the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly, January 2010back to archive

There's a delicious churro hidden embedded in this month's Bite. Chew. Mull.

Dear Beano is short on the dear, but long on the Beano.

Now that we've finally got that first decade of the millennium out of the way, we can finally deliver this Superlative Slabs Of The Aughts feature we've been sitting on.

Obstinate Reader Commentary is short on the obstinance, and also kind of short on the reader commentary.

And (epilogue) is just short.

Kindly pull up a food.

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How many year-end top ten lists did you slog through in December? How many of those dealt entirely with burritos? And how many of those had a four-way tie for third?

We published 100 new reviews throughout 2009, all so we could deliver the top ten percent to you in the January 2010 Blargh. It's a handy, succinct list of last year's highest-rated burritos, as determined by our celebrated panel of slab-savvy jerks. Fire salvo '09!

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Who knew we'd still be moving T-shirts after the holiday season amidst a historic global economic slump? That's the power of the Great Mustache, people. Sales have remained strangely brisk into January, so visit our Apparel Bazaar and find a cartoon mustache in your favorite color before they're gone. (Complimentary shards of burrito-scented foil included with every purchase. Not kidding.)

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"The problem here was just as much about what wasn't on hand -- flavor, for starters -- as what was."
--> Tortilla Flats, 5/18/2005

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Mt. Whitney Vs. Death Valley

Much like the decade on which it put the wraps, December 2009 offered our judges panel both the best and worst sorts of burritos. Certain results were fairly predictable, from Papalote's nine-mustache re-assertion and Gordo's latest sky-high rating, to Fillmore Mexican Grill's useless mediocrity and Chipotle's abject cruddiness.

The third week of the month was a roller coaster ride unlike few others, with twin atrocities from El Balazo (on Mission) and Chipotle mercifully cleaved by some hot-glory-in-the-foil from El Faro on 1st St. Our burrito-eating year wound down with South of Market newcomer the Iron Cactus unimpressing us, and the Little Chihuahua humbly stepping off its previously top-ranked perch.

PAPALOTE (Western Addition), 12/3/2009, Super Marinated Tofu: 9.00 mustaches
Spice was polite enough for the neighborhood college kids, yet bitchin enough for our incorrigible panel of dropouts. And we've been major fans of Papalote's black refried beans since that first single came out on Slabco back in '03. Slab of the Month, December 2009.

LA PARRILLA GRILL (Mission), 12/6/2009, Super Pastor: 7.25 mustaches
Clearly, La Parrilla's kitchen staff apparently ran the payload of pastor through a flavor-removal machine before dumping it into our dinner. In sweeter news, we chased this mediocre burrito with one hell of a vanilla churro.

FILLMORE MEXICAN GRILL (Western Addition), 12/10/2009, Super Chicken: 7.08 mustaches
For the first two-thirds of this hefty slab, we were pretty much convinced that salsa had been outlawed in Fillmore Mexican Grill's kitchen. Elsewhere, grates of cheddar couldn't decide if they wanted to be melted or not.

TAQ. EL BALAZO (Mission), 12/13/2009, Super Carne Asada: 5.33 mustaches
More insulting than Don Rickles -- not to mention the lowest-rated burrito of 2009 -- this decrepit, virtually sauceless effort featured a limply grilled tortilla, sour cream (no!), and refried beans that may have been old enough to get a drink up the street at Doc's Clock. Much scowling ensued.

EL FARO (South of Market), 12/15/2009, Super Ground Beef: 8.58 mustaches
If we could pick three hyphenated words to describe El Faro's ingredient mix, they would be "of-a-piece." This intangibly rich burrito pretty much called all its own shots from the first bite onward.

CHIPOTLE (Financial District), 12/18/2009, Vegetarian Fajita: 5.64 mustaches
Even with our subterranean expectations, we never could have imagined so many straight-from-the-fridge bites from this burrito. It was so shamefully cold, the more ornery members of our panel almost had to be restrained from charging the kitchen.

GORDO TAQ. (Inner Sunset), 12/20/2009, Super Beef: 8.83 mustaches
Gordo: Learn about it.

THE IRON CACTUS (South of Market), 12/22/2009, Carnitas: 6.67 mustaches
We tried seeking out the good here at this new, ballpark-adjacent taqueria, but instead were subjected to just too much six-mustache sub-mediocrity.

THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA (Lower Haight), 12/27/2009, Breakfast (Sausage): 8.17 mustaches
Plenteous cuts of spicy sausage admirably provided meaty counterpoint to all the vegetable/legume/dairy/grain madness.

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"They pulled off that all-hot bite trick. That's one of our favorite tricks."
--> Tacos El Tonayense (Harrison/14th St.), 5/28/2006

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New Decade, Same Satirical Shtick

Even though our in-house taqueria sage, Beano Orenthal James Cook, turns 109 later this year, we still get e-mails from time to time asking if he's a real person.

Oh, he's real, alright. Who do you think got in El Faro's owner's face back in the '60s, told him that tortas were fading fast and there was a burrito revolution on the way, and spat out as grainy KGO footage rolled, "Listen, Johnny Sandwich -- are ye wit' me, or are ye ag'inst me?" Who makes every intern at Burritoeater Towers quiver in fear at the legend of the man who escaped his family's humble prune orchard outside Turlock to ultimately craft a life of power and wealth by making San Francisco the pre-eminent taqueria destination in the American West? Who do you think TP'd La Taqueria the other night?

He probably doesn't have time for you...but give it a shot anyway, since it looks like he had time for the bold souls who submitted the handful of questions answered below:

Dear Beano: That sleeveless tee you're selling should come with mullet wig.
Dear Apocalypse reader: OK, you marketing wiz. Any ideas on a good tie-in for our classic thong?

Dear Beano: If I were putting together a San Francisco how-to guide, would be an indispensable part of it. You provide a continually useful resource -- at the right price! Even if you're way off-base about La Taqueria, which has some of the best burritos in the Bay Area.
Dear Apocalypse reader: "If it's free, it's me" -- right, friendo? And many thanks for the spirited La Taqueria plug. As for the how-to guide, let's discuss royalties and make this happen. What else goes into it? Extreme-fog emergency plans? Perhaps a CD sampler of our edgiest local music? I'm thinking Train, Third Eye Blind, plus a few classics from the mighty Starship. Everyone knows we built this city on scooters and luxury sedans, so why not a few interactive maps of Vespa and BMW dealers? Perhaps a list of fun ways to correct people with the brassiness to call it "Frisco"? Coffee?

Dear Beano: Will your autobiography be entitled A Burrito Too Far?
Dear Apocalypse reader: Only if it's published posthumously.

Dear Beano: I was at a beach while visiting the East Coast last summer, and I heard one woman say to another, "People from San Francisco bore me. They won't shut up about their Mexican food."
Dear Apocalypse reader: That's us. Nancy Pelosi's simply a puppet as we continue to impose our burritos-first agenda on the rest of the nation. Don't pin Chipotle on us, though. That's Denver baggage.

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"A vise-like grasp of burrito-making basics -- constant hot bites, idiot-proof construction -- provided not only a rock-solid foundation, but an opportunity to use three hyphenated phrases in one sentence."
--> Taq. El Taco Loco, 6/30/2009

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Our Slabulous Decade

We've been at this San Francisco burrito-eating game -- sorry, profession -- for seven years now. Along the way, among the nearly 750 reviews we've cranked out and slapped up on the Web, a few in particular have stood out: some truly outstanding burritos, some wickedly grim ones, and a handful as weird as the city itself. (Easy, big fella in the "SF #1!" sweatshirt -- it's a compliment.)


THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA (Lower Haight), 9/23/2009, Fajita Pollo Asado: 9.42 mustaches
The foodpièce de résistance of our times.

TAQ. SAN FRANCISCO (Mission), 2/16/2004, Super Carne Asada: 9.38 mustaches
A galloping stampede of bulky greatness from the semifinal round of our epic 2004 Slab Scrum.

DOS PIÑAS (Potrero Hill), 11/1/2007, Super Fajita al Pastor: 9.17 mustaches
We sauntered into this old haunt at the dinner hour expecting more seven-something-mustache adequacy, only to emerge more stunned than the bonehead who accidentally wears a target shirt to a Taser convention.

PAPALOTE (Mission), 2/27/2004, Super Carne Asada: 9.16 mustaches
Despite Taq. San Francisco's earlier heroics (see no. 2 above), this was the guts-and-aplomb burrito that earned Papalote the Great Mustache plaque in the '04 finals.

These years also saw a slew of 9.08-mustache burritos that, if placed end to end, would stretch from one side of a San Francisco sidewalk to the other.

But we have better things to do than make linear shapes with food in public spaces.


LA PLACITA (Portola), 8/26/2003, Super Carne Asada: 2.00 mustaches
The fact that this flat, narrow lump of food contained an unmelted slice of Borden cheese-food was only the beginning of its woes. We probably would have been better off checking dumpsters behind Jack In The Box.

CHINO'S TAQ. (Outer Richmond), 1/1/2003, Super Carne Asada: 4.00 mustaches
New Year's Day 2003: You're watching football, we're having a bad lunch. This first burrito to get cut up by our critical scalpel didn't survive post-op; we were so shaken by the experience, we didn't operate again until February.

CASA SANCHEZ (Mission), 5/1/2003, Super Carne Asada: 4.00 mustaches
But those sure were some terrific chips.

CARMEN TAQ. EXPRESS (Financial District), 6/27/2003, Super Carne Asada: 4.00 mustaches
Certain portions of this burrito's tortilla may have been constructed from balsawood. Other ingredients at this since-mercifully-closed Market St. shoebox tasted as if they'd been stored for weeks in an actual shoebox.

360° GOURMET (South of Market), 11/26/2003, Flame Broiled Steak: 4.92 mustaches
How? How is this romaine lettuce-foisting hellhole still in business?

TAQ. LA PAZ (Civic Center / Tenderloin), 12/20/2003, Super Carne Asada: 4.92 mustaches
In its defense, this tiny Tenderloin taqueria has since gotten its act together to become one of our favorite central San Francisco burrito destinations. It did experience an inglorious era there for awhile, though.

TANGO 20! (Western Addition), 7/19/2005, Super Mission (Grilled Achiote Chicken): 5.17 mustaches
Infamous "Clango 20!" lasted only a few months in summer 2005 before reality set in: Its lentil/daal-laden burritos were completely ridiculous. Soon after Tango 20!'s demise, Papalote moved into the space and set free all the building's five-mustache ghosts.

BURRITO WRAPS (Fisherman's Wharf), 11/16/2003, Super Beef: 5.31 mustaches
The bay views at this long-gone Pier 39 shop were unbeatable. The burritos -- and the shop's name itself -- were unbearable.

TAQ. EL BALAZO (Mission), 12/13/2009, Super Carne Asada: 5.33 mustaches
See Bite. Chew. Mull. above for further details, as this travesty occurred just last month. A cautionary tale that there's always a bad burrito lurking around most any corner, even in today's improved slabular climate.


Well, there was that one time in about '05, maybe '04, when a burrito flung itself up off the plate and started belting out a medley of Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!" and Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" -- all while doing the splits, leg kicks, the works. The exact taqueria escapes us.

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"Chalk up a victory for Team Dull."
--> Tlaloc Sabor Mexicano, 10/19/2005

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Still Defiantly Web 1.0 After All These Years

Let it out, America!

Why waste time bickering over politics or which teams really deserved to make last month's Little Caesars Bowl? Why not enjoy a healthy and spirited discourse* on San Francisco taquerias instead?

Send your commentary to today! If our Editorial board deems your mindless blather even vaguely interesting, look for it in a future edition of Obstinate Reader Commentary.

* Full disclosure: Given the comment-free nature of, our Editorial board maintains what some may consider an "other" definition of this word.

(Comments may be edited for spelling, clarity, and/or brevity at our editorial board's discretion. In fact, count on it.)

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"Romaine lettuce in a burrito, like what it sounds as if you've gotten before at 360° Gourmet, seems strange. To me, the quality of Mexican food is inversely proportional to the amount of Tapatio sauce you have to add."

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"I went to Taq. La Cumbre after its appearance on Man V. Food, and I'm sad to say it was very disappointing. I had to pull gristle from the carne asada on almost every bite. Win some, lose some."

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"I love The Little Chihuahua! The crowds make it tough if you want to eat dinner there, though. I recall it being a nasty place (whose name I thankfully can't remember) when I lived in the Lower Haight years ago."
L'Rico's was indeed unfortunate. Apologies if I just ruined your day with that bit of misnostalgia. -Ed.

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Yours, in delicious horchata,