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Papalote Western AdditionOMR: 8.58
1777 Fulton
cross street: Masonic
ph. 415/776-0106
Map Visits: 13
An instant hit since its 2006 debut, Papalote's second location complements its Mission original nicely; it even earned our coveted Great Mustache distinction by winning the 2010 Slab Scrum in a rout. The kitchen’s creative take on traditional taqueria menu items boasts considerably wide appeal, while top-shelf ingredients and an unassailably delicious roasted tomato salsa help pack customers into four small tables and a long dining counter. Anyone with an aversion to eating burritos with silverware ought to request Papalote’s extra-special foil, still the shiniest in captivity. Breakfast and bottled beer available. Credit cards accepted. Elaborate, sorta freaky-looking kites suspended from ceiling.

Will My Health Be Violated?

10/31/13Super Marinated Tofu$9.497.67 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); burstage abatement (10); beans (9); temperature (9); tofu (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: size (7); cheese (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: sauciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

The last time we had a burrito this disappointing at either Papalote shop, it was April 2006 (see below) and the kitchen dropped the ball on including rice in our slab. Since then, it's been a cavalcade of eight-mustache — and, frequently, nine-mustache — spectacularity here, but the little taqueria's stranglehold on greatness loosened up a bit too much on this, our final on-record visit. Smaller than usual, but sheathed in a hellaciously grilled tortilla and built to withstand high-impact burstage-crashes galore, our brightly foiled lunch dialed back salsa involvement to the unfortunate point where dry, bunched rice almost became the norm. While the achiote-enhanced tofu certainly had it going on and the black refried beans were in typically sharp shape, the ingredient mix flirted with mediocrity — the pico de gallo was too concentrated up top, and the guacamole scattered throughout seemed rather low-profile. Most notably, though, was this burrito's alarming lack of intangible charisma. You know how a Papalote burrito usually saunters into the room and takes over the party, its magnetic personality (and perhaps also its long red cape) drawing an admiring crowd in no time? This one showed up in business-casual wear, hung out on the periphery, made small talk about work with a couple of equally bored onlookers, then went home to San Ramon and fell asleep watching ESPN with its shoes on.

11/11/12Super Pollo$9.198.50 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); beans (10); vegetables (10); burstage abatement (10); cheese (9); temperature (9); size (8); meat (8)
Shrug: rice (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

The tortilla was as unspeakably grilled than ever. The black refried beans couldn't have been tastier nor pastier. Thick-ass guacamole and riotously flavorful pico de gallo came through on all fronts. Error-free construction held everything together with sturdy integrity. All-melted cheese lined the near-crispy tortilla; warm bite after warm bite ensued. Burly dimensions basically dared our hearty-eating panel to down the entire burrito. (Our panel, of course, got it done.) The heavily grilled chicken was dependably good, and the entire slab-package's level of intangible infallibilty was typically off our charm meter. Why, then, the relatively disappointing overall rating here? The main culprit was an occasionally suspect ingredient mix that bunched the chicken together in certain areas and placed the spicier bites down low, all while the salsa struggled to penetrate our dinner's most rice-intensive regions. The results of these minor, but notable missteps? Chicken-heavy bites, ill-scattered spice, and pockets of vaguely dry rice. Well, we're all human. Even Papalote.

07/15/12Super Chile Verde Pork$9.199.08 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); sauciness (10); spiciness (10); ingredient mix (10); temperature (10); beans (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: cheese (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It's reached the point at Papalote's supposed satellite shop where a nine-mustache burrito is now an almost ho-hum affair. Almost, because we'll forever be instantly crushed out on any burrito that can put up this many swish-caliber ratings with such style and ease. With sharp construction and downright buxom dimensions in its corner — not to mention serious heat in the distinct realms of temperature and spice — this burrito's sole bellyache-worthy element was its globby, concentrated cheese...and even that was all-melted. The perfectly seamless ingredient mix managed to fuse the complementary camps of fine rice and better-than-fine black refried beans, and if the smattering of habanero salsa on hand wasn't arresting enough, the burly chile verde sauce brought down the dual hammer of flavor and spice in the most gracefully forceful manner imaginable. Reasonably sized chunks of stewed pork sated our carnivorous panel, and how about that delectably grilled tortilla? Well, how about that. Anything else? Unassailable intangibility! 9.08 mustaches! Papalote for President! Onions!

12/30/11Super Tofu Mole$8.948.17 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); tofu (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8)
Shrug: cheese (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: beans (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Mole burritos often operate at a ratings disadvantage for us, since the complex, chocolate-noted sauce has a tendency to steamroll anything in its path inside any given tortilla. This time through, the primary victim was Papalote’s often-extraordinary black refried beans, which became far less of a factor than usual in the mole-fest that was this short, yet squat and weighty slab. With a fragrantly grilled-to-the-tens tortilla, charmingly grilled and seasoned tofu, and sharp spiciness that lit us up in all the right ways, there was, as is always the case at Papalote, a lot to like here. There were also a few elements to shrug along with, such as all-melted cheese sadly concentrated on one side, equally ill-distributed guacamole, and a couple burstage-happy moments that had our neat and tidy panel max’ing out its sole napkin. Intangibility remained infallible throughout, however, and nothing resembling a cool bite ever reared up. The rice was also nice. And that was that.

12/27/10Super Carne Asada$8.499.17 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); meat (10); cheese (10); beans (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8)
Shrug: rice (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Earliest visits to Papalote on 24th St. saw our panel wax rhapsodic over the shop’s just-about-perfect meats, salsa, tortillas, and attention to burrito detail, while quietly grousing over relatively wee sizing and meek spice. These days, Papalote continues to work wonders with meats, salsa, and all the other essentials, while its twin former shortcomings have become distant memories: This was a respectably burly slab, with some dramatic pepper-fire in its belly. Our foiled dunch’s tortilla was as cracklingly grilled as ever, filled with robust black refried beans, steakhouse-quality carne asada, wonderfully glurgy guacamole and fresh pico de gallo, and what seemed like a quarter-jar of the taqueria’s famed roasted tomato salsa. Much melted cheese provided gooey counterpoint and pillowy textures along the inner tortilla walls, and hot bites and solid construction are simply givens here at this point. Our sole gripe, minor as it may be, was with the slightly moisture-deprived rice, a seven-mustache dip easily smoothed over by the graceful ingredient mix, studtacular intangibility, and of course, all that smoky and juicy beef. Don’t take burritos like this for granted, San Francisco.

12/19/10Super Pollo$8.499.33 Mustaches
Swish: beans (10); cheese (10); sauciness (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); size (8); rice (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Good grief, what more could a burrito-eating judges panel want? Papalote has always been in a league of its own in many ways, and this 9.33-mustache slab of near-perfection was its latest — and perhaps greatest — bulleye at the San Francisco taqueria archery range. Other than its fully respectable proportions and rice, every single element weighed in on the heftiest end of our mustache chart, starting with the brilliantly grilled tortilla and on through the perpetually on-point sauciness, gracefully charred chicken, and supporting onslaught of killer black refried beans. Pillowy melted cheese cushioned most bites, and with our “extra spicy” request buoyed by no meager portion of sliced jalapeño, we got the spice-drama we always hope for. A Papalote burrito rarely misses the ace vegetabular mark, and this one was no exception. Our more negative-focused readers will enjoy the following: A few bites could have been hotter, and some of the jalapeño slices hung out on the periphery a bit too much. End grousing, resume raving: We’ve only had two higher-rated burritos ever, so yeah, this was one hell of a deliciously rollicking good time.

11/26/10Super Chile Verde Pork$8.498.67 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); sauciness (10); beans (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: rice (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Ratcheting up its usual litany of uppermost ratings — just about everything here hit our swishometer — Papalote flexed its muscular burrito-power with heavily mustachioed results. Our slab’s delightful buxomness compensated for its slightly short length, and no, our panel doesn’t write porn scripts on the side. Intangible credibility was never in doubt from bite one onward, and between the all-grilled tortilla, all-pro sauciness, and all-melted cheese that permeated pretty much single bite, we were in all-mustache heaven there for a bit; an excellent scoop of black refried beans didn’t trail far behind the parade of perfection. Reasonably sized chunks of pork were pleasantly moist and plenty flavorful, while we were happy to see spiciness bare its teeth from time to time. Several merely warm bites could have been a little more piping-hot, and with the rice mostly left to its own devices before it finally joined the ingredient fray later on, overall integration here didn’t reach a championship level. On the construction side, a tighter wrap would have been nice, but we managed the minor inconvenience. Then we bought two jars of salsa to go.

12/03/09Super Marinated Tofu$6.749.00 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); sauciness (10); tofu (9); beans (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: size (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

In May 2006, Papalote’s super marinated tofu burrito went for nine mustaches at its Mission location; at the end of the decade, its Western Addition shop evened the score. How? Masterful salsafication — the kind only available here — and one ruthlessly grilled tortilla both played significant roles, while a host of other elements, including the gracefully charred / achiote-enhanced tofu itself, never blinked in the face of greatness. We’ve been major fans of Papalote’s black refried beans since that first single came out on Slabco back in ’03; the things haven’t lost any of their signature pasty thump in all the intervening years. Other than the rice being a little too low-profile for our liking, this burrito’s ingredient mix remained entirely trouble-free. Spice was polite enough for the neighborhood college kids, yet bitchin enough for our incorrigible panel of dropouts. Harmless bean seepage prevented a perfect burstage abatement rating, but the cheese-melting clinic happening back in the kitchen sure provided some elegant entertainment at our table. We could go on about the almost-there sizing or limitless intangibility, but we’ll hit it and quit before it looks like we’re on Papalote’s payroll.

06/16/08Super Carne Asada$7.248.58 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); beans (9); sauciness (9); temperature (9); ingredient mix (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

And again, slabular intangibility soared higher than one of Papalote’s famed kites. Pico de gallo and guacamole sprinted around our track at ten-mustache speed, while much melted cheese gooed up most every bite eight ways to Sunday. Given the stiff, overgrilled tortilla – a real rarity...but it can happen - saucy burstage was a bit of an issue throughout, as were occasional protrusions of Papalote’s always sharp black refried beans. Spanish rice was workmanlike and on the slightly dry side, while our sole beef with the less-juicy-than-usual steak was that it was merely excellent, rather than extraordinary. Finally, the vertical mix suffered at times, but all elements managed to weigh in equitably at one point or another. Does any of this make sense?

07/14/07Super Pollo$6.449.08 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); sauciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); meat (9); beans (9); ingredient mix (9); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: size (7); spiciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Like a virtuoso trombonist, or the most graceful roller skater you could ever hope to see in Golden Gate Park, Papalote makes it all look so remarkably easy. And with this 9.08-mustache stunner, the twin-cam taqueria’s Western Addition shop boldly stepped out of the considerable shadow of its older, more celebrated Mission sibling. Fire salvo one!: A perfectly grilled-to-flaky tortilla, construction that could have withstood The Big One, hot bite after hot bite after hot bite, and melted jack cheese and Papalote’s famed salsa scattered all about the slab. Fire salvo two!: Ultramega-grilled cuts of deliciously charred chicken, black refried beans that knew a thing or two about both taste and paste, and an ingredient mix that fostered healthy working relationships between all elements involved. Fire salvo three!: A well-rounded group of vegetable inclusions (thick ‘n’ sharp guacamole paired with infusions of tomato, cilantro, and onion), and just the right amount of capable, tiny-grain rice to pad out the whole production. Un-infernal, but respectable spiciness and typically just-short sizing may not deserve the silly fire-salvo! treatment, but polite pats on the back are still in order. On the rare occasion we’re presented with foiled food of this mustachioed magnitude, we can’t help but dream: Why? Why can’t they all be this way?

09/02/06Breakfast (Spanish Omelette)$6.008.25 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); beans (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: size (7); eggs (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

What bright, shiny foil! More importantly, how about that food within? Bedazzling burrito accessories and foolishly employed exclamation points aside, our first plunge into Papalote’s AM slab-pool was a brisk, belly-filling dip that begged the inquiry: What the hell took us so long? A little short but a lot chubby, this all-hot effort boasted more melted cheese than our panel knew what to do with, as well as a brilliantly grilled tortilla that doused any doubts about Papalote's grill being slow to fully heat up before the noon hour. It’s true that the omelette elements on hand (mega-diced scrambled eggs, grilled mushrooms and red bell pepper) were overshadowed early on by the delicious, yet encroaching black refried beans, but the ingredient ensemble got it together by the time we reached the lower half. This was a rare breakfast burrito that featured rice, and we were alright with that. The one clanging moment here – an unignorable dearth of spice – was tempered by Papalote’s tried/true salsa and all that ace cheese deployment, which nearly busted our mustache scale on its own.

06/11/06Super Chile Verde Pork$6.448.50 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); beans (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

A return to form for Papalote, and not just because they remembered to include rice this time. We shook hands with this reasonably sized lunch blimp, marveled at its all-hot tactile demeanor and gorgeously grilled tortilla, and commenced to bitin’, chewin’, and mullin’. Sauciness was a go-getter throughout – no surprise, given our choice of marinade-heavy meat – and the easy-shredding pork itself was a dependable deliverer of salted-just-right flavor. Spice crept in stealthily from every angle until reaching critical mass by burrito’s end. Some minor sauce-bleed down at the hind end, combined with a bit more squish than was probably necessary, spoke to imperfect construction, but that internal wall of gooey, melted jack made it all better. With some longer-cooked and better-integrated rice, this intangible-rich burrito surely would have hit higher in the eights.

04/09/06Super Chicken Mole$6.447.50 Mustaches
Papalote’s mole is not for the faint of heart. Darker than a Joy Division record and richer than any given Rockefeller, it’s a veritable lava flow that dominates everything in its path, even though it tastes much better and goes down more smoothly than actual lava. This surprisingly robust-looking slab – "surprisingly" because Papalote isn’t usually known for producing belt-busting burritos – featured well-grilled tortilla outerwear and, due to unrelenting sauce content, much softness at every turn. We contained any potential burstage mess, but as tasty as the black refried beans were, they only enhanced the squish factor. Melted jack cheese was a nice touch, as was chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro; thick guacamole provided a welcome green counterpoint to all the ebony-hued mole. A sharp ingredient mix and chunks of glurg-drenched chicken impressed our panel, and a perfect succession of hot bites set this burrito’s thermostat on high. So doesn’t it seem peculiar that the mole sauce would lord over every other ingredient on hand? Shouldn’t have Papalote’s esteemed brown rice offered some sort of soak-in counterpoint? It absolutely should have, if only it had been included. Oops. An honest mistake, to be sure. But one so costly.
07/19/05Super Mission (Chicken)$7.905.17 Mustaches
(This burrito’s rating isn’t included in Papalote’s OMR, since it was a product of the short-lived Tango 20! regime. But we keep its review - 2005's lowest mustache rating - on hand to demonstrate what a train wreck it truly was.)
What did we just have for dinner? What was that? It was 86 cents a bite, whatever it was. We know what we ordered, but what we eventually received was a tiny plastic cup of slaw and a couple of banana chips, with a wrap in burrito’s clothing on the side. (Or perhaps it was a burrito in wrap’s clothing.) Its guts exposed at the hands of a vicious diagonal chop-job, this pathetically wee little thing erroneously contained mushy black beans (we'd requested their “epazote pinto beans”), an alarming paucity of pico de gallo, and everybody’s favorite burrito toss-in, unmelted cheese. The tortilla was grilled, but so what? Its chewiness betrayed any evidence of time spent on the grill. The sorry half-cut encouraged disrespectable temperatures right away. Even the ingredient mix was kind of a disaster. The few pieces of grilled achiote chicken included were tasty, and there may have been enough spice to distract us for a few moments, but nevertheless, we felt pretty heisted by the end of our stay. There just wasn’t enough of anything on hand here...and at the same time, we’d had about enough. As food goes, sure, it was adequate. As a burrito? Clango 20! is more like it.