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Canasta, La Cow HollowOMR: 7.42
3006 Buchanan
cross street: Union
ph. 415/474-2627
Map Visits: 5
Somewhat larger than your average walk-in closet -- but only somewhat -- the Basket has been a Union St.-adjacent staple for well over two decades now. Until our disappointing 2012 visit, we'd always found the burritowork here to be solid, if unspectacular...but at least the management's still real friendly. Al pastor's available, though it doesn't show up on the overhead menu. Credit cards accepted. Take-out only; delivery available.

Will My Health Be Violated?

03/23/12Super Carnitas$7.957.17 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); spiciness (9); temperature (9); size (8); meat (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); rice (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: cheese (5); sauciness (3)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

After four visits dating back to 2003 that resulted in 7.92-to-8.00-mustache quality, La Canasta's fortunes finally took a dip -- and a sharp one, at that -- with this dry, bean-overrun burrito. Indeed, this suitably sized slab was heavy on the refried bean inaction, so much that it far overshadowed the just-there rice. A paucity of sauce and all-too-infrequently-occurring cheese further contributed to the burrito's unavoidable mediocrity, although by no means was this lunch a full-on disaster. La Canasta's carnitas was solidly flavorful, while the guacamole possessed pleasantly strong citrus tones; jalapeńo slices, meanwhile, contributed plenty of spice-fire in all the right ways. There really wasn't much to say about the tortilla other than, "Hey, alright -- tortilla," and the same went for our panel's feelings re: this food's intangible charms. Then we hit all the best Union St. boutiques!!!!!!!!

04/29/09Grande Steak Fajitas$6.757.92 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); vegetables (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: cheese (5); ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

La Canasta’s formula for near-success: many, many swishes; a pair of clangs; disappointing intangibility; and weirdest of all, not a shrug in the house. (Stay with us. Maybe it’ll make sense in a minute.) For starters, this burrito’s ace ingredient ensemble deserved a smoother mix than it got. Juicy cuts of freshly grilled steak were bunched together and prone to go on leave for bites at a time. Rice was on the mark in taste and texture, but far too overabundant. Along with the terrific pico de gallo and guacamole getting relegated to side status throughout, some of the time we ended up with the beef burrito we ordered; at others, it seemed we'd had a veggie burrito foisted upon us. The other bizarro factor at work here: unmelted grates of Jack cheese amidst a burrito absent cold or even lukewarm bites. Hunh? How does that work? Elements that made us happy included burly sizing, swift-kicking spiciness, the well-grilled tortilla, salt-of-the-earth refried beans, and dependably crash-proof construction. The character of this burrito was sort of like leaving San Francisco for an appointment at the tailor in Santa Cruz, but deciding to go through Stockton for the hell of it, and still somehow arriving only five minutes late, only to discover you've left your pants in San Francisco.

03/16/07Grande Chile Relleno$7.758.00 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); beans (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); tortilla (8); cheese (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: size (7); rice (7); vegetables (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

La Canasta’s third trip through our mustachioed mill wasn’t so dissimilar to its first two. The song remains the same: An inarguably solid slab overcomes a few hindrances to ultimately rate well, while failing to completely win over our non-plussed judges panel. Tripping points this time included poor pico de gallo representation, stubby length, and some suspect-tasting ranchero sauce that sure didn’t need to be as liberally applied as it was. This burrito’s fried centerpiece - one chile relleno - didn’t quite live up to expectations, either, its ordinary batter toiling in shrugsville while a paltry amount of cheese oozed from its interior. On the bright side, we reveled in hot bite after hot bite, and when was the last time you saw a perfect perimeter of refried bean-sludge like that? Spice accented the whole affair without clubbing our taste buds into beverage-soaked submission, and only a top-end sauce bleed prevented a perfect burstage abatement score. Kudos as well to the exceptional, tomato-fortified guacamole, as well as the quietly contributing melted cheese added all around the chile relleno.

07/13/05Grande Pollo$5.957.92 Mustaches
Braving the late-lunchtime rush at this tiny burrito shop can be a vaguely uncomfortable exercise in where-shall-I-stand-and-await-my-slab, but it’s mostly worth it. This La Canasta foodpiece was remarkably consistent across the board, from its classic super burrito dimensions (length? sure. girth? yup. heft? check.) and perfectly fine, lightly grilled tortilla to its delightfully shredalicious chicken and strong veggie inclusions. A rare pea-and-corn alert resonated from the first bite, but we’ve never minded when taquerias play with established Spanish rice formulas - although who knows if this one plays well to La Canasta’s relatively mainstream Cow Hollow audience. As on our first visit two years prior, sizzling spice was totally off the charts; several beverage-reaches were prompted throughout. A few early gushers in this slab’s tortilla dam didn’t wreak the havoc they initially threatened, but it would have nice if the cheese had made a heartier contribution to the overall effort. Meanwhile, the ingredient mix was mildly divisive, albeit hardly cripplingly. Only a lack of intangible goodness kept this one from clearing the eight-mustache bar.
06/17/03Fajitas (Steak)$5.458.00 Mustaches
A mildly floppy work, but quite manageable with even the most rudimentary burrito containment skills. Mighty spice and subtle touches such as peas and corn kernels in the rice reeled us in, and the delectable lime tinge sealed the deal.