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2008 Slab Scrum
December 24

Finals Wrapup

At last! We have a 2008 Slab Scrum champion.

  1. El Norteño
    December 13: 8.50 mustaches
    December 20: 8.42 mustaches
    Many predicted this underdog truck would limp off the Scrum superhighway at the first off-ramp, but the Cinderella story of the '08 tourney outmotors more celebrated and experienced taqueria competition all the way to the checkered flag.
  2. Papalote (Mission)
    December 16: 8.50 mustaches
    December 23: 8.25 mustaches
    The Mission titan flubs two chances to nail down its second Scrum championship since 2004. A mysterious lack of spice on both outings is the main culprit.

Oddsmakers all over town are surely in varying states of convulsions at the thought of the Scrum's number eight seed, El Norteño, having the moxie/chutzpah/etc. to knock off each of the last two Scrum titlists (Gordo Taq. and Papalote) in nailbiting tiebreakers en route to bagging 2008's Great Mustache. Our panel hemmed and hawed as to whether the South of Market burrito truck had worthy enough credentials to be invited to the '08 Scrum, but its continually clutch performances since early November should silence even the most slabwagon-averse San Francisco taqueria enthusiast.

The final standings for the 2008 Slab Scrum:

  1. El Norteño
  2. Papalote (Mission)
  3. Taq. El Castillito (Golden Gate / Larkin)
  4. Taq. San Francisco
  5. Gordo Taq. (Inner Sunset)
  6. Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon)
  7. El Burrito Express (Outer Sunset)
  8. Taq. Can-cún (Mission/Valencia)

Well, there you have it. A burrito truck wins this year's Scrum.

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December 10

Semifinals Wrapup

It's a perennial Scrum storyline, but it never gets old to us: Papalote is in the finals. The 24th St. linchpin beat Taq. San Francisco in 2004, then came up just short against Gordo Taq. in 2006. This time, however, its opponent has a driver's license. Against all odds, El Norteño rides its wave of mustachilation into the finals this coming weekend.

  1. El Norteño: 8.58 mustaches
    December 6: If anyone tells you they saw this slabwagon's Scrum success coming, call them a liar and run the other way. El Norteño can do no worse than runner-up at this point.
  2. Papalote (Mission): 8.42 mustaches
    December 8: The heavy favorite ratchets up just enough mustaches to earn its third finals berth in a row. (Applause.)
  3. Taq. El Castillito (Golden Gate / Larkin): 8.33 mustaches
    November 30: And for the third consecutive Scrum, the Little Castle takes home the bronze medal.
  4. Taq. San Francisco: 7.50 mustaches
    December 3: This Mission outpost sure picks the wrong time to get all woeful. Every Scrum has its letdown performance, and this time, look no further than Taq. San Francisco's sorry semifinals showing.

The finals' format is straightforward: Our panel makes one visit to each taqueria. The coveted Great Mustache goes to the highest score.

Gentlemen/gentlewomen, start your kitchens.

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November 27

Quarterfinals Wrapup

Papalote and Taq. San Francisco each barrel through the Scrum quarterfinals with surgical focus and graceful aplomb, while Taq. El Castillito manages to put enough mustaches up on the board to ease its way into the next round.

Meanwhile, El Norteño needs a repeat quality effort to improbably nudge aside defending Scrum champ Gordo Taq. in a thrilling quarterfinals tiebreaker.

Now to Bonehead in the studio for vacant commentary....

Well, we can look at the El Norteño deal in one of two ways, Bob: The extra kitchen effort required to produce twice as many quarterfinal burritos as the semifinal competition could be terrific "in-the-clutch" experience -- or it could have a fatiguing effect on the South of Market slabwagon. And it sure looks as if Papalote and Taq. San Francisco are on a collision course for a 2004 finals repeat.

I really see Taq. El Castillito as the "wild card" here, Irv. It could flame out, play spoiler, or if it "gets its 'A-game' on," end up hoisting the Great Mustache at the end of this Scrum.

But really, Jim, what do I know? I'm a complete moron in rubber shoes who does Ford truck commercials on the side.

  1. Papalote (Mission): 9.00 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
    November 21: Establishing a Burritoeater milestone with its third nine-mustache Hall of Fame burrito, Papalote re-asserts itself as the taqueria to beat this fall.
  2. Taq. San Francisco: 8.92 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
    November 16: Another truly devastating burrito from this Slab Row stalwart, still looking for its first Scrum championship.
  3. Taq. El Castillito (Golden Gate / Larkin): 8.58 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
    November 4: Roof-busting intangibility and an airtight grasp of burrito fundamentals secures the Little Castle's date with the Scrum semifinals.
  4. El Norteño: 8.50/8.25 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
    November 7, November 26: By advancing to the semifinal round, this brass-balled South of Market slabwagon lands a number of kicks square in the shins of naysayers who questioned its invitation to this year's edition of our hallowed Scrum.
  5. Gordo Taq. (Inner Sunset): 8.50/8.00 mustaches
    November 10, November 23: The 2006 Scrum champ finds itself on the short end of a tense quarterfinal tiebreaker with El Norteño. This means there'll be no repeat victory parade down 9th Avenue this holiday season.
  6. Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon): 8.42 mustaches
    November 19: The only thing between the lowest-profile entrant in this year's Scrum and a berth in the semifinals? Booming spice.
  7. El Burrito Express (Outer Sunset): 8.33 mustaches
    November 13: The Burrito Train delivers another fine foiled-scud-in-a-plastic-basket, but it's not enough to move beyond the quarterfinals.
  8. Taq. Can-cún (Mission/Valencia): 8.17 mustaches
    November 1: Although this Mission heavyweight has climbed several dozen rungs on our Mustache Chart over the last couple years, it loses a little altitude with its debut Scrum effort.

The top four OMRs (Overall Mustache Ratings) advance to the semifinals. Quarterfinal ratings do not carry over to the semifinals. They just don't.

Because at, we measure success one mustache at a time.

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October 11

The Road to the Great Mustache

Two autumns ago, on the eve of our last Slab Scrum, we publicly queried: Which San Francisco taqueria is worthy of wearing's prestigious Great Mustache?

Well, as then, as now: Clearly, this is a riddle only a Slab Scrum can solve.

We've retained the 2006 Slab Scrum's format for the 2008 event. Eight deserving invitees. Three single-elimination rounds. The top four OMRs (Overall Mustache Ratings) earned during the quarterfinal round advance to the semifinal round. The top two OMRs earned during the semifinal round advance to the final round. The top OMR earned during the final round wins the Great Mustache.

Taquerias do not compete head-to-head until the final round. Seeding positions merely indicate anticipated place of finish - this is a bracket-free tournament, people.

Our 14 Scrum taqueria visits (potential tiebreakers notwithstanding) will commence the first week of November. Expect the winner to ascend the victory podium sometime in December.

Papalote's Mission shop took home the hardware in our inaugural tournament in 2004; two years later, Gordo Taq. in the Inner Sunset danced to the top of the hill. Neither taqueria was the odds-on favorite to go all the way in its year of crowning glory. Salient point: youneverknow.

Capsulized looks at each Scrum participant:

Gordo Taq. (Inner Sunset)
2008 Scrum seed: 1
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.59 (Mustache Chart ranking: 5)
Scrum performance history: Champ, 2006.
Credentials: A few years on from its mid decade great leap forward, Gordo remains pretty much unassailable. It ratcheted up its highest rating yet (9.08) on our last visit.
Achilles heel: Boneheaded management never even posted its 2006 championship certificate! Boo.
Great Mustache Insider: These people have the knack, and they know how to use it.

Papalote (Mission)
2008 Scrum seed: 2
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.70 (Mustache Chart ranking: 1)
Scrum performance history: Finalist (2nd place), 2006; Champ, 2004.
Credentials: Papalote is a Scrum fixture - a perennial finalist, in fact - and one of the few truly consistent taquerias in town. It boasts ten (ten!) OMRs of 8.50 or better since 2003, including an 8.83 on our last visit. Unreal.
Achilles heel: Middling spiciness of late.
Great Mustache Insider: These people invented the knack. New location at the pearly gates opening soon.

Taq. San Francisco
2008 Scrum seed: 3
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.62 (Mustache Chart ranking: 2)
Scrum performance history: Quarterfinalist (5th place), 2006; Finalist (2nd place), 2004.
Credentials: Our desert island taqueria has been resurgent on recent visits (8.73, 8.75) following its largely unspectacular 2006. The corner shop still owns the highest OMR on Burritoeater record (9.38, 2/16/2004) and is capable of absolute dominance on any given day.
Achilles heel: It's also capable of being just pretty good on any given day.
Great Mustache Insider: Along with Papalote, the only three-time Scrum invitee in town. First-ballot hall of famer.

Taq. El Castillito (Golden Gate / Larkin)
2008 Scrum seed: 4
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.60 (Mustache Chart ranking: 4)
Scrum performance history: None. (Its Church St. sibling shop was a 3rd place semifinalist in both 2006 and 2004.)
Credentials: All the Castillito hallmarks (extraordinary tortilla/cheesework, generous avocado usage, burly sizing) remain in place. It's also home to one of San Francisco's most devastating breakfast slabs.
Achilles heel: Castillito is seemingly content to be the Kinks foil to Papalote's Beatles, Taq. San Francisco's Stones, and Gordo's Who on the San Francisco taqueria scene.
Great Mustache Insider: Hopefully our judges panel doesn't accidentally end up at El Disastillito, the clangfest that's a block east of this shop.

Taq. Can-cún (Mission/Valencia)
2008 Scrum seed: 5
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.24 (Mustache Chart ranking: 14)
Scrum performance history: None.
Credentials: This place has been killing it lately: two efforts in the uppermost eights since Summer 2007.
Achilles heel: We're already planning to bring our own napkins, just in case.
Great Mustache Insider: Is "Can't-cún"'s overrated era in the rear view mirror for good?

El Burrito Express (Outer Sunset)
2008 Scrum seed: 6
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.31 (Mustache Chart ranking: 10)
Scrum performance history: None. (Its Divisadero St. sibling shop was a 6th place quarterfinalist in 2006.)
Credentials: The tiny little joint rang up its first-ever 9.00-mustache OMR this past June. Those embarrassing six-mustache days of 2003 are a distant memory.
Achilles heel: Good grief, that's one confusing burrito menu up there on the wall behind the kitchen.
Great Mustache Insider: Riots could occur on San Francisco's east side if another Sunset taqueria wins another Scrum.

Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon)
2008 Scrum seed: 7
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.61 (Mustache Chart ranking: 3)
Scrum performance history: None.
Credentials: Right out of the gate, this hella southerly taqueria gave our panel a mustachioed jolt this summer - twice!
Achilles heel: Now, everyone in town is watching. No more sneaky-sneaky.
Great Mustache Insider: Gordo was the seventh seed in 2006; Gordo won the loot. Papalote was a similar underdog two years prior to that. We're just saying.

El Norteño
2008 Scrum seed: 8
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.18 (Mustache Chart ranking: 17)
Scrum performance history: None.
Credentials: Our judges panel rewarded this truck's big year in '07 (8.50, 8.92) with its first Scrum invitation in '08.
Achilles heel: Last time a mobile taqueria landed a spot in the Scrum (2006, Tacos El Tonayense), the results-on-wheels were less than spectacular.
Great Mustache Insider: About how dark is this horse, would you say? Charcoal?

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October 1

Advance Hype

It's on, partner. Here we come with another one. This November and December.

Details to follow throughout October. Kindly stay tuned.

Relive past pageantry!