the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Farolito, Taq. El (Mission St.) MissionOMR: 8.28
2779 Mission
cross street: 24th St.
ph. 415/824-7877
Map Visits: 10
The crowds in the narrow aisle at this legendary taqueria can sometimes make taking/keeping your place in line more tense than it really needs to be, and things can get colorful when all the neighborhood gangstas roll through to get their late-night slab or combo plate on. But it’s always entertaining to watch the cooks fiddle with the griddle in El Farolito's big front window, and you’re a buffoon if you don’t try one of the mighty tasty agua frescas. Also, should you land in a booth near the rear of the restaurant, don’t miss your chance to absorb the beauty of the borderline-cubist artwork on the nearby wall depicting...a vertical pork rotisserie. So rad. It’s worth noting that the pickled/roasted peppers at the salsa bar may well be the spiciest items in town; it’s also worth nothing that the chips lag hard and, yet, cost 50 cents. Nothing much ever changes here. Cash only. Breakfast available; bottled beer also available. Open real late.

Will My Health Be Violated?

11/06/13Super Chile Relleno$7.258.09 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); tortilla (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: rice (7); cheese (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Like cheese? You'll love El Farolito's super chile relleno burrito, which apparently contains more cheese than this fall's entire Disney Channel lineup. Our family entertainment-style dinner — enjoyed at what has to be one of San Francisco's least family-friendly eateries — presented a variety of swishes and shrugs, most notably a rogue clump of mostly unmelted Jack cheese uncovered in the burrito's earliest stages of devourment; a real what-the-cheese? moment, to be sure. Housed within the well-grilled tortilla, the sizable chile was a fine (and, of course, cheese-stuffed) centerpiece, while semi-subtle avocado accents, hot bites, and pastily capable refried beans offset a few relatively harmless troubles such as late drips, minor burstage concerns, and low-end spice concentration. Solid intangibility persevered despite these various missteps, ensuring that the Little Lighthouse went out an eight-mustache winner.

11/20/12Super Pollo Asado$6.257.92 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); size (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); beans (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

And with this disappointing effort, El Farolito's flagship location continued to deal in the sort of inconsistency that makes panels of burrito-eating judges go a bit mad in the end. Hefty all-around size and error-free construction may have been hat-hanging hallmarks here throughout, but overly plenteous (and buttery) rice, sorta-greasy chicken, a blah tortilla, and sauciness that leaned toward the drier side of saucy were among this slab's downward-pointing elements, to say nothing of limp spice that seemed more like a rumor than an actual factor. Heavily melted cheese and a super-burly infusion of avocado slices landed on the positive side of our critical ledger, and we had no major complaints about all the hot bites that kept occurring. The refried beans were on the thin side, but still to our taste buds' liking, while intangible credibility persevered, even when El Farolito's 2012 Slab Scrum title hopes clearly did not.

02/03/12Super Chile Relleno$7.259.00 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); rice (9); beans (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); tortilla (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Every bite of this monstrously delicious (and sized) burrito further illuminated its inescapable greatness — and it’s not like it started out on the wrong foot. This was our dream lunch in all the right ways, from its well-toned spiciness and smoothly realized ingredient mix on through its unfailing construction and clean sweep of hot bites. On the foundation front, Farolito’s grilled tortilla, near-perfectly moist rice, and on-point refried beans provided the finest in slabular bedrock, while the all-melted cheese was respectably delightful in its scope without encroaching into over-the-top silliness territory. And as you’d expect from any nine-mustache burrito, intangibility remained irrefutable throughout. Despite its lack of flash, dash, and crash, there was really nothing wrong here. Nothing at all. The piles of torn foil in the burrito’s basket thanked us when we were finished, and even opened the door for us on our way out. So nice.

11/10/10Super al Pastor$5.757.92 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); size (9); burstage abatement (9); beans (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); sauciness (7); rice (6); vegetables (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Farolito’s Slab Scrum debut was marred by a metric ton of rice that was not only poorly integrated into the whole burrito shebang — has someone in the kitchen here been moonlighting at Chipotle? — but was disturbingly deprived of contact with any sauce on hand; an underwhelming vegetable lineup also had some six-mustache things to say. Avocado arrived in small bits rather than the desired slices, and pico de gallo was at an awkward minimum. We had higher hopes for the roasted pork, and while it was certainly nicely sauced, its flavor and texture were about as distinguished as that guy wearing a black top hat with purple sweat pants in the adjacent BART station plaza. That's not to suggest there weren't a bunch of likeable things going on here, because there were: melted cheese lining many tortilla edges; a perfect run of hot bites; heaping dimensions; reliably dunce-proof construction. Spice was an instant and frequent hit, and the refried beans deserved some sort of Best Supporting Element statuette. And intangibility was on-point throughout, even if the rice was treated by the ingredient mix like some sort of hazardous chemical.

09/03/10Super Carne Asada$5.758.75 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); rice (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: meat (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

With only one element rating dipping down into shrug territory, this Farolito shop’s highest-rated slab to date was a real rip-roarer. Whether it was the all-melted cheese permeating each bite or the particularly outstanding batch of perfectly moist rice, all systems here were go — well, all systems other than the sometimes flavor-deficient, slightly too fatty carne asada, which underperformed to the tune of seven mustaches. And even if the ingredient mix bunched said meat down in the hind end, that same mix also brought everything else together gamely and adroitly. Spice levels were corrigibly peripheral and fearsomely skulking all at once, and no, we usually don’t make a habit of describing the spiciness of burritos in such weird ways. The vegetable situation remained on smash throughout, punctuated by hefty slices of avocado and brightly flavored pico de gallo. The refried beans got down in all the right ways, and we excused the beef’s quiet drips. Anyway, you can’t fence in intangibility like this. So good.

03/29/09Super Carnitas$5.458.17 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); cheese (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8)
Shrug: beans (7); vegetables (7); sauciness (7); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There are a handful of local taquerias where we could likely identify burritos in a blind tasting*: Papalote, Tacos El Tonayense, Gordo, Rubio’s (simply because they’re so criminally awful), El Farolito. And here was the definitive Farolito slab: amply sized, swathed in a mega-grilled tortilla, and packed with seasoning-rich meat, role-playing refried beans, a little too much rice, cheese cheese so much melted cheese, and fairly booming spice, with towering intangible cred and an earthiness other Bay Area taquerias aspire to one day decode. We overlooked the top-end burstage since it didn’t lead to any crash-tragedies. As for the Little Lighthouse’s carnitas, it could have done with some external charring, but it still took a flavor-backseat to very few porks in town. Veggie and guacamole content was a bit bereft, but the tang-slingin’ pico de gallo did its share of the heavy lifting. Hot bites: totally. The carnitas’ grease brought down the saucy shares’ stock price a little, but these things are bound to happen on occasion when the kitchen of origin is pretty much the salt of the earth.

* Note to foes: Kindly do not call us out on this. We’re just saying.

07/29/07Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$4.958.50 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); ingredient mix (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); size (8); meat (8); eggs (8); spiciness (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: beans (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We’re not sure why it took us so long to hop aboard El Farolito’s breakfast burrito bandwagon, but certain elements of this excellent morning slab made the wait worth it. A ten-mustache ingredient mix? Ruthlessly melted cheese in pretty much every bite? Hella avocado? It all added up to big numerical doings on our panel’s scoresheet. El Farolito’s egg/chorizo ensemble may not have been earth-shaking, but it boasted just the right flavor at all the right times, establishing itself as a respectable foundation early on. We sidestepped the rice option, but failed to specify our preference for refried beans - as a result, we paid the price with a set of overly dry pintos. We’re afraid burstage wasn’t entirely abated, as grease persistently oozed forth from the chorizo and promoted tortilla sag at times, but since the tortilla itself received a brutal grilling prior to jump-off, things remained reasonable, if a shade unwieldy. Meanwhile, spice crept in nicely all slab long.

04/21/06Super Pollo$4.957.92 Mustaches
Remember that time we had a sesos torta here? (Not our swiftest decision, we admit.) Even though this burrito was much more enjoyable than any brains sandwich could ever be, we’re afraid it came up short in too many areas to support Farolito’s godhead status among certain cliques of San Francisco’s burrito-eating community. Nothing was disastrous here, but the surprisingly tame spiciness and a too-segregated ingredient mix helped undercut any chance of intangible glory. All our favorite big-burrito descriptives applied – “hefty,” “bulky,” “girthsome,” “buxom,” you name it; this was a real large lunch. The unceremonious chicken was a particular sticking point, as it languished in a light marinade before its call-up to the majors. Despite its moist origins, however, a peculiar dryness lingered. The reputable refried beans were sadly underexposed, while the pale rice, though tasty, dominated too many bites. Melted jack cheese paired nicely with all that rice, but this was a burrito, dammit, not a rice-and-cheese wrap. The pico de gallo was all-pro, and the avocado (sequestered as it was) contributed strongly, as expected. Elsewhere, the suspect mix also created an isolated temperature dip for a few moments, although the cool-bite scourge was quickly quarantined. Impenetrable construction provided a ratings boost, but not...quite...enough.
07/25/05Super al Pastor$4.958.08 Mustaches
We nudged along the improvement process this time around by not ordering sour cream and specifying refried beans (our perennial), and as if on cue, this tasty, gargantuan slab crested eight mustaches. Yet, we still felt it underperformed – it wouldn’t have taken much more effort on El Farolito’s part to push this one well above 8.50. Are we nut-busting here? Perhaps a bit, but given this famed taqueria’s reputation in certain circles, is it too much to ask to not have to slog through 40 cubic feet of Spanish rice, as well as a mildly irritating dearth of beans and a minor shortage of sauce? This burrito’s internal composition wasn’t an overall disaster by any stretch, but wedged in the slab’s hind end was a large cluster of barbecued pork – smarter meat distribution surely would have upped the mustache ante. And what of Farolito’s highly regarded al pastor? All-time as ever, along with their sharp habits of grilling every tortilla, engineering peerless construction, cheesing each burrito to the nines, and delivering spicy combustibility in every slab. No doubt, there was a great deal to enjoy within this girthsome, cylindrical affair whose 40 shades of orange were pockmarked with bits of greenery (avocado, jalapeño, the odd stalk of cilantro). If El Farolito has designs on a hall of fame career, however, it’s time to start producing burritos that rate sky-high up and down the chart, rather than ones which merely dabble in greatness.
12/06/03Super Carne Asada$4.507.69 Mustaches
A fine performance hampered by globby sour cream and the surprising inclusion of pinto beans. Everything else ruled, including the championship-caliber melted cheese, terrific avocado slices, flood of onions, and that ubiquitous, delicious steak.