cross street: 25th St.
Map Visits: 6
Shrug: meat (7); sauciness (7); temperature (7); size (6); tortilla (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (1); rice (0)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)
What sort of fresh slant can we adopt at this point that expressly delineates our disgust with the La Taqueria burrito-eating experience? Good grief, this boneheadedly rice-free burrito could have sucked the chrome right off a trailer hitch. Short on flavor and long on mediocrity, the sad-looking thing just limply sat there looking emaciated and barely fed, its horribly sticky tortilla steamed all to hell and yet, somehow, merely lukewarm to the touch. The burrito's interior didn't perform any more spectacularly, with poorly chopped (and surprsingly bland) carne asada, bare-minimal spice, and drab pinto beans holding a fort that wasn't worth storming in the first place. Advantages included all-melted cheese, robust vegetable involvement, and mostly airtight construction; disadvantages included pretty much everything else that had anything to do with this farce of a foiled lunch. Intangible charm? Rice? You're kidding us, yes? (But the cantaloupe agua fresca sure was mighty tasty.)
Shrug: tortilla (7); sauciness (7); size (6); beans (6)
Clang: rice (0)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)
The real story here? Our foiled dinner at The Taqueria wasn’t an abomination — three cheers for that. Yes, the burrito was undersized, flattish, and a little limp; indeed, the whole pinto beans didn’t do much for us (or the burrito, really); sure, intangibility took a one-mustache hit along the way; and of course, the nearest rice was next door at Elsy’s. But let’s try to turn one of our La Taqueria reviews into a semi-positive jam for a change. Other than a few minor grease drips, it was neat to eat, and we were way into the brazen spiciness and extra-flavorful carnitas from the start. Veggie content was a force to be dealt with throughout: the avocado dominated in all the right ways, while the pico de gallo was nice, nice, real nice. Melted cheese lined the inner tortilla, and if it would have penetrated every bite, we would have had little choice but to dole out a ten-mustache rating for the ingredient mix. 7.58 mustaches for a completely riceless burrito in this town? Yeah, it’s impressive. It’s also sort of comparable to stabbing yourself in the ankle, then running a marathon immediately afterward. Ow.
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); size (6); tortilla (6); beans (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: rice (0)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)
Another open-minded foray into San Francisco’s most “misunderstood” burrito shop resulted in another less than lackluster performance, even if this did turn out to be La Taqueria’s highest-rated burrito to date. We’re newly convinced that La Taqueria’s unembellished slabwork appeals to San Franciscans who prefer the San Diego style of the form: sans rice, possibly sans beans (a choice that inexplicably costs Joe or Jane Q. Burritoeater an extra buck), a bit more humbly sized than burritos at other local taquerias, and an overall austerity usually absent in the typical San Francisco burrito. As for our lunch here on this sunny winter day, we enjoyed a few elements, as we generally do – in this case, the delicious carne asada, ace guacamole, and liberally applied and melted gobs of jack cheese. The tomato-rich pico de gallo and increasing spice were also appreciated. Minor issues such as warm (instead of hot) slab-wide temperature and an ingredient mix that relegated more than the fair share of the meat to the hind end frustrated our panel a bit, but not half as much as the overamplitude of drippiness, flattish dimensions, and tortilla that flaunted its steamed (not grilled) stickiness in fool’s colors. But what sticks in our collective craw most about La Taqueria these days, far more at this point than the banishment of rice from the building, is how when we request refried beans on each visit and are met with a Yes, we can do that for you-type response, we are ultimately presented with ill-drained pintos in our overly soppy slab. Why? Why must La Taqueria front?
(We’ve considered tossing out the rice factor and calculating La Taqueria’s OMRs based on only 11 elements, but then every other taqueria in town would be playing ten-mustache stud with La Taqueria’s stacked deck. Not so fair.)
Shrug: size (6); tortilla (6); meat (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: beans (5); sauciness (4); rice (0)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)
Though it was a step up from the foiled debacle we endured here in July 2005, the full-mustache improvement couldn’t mask this burrito’s numerous flaws. First, the hoorays. Spice was all-fury, and perfect from start to finish. Jack cheese was typically on-point, while the diverse vegetable set was equally successful. And hats off to the hot-bite sweep. But while there was certainly no shortage of chicken within the fully ordinary tortilla, the unavailability of a grilled poultry option ended up biting this lanky burrito’s meat rating in the hind quarters. The ongoing absence of rice behind La Taqueria’s counter makes the probability of a soggy slab disturbingly likely, and that’s a real bummer. And how can their refried beans do such a spot-on imitation of watery pintos? It all conspired to create a lot of careful slurping at the taqueria table, and an awfully narrow margin separating this burrito’s price from its OMR.
Size: Long enough, but flat and real floppy. Girthless. Six mustaches.
Tortilla: Vaguely grilled, yet inexplicably flimsy. Six mustaches.
Meat: Our scribbled notes indicated some initial excitement about La Taqueria’s carnitas, but early comments of “moist, nicely shredded, tasty” eventually gave way to “greasy mush” further down the page. We raised our palm for a high-five; we were left hanging. Six mustaches.
Rice: Tough to gauge, since they don’t allow any of it in the building. Yah no be there. Zero mustaches.
Beans: Requested refrieds. Received ill-drained pintos. Quit kicking our shins like that. Six mustaches.
Cheese: To their credit, La Taqueria didn’t toss out every chapter of the burrito construction manual. One of only a few great songs on this otherwise flaccid double-album of ingredients. Nine mustaches.
Vegetables: Terrific tomato-infused pico de gallo. An ideal amount of jalapeño. Upper-shelf guacamole. Perhaps a bit heavy on the chopped onion. Eight mustaches.
Sauciness: Here’s where the train totally derailed. We lost count after the 170th napkin, but suffice to say there was a sorry, Lake Titicaca-sized puddle of slurp in the burrito basket by the end of it. We even got splashed at one point by a boat pulling a water-skier through it. Where’d it all come from? The watery pinto beans, the greased-up pork, possibly the otherwise fine pico de gallo – put ‘em all on trial. One measly mustache.
Spiciness: None more spicy. Ten mustaches.
Ingredient mix: An acceptably integrated ensemble. Seven mustaches.
Temperature: A lack of dependable tortilla insulation brought the internal temperature down quicker than usual. Seven mustaches.
Burstage abatement: Loosely wrapped, grease-sopped, and out of control from the top. We’ve already illustrated our point about this burrito’s runs, drips, and errors. Three mustaches.
Intangibles: Zero bonus mustaches. Zee-row.
It was a sad scene to absorb. But since we never like to go out on a bum note: La Taqueria’s strawberry agua fresca, to its credit, wielded a mighty heavy flavor hammer.