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Alteña, Taq. La (Mission/22nd St.) MissionOMR: 7.00
2588 Mission
cross street: 22nd St.
ph. 415/642-7224
Map Visits: 5
Conveniently located adjacent to several storied booze houses, this Mission stalwart is a popular late night slabbery among famished inebriates. And if you find yourself here during the day with a powerful hankering for a bucket of sesos, simply exit via La Alteña’s back dining area and into indoor Mission Market. Beware of unmelted cheese slices. Cash only. Breakfast available; bottled beer at the ready. Open real late during the week, and real hella late (3:00 A.M.!) on weekends.

Will My Health Be Violated?

02/08/10Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$7.007.00 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (9); tortilla (8); meat (8); beans (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: size (7); eggs (7); vegetables (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: cheese (1)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

It was like a third-grader made a sandwich and called it a burrito. Who else would be clueless enough to send a slab out of the kitchen with a completely unmelted cheese slice lining the inner tortilla? Other than that, hey, pretty alright burrito here. It was long, it was slender, its ingrown tortilla was vaguely grilled but still fine, and the chorizo/egg scramble was about as fine as the tortilla, which like we said before was pretty fine — pay attention! Heavy refried bean presence and adequate veggie participation also provided some quintessential seven-mustache moments. It certainly could have been hotter overall — our jughead panelists blamed a side-to-side ingredient mix that prevented necessary mingling and caused mildly jarring spice levels throughout — but other than the cheese travesty, nothing else here was purely abominable. But oh! What a travesty that cheese slice was.

11/05/07Super Pollo Asado$5.758.00 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); sauciness (9); size (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: beans (7); vegetables (7); rice (6); cheese (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Airtight, sharply salsa’d, and longer than the director’s cut of Dances with Wolves, La Alteña’s first voyage into the balmy waters of Eight-Mustache Sound was a long time coming. This mighty lengthy slab managed to sidestep yet another botched attempt at proper cheese deployment by La Alteña’s kitchen - this time in the form of a vaguely melted partial slice of jack down toward the hind end – to win over our curmudgeonly panel of judge-stooges. How? The terrific (and grilled) tortilla certainly played a role, as did the freshly grilled chicken, which tasted better and better with every bite. A hearty infusion of salsa roja added verve, tang, and fire (not necessarily in that order), but on the couple bites when it didn’t connect with the extensive collection of rice grains hogging certain sectors of the inner tortilla, the mood at our table turned a little sour. Onion-rich pico de gallo and some mid profile guacamole buoyed the vegetables rating at seven mustaches, while serious pastiness kept the refried beans’ score from going any higher than that of the veggies. The ingredient mix was smart, but we couldn’t understand why the whole shebang was merely warm and not hot. Perhaps the middling intangibility rating tells the story better than the OMR.

09/26/05Super Pastor$5.757.17 Mustaches
Few, if any, burrito shops in San Francisco struggle more with proper cheese deployment than this La Alteña location. Our 2004 visit was derailed by the misguided inclusion of nacho cheese in our slab; this time out, the twin culprits were a pair of unmelted jack cheese slices hugging the tortilla’s interior. Buh! Really, this latest cheese imbroglio is what wrecked this otherwise adequate slab’s shot at a respectable mustache rating – elsewhere, it was all about brow-furrowing spice and tastily charred pork every bite of the way. And with some champion-level length, supreme fallout protection, and a winning hot bite percentage of, like, .900, there was a lot to like here. Blame us for not thinking to avoid the overly watery whole beans, but point your finger somewhere else about this slab’s unremarkable ingredient mix. And along with their ongoing cheese fumblings, the crew at this La Alteña has a weird habit of regularly wedging a bean or two between the foil and tortilla. What’s really going on here?
01/04/04Super Carne Asada$5.206.46 Mustaches
Unless you appreciate dollop after dollop of pumped melto-cheese, keep walking up Mission. Gnawing our way through this burrito was like eating nachos at the ballyard, only without all the limp chips. And the re-re-refried relic-beans may or may not have dated from the heyday of Dynasty.
02/27/03Super Carne Asada$5.207.50 Mustaches
Plentiful steak, with wayward beans wedged into exterior of tortilla. Full embarrassing disclosure: This burrito was eaten standing up while dodging idiocy on a 22nd St. sidewalk. Perhaps an overly kind rating, but we weren't so exacting in those early days.