the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Tepa Taq., El MissionOMR: 7.70
2198 Folsom
cross street: 18th St.
ph. 415/255-8372
Map Visits: 5
Old-time Mission taqueria El Tepa seems to be more popular than ever these days, particularly when area workers pour in during the daily lunch rush. Looking for an ego boost? The friendly fellow at the register may call you “Boss,” even if you're down near soil level on your company's totem pole. Credit cards accepted. Breakfast available. Closed weekends.

Will My Health Be Violated?

02/16/12Special Breakfast (al Pastor)$6.307.69 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); sauciness (9); eggs (8); beans (8); cheese (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); rice (7); meat (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (3)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We didn't request rice in this breakfast burrito, but there it was — piles upon piles of rice, peas and all. These things happen in our line of work, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve calling out in the first sentence of a review. OK, onward! Sizing was long — quite long, actually — and enormous, and none of our surly panel members could at all complain about the endless run of hot bites or the need for only one napkin throughout. Neither the eggs nor the meat assumed center stage, however (you'd think one of them would, no?), and while the gently scrambled eggs took to their supporting role nicely, the ill-chopped and flavor-deficient pork was a near-useless bit player in the saga of this burrito. We're unsure exactly how the folks in El Tepa's kitchen fused the cheese and guacamole into a single melto-mass, but they did, and the concoction worked out fine for us, albeit in kind of a weird way. But aside from the criminally infrequent moments of spiciness, our biggest truck with this giant foiled food was with its severely imbalanced portions — too much rice, not nearly enough meat, and a mix that sent almost all the pico de gallo packing down to the burrito's hind end. But perhaps El Tepa can learn something from all this and market its guaca-cheese?

03/04/09Special Chile Relleno$8.027.73 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); rice (9); vegetables (9); size (8); beans (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7); ingredient mix (7); temperature (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We spent 15-plus bites on the deck of El Tepa’s SS Steady-Truckin’ Shruggery, and while the ride certainly didn’t make us seasick or anything, it was hardly the Love Boat – although this slab did manage to garner the maximum two-mustache intangibility bonus. As is always expected from any chile relleno burrito, there was no shortage of cheese on hand here, although given the temperature deficiencies, it’s surprising that the grates of Jack were as melted as they were. Hats off to the extra-flavorful rice and delicious batch of refried beans, as well as the glurgarific guac and richly flavorful battered chile. Hats on, however, to the too-tame spiciness and overall feeling that things just should have been hotter all around.

01/11/07Special BBQ Chicken$5.907.92 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); rice (9); beans (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: meat (7); vegetables (7); tortilla (6); cheese (6); temperature (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Never a dry moment at El Tepa. Not with salsa roja this fierce. Brandishing a spice index usually reserved for 911-level Indian/Pakistani entrees, this burrito had sirens blaring all over our panel’s taste buds. Overly lukewarm temperatures and a steamed, gummy tortilla prevented a trip over our eight-mustache summit, but enough elements here had the knack to where the final rating seemed appropriate. The Spanish rice armada was particularly impressive - its XL, pea-pelted grains bringing the right accent to damn near every bite; El Tepa’s refried beans also nailed it. The vegetable mix was long on cilantro and short on pico de gallo, while the conveniently diced chicken was good (not great), if slightly overcooked. Extra-thick shards of jack cheese weren’t as melted as we hoped, but it was a passable showing. Finally, you’ll note that this nicely sized torpedo took a one-mustache hit in the intangibility column. Why? It’s intangible.

05/24/05Super al Pastor$6.147.83 Mustaches
As everyone’s favorite taqueria anthem, “Piano Man,” bleated from somewhere inside El Tepa, we gnawed our way through this perfectly respectable slab. A tight wrap yielded an ingredient mix that was surprisingly diversified at times, although the fact that El Tepa’s excellent guacamole didn’t appear until halfway in came as kind of a downer. This burrito’s finest attribute – its fearsome spice – made its presence known early, often, late, and even into the after-burrito glow, but the overly diced al pastor maintained an overly low profile from start to finish. The pea-pelted Spanish rice was well distributed and tasty, and El Tepa’s refried beans have never been a letdown. Some top-flight pico de gallo and excellent saucing further advanced this burrito’s fortunes, but the deal-breakers had their say in the form of uninspiring dimensions, overmatched meat, pods of semi-melted cheese, and most tellingly, hints of imperfect heat distribution. How we abhor the unhot bite.
05/20/03Super Carne Asada$6.148.00 Mustaches
El Tepa’s burritos aren’t just burritos – they’re experiments in Newtonian physics. The hind end of ours bursted, then steadily morphed into some sort of warm, guacamole/bean still-ooze that, incredibly, never crashed down. Elsewhere, some estimable flavor ensemble work, generous sizing, and loads of tasty steak helped get this burrito to the promised land, earning its eight mustaches the hard way. Truly a gravitational marvel, quite the contraption. It's stories like this that make us always ask for a foil wrap.