the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Vallarta, Taq. (24th St.) MissionOMR: 8.32
3033 24th St.
cross street: Treat/Harrison
ph. 415/826-8116
Map Visits: 8
This 24th St. mainstay was shut down by San Francisco Dept. of Public Health (SFDPH) for several months in 2006-07 for a host of violations that had the inspector unfavorably comparing it to Chinatown's most ill-maintained food dives; humbled, Taq. Vallarta cleaned up and re-opened eight months later. The popular, yet previously unpermitted sidewalk taco stand — a central reason SFDPH brought down its sledgehammer sanctions, although the fun presence of vermin also played a role — eventually returned to a spot just inside the main door. And the place is still open 16 hours a day during the week and 19 hours every Friday and Saturday, making it the closest thing San Francisco has to an all-day / all-night burritoeatery. Don’t leave without checking the crazy mural in the main dining room, which features certain 49ers players of yore frolicking (in full uniform!) atop the waves under the Golden Gate; no, really. Excellent agua frescas and sugary-sweet horchata. Breakfast available. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

11/30/13Zapata Carnitas$7.508.58 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); cheese (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); size (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Our panel's 999th on-record burrito may have not been on the same penthouse level as Taq. Vallarta's previous effort (9.00 hairy ones, 7/20/2012 — see below), but who's going to complain about an 8.58-mustache follow-up? Certainly not us. Other than a manageable dearth of sauciness and a simply-happy-to-be-there rice/beans foundation, pretty much every element here came through in the clutch. A whole lotta sliced jalapeño drove the spiciness rating through Vallarta's crazy ceiling mural, while smartly crispy carnitas, superbly melted cheese, and an avocado-anchored ensemble of vegetables hit all the right notes. And how about that ingredient mix? How — how ABOUT that super-rad ingredient mix?? (Note to hype man: Get back to business. -Ed.) When's the last time you saw — nay, experienced — a tortilla this killer-grilled? (I'm serious. Dial it back — now. -Ed.) And can we get a hallelujah for twin-mustache intangibility? Why not a series of hallelujahs?? (You're fired. -Ed.)

07/20/12Zapata Pastor$6.759.00 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); size (9); beans (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: meat (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

This belt-busting barnburner of a slab resulted in Taq. Vallarta's first visit to our nine-mustache promised land — the latest installment in a saga that's seen this venerable burrito retailer experience more ups and down over the years than an elevator operator off his meds. This being a classic pastor piece of work, sauciness was a factor throughout, all the way down to the tiny chunks of pineapple accompanying the otherwise just-OK meat. But the tortilla! Gorgeously grilled and flirtatiously flaky, we fell for it right from the get-go. Avocado played big and was clearly the major vegetable at work here, while thoroughly melted cheese punctuated most every bite of this huge meal-in-foil. And the ingredient mix! It was real seamless. Killer refried beans, a continual procession of hot bites, and perennial spiciness pushed hard all slab long, and we wouldn't have dreamed of awarding this burrito's intangible charisma anything less than two bonus mustaches.

03/24/11Super Carnitas$5.408.17 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); beans (6); sauciness (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

This mighty hot slab whipped out of the starting gate at a blinding-fast gallop before settling into a comfortable eight-mustache gait the rest of the way around our mustachioed oval. Grease became a bit of a factor in the backstretch, while the smartly grilled tortilla (and scads of melted Jack along its interior) would have made Man o’ War hungry...What’s with the whole horse-racing theme here, Shoemaker? Knock it off. –Ed....As for the carnitas, we were treated to a damn fine pile of fried pork that was salty in all the right ways. The refried beans could have been more of a factor — not to mention better — and although we appreciated the avocado slices, did they all have to be so mushy? Vallarta’s extra-tangy salsa fresca was, sadly, minimally applied, while spiciness was strictly peripheral throughout. Intangibility stood tall, though, and finished lengths ahead of mediocrity.

05/21/08Super Carne Asada$5.407.25 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6); spiciness (6)
Clang: meat (5); beans (5)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)

Something crucial was missing here - that zero next to “Intangibility bonus” is no typo. We know we asked the Vallarta kitchen to go a little light on the rice, and what we got was a negligible, if overly careful representation. And we certainly know where things really went wrong here: Look no further than the bland, occasionally gristle-inclusive steak and unapologetically lousy refried beans if you're hunting for five-mustache shame. And we were probably too kind with the ungrilled tortilla. Granted, certain elements remained on-point, such as several smartly melted jack cheese slices and quite capable salsafication. Even the ingredient mix earned a certain amount of respect from our crusty panel. But from the first bite down, something was irrefutably off. Our last time in, we were presented with a Chinatown-like slab – suspenseful in all the right ways, with tight construction and top performances all around. This time, it was The Two Jakes. Clunk.

06/03/07Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.258.75 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); eggs (9); beans (9); cheese (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); size (8); tortilla (8); meat (8); vegetables (8); sauciness (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

No way; way!: Not even the mysterious inclusion of chopped lettuce in our mid-afternoon breakfast burrito could derail the Vallarta choo choo...and everyone knows we can’t stand lettuce in our burritos. The sledgehammer of delicious all-around flavor here was so mighty, they could have gotten away with tossing in a handful of mung beans. The most significant contributor to this slab’s success was the diced chorizo/egg scramble, which made every next bite as powerful as its predecessor. Jack cheese grates melted themselves adroitly all over the scene, and the absence of rice gave the exceptional refried beans a prominent platform on which to showcase their pasty radness. Hearty avocado slices mitigated the potentially disastrous lettuce toss-in, and the rest of the veggie gang was no slouch. Hot bites wrote the biggest checks of all here, while spice was an all-business affair, often. Burstage abatement would have been more impressive, were it not for the overly soft feel of the foodpiece and one or two tiny tears in the tortilla. Sizing was ideal, the ingredient mix garnered much admiration, and the grilled tortilla got it done in all the right ways. No clangs here, not even a shrug, and good grief, those were some tasty eggs. Onions!

04/19/06Super Pollo$4.507.50 Mustaches
Vallarta has been 24th St.’s portrait of eight-mustache consistency for years, so it was disconcerting when we ended up on the business end of such uncharacteristically ordinary burritowork this time around. A trifecta of flubs re: our order ensured this effort a sure spot on our 2006 All-Shoulder-Shrug squad, but even if they’d have included the refried beans, chicken, and avocado we expected – as opposed to the whole beans, chicken/pork medley, and zero avocado that ended up pockmarking this slab’s innards – chances were still slim this burrito would have banged the eight-mustache gong. What really kicked our panel’s shins here was the outright bland rice/beans foundation, along with an overly slender physical profile and an ingredient mix that brought to mind split-screen shots employed during televised political debates. And how’d that al pastor land in our dinner? Sure, it was tasty, but this wasn’t a pork night on the Burritoeater event calendar. The lightly grilled tortilla and melted-on-said-tortilla jack cheese were all fine, though nothing special, and the pico de gallo and long-cut onion slices must have felt stood up by all the avocado truancy. A perfect run of hot bites, solid building framework, and fairly fierce spiciness kept this burrito’s head above the mediocre waterline, if barely.
04/25/05Super Pastor$4.508.08 Mustaches
After reading most of this year’s World Almanac while waiting on our burrito, it arrived lengthy enough, if a shade on the slender side. Anchored by some finely chopped, well-marinated pork and a winning ensemble of vegetables (including two kinds of onion), this was the latest in Vallarta’s ongoing streak of consistently fine, if unspectacular food-work squeezed forth from their veteran burrito assembly line. Spice lurked but wasn’t a major factor, while the mistaken inclusion of pinto (rather than refried) beans shaved a ’stache off that element’s rating. Vallarta will never make the top burrito in town - but on the other hand, the odds of them kicking down a ghastly six-mustache slab are reliably unlikely. And crikey, is their jukebox loud.
03/05/03Super Carne Asada$4.508.00 Mustaches
Vallarta’s always been the portrait of consistency, and with this entry filed and chronicled, we'll go on record with that. Here was the archetypical eight-mustache burrito – no world-beater, just strong across the board, with nary a glaring weakness. Generous bulk? Check. Nice steak? Yup. Solid fundamentals (ie. tortilla, rice, beans) in place? Sure. Intangible goodness? Right. Workmanlike steadiness all around.