the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Alteña, Taq. La (Mission/29th St.) MissionOMR: 7.08
3346 Mission
cross street: 29th St./30th St.
ph. 415/647-1980
Map Visits: 3
While employing a style of décor known in interior decorator circles as Contemporary Latino Pool Hall, La Alteña features fluorescently backlit photos of its entrées that work on a more practical level. But we’ll leave it up to you to determine whether these seemingly late-Nixon-era images cast the La Alteña line of fare in a positive or decrepit light. In other news, the staff here actually has a clue about how to properly melt cheese inside a burrito, which is more than can be said for the folks at the other La Alteña shop about a mile up Mission St. Expect thick chips, burly salsas, and perhaps some cartilage in the meats. Bottled beer available. Credit cards accepted. Open late, and open real late on weekends. Interesting gas pump-styled gumball machine next to door.

Will My Health Be Violated?

04/30/10Super Chile Colorado Pork$5.757.08 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (9); size (8); beans (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: rice (7); cheese (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (7); temperature (7); tortilla (6)
Clang: meat (5); sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

A couple elements of this extra-lengthy slab maintained credibility throughout — namely the hard-working spice and a set of refried beans that saw a great need and filled it. Then there were aspects that played the game for adequacy’s sake, like the facelessly effective Spanish rice, good-enough (and melted-enough) Jack cheese, conciliatory ingredient mix, and acceptable level of intangibility. The cactus-laden (?!) veggie ensemble also got by, although its heavy cilantro abuse and lack of guacamole hurt its cause top to bottom. But what really rankled our rancorous judges panel was this burrito’s overly moist environs — a development that made for some downright soggy tortilla conditions — and most egregiously, repeated cartilage discoveries among the otherwise fine pork. Repeated cartilage discoveries. Repeated! Disgusting, gruesome, sick, and wrong, not to mention hard on the dentures. Unacceptable.

09/01/07Super Pastor$5.757.33 Mustaches
Swish: size (10); spiciness (9); vegetables (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: meat (7); beans (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7); temperature (7); tortilla (6); rice (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Often times, pastor can dominate a burrito like no other meat. La Alteña’s hella marinated pork staged a violent flavor coup - the likes of which we’ve rarely experienced - within this gargantuan slab, and while we enjoyed the greasy meat and all the grilled onion mixed therein, it was a bit much to absorb at times. It certainly received preferred treatment amidst the sorrily haphazard, highly segregationist ingredient mix. Add in a tortilla that suffered from limpness here and there, a set of somewhat lifeless refried beans, and brown rice that got buried in the whole shuffle, and what we had in our hands was an infernally spicy and enormous piece of foiled food that, while swashbuckling and exciting in moments of rare cohesiveness, dealt in nearly as much misguided overabundance as this sentence. Of course, as usual, we devoured the whole thing.

06/15/07Super Carnitas$5.758.50 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7)
Clang: beans (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Quite the debut. Its sole Achilles heel being a lack of beany input, this lengthy foiled torpedo still notched eight-and-a-half mustaches with style and ease. If the grilled-to-flaky tortilla wasn’t turning heads on the Mission St. sidewalk outside, then the pull-no-punches melted jack was certainly causing people to crash into one another. The perfect streak of hot bites was also cheered enthusiastically by passers-by who otherwise had no clue what was going on inside La Alteña. The deliciously salted pork drove its point home all slab long, and while the ingredient mix may have been a little more meat-tastic than it needed to be, those seven mustaches were no gift. Were it not for the ongoing saucy leak (minor as it was), burstage abatement would have joined cheese and temperature in our ten-mustachioed penthouse. Rice was definitely on-point, but sadly, its foundation counterpoint – a shy smattering of refried beans – were far under-represented and never managed to contribute much to this slab’s story. La Alteña’s pico de gallo and guacamole each performed well, and the salsa verde provided subtle, persistent spice-punch. Finally, intangibility should be expecting a repair bill for the hole in this taqueria’s roof any day now.