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Carmelina's Taq. Inner SunsetOMR: 7.58
500 Parnassus
cross street: 3rd Ave./Hillway
ph. 415/502-1121
Map Visits: 4
Carmelina's is the only taqueria in San Francisco where you shouldn’t be surprised to see a stethoscope draped around the neck of the person in line in front of you. Good luck, though, finding an open table here in UCSF's Millberry Student Union food court, where students, faculty, campus staff, visitors, and more than a few pigeons all elbow for space. Seafood burritos and plantains aplenty daily; chicken mole on Mondays! Breakfast available, too. Credit cards accepted. Closed Friday and Saturday evenings, Sundays, and university holidays.

Will My Health Be Violated?

09/23/11La Paz (Carne Asada)$5.817.58 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); temperature (9); size (8); rice (8)
Shrug: beans (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); spiciness (7); meat (6); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Our panel is never super-eager to get to Carmelina’s, even though we’ve only been subjected to one truly ghastly burrito here over the years (9/25/2003, from the looks of things below). Still, this time through was the third consecutive case of hey-alright-that-didn’t-completely-suck. The nicely grilled tortilla cradled a satisfactorily passable collection of ingredients, none of which made us rudely frowny-faced. At the bottom end of the mustache spectrum was the uninspired, sorta-dry beef, the fortunes of which improved whenever it contacted Carmelina’s salsa of mysterious origin. Ms. Slabmaker Gal stuffed a hell of a lot of rice into our lunch, but we can’t grouse about it too much since it tasted and looked pretty good; same kind of thing with the Jack cheese grates, which were almost entirely melted, although they suffered from globbiness. Veggie report: OK enough, shrug. Occasional hints of spice reared up throughout, but things were too well-behaved on the pepper-fire front overall. Bites grew somewhat cooler in the lower reaches of our slab, where most of the refried beans had coagulated to create some very serious ingredient adhesion. Stone-faced intangibility was the kitchen’s order of the day, but we couldn’t complain about the construction of the wrap even if paid to do so. Can we complain about the constant barrage of pigeons scratching around on the floor around us, though? Ew.

11/07/07La Paz (Pollo en Salsa Roja)$6.047.83 Mustaches
Swish: size (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); tortilla (8); meat (8); beans (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); temperature (7); rice (6)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Had this humongous burrito not fallen victim to the scourge of semi-melted / semi-relevant grated jack cheese, it would have crested our eight-mustache Mendoza Line, and that would have been an unlikely and impressive achievement. Mildly irritating burstage issues such as beany seep and saucy soak-through notwithstanding - more napkins, Carmelina, please – we liked certain things about this burrito’s look, such as its considerable length and heft. As for the most crucial factor – taste – it fared pretty well, particularly the pre-grilled tortilla and generous vegetable contingent, which drew upon the power of tomato-speckled guacamole, chopped onion and cilantro, and much pico de gallo. Meanwhile, Carmelina’s shredded chicken was dunked in salsa roja and accompanied by green pepper and tomato, so we had sauce coming at us from all kinds of angles; fortunately, drips were minimal, even if the tortilla’s exterior didn’t stay dry. The micro-grain rice was bland, overabundant, and the opposite of spectacular. Spice remained mighty persistent throughout, but everyone knows spice-heat doesn’t necessarily translate to temperature-heat - and this burrito should have been hotter all around.

12/12/05El Cabo Chicken Molé$6.007.33 Mustaches
A few spoonfuls of superlative chicken molé helped save UCSF’s burrito counter from the six-mustache sadness it earned a few years back. And while this was a fair improvement over our prior visit, the Carmelina’s crew still has some important things to learn when it comes to crafting a seamlessly mixed, fully heated food-blimp. Sizing was no issue here – length, heft, and mild girth were all present and accounted for – we found the veggie salvo to our liking, and combustible spice reared up in every bite. So, all that was good. But from the moment we picked this burrito up, we feared its hind end – not only for its forebodingly cool temperature, but for the fact that the tortilla wasn’t shut. Boo, and boo again. Further Bronx cheers: the cheese was melted to varying degrees of success throughout, there was nothing special about the steamed tortilla, and we already mentioned the somewhat disgruntling ingredient integration, didn’t we? The brown rice and refried beans were mostly successful (if segregated from everything else), and on an elemental level, everything tasted mighty fine - especially the richly sauced chicken molé.
09/25/03La Paz Carne Asada$5.996.00 Mustaches
Although it was lengthier than certain college commencement speeches, a flurry of unwarm bites betrayed the meter-rattling spice and tight wrap. Unmelted cheese and unwanted lettuce will do that to a burrito.