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Reina's, Taq. South of MarketOMR: 7.25
1550 Howard
cross street: Lafayette
ph. 415/431-0160
Map Visits: 4
Rumors continue to swirl that this less than lively taqueria is operated by local heavyweight Taq. Can-cún; conspiracy theorists point to the time around 2005 when Can-cún’s brass hoisted their shop's familiar menu behind the counter, scrawled “Reina’s” on a rectangular piece of paper, slapped it over the menu header, and congratulated themselves on saving a few bucks. (A much more pro-looking menu has since been posted.) And speaking of bizarre items on the wall, can someone please explain the oversize folk-art portrait of Gavin Newsom that dominates the back wall of the dining room here? Breakfast and bottled beer available. OK salsas pair poorly with ghastly, borderline-stale chips. Cash only.

Will My Health Be Violated?

04/11/10Super Carne Asada$5.997.25 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); size (8); cheese (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7)
Clang: ingredient mix (5); beans (2); sauciness (2)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

The problem here wasn’t with the meat or the tortilla. No, these elements were right on target — Reina’s carne asada was consistently flavorful with a hint of smokiness, while the tortilla was smartly grilled, though not so much that it cracked itself open. And the veggie consortium also had a lot going for it, all the way down to plenteous avocado slices and tangy pico de gallo. We also appreciated the layer of melted cheese along the tortilla’s interior, as well as the completely idiot-proof construction. What got our panel of burrito elitists all up in a lather were not only the serious ingredient segregation issues, which divided our foiled meal into two clearly defined areas — rice vs. not rice — but also the horrific dearth of both beans and salsa. Reina’s refrieds finally made their debut down near the hind end, and there was so little sauciness to contend with here, those comparisons we made to the Los Angeles River in a prior review of this Reina’s shop (see 8/14/07 immediately below) were just as valid this time through the mustache mill. Hrumph.

08/14/07Super Pollo Asado$5.506.83 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); cheese (9); temperature (9); vegetables (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: meat (5); rice (5); spiciness (5); sauciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)

This drab slab was fortunate to have a few elements working in its favor; without its handful of eight- and nine-mustache ratings, it would have slipped into our gutter of all-time clangers. Not that 6.83 mustaches is a feat to be particularly proud of. 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. Despite a whole bunch of jack cheese melted upon the heartily grilled tortilla, flavor was almost completely on leave, with only a few slices of avocado pitching in to the contrary. The grilled chicken was barely (if at all) seasoned, and one or two gristly moments further roached any chance of respectability. Meanwhile, Reina’s rice boasted even less taste than the chicken, and this burrito’s failure to spice only worked against it. All the unwieldy tortilla folds just added insult to injury.

07/27/05Super Carne Asada$4.997.67 Mustaches
Though it fared better on the 10-Mustache Scale™ than any of its Can-cún cousins have to date, Reina’s effort here prompted little more than a mumbled “mmmph” amidst a series of lazy shoulder shrugs. Prospects looked strong as this food-blimp’s foil peeled to reveal a nicely grilled tortilla, but early bites showcased a segregated ingredient mix that persevered throughout the slab’s harmlessly enjoyable duration. An overly enthusiastic helping of Spanish rice and a dearth of beans hallmarked a wickedly spicy, yet sub-sauced ensemble, while the unremarkable carne asada underscored the whole cavalcade of mere adequacy. To its credit, the burrito’s construction was so foolproof that it could have survived a seventh-story fall, but that can only carry a slab so far in this town.
12/10/04Super Carnitas$4.998.26 Mustaches
The burstage patrol had to be called in early, but aside from a major tortilla cleave, everything else here was strictly on-point, from the generous sizing and nice carnitas (salted just enough) to a beautifully avocado-enhanced mix and extraordinary overall flavor. Diced onion, flavorful pico de gallo, and cilantro also helped make this burrito a happy place. And you can’t expect a tortilla to be grilled any better than this.