the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

San Jose, Taq. North BeachOMR: 8.00
2257 Mason
cross street: Francisco
ph. 415/749-0826
Map Visits: 4
The upper edge of North Beach seems like an unlikely spot for a taqueria so identified with the Mission, but there it is: Taq. San Jose, occupying the southwest corner of Mason and Francisco. Only instead of the occasionally hazardous hubbub swirling outside its other location, here you get a cute cable car line one block over and tourists riding segways outside. A chandelier and a full wall mirror contribute sooooophisticated touches to the mid sized room, while the shop’s business cards feature a real pretty waterfall. And for dessert, there's a big-ass gumball machine just inside the entrance. Breakfast available. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

02/20/12Super Carne Asada$7.397.92 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); beans (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

On the swish side of our panel's almighty fence of slabular criticism, this Presidents' Day slab featured enduringly burly spiciness and mighty tasty sauciness (each fueled by some all-business salsa verde), as well as a dependable rice-and-beans support crew; construction was another strong point. But what we're most likely to remember about our 2012 visit to the other Taq. San Jose in town -- aside from the fact that the dining room's lights were strangely switched off -- was all the micro-diced meat, sequestered pico de gallo, and InvisiCheese, as well as the palpable lack of love that went into making the damn thing. And while the carne asada-in-bits' physical make-up made it awfully difficult to discern any sort of defining flavor from it, it was the burrito's mediocre range of intangible charm that ultimately hamstrung its eight-mustache aspirations.

03/23/09Super al Pastor$7.398.17 Mustaches
Swish: meat (10); sauciness (10); spiciness (10); burstage abatement (9); beans (8); vegetables (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: size (7); tortilla (7); rice (7); cheese (7)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

This burrito’s mix may have been woefully divisive, and we’ve certainly enjoyed more densely packed slabs over the years. But Taq. San Jose’s profile-raising barbecue pork is clearly second to none. Richly flavorful, liberally basted, and speckled with tiny chunks of cooked pineapple and slim slices of grilled onion, this pastor couldn’t help but assume center stage. Spice was equally superb, gracefully rising to a fiery level by slab’s end as it improved (rather than subsumed) everything around it. And between the sucker-punch pico de gallo and the pastor’s on-the-money slather, all the saucy bases were fully covered. We were put off by the steamed tortilla in the early going, but it came into its own before long; same went for the grates of Jack cheese, once they got their melt on in the burrito’s lower half. Not much to say about the pretty-alright Spanish rice and refried beans, other than that they got it done and stayed out of trouble. Intangibility, meanwhile, was sky-high from the get-go, meriting an equal amount of bonus mustaches and hyphenated phrases.

01/14/07Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.997.08 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); spiciness (9); size (8); cheese (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); eggs (6); beans (6); vegetables (6)
Clang: sauciness (5); ingredient mix (5); temperature (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

The thing is, it tasted pretty good most of the time. Despite a bevy of problems – ranging from the paucity of saucity to the hot-and-cold-wired ingredient mix - this troubled, but well-meaning breakfast burrito never completely got on our bad side. All those chilly spots made for a handful of disappointing bites, sure, and we wished the infinitesimally smashed eggs wouldn’t have been so embedded amongst the heaps of ultra-finely ground chorizo. But there were a few developments on the satisfied side of the fence – principally, the wisely grilled tortilla, full-throttle spice, and note-perfect construction. Brown rice was adequate, but seemed overcooked in its mushiness, while the refried beans were kind enough to make a cameo here and there late in the slab-game. The here/there/everywhere chorizo was the point of origination for all things spice (perhaps that’s where the sauce disappeared to?), but there was just too damn much of it. And no pico de gallo on the veggie squad? Ah well, it just would have been one more cold element, something this burrito needed like it needed a hole in the tortilla.

03/24/05Super Pollo Adobado$6.997.33 Mustaches
Other than some infallible construction tactics, no elements were particularly outstanding here – the tortilla could have stood a good grilling, only certain sections were properly sauced, and spice would have been a total washout without the bits of jalepeño interspersed. Early concerns as to the chicken’s integrity soon gave way – nice chicken here, sure. White-ish rice surprisingly held its own, despite its isolation from other key ingredients. Vegetable content was adequate, but where’d the guacamole go? How a spoonful of under-the-radar pinto beans ended up in this slab, we’ll never know, since we made our usual request for refrieds. Cheese was three-fourths melted, but who’s measuring? Kind of a frustrating eat.