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Little Chihuahua, The Noe ValleyOMR: 8.52
4123 24th St.
cross street: Castro
ph. 415/648-4157
Map Visits: 4
Having been subjected to Casa Mexicana’s seven-mustache shruggery along its main commercial drag for years, Noe Valley denizens should have been pretty stoked when the Little Chihuahua opened for burrito business in summer 2010. The taqueria’s 24th St. space is quite a bit larger than its original location (with an outdoor dining patio out back to prove it), and all the other Pequeño Dog hallmarks are in place — amiable counter staff, welcoming environs, deeply flavorful salsas, and of course, often spectacular burritos. Brunch available on weekends; bottled and draught beer, wine, and sangria available any damn time. Also: warm chips (gratis) and top-notch horchata. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

08/21/12Al Pastor$8.958.25 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); burstage abatement (10); meat (9); cheese (9); temperature (9); vegetables (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (7); beans (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

When our panel mobbed out (massive security entourage and all) to gritty Noe Valley to try the Little Chihuahua's fledgling al pastor burrito, hopes were understandably high. This item may not have yet carved out a spot on the much-loved taqueria's main menu, but we reckoned it had to be pretty solid — after all, this place has always had the knack. Verdict: Really nice slab...but no masterpiece. Short on length and long on a flawlessly toasty-grilled tortilla, our foiled meal possessed a handful of characteristics that made it patently unique, from its three varieties of salsa (including a little pineapple job) to whole black beans, an option that's far off our usual ordering radar. And while we weren't so into the blah beans, we were complete suckers for the scads of sautéed, long-chopped onions on hand. The pork, meanwhile, was brilliantly seasoned — were there cloves involved? hmm — while graceful melted-cheese placement made for further happy bites. There was nothing particularly special about the Mexican rice, and the moderately successful mix seemed to separate it off mostly to one corner. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a burrito with this much intangible allure at most other local slabberies.

06/19/11Super Carnitas$8.258.58 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); beans (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: size (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Continuing its succession of barely assailable burritos, the Little Chihuahua reinforced its first-rate status with this entirely delicious, intangibly bullet-proof effort that had us pushing our scoresheet’s eight- and nine-mustache buttons again and again. Leading with a nicely grilled chile-tomato tortilla and an exceptional heap of carnitas — charred on the outside, juicy on the inside, flavorful all around — our burrito offered ideal spiciness and a smart-enough ingredient mix top to bottom, although its short length left a little something to be desired dimensionally. Strong citrus notes (presumably from the sharp pico de gallo) and thick guacamole also served as hallmarks, while the Mexican rice and refried beans provided some real solid bedrock. Sadly, the cheese could have been better melted, and it seemed as if the salsa was outshined by a few other elements. Nevertheless, another major win for the Tiny Canine.

11/06/10Super Chile Verde Chicken$8.258.67 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); tortilla (9); sauciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); cheese (8); vegetables (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Although it didn’t rate quite as highly overall as its predecessor from three days before — more eights, less nines this time through — this hefty slab put on a consistently flawless show. Spiced to the tens with what had to be a hint of the Little Chihuahua’s rad, lime-slapped habanero salsa, and built within a maximum-grilled tortilla (that itself was a bit chewy at times, oddly), there wasn’t a thing to really grouse about here. Oh sure, we could complain about the way the guacamole wasn't so much an ingredient cast member as it was part of the stage crew, or how our eagle-eyed panel spotted a couple unmelted cheese grates among the whole production, or even how the burrito’s wrap was less than the tightest. But we’d rather go on about the top-notch refried pinto beans and Mexican rice, or the bangin’ pico de gallo, or best of all, the absolutely incorrigible intangibility that would simply not be corriged for anything; indeed, there was no corriging this burrito’s sublime intangible charms. And the chile verde sauce! Equally averse to all that corriging jazz. The moist chicken toed the eight-mustache line, and some early top-end cleaving was all that prevented a perfect burstage abatement rating.

11/03/10Fajita Carne Asada$8.958.83 Mustaches
Swish: meat (10); vegetables (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); cheese (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Were it not for slightly short dimensions and lowish-profile rice, we’d have had an unprecedented nine-mustache debut in our hands here. As it stood, our first visit to the Little Chihuahua’s food bowl was still a major rip-roarer — signed, sealed, delivered, and fajitafied chiefly by a heaping helping of onions and peppers and some of the finest beef served this side of Montana. Covering some nine-mustache bases were a marvelously grilled tortilla and some real thick and rich black refried beans, both of which had our panel heaving sighs of “mmm-mmm, MMM-MMM-mmm” on a bitely basis. And with an ingredient mix this swift, there was none of that all-meat-bite silliness going on here. Mostly hot bites — and mostly drip-free construction — also persevered top to bottom, and intangibility is never anybody’s fool here at the Tiny Dog.