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Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, August 2009back to archive

Once upon a time, there was a monthly feature called Bite. Chew. Mull. It offered a capsulized look at each of the previous month's taqueria visits, all without ever using the word "scrumptious."

Then along came a grouchy older guy with a Q&A column called Dear Beano. He had pretty bad breath and a couple of neck goiters, and he wasn't very popular at Burritoeater Towers anymore. But the editorial board kept him onboard as the Apocalypse's dedicated "irascible nostalgia guy."

After that was Obstinate Reader Commentary, that bearded feature always riding around the Mission on a brakeless bicycle in a fedora and powder blue "Nurses Do It Better!" tee.

Finally, (epilogue) came along and put them all to shame with its hazy mysticism and occasional Fat Albert reference.

Pull up a food.

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Minnesota Man Claims Monkey Bowled Perfect Game

Absent utter train wrecks and, with one exception, full of capable-to-excellent burrito fare, the final July of the '00s was a good time to be in our panel's sneakers. We visited an unusually high number of non-traditional establishments (trucks, farmers market booths, closet-size joints) throughout the month, and other than the farmers market booth, each entrant came away with nothing less than 7.75 mustaches and souvenir trail of bean-splattered foil. None were debut visits, but August will have us dropping into at least three new burrito purveyors in town for the first time -- follow along in this month's Blargh.

TAQ. LA TAMBORA (Mission Terrace), 7/2/2009, Super Grilled Chicken: 7.92 mustaches
Despite the fully respectable OMR, that certain yo no se que was on leave here.

TAQ. EL CASTILLITO (Golden Gate / Larkin) (Civic Center / Tenderloin), 7/4/2009, Super Carnitas: 8.17 mustaches
Even on an off-day, El Castillito somehow comes through -- squish-meat and all.

DONNA'S (Financial District), 7/7/2009, Donna's: 6.91 mustaches
Ricotta cheese? Not quite. And we thought we were so close to scooping the world’s first write-up of a lasagna burrito.

LOS COMPADRES (Tehama) (South of Market), 7/10/2009, Super Carne Asada: 8.00 mustaches
Fully melted cheese-goo here. Half-melted cheese-lumps there. And a wrap tighter than a Trembling Hills straitjacket.

TACOS SAN BUENA (Sansome / Sutter) (Financial District), 7/15/2009, Super Pastor: 7.75 mustaches
A 7.75-mustache burrito in downtown San Francisco is comparable to an 8.25-mustache burrito almost anywhere else in San Francisco.

TAQ. EL CASTILLITO (Castro), 7/19/2009, Super Breakfast (Chorizo): 8.54 mustaches
Extraordinary breakfast burritowork, and now, champ folk art all over the ceiling. You really can’t lose. Slab of the Month, July 2009.

CHUNKY'S (Civic Center / Tenderloin), 7/26/2009, Super al Pastor: 8.00 mustaches
How did this shrug-addled colossus achieve eight-mustache credibility? The $35,000 payoff extorted by our ruthless judges panel didn’t hurt.

GOZA-GOZA TACO (South of Market), 7/28/2009, Super Carnitas: 8.25 mustaches
This was no sophisticated uptown burrito, all perfectly symmetrical and gracefully mixed and well-educated. Its shirt was untucked, it drove an ’88 Beretta, and it said “hella” a lot. It also tasted real good.

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Feisty Millionaire Fills Potholes With $100 Bills

Our old bean / taqueria sage / windbag is particularly ramblesome this time, so we're giving Dear Beano's intro the month off.

Kindly submit San Francisco taqueria-related queries!:


Dear Beano: While I agree with your overall rating system -- in particularly the bustage abatement score, for no other reason than it being fun to say -- I must take issue with the spiciness factor you use to determine your overall mustache ratings. Have you considered there is a rogue faction of the public who enjoys a milder version? Please reconsider your rating system before you turn off an entire segment of burrito eaters.
Dear Apocalypse reader: It's a valid point you raise, and of course there are people who shy away from pepper-fire. It's just that I'm not one of them. However, I have a remedy: Why not take's ratings with a grain of pepper by inverting them accordingly to fit your palate's milder needs? If a burrito from Taq. El Taco Loco is awarded nine mustaches for spiciness, simply veer away, sharply. Just the same, if Las Estrellas earns one mere mustache for spice, put it on your list of places to visit next time you're in town visiting from your home in Arctic Finland.

Dear Beano: I don't understand the formula you use for your Overall Mustache Ratings for each taqueria. (Not the 13-category system you use to rate burritos -- I get that OK.) The OMR figure never seems to add up correctly for me. How do you come up with these numbers?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Well, we use computers. Whole banks of them, in fact. Our FAQ has some comments on our OMR formula as well: In an effort to ensure our ratings don’t grow too stale on the shelf, we figure our most recent visit into the burrito shop’s OMR twice, while past visits are counted once each. Also, all burritos rated before November 30, 2004 are no longer figured into a taqueria’s OMR. Comprende, friendo?

Dear Beano: Have you thought about going on Twitter?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Yes! I can see it now: "In the midst of a questionable burrito from Pancho Villa. 6 bites in. Will report back in another 3 bites." Or, "The line at Pancho Villa is outta hand tonight!!!!!!" Or perhaps just: "On the 22-Fillmore. Heading to Pancho Villa. Just picked nose." Sadly however, someone else with the "Burritoeater" handle is already offering compelling Twitter status updates from Maui. So maybe just check the Blargh every now and again, and read the Intestinal Apocalypse each month? That whole system seems to still work pretty well.

Dear Beano: I think you should expand your coverage to tacos. To make a good taco is really a fine art.
Dear Apocalypse reader: I enjoy tacos from time to time, but I don't have any plans to cover that scene. Too risky. Some of those taco places can be really dangerous...they tend to attract a certain low-rent element I'd rather avoid. I'm much more comfortable at burrito places. Way classier. You know Mijita at the Ferry Building? That place is super-sketchy -- go there around lunchtime and see for yourself -- and you can't convince me it isn't because they feature tacos (and no burritos!) on the menu. I wouldn't mill around there in broad daylight for all the peaches in Georgia, or even Fowler, California. On the other hand, take burrito specialist Taq. El Castillito on Mission near 17th St., easily one of the safest dining establishments in town; undercover cops love the place, so how could it not be? I've only got one life to live, and it's not going to be violently and abruptly ended by some ruffian when I'm midway through a taco-morsel that runs a mere $1.25. No way.

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Retired Grocer Constructs Tiny Mount Rushmore Entirely Of Cheese

There are currently 169 burrito purveyors open for business in San Francisco and featured on Surely you've got some thoughts to share re: one or two of them in our monthly public forum?

Don't you want to get it off your chest how much you live for Papalote's burritowork, how underwhelmed you were by your most recent foiled food experience at Chipotle, or how utterly regrettable your last Chino's burrito was? Or perhaps you can play the role of the La Taqueria apologist who tells our panel to "step off," or some such. (Come to think of it, it's been several months since we've heard from an up-in-arms La Taqueria supporter. Have you all just given up and started ordering the championship-caliber tacos there instead?)

You're invited:

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

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"I happened to encounter a five-hour delay at SFO recently, so I called my buddy and he and his wife picked me up. We drove up to Papalote -- arrived there at 10:01, and they denied us. So we hit Taq. Can-cún, and it was an unimpressive performance. The pastor was bland, greasy, and soupy. My friends each got carne asada and liked it a little better, but I think I'm over Can-cún."

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"Tried Rubio's out of desperation the other day, as I had 20 minutes for lunch before an afternoon meeting and I work right by the one at the Embarcadero Center. What a disaster. I wouldn't have fed my burrito to a starving dog. Later on, I read your 2008 review, and you're right -- there's just no excuse for that weird white sauce."

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"What is the deal with La Mexicana? One night I go there and my burrito is the greatest thing since the invention of hot food. Then I go back later the same week and, to borrow one of your better one-liners, it's like they've cranked the flavor-removal machine up to 11. Not so consistent."

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Now for this month's hidden bonus track.

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Yours, in delicious horchata,