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Can-cún, Taq. (Mission/Valencia) MissionOMR: 8.31
3211 Mission
cross street: Valencia
ph. 415/550-1414
Map Visits: 12
The Mission’s other Can-cún shop is a hell of a lot mellower than its higher-profile / higher-strung compañero a mile up the street, but its walls are every bit as yellow and red. And even though its chips are just as sub-ordinary (and its salsas just as flammable), at least you’re less likely to be surrounded in line here by frowny-faced thugs. Most importantly, Taq. Can-cún was the champ of our 2012 Slab Scrum, and as far as we're concerned, that sort of claim is the ultimate sign of taqueria credibility in San Francisco. Can-cún is celebrated for its vegetarian burrito, and it's not to be taken lightly, particularly if you’ve got a strong proclivity toward avocado. Carnivorous, hungry as hell, and not really in the mood for a burrito? Try the championship-caliber alambres diet plate, always a meaty, peppery good time. Fine horchata. Breakfast and bottled beer available, although the latter gets cut off at 11PM. Cash only. Open real late.

Will My Health Be Violated?

11/25/13Super Pollo Asado$6.507.83 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); spiciness (10); size (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); temperature (8)
Shrug: meat (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6)
Clang: cheese (5); sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There's nothing like a sub-eight-mustache effort to diminish the glorious memory of two consecutive nine-mustache slabs just the year before, but here it was in all its underwhelming shruggery: A de-sauced, overly rice-stuffed burrito full of facelessly flavored chicken and unmelted cheese. It may have been flagrantly spicy, really quite enormous, and strong on intangibility — this is Taq. Can-cún, after all — and the tortilla may have been wonderfully grilled to perfection, but this was a foiled food that should have performed much better than it actually did. Why was its overall temperature on the low side? What was with the just-OK pollo asado? Why didn't we just order an alambres plate? Is available? Hrumph.

12/05/12Super Carne Asada$6.508.42 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); size (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

On an afternoon when spiciness had clearly taken a long lunch break — the side salsas served with our chips weren't nearly as incendiary as usual — Taq. Can-cún won its first Slab Scrum title. On a day when the beef was bunched, the rice was a bit mushy, and the refried beans were just kind of there, Taq. Can-cún won its first Slab Scrum title. And on a visit when grilled onions spiked every bite of juicy carne asada, rich avocado and powerful pico de gallo ruled this lengthy slab's world of flavor, and hot bites and swift-minded construction alike were foregone conclusions, Taq. Can-cún won its first Slab Scrum title. A conflict-addled burrito, to be sure, but not one without considerable merits. The killer-grilled tortilla was softly pillowed by much (so much) melted cheese, and while we could have done with less of a greasy hind end, this slab's intangible charm could barely be contained by our maximum two-mustache bonus for such a thing. Congratulations, Taq. Can-cún — well earned!...sort of.

11/25/12Super Pollo Asado$6.509.00 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); tortilla (9); meat (9); spiciness (9); beans (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It was heavy slabular love at first sight here, as our judges panel unfoiled this sizable burrito to reveal a mighty beautifully grilled tortilla — to say nothing of one hellacious lunch. Twin-mustache intangibility was pretty much inevitable from bite one, as this scud clearly had the magic knack throughout its brief, yet glorious existence. Melted cheese lined most of the inner tortilla and padded nearly every bite, while the micro-diced, but super-seasoned chicken cashed in for nine mustaches of its own. Can-cún's legendary pico de gallo brought fire and flavor all slab long, and typically Can-cún-esque avocado deployment pushed this burrito's vegetables rating into can't-get-no-higher territory. Excellent refried beans got a bit lost amid the overcooked, mushed-up rice, and the side-to-side ingredient mix, while not the best we've seen, certainly wasn't the worst we've seen, either. Spice had its gameface on from the get-go; hot bites and strong construction, meanwhile, were faultless, almost to a fault. We ultimately departed sated and stoked.

07/28/12Super al Pastor$6.509.00 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); vegetables (10); burstage abatement (10); meat (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); size (8); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There was really very little wrong with this burrito — a suspect ingredient mix that created a three-way divide among the formidable veggie contingent, nearly as formidable ultra-saucy pork, and less formidable (but still formidable enough) rice/beans foundation, that's it. Every other element of this nicely sized slab earned no less than eight hairy ones, while several reached higher (and higher) into the rarified air of nines and tens. For starters, the tortilla was cracklingly grilled, its interior slathered with pillowy melted cheese, and it cradled a whole slew of tasty foods. These foods included a strong showing of richly sauced pastor augmented by rad grilled onions; these foods also included the sort of storied vegetable posse — fresh and tangy pico de gallo, so so much avocado — that we've come to expect from Can-cún since the chief put us on the San Francisco burrito beat way back in '03. Hot bites, irrefutable intangibility, and the sort of construction that the US Bureau of Water Impoundment's top dam engineers would envy all helped seal this mighty burrito's Hall of Fame deal.

08/05/11Super Vegetarian$5.998.27 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); cheese (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8); ingredient mix (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); rice (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It’s only proper that San Francisco’s most celebrated meatless slab should ratchet up a perfect vegetables rating, no? So so much avocado and diced onion perpetuated veggie greatness from bite one on down, while the pico de gallo — though responsible for a few drips through the tortilla here and there — brought heady tanginess at every turn. Other strong suits included exceptionally melted cheese along the inner tortilla, name-taking / ass-thwacking spice, mighty tasty refried beans, and the sort of ingredient mix that clearly had a post-graduate degree in internal ethics (or something similar). Still, we would have preferred every bite to have been hot, rather than just some-to-most of them. As for the paucity of saucity, well, hmm — this burrito’s notable dryness was most glaringly reflected in its rice, and that was kind of a drag. Intangible charms aplenty ensured a solid final rating, though, as did the $100 the counter guy slipped under our red plastic burrito basket when he spotted our Great Mustache button on our jacket lapel.

08/26/10Super Carnitas$5.997.58 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: rice (7); cheese (7); meat (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

While our amiably sized slab had a few elements going for it — most notably its ringing spiciness and typically (for Can-cún) on-point, avocado-anchored veggie situation — overall, this burrito was simply not it. Up for a questioning version of the old blame game? We sure are, so let’s begin. Why did both the carnitas and rice have to come in on the mushy side? How come the ingredient mix insisted on scooting all the veggie action off to one side, in the process creating uninviting pockets of coolness? And what the hell was going on with the fatal dearth of salsa? We excused the minor grease drips and somewhat low-profile (yet melted) cheese, but a taqueria with Can-cún’s storied reputation has no business delivering one-mustache intangibility.

11/22/09Super Carne Asada$5.998.08 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); meat (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: beans (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: rice (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It just goes to show what an overabundance of underqualified rice can do to an otherwise credible burrito. You can revel in a beautifully grilled tortilla that’s fragrant in all the right ways. You can get lost in juicy, real flavorful carne asada, steel toe-booted spice, or nicely tangy pico de gallo. You can shake your hips to the hella-avocado shuffle, or if that’s not your dance step of favor, the melted Jack watusi. You can thank the higher power of your choice — or just the guy in the kitchen — for the crash-proof construction and complete avoidance of cool bites. You can even soak in the two-mustache tub of maximum intangibility. And you know what? If damn near every bite is rife with Spanish mush-rice and way too much of it, you’ve got troubles. And if the burrito’s sauce factor is compromised (we won’t say “sucked dry,” because that wasn’t the case here) to the point of near-clang, well, hrumph. This is Taq. Can-cún. This is San Francisco! We expect better.

11/01/08Super Pollo Asado$5.998.17 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); size (9); cheese (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); tortilla (8); rice (8); beans (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (7); meat (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

The opening salvo of the 2008 Slab Scrum, this sizable lunch hit on many of Taq. Can-cún’s usual talking points – ace vegetable content, melted jack cheese galore, clean construction, sky-high intangibility – but flubbed on a few other crucial fronts. At certain times, the ingredient mix seemed to bring everything together gracefully; at others, the burrito’s underserved portion of grilled (if bland) chicken, as well as its slight overemphasis on the fine-grain Spanish rice, didn’t do anyone any favors. Avocado and co. may have hit all the right notes, but spiciness danced the irksome too-little-too-late shuffle, which of course did little to appease our fire-breathing panel. Quite good overall, sure. But we expected better on the grand civic stage.

07/05/08Super al Pastor$5.998.92 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Never mind the clangs – even with a magnifying glass, you couldn't have found a shrug at our Can-cún table during the glorious 16-bite existence of this near-heroic meal. We could nitpick away at how all the nine-mustache elements could have upped the ante a shade for toppermost ratings – the veggie gang for its overly light infusion of pico de gallo; the minor grease effect that hamstrung the sauciness ever so slightly; the slab-long vertical gulch in the wrap that we call “ingrown tortilla” – but...well, it appears as if we’ve gone ahead and nitpicked about these items, OK. Still, any Can-cún veggie ensemble is bound to include generous amounts of sliced avocado, while the grease and ingrown tortilla were minor details and nothing more. The tortilla itself was grilled all to hell (as they all ought to be, dammit), while every bite was a hot one - and just about every one held a big ol’ tuft of melted jack. The pork was well-sauced and accompanied by plenty of diced, grilled onion, and other than segregating the Spanish rice a bit too much for our liking, the ingredient mix did a fine job of showcasing everything at once, rather than just element by element. Shrug-free intangibility sealed the delicious deal.

07/03/07Super Carnitas$5.508.83 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); rice (9); spiciness (9); size (8); beans (8)
Shrug: meat (7); sauciness (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We’re not sure what took Can-cún so long to hop aboard the carnitas trolley – fried pork had never before appeared on the menu here – but we were so happy to finally see it available, we took the porky plunge. Verdict: Heavy on salt, light on external crisp...but in the end, still pretty damn delicious. As for the rest of our Tuesday night slab, other than the serviceable level of sauciness and the merely capable ingredient mix, it was all systems go. Can-cún’s veteran kitchen nailed the basics (leakproof construction, a clean run of hot bites), but we were particularly impressed with the thick ooze of melted jack permeating most regions of the inner slab. Of course, the nine-mustache grilljob on the tortilla was on its usual high-level game, and few taquerias include as much avocado and diced onion as Can-cún. The light rice turned in a surprisingly outstanding performance, and the spice-fire factor here was never in doubt. There was the tiny matter of the marble-sized bone around the fourteenth bite, but we’ll let it go. Other than that, hey, rad burrito.

07/07/05Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$4.807.54 Mustaches
Can-cún’s sizable A.M. slab boasted some fantastic bites at certain points. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been more intelligently built/mixed, and was all the rice that hogged an entire side of the tortilla really necessary? Then there was the whole grossly untidy grease issue – Burritoeater supports the tree-hugging cause as much as anyone else with a backpack and a pair of hiking boots, but it’s utterly silly to produce a burrito this runny and not have a napkin dispenser at every table in the room. The chorizo/egg scramble was a bit light on eggs, but it was real tasty from first bite to last (chorizo eterna-drip notwithstanding). Naturally, Can-cún’s perennial calling card – a hell of a vegetable medley - owned it, especially the mega-flavorful pico de gallo and some rad avocado slices. The burrito’s interior climate remained warm throughout, the freshly refried beans were particularly delicious in late morning, and you can always count on these people to offer hair-raising spiciness and some melted-all-over-the-tortilla cheese. So why the sorta laggard final rating? When a burrito sheds more grease than a crowd of sweat-soaked Reverend Horton Heat fans, there’s generally some messy trouble brewing. On a side note, Can-cún’s salsa verde knows few, if any peers.
10/05/03Super Carne Asada$4.257.00 Mustaches
Premium vegetable elements, particularly all-star avocado slices and pico de gallo. Abundant, yet underperforming steak. Cheese and sour cream mis-paired with sparse rice. Chubby, yet short. Unimpressive expectation-to-delivery ratio.