the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

San Buena, Tacos MissionOMR: 7.48
cross street: 22nd St.
ph. none
Map Visits: 8
Prior to San Buena Properties erecting some pear/tangerine-colored lofts on its lot at Harrison and 22nd in the early/mid '00s, this popular burrito wagon was the sole occupant of the space. The truck — most of the time it's a Tacos San Buena vehicle, other times an El Tonayense one — has long since been kicked to the Harrison curb, as everyone knows it’s tough to contest the property value of living quarters in San Francisco versus that of a carnitas taco. This used to be our favorite slabwagon in town, but burrito quality here has dropped significantly since its poor showing in the 2006 Slab Scrum. Not only that, but its on-again, off-again (mostly off) relationship with refried beans doesn’t help its cause, either. Credit cards accepted. Outdoor dining often available from neighboring restaurant Mis Antojitos; otherwise, be prepared to sit on the sidewalk or take it elsewhere.

Will My Health Be Violated?

09/15/13Super Pollo Asado$7.007.58 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); rice (8)
Shrug: meat (7); cheese (7); beans (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: vegetables (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

We've had our share – and your share, and your share – of burritos produced by the Tacos San Buena / Tacos El Tonayense mobile cartel over the years (nay, decades!), and we're reasonably certain by now that we can identify the taste of one while blindfolded. How? It's the sauce, Jim. No matter how weighty or well-mixed or smartly constructed or marginally spiced or vegetable-deficient this burrito was – and it was every one of those things – that old San Buena / Tonayense sauce-magic is bound to come crashing in every a Phil Collins drum intro. Maybe it's not the best in town, and it's certainly not subtle, but there's no doubt whatsoever that it is what it is. Still, one person's “Sussudio” or “In The Air Tonight” is another person's slightly-above-mediocre burrito, so when all-melted cheese is as impact-free as it was here – to say nothing of our too-occasional encounters with cilantro, or pollo asado that really wasn't all that asado – what's a judges panel to do except shrug uncontrollably? Whole pinto beans just have that kind of effect on us.

01/30/13Super Pollo Asado$6.507.33 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); burstage abatement (10); sauciness (9); temperature (9)
Shrug: size (7); tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (7); ingredient mix (7); cheese (6)
Clang: beans (5); vegetables (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Does the exclusive use of cilantro count as a vegetable contingent? In the mind of Tacos San Buena, it seems to, because that's the only veggie item that made an appearance in this too-slender slab. That's kind of weird, right? Our purist panel thinks so. At any rate, an oversight such as this didn't bode well for this burrito's mustachioed fortunes, and neither did the totally blah whole pinto beans or moments of unmelted cheese we endured. Many elements weighed out average -- the inoffensively adequate grilled chicken, the straight-faced ingredient mix, the shrugtacular tortilla -- but there were a few that came to play. We're talking about immediate spice gratification and airtight construction; we're also talking about high-powered salsa verde. Still, none of that radness could send this slab's intangibility any higher than the single-mustache bonus it earned. Why? Because that's the way it goes in football, Bubba. Sometimes your punter just sucks.

02/22/09Super al Pastor$6.007.42 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); tortilla (9); size (8); rice (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: cheese (7); spiciness (7); burstage abatement (7); meat (6); beans (6); vegetables (6)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

The weird thing is, it earned the maximum two-mustache intangibility bonus. Go figure. This handsomely sized greaso-slab certainly had enough elements working against it: major grease bleeds through the tortilla’s hind end; neon-orange pork grease every which way; also, some grease occurred. Have we mentioned this burrito’s grease? OK. The whole pinto beans on hand were dull-tasting and inoffensively adequate (barely), while spiciness seemed to increase with every bite. Small grates of Jack cheese contributed only semi-consistently...but when they did, hey alright, melted Jack cheese in our burrito. Grease-spewing as it was, the barbecue pork itself was strangely absent big flavor, although its sauce was plenteous, smoky, and richer than sweaty old Uncle Richie after a particularly lucrative day out at the West Palm Beach dog track. Onions! But sadly, few other vegetables showed up, apart from some cilantro here and there. Result: 40 shades of beige. The tortilla - marvelously cracked as it was, like the desert floor only without all that crunchy sand - did its best to stem the grease-tide, but there’s only so much that flour, shortening, and a few other ingredients can do. And yet, two hairy ones for intangible cred. If we could explain it, it wouldn’t be called intangibility, would it? Weird burrito. Onions!

12/08/07Super Carne Asada$6.008.00 Mustaches
Swish: sauciness (10); spiciness (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); tortilla (9); ingredient mix (9); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: beans (7); temperature (7)
Clang: meat (5); cheese (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Nobody was more surprised than us when this seemingly shrugalicious burrito landed squarely on our scoresheet’s eight-mustache fence. In spite of all the hell-bringing spiciness and the fact that the ever-mysterious Tonayense sauce was totally on its game all slab long, nothing could fully divert our attention away from all the unmelted grates of jack polluting this lengthy burrito’s innards. And as you’d expect, lukewarm moments were a concern. Elsewhere, the carne asada was particularly dull on its own without saucy enhancement, but enough bellyaching – after all, this burrito did earn eight mustaches. Construction was airtight, and the whole pinto beans held the fort admirably, if not super-adhesively. We appreciated the grilled tortilla and exceptional ingredient mix, which probably would have earned ten ‘staches had the meat not been bunched down low. And by the end, the whole production had clawed its way onto our eight-mustache ledge. Barely.

10/03/06Super Carnitas$5.007.08 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); meat (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); ingredient mix (7); size (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: beans (5); cheese (4); vegetables (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Three clangs? From a burrito purveyor this well-respected? Unacceptable. Tonayense’s trump card – the mysteriously transcendent sauce that’s been enhancing their burritowork since we can remember – went on leave this time around, and given the fact that this visit signaled the beginning of the 2006 Slab Scrum, the timing couldn’t have been less impeccable. The salsa roja on hand was furiously spicy, but given the austere ingredient landscape within the nondescript tortilla, it became thoroughly soaked up halfway in by the darkly hued grains of rice. This exceptional carnitas could only compensate for so many other shortcomings, from the parched-dry whole pinto beans and fatally underwhelming vegetable contingent, to a mostly invisible set of cheese that was, shamefully, a non-factor. Even the ingrown tortilla provided some mild irritation on our scoresheet. Ingredient integration was reputable, other than the way the initially fearsome spice seemed to tail off late in the slab. Clearly, this lengthy, yet disturbingly slim burrito should have been much, much better.

08/27/06Super al Pastor$5.008.33 Mustaches
Swish: sauciness (10); temperature (10); cheese (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); tortilla (8); rice (8)
Shrug: size (7); meat (7); beans (7)
Clang: vegetables (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It’s not too often such a high-scoring effort suffers a clang-level element rating and lives to tell about it. But leave it to this, our favorite Tonayense slabwagon among the storied fleet, to fly in the face of conventional slabular success. This truck’s staunch resistance to the refried bean revolution currently sweeping area taquerias, along with the near-total absence of vegetable content within the lightly grilled tortilla, may have hamstrung this burrito’s reading on our silly mustache meter, but as long as Tonayense’s secret sauce is on the scene, the “Suck” lever in their truck won’t ever get thrown. The sole vegetable on hand – a handful of admittedly rad grilled onions – couldn’t play the role of pico de gallo, avocado, and cilantro all in one, but for those same onions to earn five mustaches on their own speaks to how mighty tasty they really were. The barbecued pork was ordinary on its own, but as with all else here, it turned gold when paired with Tonayense’s magic sauce. Spice was on smash throughout, and all the melted cheese was almost as champ. Even the ingredient mix had the knack – perhaps an easier trick in this all-brown/orange showcase, considering the lack of greenery/reddery in the tortilla-house. And for not being our preferred refrieds, the dark pinto beans didn’t cause no real fuss. We’ll take it.

03/03/06Super Pollo Asado$5.008.75 Mustaches
Leading this exceptional foodpiece’s charge: burst-proof construction; lip-blasting, tongue-lashing spiciness; and most of all, that indefinable, elixir-like Sauce of the Gods we’ve only ever consistently found at this Tonayense truck. Bite in, bite out, this burrito sported fierce fire that propelled the already nicely seasoned chicken even further into the mustachosphere. They’d already run dry of refried beans by mid-evening (?!), but a few splats of pintos stood tall in place of our usual slop-adhesive of choice; meanwhile, the brown rice did its thing, and did it well. Cheese? Perhaps it was jack, perhaps it was Oaxaca, and it was melted like it ought to be. Tasty guacamole penetrated a number of bites, and even though the ingredient mix cordoned off most of the onion and cilantro at each end of the slab, it was still of respectable seven-mustache quality. (On a nitpicky tip, those veggie-dominated end bites could have been a shade hotter.) Dimensional report: admirably long, but kind of slender for our liking. And the grilled tortilla could have been flakier, but hey. Another in a long line of intangibly delicious/hellacious burritos tossed together at the corner of Harrison and 22nd.
04/02/05Super Carne Asada$5.008.67 Mustaches
We’ve been getting super carne asada burritos from this truck for so long, we could easily identify their distinctive deliciousness with a blindfold on by now. But despite its familiarity, there’s usually some sort of twist involved here, and with this one it was its disappointing size – not quite long enough, and definitely not girthy enough. Little matter, however, as nearly everything else rated eight, nine, or the hallowed 10 mustaches. Some slightly funny-looking, but tasty steak keyed this burrito’s winning ensemble, with near-perfect sauciness and spiciness, subtle and melted cheese, and little details such as red pepper flecks all contributing to the stellar ingredient mix. We missed the presence of refried beans, but made do with the pintos they had on hand, despite them not making much of a splash. Nary a drip occurred, so kudos to the in-truck construction crew. And it retained its considerable heat on the return trip – truck burritos offer suffer from this disadvantage. Alright.