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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, March 2008back to archive

Bite. Chew. Mull. comes before Dear Beano, which itself precedes Obstinate Reader Commentary, our monthly reader-contributor section.

Dear Beano is wedged between Bite. Chew. Mull., our rundown of the previous month's taqueria visits, and Obstinate Reader Commentary.

Obstinate Reader Commentary follows both Bite. Chew. Mull. and Dear Beano, our reader e-mailbag feature.

(epilogue) is this august publication's fine print, and is generally a good deal more clear than this hopelessly tangled web you've been trying to unravel since you began reading this.

In any event, Club Slab is open. Pull up a food.

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Following our judges panel's Great Siesta/Hiatus of January 2008, it's no wonder these slippery jerks were aching to rip some foil and recommence the biting, chewing, and mulling that made them civic folk heroes in the first place.

February's Overall Mustache Rating was a respectable, if unmemorable 7.75, buoyed by a handful of success stories from Tacos El Tonayense's Shotwell truck, Taq. Can-cún on Market, Taq. Guadalajara in the Excelsior, and El Tesoro's original shop on O'Farrell, but dragged down by the month's big ghastly from Broadway Express in North Beach. Self-aggrandizing La Taqueria wasted yet another opportunity to get back on our good side after all the years of us reaching for a high-five but being left hanging by the neon-lit siren. Why didn't we just get a taco and call it a day? In other headlines, the Mission's El Paraiso debuted well enough, while newly remodeled/reopened El Toro came up all shrugs.

TACOS EL TONAYENSE (Shotwell) (Mission), 2/1/2008, Super Pollo Asado: 8.58 mustaches
Tonayense’s verde-ish sauce-elixir was at it again, and in a good way. Plenty weighty, mighty tasty.

BROADWAY EXPRESS (North Beach), 2/4/2008, Super Chicken: 5.83 mustaches
Unfortunately for Broadway Express, you can’t taste affable service, especially when the tortilla is this gummy. The chicken's blandness suggested it had been cooked in a complete flavor vacuum.

LUNA TAQ. (South of Market), 2/6/2008, Super Chile Colorado Beef: 7.50 mustaches
Luna's shredalicious beef was a major improvement over the boinger steak we endured on our 2006 visit. But mid seven-mustache nowhereland was still an inevitability.

TAQ. CAN-CÚN (South of Market), 2/9/2008, Super Breakfast (Chorizo): 8.33 mustaches
An ingredient mix this all-in deserves a standing ovation from everyone in town. Some slurping, however, was required.

LA TAQUERIA (Mission), 2/11/2008, Carne Asada: 6.92 mustaches
Why? Why must La Taqueria front? Its highest-rated burrito to date still bummed us out, and we've got 266 words to prove it.

TAQ. GUADALAJARA (Excelsior), 2/13/2008, Super Carnitas: 8.58 mustaches
What began as a slow burn of spice turned into a complete inferno by slab’s end. So, just right. Further declumped cheese would have resulted in an even higher mustache rating.

EL TORO (Mission), 2/16/2008, Especial Carnitas: 7.58 mustaches
Serious cheese-related gaffes and an overall feeling of lovelessness had us yawning our way through this porky meal. Nice new windows, though.

EL TESORO (O'Farrell) (Civic Center / Tenderloin), 2/20/2008, Super Carne Asada: 8.42 mustaches
A winning slab in which the true stars were the extraordinary salsas (verde and rojo) and a mix that recognized the value of ingredient team play. Sloppy-delicious refried beans also won us over early on.

TAQ. EL GRAN TACO LOCO (Mission), 2/23/2008, Super Pollo Asado: 7.92 mustaches
Strange, but true: One of the best sub-eight-mustache burritos we’ve known. Its construction was so tightly wound, nothing dripped nor spilled when we recklessly dangled the slab upside down halfway through.

EL PARAISO (Mission), 2/28/2008, Beef: 7.83 mustaches
A pair of surprising veggie toss-ins – sliced serrano peppers and shredded lettuce – had our emotions running in opposite directions. Win some, lose some.

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Narcotics offenses in the taqueria kitchen. Golden Arches. Hobbits! Our taqueria sage tackles all the controversial issues head-on this time through.

Mr. Cook enjoys hearing from his readers, even if they generally regard him as a nattering nabob of negativity:

Dear Beano: What's with the rash of taquerias getting banged lately for doubling as drug fronts? Does it make you think twice before asking for extra spice?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Sounds as if the numerical equivalent of a nationwide "rash" is three then? Let's get our bearings here before we jack this up a few levels to "epidemic" status: There was that popular burrito-and-coke deal in Longmont, Colorado a couple months ago, and now it's been discovered that a taco joint up in Yuba County has been spiking its horchata with methamphetamine in addition to the usual cinnamon. The third offending establishment - right here in previously drug-free San Francisco - wasn't even a true taqueria, but rather one hell of a speaker system that occasionally served non-burrito food. Sure, it's a weird chain of events. But until the DEA fatcats lower the boom on communal hookah pipes in all these belly dancing dens posing as Mediterranean restaurants around town, I'm not too worried about a few habañero-laced burritos landing me in rehab out at Trembling Hills.

Dear Beano: Is there a standard for burritos vs. super burritos? Is it size? Is it guac? Is it both?
Dear Apocalypse reader: A super burrito usually includes everything a regular burrito does, in addition to cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. Certain taquerias will throw down jumbo tortillas exclusively for their line of super burritos, and relegate the regular tortillas to the less premium models. Super burritos also may contain the elusive "Golden Brown Ticket," a rare find that enables the lucky discoverer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit SlabLand for a day. SlabLand is a fantastical wonderworld: rivers of Papalote chipotle salsa to swim in; tree trunks of Taq. Guadalajara pastor to nibble on; fluffy piles of La Corneta Spanish rice to leap into. Imagine Chuck E. Cheese doing burritos instead of pizza, and you're getting close.

Dear Beano: Did you catch that McDonald's was giving away its breakfast burrito, the McSkillet, over a couple mornings recently? All you had to do to get one was buy a coffee or juice. I think you missed your chance to go big. Imagine if a person with your credentials were to endorse Mickey D's. I can see the 30-second spot during the NBA playoffs. You're standing there on the lip of Twin Peaks, the fog's rolling in, the sun's coming up over the bay, and you're munching a tender breakfast burrito at daybreak with one of those bug-eyed TV commercial expressions as you inform your adoring public, "This is good, America!!" Come on.
Dear Apocalypse reader: Today's NBA doesn't deserve me. Anyway, I got my lucrative Keds shoe contract after launched. David Stern can go suck on a McSkillet with whomever came up with your boneheaded idea.

Dear Beano: Have you any plans to "test" burrito joints in Marin?
Dear Apocalypse reader: "No," I'm afraid "not."

Dear Beano: Is Taq. Margoth named after a villain in a Tolkien story?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Could be. I should also reiterate that while I don't plan to make on-Burritoeater-record visits to burrito shops in Longmont, Piedmont, Belmont, or any other communities outside San Francisco, I will from time to time descend into Middle Earth and the darkest depths of Mordor for the right burrito.

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This is the part where the Burritoeater Community Relations Board tosses you, Jim or Jane Q. Reader, a hot bone dipped in a vat of fresh beans (your choice: whole pinto, refried, or black). Bones dipped in guacamole run a buck extra.

Gather your thoughts on San Francisco's vibrant taqueria scene and gnaw the night away, friends:

(Comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial staff's discretion.)

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"I went by El Burrito Express in the Outer Sunset one morning after yoga, and about 15 tomatoes, 4 halved onions, and some peppers were on the open grill, charring away. They make their own red and green salsa there. The red is the best around."

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"I suggest you try the deluxe pollo burrito at La Cumbre. I agree that several taquerias have surpassed this (arguably) original burrito spot, but I still think it deserves a review."

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"You've lost serious credibility with me by giving that new place off Union Square, Herbert's, a positive review. I could deal with your recent love for La Salsa Downtown, because I don't actually think their slabs are lame. But Herbert's? That's like eating a Hydrox cookie in a city full of Oreos."

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Yours, in delicious horchata,