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Tonayense, El (Harrison/14th St.) MissionOMR: 7.44
cross street: 14th St.
ph. none
Map Visits: 4
Given this slabwagon's backdrop -- elevated freeway, big-box retailer, massive parking lot -- this is about as Los Angelish as San Francisco's ever going to get. And nobody knows better than El Tonayense's enterprising executive team that nothing fuels a contemporary American's burrito appetite quite like dropping wads of dollars on a 48" plasma television at Best Buy before heaving it into the back of an SUV. Take-out only. Cash only.

Will My Health Be Violated?

06/28/11Super Carne Asada$6.507.25 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); temperature (10); tortilla (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: rice (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (7); size (6); meat (6)
Clang: beans (5); sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

It was one of those carne asada burritos that reinforces why there are so many vegetarians in the world. Because when the beef’s as poorly chopped and full of stringy gristle as Tonayense’s was on this evening, what else is there to say except perhaps, Why is every piece of meat in this burrito connected to every other piece of meat in this burrito? Not only did we have to endure Tonayense’s signature dastardly sauce throughout this horrifyingly slender slabette, but with the inappropriately pale whole pinto beans bringing down every bite to which they were party, we had a number of elements to get bummed about. It wasn’t all suck-suck-sucky here, though, as spice operated at a professional peak throughout and the tortilla was well-enough grilled. Also: onions! And cilantro! But moreover: gristle! Boo.

04/07/08Super Pollo Asado$6.007.83 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); meat (10); temperature (10); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); rice (6); cheese (6)
Clang: beans (1)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

In every prior case, the numbers in parentheses above have solely represented the mustache rating for each element. But the number next to this review’s “beans” entry represents something more: how many actual beans on hand. One bean in a burrito? How does such a thing occur? We’re not usually conspiracy theorists, but we can’t help but wonder what premeditated this peculiar stunt. Take a look at some of those other element ratings – many are not shabby, and reflect the true nature of this fully delicious burrito. The tortilla was grilled ‘til it couldn’t be grilled no more, and it had the instantly seductive fragrance to prove it. (Never mind the ingrown tortilla folds that prevented a perfect burstage abatement score.) The exquisitely peppered grilled chicken knew what it was doing from the get-go, and we were happy it never stopped doing it for the duration. Steady-rollin’ spice was also an undeniable asset here, and other than a weird aftertaste stemming from the burrito’s final bite, the complementary salsas on hand (verde and roja) were on point all the time. Neither the miniscule cheese bits nor the tiny, mushed-together rice grains were significant contributors, but all that chopped onion sure was. And the immeasurable intangibility almost made us forget the mono-bean issue. Almost.

06/30/06Super Carnitas$5.007.58 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); cheese (9); spiciness (9); meat (8); rice (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); beans (7); vegetables (7); size (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Though hampered by a soft, floppy physique and an ingredient mix that prevented the kind of in-tortilla integration we always hope for, this burrito’s shot at glory was mostly tripped up by runny guacamole and some sauciness that didn’t know when to say when. All the pudgy cuts of fried pork were certainly delicious, and both heat indexes – spice and temperature – landed way up in the red zone, but the fact that we had to play gatekeeper against all the sauce trying to hop the fence tended to bog down the proceedings. We would have preferred some pastier refried beans, but they represented a sizable improvement over our first visit (see below). Nothing here tasted out of whack, but the general runniness cast a bit of a pall.

05/28/06Super al Pastor$5.008.25 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); size (6); rice (6)
Clang: beans (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

The complete absence of any eight-mustache element ratings spelled it all out: this was a streaky slab. And fortunately for its sake, the great moments outweighed the mediocre ones. Tonayense’s spectacular sauciness was evident in all its usual delicious splendor – if only it had penetrated the dense, couscous-sized grains of brown rice. We had to ding a mustache or two for the slender shape and overabundance of folds in the tortilla crease region, but these design flaws were more than offset by a diced onion-rich vegetable posse and plenty of delectable, sauced-to-high-heaven barbecue pork. Sadly, the refried beans stiffed, as unmemorable taste and poor dispersal undercut any chance they had for a positive contribution. Still, the grilled tortilla was a welcome treat, and this burrito’s intangible cred was never in doubt. And they pulled off that all-hot bite trick. That’s one of our favorite tricks.