the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Castillo, Taq. (McAllister) Civic Center / TenderloinOMR: 8.27
86 McAllister
cross street: Leavenworth/7th St. N
ph. 415/431-1092
Map Visits: 6
Yet another branch worth noting on San Francisco’s twisted taqueria family tree, this subdued Taq. Castillo shop has come into its own in recent years. It’s under the same management as the great El Castillito at 370 Golden Gate — as opposed to the lousy El Castillito at 250 Golden Gate, with which it thankfully shares no affiliation — so it’s about time it started kicking down some full-quality slab-fare. Cash only. Breakfast, bottled beer, fresh-squeezed juice, and lounge piano tunes on the jukebox all available.

Will My Health Be Violated?

06/28/12Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.828.25 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); eggs (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); meat (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There was so much to like here...and yet, just enough for our panel to shrug its collective shoulder at. Heft? Check. A stunningly grilled tortilla? Onboard. Top-shelf egg/chorizo combo? Uh-huh, that's right. Pillowy, all-melted cheese along the inner tortilla? Yup. Hot bites and solid construction? Sure, sure. All the right vegetables? Indeed. (Even onions? Onions yes!) So what in the holy hell was the godforsaken problem here? Hmm. Well. If only the ingredient mix had been more seamless -- look no further than the generous avocado slices all shunted together on one side -- and the level of spice had been a little less polite out there on the periphery. Also, perhaps more salsa and less pico de gallo-generated juicy overspill next time? Good morning!

05/02/11Super Pollo Asado$6.808.17 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); spiciness (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9)
Shrug: beans (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7); ingredient mix (7); meat (6); rice (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Unless you’re into rubber-reminiscent poultry that otherwise tastes inoffensively fine, pollo asado clearly isn’t Taq. Castillo’s strong suit, something our panel confirmed as we motored through this widemouth superslab of a lunch. Indeed, it looked like a potential killer to start, all sizable heft and girth and swathed in a gorgeously grilled tortilla. And as we drilled down well into it, we encountered top-form spice and avocado slice after avocado slice, with zero construction gaffes en route. Also: onions! But...things started to slide into juicy (and away from saucy) territory at one point, and with far too much bland rice overshadowing the too-thin refried beans, all was not well in Castilloville, even if the final mustachioed tally rang up on the friendly side of eight. Which is all to say: Intangible charm was lacking. Onions!

08/02/09Super Carnitas$6.438.42 Mustaches
Swish: size (9); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); cheese (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We didn’t realize how on-the-money this subtle sucker-punch of a slab was until it was nothing more than a pile of foil in the red plastic basket on the table and a bunch of scribbled notes on our scoresheet. Its remarkable, pork-stuffed density proved the whole package to turn out to be more buxom than when our panel originally “sized it up,”* while other elements such as the politely, yet effectively grilled tortilla and always-creeping spice demonstrated their full worth by the closing bites. The batch of carnitas was freshly grilled and, while flavorful, also a bit on the overly tender side, although fortunately things never devolved into out-and-out mushiness. A generous offering of sliced avocado anchored a full-on bitchin’ vegetable ensemble, which also featured spice uptick-causing jalapeño bits and plenty of diced tomato and onion. Certain inner sidewalls of the tortilla were slathered in melted, if occasionally clumpy pods of Jack cheese, while the foundation of standard-issue brown rice and garden-variety refried beans constituted shrug-fueled shrugaliciousness, seven-mustache-style. Late drips were worth noting, but not worth pouting over. Next thing we knew, we had an 8.42-mustache winner in the rear view mirror.

* Really sorry about this.

03/10/07Super Pollo en Salsa Verde$6.087.50 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); size (9); tortilla (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); beans (6); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Not even the fattest onion slices in captivity could enliven this girthsome, but remarkably dull-tasting Saturday afternoon slab. Taq. Castillo’s superbland game plan played to perfection and never released its deathgrip throughout, so although this burrito managed to register a respectable rating, its one-mustache intangibility speaks volumes. Sure, the tortilla was moderately grilled and slathered with voluminous shards of melted jack cheese. And the veggie gang performed impeccably, with much sliced avocado and said gargantuan onion add-ins earning marks of praise on our scoresheet. But when the sole source of spice is the occasional piece of jalapeño on hand, trouble wastes no time brewing. The massive pieces of boiled chicken – gamely adequate, yet nothing remotely special – hogged way too much in-tortilla real estate, as did the equally passable rice. Result: a notably overpowered set of refried beans. Meanwhile, the salsa verde that enveloped the chicken seemed to be responsible for more drips than flavor. At least an unstoppable run of hot bites ruled the day, although it tried in vain to distract us from the big, bland elephant in the room.

06/22/05Super Pastor$5.607.42 Mustaches
Every time one element of this burrito contributed to its overall quest for the eight-mustache promised land, another one cut off its heady ambition at the pass. How’s that? For starters, this hulking slab’s emphatic spiciness couldn’t overcome its suspect ingredient mix and unfortunate internal temperature shifts. How else? Just as its exceptional construction and powerful veggie salvo caused some momentary excitement, its low-impact refried beans and merely ordinary marinated pork tossed a bucket or two of water upon the foodpiece's budding campfire. But the tale of this burrito’s self-mutilation can ultimately be traced to its outer layer, since its well-grilled tortilla turned into a sauce-sodden wreck by closing time. Never underestimate the importance of tossing a foiled burrito into the Fresh-O-Matic steamer.
06/21/03Super Carne Asada$5.608.00 Mustaches
Sole knock: a poor ingredient mix. Plentiful avocado slices, steel-toe-kickin spice, and gracefully melted cheese write the checks here. Storm this Castle.