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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, September 2007back to archive

August was not a banner month out on the local taqueria tiles. Bite. Chew. Mull. reports on our judges panel's angst.

This edition's Dear Beano is worth a read, if only to be there when our taqueria sage tells some poor soul to "stick it."

For what it's worth, Obstinate Reader Commentary is now a PG-rated feature. The Formative Years is a poignant, sepia-toned retrospective of our earliest works. Complimentary boxes of tissue available in the theatre lobby immediately following the screening.

Anyone with an aversion to fine print may as well just give (epilogue) a miss.

Club Slab is open. Pull up a food.

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Life Beyond 500 Reviews Ain't All Spicy Pico de Gallo And Freshly Made Chips

The heavily mustachioed glory days of July became a hazy memory by the end of August. Just as July delivered six eight-mustache burritos and one nine-mustache burrito, August limped past the finish line with only one eight-mustache arrow in its quiver. All mixed metaphors aside, at least that one winning burrito was a real milestone: media-saturated number 500 in the annals, courtesy of Papalote's Mission shop.

But apart from that solitary evening of glory on 24th St., it was a rough month around the town's taquerias, with particularly disappointing slabs spewed forth by the kitchens at Taq. Reina's and, most shockingly, the previously dependable Tacos El Tonayense truck on Harrison near 19th St. A pair of new places, Taq. Alebrijes and Taco Stop, also arrived at the civic burrito party dressed to the sevens and looking a little uncomfortable.

All told, August's OMR of 7.28 was paltry compared to July's quite robust 8.09. It's all that one guy's fault.

LOCO TACO TAQ. (Lower Haight), 8/1/07, Breakfast (Chorizo): 7.50 mustaches
Loco Taco’s kitchen has a habit of misinterpreting “extra spicy” requests as “extra saucy.” Of course, certain salsas often equal treble-kickin’ spice, but that doesn’t give taqueria staff permission to drown any given slab in a saucy furor.

AGUILA DE ORO (Bayview), 8/4/07, Super Pollo: 7.83 mustaches
Not even a half dozen nine-mustache element ratings could muster enough torque to tow this burrito out of the Ditch of Deficient Intangibility.

PAPALOTE (Mission), 8/7/07, Super Chicken Molé: 8.25 mustaches
There was that one season when Willie Mays’ batting average was only .304. Well, first-ballot Hall of Famer Papalote hit .304 this time out. Here's to flawed excellence.

TAQ. REINA'S (South of Market), 8/14/07, Super Pollo Asado: 6.83 mustaches
Drier than the Los Angeles River and bereft of any charm whatsoever, this burrito continually lunged for the lightswitch in the dark, but kept flipping on the garbage disposal by mistake.

TAQ. CHILE VERDE (South of Market), 8/18/07, Super Pollo Asado: 7.83 mustaches
This burrito wore pressed trousers, charmed everyone at dinner, and had your daughter home from the school dance by 11 P.M. And when she walked in, she just sighed, Unspectacular burrito, and headed upstairs to bed.

TAQ. ALEBRIJES (Fisherman's Wharf), 8/22/07, Super Bistek: 7.17 mustaches
Most everything in this short and stocky burrito tasted like the salsa roja that dominated its existence. Problem was, the salsa roja had “Pace Picante” written all over it. Ah, Fisherman's Wharf.

TACOS EL TONAYENSE (Harrison/19th St.) (Mission), 8/26/07, Super Pollo: 5.75 mustaches
This Mission slabwagon’s slabmaker clearly dipped into two different bins of poorly cut carnitas for our burrito – one labeled “mushy,” the other labeled “leathery.” Neither style much worked for us. What a train wreck.

TACO STOP (Bayshore), 8/29/07, Super Pollo: 7.08 mustaches
Taco Stop's red logo is designed in the shape of a stop sign. Alright.

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Out To Lunch All Day, Every Day

"Don't be such a grouch, Beano." "You've got all the answers, don't you?"

"We love you, Beano." "Yeah, I'll bet you do, you turkey."

"Beano, I'm a complete stooge who enjoys drippy, poorly foiled burritos that suffer from jarring temperature inconsistencies and divisive ingredient mixes." "Stick it, dummy."

"I like El Castillito's burritos best, Beano." "WHO CARES?!"

He's rude. He's a grumpy old man. He always has to get the last word in. He doesn't like you. But he's a fountain of taqueria knowledge. And his contract rate is reasonable.

Questions, comments, anecdotes re: San Francisco taquerias:

Questions re: ham sandwiches:

Dear Beano: Last night, I made the best burrito ever. Ground elk meat with onions and chile powder, fresh guacamole, chipotle salsa, lettuce, cilantro, cheese and sour cream. A relative is an elk hunter, hence the unusual meat choice.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I have a relative who restores antique cars, but that doesn't mean I enjoy making burritos out of head gaskets and water pumps.

Dear Beano: So, yesterday I met some friends in the park, and I brought a burrito from El Buen Sabor with me. My friend Deborah tasted it and, chewing thoughtfully, said, "Hmmm...Valencia St. burrito...." -- bite chew mull -- "...between 16th and 19th..." -- mull chew bite -- "...make that 17th and 19th." Astounding.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I'm more astonished than astounded, really. I used to get astounded when I was younger, but these days, I don't have the energy for it any longer. Astonishment seems to have taken over as my preeminent overexaggerated reaction when I see someone pinpoint the origin of a burrito nearly down to the exact block. I'm sure both "aghast" and "agog" could enter the discussion at various points as well, given my advanced age. Also, I want to meet your friend.

Dear Beano: Those signs always say, NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE, but since they never mention pants, I walked into El Toro on Valencia the other day without trousers on. (For the record, I was wearing boxers.) I don’t even think the people on the other side of the counter noticed, so there must not be a “no pants, no service” least not at El Toro. Anyway, I walked home, put my pants back on, and enjoyed the burrito.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I hope you bet someone five dollars beforehand.

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Because Obstinate Times Demand Obstinate (And Edited) Reader Commentary

You've got opinions. Opinions on San Francisco's thriving taqueria scene.

We've got a Web site. A Web site all about San Francisco's thriving taqueria scene. And it doesn't allow for user commenting.

You're stymied, right?

Not necessarily. There's always the option of e-mailing our Chief of Community, who currently spends about 45 minutes a month on the job here at Burritoeater Towers. If what you have to say is deemed to be particularly useful, or at least vaguely on topic, it could be published in a future edition of our monthly feedback feature, Obstinate Reader Commentary. And if it doesn't meet our stringent guidelines, didn't it still feel great to get that off your chest?

(Comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial board's discretion. In fact, you can pretty much count on it.)

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"A recent visit to Taq. Pancho Villa on the Embarcadero left me underwhelmed, not to mention covered in burrito fixins. If a burrito is so poorly assembled that it can't even be picked up once without disgorging its contents like a sorority girl after too much Everclear punch, is it still a burrito? My super carnitas burrito was so poorly enclosed, it could barely withstand the walk from the counter to my table."

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"I am compelled to comment on Los Compadres at Spear/Folsom...I went there on the advice of a friend and because of the general crowd assembled at lunch time, signifying a good spot. Forget it! The pollo asado burrito was about the worst thing I have put in my mouth in quite awhile...I was tempted to throw the whole thing in the garbage back at my desk after the first bite, but then I would have been hungry the rest of the day...better to suffer I guess, go figure...slab martyr. It was kinda like plastic pollo. Maybe the carnitas burrito is their speciality, but I'll never know, cuz I ain't ever going back!"

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"La Placita, with whom you appear to have a troubled relationship, is not nearly the disaster you make it out to be. Make sure to ask for the hot sauce, as well as queso fresco."
(Any taqueria that heats a lettuce-inclusive burrito in the microwave and sheathes it in wax paper gets filed on the "Disastrous" side of our ledger. -Ed.)

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A Special Look Back At A Simpler Time, When Burritos Were 40 Cents And People Drank Communal Horchata From Large Buckets

Every Web site has its nascent era, its minor league seasons. It wasn't so long ago that was a distant dream: We were in grade school and, like all the other kids, we wanted to grow up and become stars on the Internet.

But it wasn't a quick ascent to the rarified air of online celebrity. We didn't just sit down at the typewriter one day and start slinging forth phrases such as "Grade F monkey meat" and "buxom slab." It took much woodshedding, determination, patience, and of course, biting, chewing, and mulling.

Burritoeater's Archives staff recently uncovered a few of our judges panel's first attempts at composing descriptions and reviews of San Francisco taquerias. These fully restored Web pages offer a heretofore unseen look at the artistry of food criticism in its most innocent form, Burritoeater-style.

Our 1928 look at Taq. B. Adilene is a particularly insightful peek into our panel's primary school years. Tellingly, the content on this page was produced before the advent of both verbs and SpellCheck.

A 1932 visit to Taq. Iris describes our pre-teen panel's first exploratory foray into the realm of "variety meats" - a highly infrequent trend over the years.

A rarely viewed snapshot of our collegiate panel's self-styled "Hemingway phase" is available on Taq. Solo Yo's page, where our gang enjoyed a burrito in 1940.

Sadly, each of these taquerias has since closed. Taq. B. Adilene is now a Crunch fitness center; Taq. Iris became a haberdashery in the mid-1950s before eventually settling into its current incarnation as Peter Ueberroth - a retailer of foofy, stupidly overpriced "home furnishings"; and, Taq. Solo Yo recently re-opened as a methamphetamine laboratory, with its own on-site Wells Fargo and Starbucks.

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Yours, in delicious horchata,