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L'avenida Inner SunsetOMR: 7.50
507 Irving
cross street: 6th Ave.
ph. 415/681-1246
Map Visits: 4
Back on the Burritoeater block after a lost weekend (2005-07) spent in the table-service ghetto, L’avenida is just as inviting today as it was before it ceased taking orders at the counter. It moved into much smaller digs next door once it traded locations with Lavash in 2008, but it’s still usually a credible alternative to nearby heavyweights Gordo Taq. and La Fonda. (Except when it’s not.) Three tables — wait, four — available for dining in. Minimal outdoor dining. Credit cards accepted ($15 minimum). Bottled beer available.

Will My Health Be Violated?

01/17/10Super Chicken Fajita$7.507.08 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (9); cheese (8); temperature (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); meat (7); rice (7); beans (7); tortilla (6); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Well, for starters, it looked a dumpling. A giant, burrito-shaped dumpling. Blame the steamed-all-to-hell tortilla, which looked sweatier and paler than a Swedish pentathlete training in Ecuador. (A lousy analogy, but you get the drift.) We totally left our feet and bought this burrito’s burly-sized head fake, as on the whole it turned out to be less than densely packed — and judging by the Spanish rice and refried beans living entirely on its east side, not so well mixed, either. Persistent floppiness also spoke to the relatively sparse innards, although we’re not exactly sure what they said to one another, outside of perhaps, How come so little of that punch-packing salsa roja next to the basket of chips made it into the tortilla? Long-chopped onion and colorful (e.g. red, green) bell pepper slices fajitafied everything in sight, which was pretty much the point of getting a super chicken fajita burrito to begin with. So yes, vegetables were a definite highlight. Elsewhere, the gently grilled chicken was adequately seasoned, but nothing remotely special, while intangibility simply didn’t make enough of a positive impact.

02/08/09Super Grilled Chicken$6.958.33 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); size (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); rice (8); beans (8); cheese (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); temperature (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

This hulking slab’s extraordinary ingredient mix worked an array of flavors into all 20 bites: the chicken’s distinctive, pepper-seasoned charm; the surprisingly burly, tomato-specked guacamole; and, the sharp piquancy of L’avenida’s salsa roja. The crisp pico de gallo lent several bites a certain drama, while the Spanish rice and refried beans each merited kudos for their supporting roles. And now a few words about the thick grates of Jack cheese: ninety percent melted, alright. We weren’t so enthralled with the shrugalicious steamed tortilla, and there was definitely no perfect run of hot bites to look forward to here (but thankfully, none were chilled). Construction remained faultless throughout, and intangible credibility was all that and a basket of tortilla chips. But what was with the strangely brittle texture of the chicken? L’avenida’s poultry did not love us tender, although the overall effort certainly loved our 10-Mustache Scale™ true.

05/28/07Fajita Beef$6.758.08 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); size (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

L’avenida’s return to our fold turned out to be a winning one, as the perfect cheese performance, clever vegetable toss-ins, and viciously grilled tortilla drove this slab up and over Eight-Mustache Pass. This fajita burrito was brilliantly accented with multi-colored bell pepper slices and a whole lot of long-chopped onion, and it all accompanied a nice helping of pico de gallo. Three cheers were also lobbed the kitchen’s way* for the delicious, freshly grilled steak strips, along with the good sense to dump a bunch of jack grates atop the hot beef, thus melting the cheese with much accuracy and fervor. The sum of it all: radness in a tortilla. Now for the mediocre news. The under-thickened guacamole prevented a ten-mustache rating for vegetables, and we may have to start believing all the previously registered complaints about that XXXL-sized rice scooper back in L’avenida’s kitchen. As for the refried beans, they hit the taste mark, but were sadly rendered nearly irrelevant by the encroaching-from-all-angles Spanish rice. Spice remained politely peripheral throughout, and the hind-end sog undercut any shot at a perfect tortilla score. Intangibility, meanwhile, rocketed through the roof. Overall, it was a welcome return...but one not without its slip-ups.

* Silly exaggeration!

04/08/03Super Beef$5.107.00 Mustaches
This harmless burrito assumed no risks, and as such, toed the line of blandness while producing an acceptable, if unrewarding taste. If burritos were first dates, L’Avenida’s would be filed in the good dancer / firm handshake / boring-as-hell folder, and its telephone calls would not be returned. Intangible deliciousness was light years away, a dullness that not even two types of salsa could combat.