the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

2010 Slab Scrum
December 28

Finals Have Occurred!

Hats off to this year's Scrum participants...especially those taquerias that particularly distinguished themselves and didn't make our selection committee look like complete stooges.

Congratulations to our 2010 Great Mustache winner, Papalote. The Fulton St. shop held on in the quarterfinals, sent a hell-bringing message to the competition in the semifinals, and simply ran away from the pack in the finals with a 9.17-mustache masterpiece that put some serious distance between it and runner-up La Espiga de Oro. Not only are Papalote's burritos real good, but its qualifications lap the field: The place has been a finalist in each of our four bi-annual Scrums dating back to 2004.

The final overall 2010 Slab Scrum tally....

1. Papalote (Western Addition)

2. La Espiga de Oro

3. La Laguna Taq.

4. Gordo Taq. (Clement St.)

5. Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon)

6. El Burrito Express (Western Addition)

7. Andalé

8. Taq. El Castillito (Castro)

9. Taq. El Farolito (Mission St.)

9. The Little Chihuahua (Lower Haight)

11. Taq. San Francisco

12. El Norteño

Burritos, alright.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

December 22

Semifinals Have Occurred!

Four of our five semifinal qualifiers lived up to their lofty billing, with only Taq. Reina's -- owner of the quarterfinals' highest rating -- coming up well short of rarified expectations. And had La Laguna Taq. better imbued its foiled effort with a higher-profile set of rice, we'd likely have been looking at a weird, but completely defensible three-taqueria final round.

But with Papalote and La Espiga de Oro racking up the third- and fourth-highest ratings on Burritoeater record (as in, ever), we're certainly not grousing about quality in this year's Scrum.

(Why five taquerias in the semifinals? Why not four? Because Gordo and Papalote tied for fourth in the quarterfinals, and we catered to civic demand by moving right on to the semi's.)

1. Papalote (Western Addition): 9.33 mustaches
December 19: Papalote to Scrum competition: "Hello! We intend to mash you all to bits!"

2. La Espiga de Oro: 9.25 mustaches
December 5: The little-known darling of 24th St.'s taqueria runway continues to turn heads, drop jaws, etc. etc.

3. La Laguna Taq.: 8.92 mustaches
December 21: Clearly, it's a fiercely competitive Scrum when a burrito this devastating is unable to advance.

4. Gordo Taq. (Clement St.): 8.75 mustaches
December 10: Gordo hits for average. Gordo hits for power. Gordo runs the bases aggressively, fields its position well, and even calls pitchouts at the right time. And most importantly to us, Gordo makes a mighty fine chile verde pork burrito.

5. Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon): 8.00 mustaches
December 8: From the top-performing burrito in the quarterfinals to...the not-so-top-performing burrito in the semifinals.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

December 4

Quarterfinals Have Occurred!

If the longtime power players in San Francisco's taqueria structure weren't on watch at the start of the Scrum last month, there's no way they aren't now.

A trio of resolutely low-profile burrito slingers -- Taq. Reina's, La Espiga de Oro, and La Laguna Taq. -- redefined postseason studliness throughout the quarterfinals, while Gordo Taq. and Papalote (Scrum champs in 2006 and 2004, respectively), fought to a draw and clawed their way into our semifinals. El Burrito Express fell short of joining the Gordo/Papalote piefight by a mere .09-mustache, with mallrat-friendly Andalé also registering a highly respectable showing.

Other entrants disappointed to varying degrees, none more than defending champion El Norteño, which had the nuts to toss a 7.42-mustache wet noodle at our disbelieving and disgusted panel. Taq. San Francisco played our judges like a cheap fiddle as well, while a small handful of other big-name taquerias (the Little Chihuahua, Taq. El Farolito, Taq. El Castillito) provided further letdowns and prompted Burritoeater brass to draw up pink slips for members of the Scrum's selection committee.

1. Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon): 9.17 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
November 20: Q: "Hey, what's cooking, Reina?" A: "Oh, some of the best carnitas in captivity wedged into the kind of buxom, smartly assembled, and irrefutably delicious burrito you'll remember ten years from now."

2. La Espiga de Oro: 9.08 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
November 18: Any disbelievers in the peanut gallery aghast at this recently unearthed shop's Scrum berth are surely now mollified by this galloping stampede of mustachioed mastery. Or: What a lunch!

2. La Laguna Taq.: 9.08 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
November 22: This cavernous place may have all the ambient charm of a muffler shop, but a burrito this masterful would surely taste great even in an Aamco showroom.

4. Gordo Taq. (Clement St.): 8.67 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
December 1: Gordo again eschews neon signage and other silly lures for smart slab assemblage, some pretty rad Spanish rice, and mustaches galore.

4. Papalote (Western Addition): 8.67 mustaches (advances to Scrum semifinals)
November 26: It wouldn't be a Scrum without heavy mustache action from this postseason stalwart. Well, it's a Scrum.

6. El Burrito Express (Western Addition): 8.58 mustaches
December 3: The Scrum's fourth seed comes up just short of advancing to our semifinals, and if El Burrito Express management wants to play the blame game, we invite them to point a finger or two at its shrug-worthy, seasoning-deficient chicken.

7. Andalé: 8.50 mustaches
November 16: No $175 wallets or free cosmetics bags with purchase at this Bloomingdale's-adjacent slabspot -- just a mighty tasty burrito.

8. Taq. El Castillito (Castro): 8.00 mustaches
November 12: Relative saucelessness and an ineffectual ingredient mix seal Castillito's disappointing deal.

9. Taq. El Farolito (Mission St.): 7.92 mustaches
November 10: The storied Mission burrito shop celebrates its first Scrum berth by making our selection committee look like corrupt imbeciles.

9. The Little Chihuahua (Lower Haight): 7.92 mustaches
November 28: A weak ingredient mix and overabundance of salsa secures the Little Chihuahua's spot among the Scrum's second division.

11. Taq. San Francisco: 7.58 mustaches
November 14: As in 2008, our panel's pet burrito shop trips over its own stumbling feet at a crucial postseason juncture.

12. El Norteño: 7.42 mustaches
November 24: So much for the defending champ having anything to defend once the next Scrum rolls around.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

November 6

Another Championship Inevitable for San Francisco

Despite a few prolonged absences from the San Francisco taqueria scene throughout 2010, our judges panel has had the Slab Scrum on its calendar all year, itching all the while to award our Great Mustache trophy to the city's most deserving burrito shop.

And after so much hemming and hawing over which local slab purveyors will find our golden invitation ticket wedged into their tortillas, our hometown's pre-eminent taqueria throwdown/showdown/hoedown gets going this month not a day too soon.

Past Scrums have subsisted on eight entrants, but with an overflow of qualified taquerias these days, our selection committee -- a slurring jury of aged, frumpy white men sealed behind the closed doors of a 53rd floor board room here at Burritoeater Towers -- has benevolently expanded the 2010 field to a full dozen taquerias.

Nonetheless, this remains a bracket-free tournament, and the seeding positions listed below merely indicate anticipated place of finish by our boneheaded team of oddsmakers in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Now for a few words of hype.

Since its construction, the Slab Scrum's Road to the Great Mustache has proven itself to be the most dramatic highway of its kind in the history of everything....

  • 2008: Eighth-seeded taqueria-on-wheels El Norteño, needing nail-biting tiebreakers to do so, undercuts both previous Scrum champs en route to the victory podium.
  • 2006: Then-upstart (and former Burritoeater whipping post) Gordo Taq. clotheslines heavy favorite Papalote to bring the hardware back to 9th Ave.
  • 2004: That same Papalote, an overwhelming underdog in our first tournament, sends its ballyhooed 24th St. rival Taq. San Francisco packing with a pair of impossibly clutch performances in the final round.

Gentlemen/gentlewomen, start your kitchens.

* * * * *

If we were to get all ultramega analytical and come up with capsulized rundowns of each 2010 Slab Scrum participant, they would look a lot -- in fact, exactly -- like this:

Gordo Taq. (Clement St.)
2010 Scrum seed: 1
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.75 (Mustache Chart ranking: 1)
Scrum performance history: None. (Its Inner Sunset sibling shop was a 5th place quarterfinalist in 2008 and Scrum champ in 2006.)
Steez: In light of four killing-it performances -- 9.08, 8.75, 9.08, 8.58 -- since 2007, the Outer Richmond's "Gordito" gets the nod over historical Scrum contender Gordo across Golden Gate Park.

Papalote (Western Addition)
2010 Scrum seed: 2
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.56 (Mustache Chart ranking: 5)
Scrum performance history: None. (Its Mission sibling shop was a 2nd place finalist in 2008 and 2006 and Scrum champ in 2004.)
Steez: Stealing just enough thunder from its older brother at the west end of 24th St.'s storied Slab Row, the "other" Papalote now takes its turn in our white-hot Scrum limelight.

The Little Chihuahua (Lower Haight)
2010 Scrum seed: 3
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.44 (Mustache Chart ranking: 11)
Scrum performance history: None.
Steez: Known citywide for owning the highest individual burrito rating on Burritoeater record (9.42 mustaches, 9/23/2009), neither hell nor low fog could keep this heavy-hitter from landing a spot in this year's Scrum field.

El Burrito Express (Western Addition)
2010 Scrum seed: 4
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.65 (Mustache Chart ranking: 3)
Scrum performance history: 6th place quarterfinalist, 2006. (Its Outer Sunset sibling shop was a 7th place quarterfinalist in 2008.)
Steez: A nine-mustacherpiece (not its first one, either) around this time last year -- to say nothing of consistent radness over the years -- makes the Slab Train a given in this year's lineup of all-star taquerias.

El Norteño
2010 Scrum seed: 5
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.40 (Mustache Chart ranking: 15)
Scrum performance history: Champ, 2008.
Steez: Even if it wouldn't have kicked down an 8.75-mustache monster in October 2009, this stunt-slabwagon qualifies on thrills alone.

La Laguna Taq.
2010 Scrum seed: 6
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.49 (Mustache Chart ranking: 9)
Scrum performance history: None.
Steez: Haven't heard of this hotshot taqueria we've been shouting up the last four years? Hmm. Perhaps consider getting out of your neighborhood a little more often? Thanks in advance.

Taq. Reina's (Crocker-Amazon)
2010 Scrum seed: 7
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.55 (Mustache Chart ranking: 6)
Scrum performance history: 6th place quarterfinalist, 2008.
Steez: This place is so far south, it's almost in Daly City. That is so far south. Its regularly on-point burritowork, however, is worth the lengthy flight.

La Espiga de Oro
2010 Scrum seed: 8
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.28 (Mustache Chart ranking: 20)
Scrum performance history: None.
Steez: Sub-profile La Espiga de Oro and its greatest-of-all-time grilled tortillas mean very serious business.

Taq. San Francisco
2010 Scrum seed: 9
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.37 (Mustache Chart ranking: 16)
Scrum performance history: 4th place semifinalist, 2008; 5th place quarterfinalist, 2006; 2nd place finalist, 2004.
Steez: Is time running out for this longtime Burritoeater panel favorite? Does its kitchen have a few good swings left in that bat?

2010 Scrum seed: 10
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.50 (Mustache Chart ranking: 8)
Scrum performance history: None.
Steez: Imagine the rioting in the Mission if this underground mall food court joint were to win the Scrum loot. Thing is, its sky-high ratings the last 18 months -- 8.92, 8.50 -- are for real.

Taq. El Castillito (Castro)
2010 Scrum seed: 11
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.43 (Mustache Chart ranking: 13)
Scrum performance history: 3rd place quarterfinalist, 2006 and 2004. (Its Civic Center / Tenderloin sibling shop was a 3rd place quarterfinalist in 2008.)
Steez: It's not a Slab Scrum unless a local Little Castle walks away with the bronze medal.

Taq. El Farolito (Mission St.)
2010 Scrum seed: 12
Pre-Scrum OMR: 8.36 (Mustache Chart ranking: 17)
Scrum performance history: None.
Steez: You'd think this Mission linchpin would have qualified for one of our postseason piefights before now. You'd be thinking incorrectly, of course, but at least we've got you thinking.

Relive past pageantry! Alrightythen.