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Casa Mexicana CastroOMR: 8.42
180 Church
cross street: 14th St.
ph. 415/551-2272
Map Visits: 4
After years of concocting shoulder-shrugging slabs, Casa Mexicana's mustachioed fortunes skyrocketed in 2013 with a spectacular performance. The main dining area of this centrally located burrito retailer practically doubles as a permanent Diego Rivera / Frida Kahlo exhibition; there’s also some cool photo-mosaic work lining its walls. Don’t hesitate to request a foil wrap, unless you’re one of those knife-and-fork outlaws. Credit cards accepted. Breakfast and bottled beer available all day. Open real late, and open real late Thursday-Saturday.

Will My Health Be Violated?

02/08/13Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.708.92 Mustaches
Swish: beans (10); spiciness (10); ingredient mix (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); temperature (9); eggs (8); cheese (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); vegetables (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

No critical entity was more happily surprised than our crotchety panel of judge-grouches when Casa Mexicana nearly bashed its head on our nine-mustache beam of full-on ragin' radness. We weren't so impressed with our (very) late breakfast's stunted length, but this mid sized slab's warmly grilled tortilla was an otherwise smart start, stuffed as it was with several hard-charging ingredients. At the top of the ratings heap were the refried beans, pasty and tasty in all the right ways, while the chorizo-egg scramble made for an extra-flavorful centerpiece. Also: onions!...although the veggie angle here could have been sharper overall. Nearly all-melted cheese and dutifully complementary sauciness each came up eight hairy ones, but it was this burrito's antennae-raising spice, dummy-proof construction, and perhaps most notably, its smooth ingredient mix that helped make it as magnificent as it was for those glorious moments before it disappeared entirely.

01/19/09Super Cochinita Pibil (Pork)$5.957.42 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); beans (9); sauciness (9); tortilla (8); rice (8)
Shrug: size (7); meat (7); spiciness (7); temperature (7); vegetables (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: cheese (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

With a few strong suits and an even greater number of mediocre outfits in its wardrobe – not to mention one truly ghastly pantsuit (in the form of viciously unmelted cheese) – Mexican House’s latest entanglement with Burritoeater’s sharp-dressed judges panel fell in strictly midway between OK and so-so. (And so ends this review’s fashion motif.) We greatly enjoyed the socially graceful refried beans, which mingled well with the Spanish rice, rich pork, and equally excellent chile rojo; in other news, we’re convinced our request for a grilled tortilla easily bought this slab an extra mustache or two. The hella marinated pork was plentiful and toed the line dividing tenderness and mushiness, and we had to theorize that it was simply cooked a bit too long. As for the side-to-side ingredient mix, it was an early major bummer that, bite by bite, inched its way up into shrug territory. The discernible veggies seemed overwhelmed by their saucy surroundings, and we won’t bother complaining about the cheese again, because really, wasn’t there enough to be grouchy about over the previous eight years? OK, enough about that.

11/24/06Super Spicy Chicken$5.958.08 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); cheese (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); rice (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7); meat (6); vegetables (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It was a notable improvement over our first on-the-record meal here in early 2005 - but of course, requesting a grilled tortilla (as we did on this visit, and not on that one) is always the right way to kick off a burrito order. This effort’s outstanding elements managed to outweigh the disappointing ones, so its rating in the low eights seems about right. The melted shards of jack cheese, infernal spiciness, and highly respectable slab-wide temperature accented the heartier, if less spectacular aspects on display: fine (though overexposed) rice, a set of chicken that turned out to be inexplicably dry on the inside, and some perfectly adequate refrieds. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t chide Casa Mexicana’s kitchen a bit for skimping on the vegetables, as this burrito’s innards skewed heavily toward the brown and orange points on the taqueria color wheel. (At least the lumpy guacamole made a tasty green splash.) Portion amounts of certain ingredients could have been more equalized, and the whole thing could have lasted longer...but, hey look, eight-mustache burrito.

03/10/05Super Carnitas$5.957.00 Mustaches
Although hardly a complete tragedy overall, this burrito whiffed disastrously on a pair of key issues – temperature and spice. Its lack of kick was particularly galling, considering how this short, squishy, yet girthsome foodpiece was more sauced up than Foster Brooks out on an all-day bender with the publishers of Modern Drunkard. Pockets of un-melted cheese skulked about, sullying an otherwise tasty – if at times slightly mushy – ingredient mix, further proving that every burrito deserves a few moments of post-construction isolation in the Fresh-O-Matic steamer. The large chunks of roast pork were unspectacularly fine, the twin pillars of Spanish rice and refried beans were absolutely Johnny-on-the-slab delicious, and some ace construction counterbalanced concerns about the seemingly delicate tortilla. But when the first bite’s lukewarm and many of the rest aren’t much hotter, it’s usually trouble time.