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Cuco's Lower HaightOMR: 7.54
488 Haight
cross street: Fillmore
ph. 415/863-4906
Map Visits: 8
Cuco's is that humble slab-shop on Haight where requests for hot salsa earn mischievously smirky reactions from behind the counter, and where the pork products are freshly cut right off the bone. The homemade chips are tops, the table salsa is often served warm, everything on the menu's a relative bargain, and there's even a plantains option for anyone in search of a fruity, alternative burrito centerpiece. Cuco's is a family-run joint — you're still bound to hear kids' music bleating out of the kitchen on occasion — and since that family values its time off, the place is closed on Sunday, so get over it. Bottled beer available. Cash only.

Will My Health Be Violated?

09/30/13Super Pollo en Salsa Roja$7.007.17 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); size (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); beans (8)
Shrug: vegetables (7); tortilla (6); rice (6); ingredient mix (6); temperature (6)
Clang: sauciness (5); cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Cuco's, we've been amigos for over a decade now. So why briefly sully our nostalgic / greatest-hits farewell tour of favorite San Francisco taquerias with this slurp-marred excuse of a slab? Our meal-in-foil may have been as girthsome and spice-fiery as any Cuco's effort on Burritoeater record, but who could care when the results were this sub-mediocre? Unmelted cheese and an irritating propensity for incessant drippiness led the boo-birds' charge, and the odd leaf of shredded lettuce wasn't doing anyone any favors, either. Add in woeful temperature inconsistencies, a bunch-friendly ingredient mix — the full bites of sliced jalapeño (and only sliced jalapeño) were the true nadir — a soggy tortilla, and mushy rice, and it was clear we had a problem meal in our midst early on. We enjoyed the flavorful refried beans and quite-capable chicken, but one-mustache intangibility? That's no way to say so long, is it?

03/19/13Super Chile Colorado Beef$6.188.00 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); size (8); cheese (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There were many elements here to appreciate. There were certain elements here to politely scoff at. But let's raise a wobbly toast to Cuco's: here's to hot bites; here's to stooge-proof construction; here's to rich sauciness and feverish spiciness; hell, here's to that neighborhood stalwart who came in halfway through and ordered a pollo asado taco to go. We may not have been so into the rice-sequestering ingredient mix, the creeping overabundance of rice, or the drowning-out of the refried beans — by what? the creeping overabundance of rice, of course — and the neatly cubed beef certainly could have possessed burlier flavor. And did that one bite mostly consist of chopped onion? Really? Was some slurping required in the early stages of potential sauce-overspill? Yes x 3, and it was all negated by that old intangible Cuco's magic, and here's to that, dammit.

06/03/09Super Ground Beef$6.187.83 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); meat (9); temperature (9); tortilla (8); rice (8); vegetables (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Cuco’s friendly proprietress may have gone a bit heavy on the overly thin guacamole this time around, but as usual, it was hard to find fault with anything flavor-related here. The peppery ground beef was particularly on the mark, even if the refried beans remained kind of faceless throughout. Sizing could have been burlier, but spice was at an operational peak. Crucially, intangibility was Everest-like all the way through — when has that ever not been the case at Cuco’s? — and we enjoyed a real nice run of hot bites. Sadly, all those drips called for continuous slurping, and that’s no way to spend a burrito. And despite the tenable ingredient mix, the unmelted grates of Jack and cheddar were a drag. A minor letdown, after all the years of flat-lining eight-mustacheness.

04/20/07Super Chicken Fajita$5.298.08 Mustaches
Swish: meat (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); rice (7); ingredient mix (7); cheese (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

And around this burrito’s twelfth bite, Cuco’s cemented its status as the most consistent burrito shop in town. Complaints were typically minimal here at our favorite Lower Haight foodspot – the grated jack should have been gooier, and there was that one boney chicken bite with which we had to contend. Other than that, it was smooth slabular sailing and full-mustachioed speed ahead, thanks to an excellent set of braised poultry (salted just right) and a whole lot of wise vegetable usage, in the form of much chopped onion and a handful of welcome bell pepper slices. Cuco’s refried beans tray brought the pasty noise all meal long, and while their overly pale rice has never been our favorite, it beats the hell of that mung that gets slung daily over at Chipotle. Considering the liberal amount of salsa applied, the just-happy-to-be-here tortilla held together remarkably well, while the ingredient mix offended no members of our hypersensitive judges panel. This was another three-bites-wide Cuco’s special, so despite its relative stubby length, the credible size rating was deserved. Spice? Check. Infallible intangible goodness? You bet. An overall rating of no less than eight mustaches? Every time.

03/16/06Super Carnitas$4.758.08 Mustaches
It’s tough to go wrong with fresh-cut carnitas and searing spiciness at a place known for fresh-cut carnitas and searing spiciness. Cuco’s played to these strengths this time around, skirting a few minor troublespots en route to striking eight-mustache silver yet again. The headline news here was this slab’s heroic pudginess, its monstrous girth demanding not only three bites (one more than the usual two) to ford its widemouth cross-section, but an equal number of italicized moments in this sentence. Refried beans were on the money, and the vegetable ensemble was sharply anchored by plenty of nice guacamole and cilantro. We struggled a little with the pale rice – more with its strange perimeter deployment than its carrot-splashed taste – but we were fully onboard with the delicious, sliced-to-order fried pork and liberal dosage of hot sauce. A few harmless drips and one tiny tortilla cleave didn’t do much damage, but we had to downgrade a hair for the unfashionably steamed tortilla. Temperature concerns were virtually nil, despite the presence of some unmelted jack cheese grates. A Cuco’s burrito is always a food-product of love, and everyone knows that love in the taqueria kitchen equals intangible goodness in the burrito.
11/30/04Super Colorado Beef$4.508.00 Mustaches
As melted cheese aplenty, heaping chunks of onion, and foolproof construction blazed away, a bizarre lack of kick -- this had been one of 2003-04's most flaming entries -- underscored Cuco’s sorta shaky grip on consistency. The “spicy” beef was tasty, but not particularly spicy. And the white-ish rice was a bit odd this time around, too. In other news, their horchata is complete swill.
01/08/04Super Carne Asada$4.508.00 Mustaches
Cuco’s patented ultraspice led the way through a parade of saucy, perfectly constructed hot bites, while flavorful, light rice and refried beans assumed their supporting slots in line and played them smoothly. But what derailed the whole slab from the rarified nine-mustache plateau this time was a minor over-reliance on sour cream and a thin, chewy tortilla that failed to provide an assuring pocket for the whole show. Still, Cuco’s cred rating remains mighty high.
03/28/03Super Carne Asada$4.508.25 Mustaches
The burrito that weighed in at 1 lb, 8 oz, then raised its arms like a belt-busting heavyweight champ. Disarmingly strong on delicious ensemble flavor, mixed with much care, and obviously not sized for sissies and salad-eaters. It practically beat us up and called us names. It ruled.