr. 25th St.
$5.85 - carne asada
Comments: Unquestionably SF's most controversial taqueria, La Taqueria (Spanish for "The Taqueria," with irritating emphasis placed on "The") entices taste buds and yet rankles certain members of the community for their "traditional" stance on burrito-making; La Taqueria's ingredients are inarguably delicious, and everyone knows their tacos are all-time, but it's what's missing from their otherwise fine burritos that, in The Committee's opinion, handicaps their citywide stature; how La Taqueria can reach the next plateau: 1) get over the rice embargo, 2) give those flat burritos some girth, 3) add some spice for fools’ sake!, 4) ditch that arrogant neon sign proclaiming La Taqueria the home of "The Best Burritos in the Whole World," when they're not even the best burritos on that block, and 5) don't change anything else -- the marinated steak's damn near the best in town, these people should put on cheese-melting clinics, and nowhere else is there more magic worked with avocado slices; exhale.

--> 3 mustaches <--
Turk nr. Leavenworth
$4.25 - super carne asada
Comments: The story of this humongous, grease-dripping Tenderloin disappointment can be summed up by the remnant on our plate (a stray kernel of yellow corn), as well as by the ghastly sounds fumigated from the kitchen (some godawful aural contraption that married Hi-NRG mung with the chorus to Def Leppard's "Love Bites"); a bit on the actual burrito would have to include mentions of Taqueria The Peace's unfortunate use of ground beef -- or more to the point, carne asada pulverized all to hell so it resembled ground beef -- as well as the burrito's complete aversion to spice, which was mighty ironic considering the side salsa they doled out with the chips was virtually aflame; right between two and three mustaches...we were real kind and rounded up.

--> 3.5 mustaches <--
Columbus nr. Broadway/Grant
$5.50 - super carne asada
Comments: In the wake of our clumbering first visit here last summer -- is it a 3.5? a 4? -- a return trip beckoned; considering the strip club neighborhood, we wondered whether the gargantuan burrito was artifically enhanced -- an eye-poppingly huge piece of work; other than the sour cream-infused rice (bummer), phantom guacamole, saucy soak-through, and iffy ingredient mix, nothing was really wrong with this burrito...however, other than its awfully generous size, nothing was outstanding, either; still, its lightly grilled tortilla, tangy hot sauce, spicy salsa, and copious cheese made this a perfectly reasonable entry; if this burrito were a guy, he'd be a good dancer with a nice, firm handshake and a piece of gristle pinned to his lapel.

Still to be revisited: La Altena; Chino's; Gordo Taqueria; El Gran Taco; Taqueria Baja California.

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The Committee will take a brief break from the SF burrito circuit, during which we shall instead investigate various Whitecastle retail outlets in a strange, flat land east of here.

One SF taqueria visit is scheduled upon our return:

M 12/29: Not really sure (one of the five places listed directly above)

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Mustaches mean many things to many people -- "License and registration, please"; "That Travis Tritt really speaks my language"; "Bark like a dog!" -- but our super carne asada burrito ratings operate on the premise that mustaches are good, and the more mustaches the better, as long as there are no more than five. After that, things start to get hairy.


1 MUSTACHE: For those times when quality and good taste just won't do, there's always at least one lunch counter somewhere willing to gouge you $4.60 for a microwave-fresh, flat, five-inch job that tastes like warmed-over bog sludge with an unmelted Kraft American single wedged inside. Unless you want to be humming the Tums jingle for a week, steer completely clear, in perpetuity.

2 MUSTACHES: A two-mustache burrito has a few things going for it -- calories, carbohydrates -- and little else. Something about it is altogether sick, wrong, or potentially bowel-shattering. The most haunting thought about a two-mustache burrito is that it could be even more disappointing than it already is. Overall, this is an unfortunate dining experience that should be avoided at most costs.


3 MUSTACHES: A three-mustache burrito has an element or two going for it, but taken as a whole, it's been overcooked on the Grill of Alarming Mediocrity and re-heated in the Steamer of Very Average Taste. Bearable, but only recommended if you find yourself and your yowling tummy within a block of such a purveyor.

3.5 MUSTACHES: The most flummoxing rating level. A three-and-a-half-mustache burrito aspires to recommendability, and it could be probably cross the threshold if it had a crack press agent. However, since burritos are inanimate objects without the ability to hire freelancers, such unfair inflation of burrito ratings is quite infrequent. Recommendable if you're in the neighborhood...but don't go too far out of your way.


4 MUSTACHES: A four-mustache burrito means business. It displays imperfections upon close examination, but most people are normal and don't examine their burritos all that closely, they just eat them. The steak's probably chunky, smartly grilled, and mighty tasty. The rice and beans know their supporting roles and play them expertly. Then there are the wild-cards: generous avocado slices are possibly aboard, or maybe it's all hot bites all the time, or perhaps the cheese is craftily melted along the interior wall of the
tortilla, thus acting as a much more delectable adhesive than what you'll find in a bottle of Elmer's these days. Some good, three-alarm salsa or an ingredient mix worthy of a standing ovation may help the cause. The four-mustache burrito is an unqualified success, one that's worth leaving your cloistered little neighborhood for. Even if you live in the Mission.

4.5 MUSTACHES: People sometimes set up guillotines to get four-and-a-half-mustache burritos off their mind. A burrito of such magnitude might red-level the intangibility meter, or conversely, perhaps there are elements that simply sledgehammer their way into your taste buds' consciousness: perfectly marinated steak; a mix ensuring every bite includes damn near every ingredient; a grilled, borderline-crispy tortilla; size comparable to an small armadillo, only better-tasting and a good deal less crunchy. Such a slab is worth crossing town on a scooter for, worth enduring a two-transfer MUNI ride for, even worth skidding an SUV into a crowd of Marina mooks for. These are the burritos for which this town is known.


5 MUSTACHES: Tacos Acapulco, San Luis Obispo, early/mid-'90s. Unequalled gastronomical bliss, enshrouded in a couple of tortillas. We may still have one in the freezer.

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Who'll get the Gas Face? Who won't?

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"I'd love to see you take on the East Bay, where I still can't find the killer burrito."
"Do you think you might do an Easy Bay version? All along East 14th, err sorry, International Boulevard are some pretty kick-ass urban food logs. Not those damn expensive $7.00+ burritos you have in the city. Hell, I had some three-dollar ones that kick major ass."

The Committee fires back: We love certain enclaves of the 510. (The 925 gets a bit sketchy with the Smails/mall crowd, though.) We could see scouring Oakland and Berkeley at some point down the road, but we'd probably have to farm out excursions to Hayward, Livermore, and El Sobrante. And don't even think about asking us to hit Walnut Creek.

"What is your spiciness radar?"
The Committee spews forth: We view bland burritos with great disdain. Pepper embellishment in the salsa should be applied without reservation. Few things irk us more than when a place expects the patron to add his/her own spice (see: Taqueria La Paz, reviewed above) -- shouldn't that be included in the original
burrito fee? Yes it should. As for how hot we like our burritos, we're surprisingly fearless considering our lineage. Anyway, that's why most SF taquerias have horchata on hand. Who doesn't enjoy a cool, refreshing beverage at the dining hour?

"You should get an over/under started on how many burritos you'll eat the week AFTER this whole thing is finished. I'll take 5-4 odds on a three-per-week 'Nostalgia Tour,' expected to last at least four weeks."
The Committee kindly responds: Hmm. We'll re-address this in February, once the antacid really starts to kick in.

"SERIOUS BURRITO ALERT! I saw two people WALK OUT of a place the other day -- one because 'the tortilla was stuck to the paper,' the other because he was skipped over in line. I ordered a carnitas burrito and the dude had to ask me three times what I wanted and almost put refried on it when I had specified black. More importantly, when I got back to work, I had to eat it with a knife and fork. The wrap was awful and it was one of the driest burritos I've ever had. Pretty lousy."
The Committee promises action: We'll get to El Gran Taco in a couple weeks and check it for ourselves. Sounds grim. Can't wait.

"In lard we trust."
The Committee boldly intones: Of course.

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Thanks to everyone who's forwarded these out to interested individuals not on our initial list. A recent poll shows burrito awareness is up 12% from November. Let's keep it going.

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

yours, in lard, and seasons greetings to ya,