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Laguna Taq., La BayviewOMR: 8.67
3906 3rd St.
cross street: Fairfax
ph. 415/401-9420
Map Visits: 12
Formerly the brick-and-mortar home of El Norteño before it re-invented itself as one of San Francisco's premier slabwagons, this dancehall-sized Bayview shop became La Laguna Taq. in 2006; since then, it’s been mustaches, mustaches, and more mustaches for the place, to the degree that it earned a second-place finish in our 2012 Slab Scrum and third place in our 2010 edition. No wonder it's growing more and more popular. The menu's almost intimidatingly thorough: soups; loads of seafood options; a lo-carb / hi-silliness "burrito" that employs lettuce rather than a tortilla as its outer wrap; delicious breakfast opportunities (see 11/16/11 and 05/31/07 below); and naturally, professional-grade slabwork across the board. Top-notch chips, to boot. Still, we have to admit we sort of miss the previous proprietor’s legendary (to us) sign featuring a hat-clad, taco-munchin’, Corona-swillin’, boot-wearin’ horse. Bottled beer and, as previously noted, breakfast both available. Credit cards accepted. Closed Saturday evenings and Sundays.

Will My Health Be Violated?

09/28/13Super Carnitas Fajitas$8.458.00 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); beans (9); vegetables (9); size (8); tortilla (8); meat (8); rice (8); cheese (8)
Shrug: spiciness (7); ingredient mix (7); sauciness (6); burstage abatement (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

What looked like a colossal behemoth of a slab — each end was wedged snugly into the yellow plastic basket in which it was presented — turned out to be simply a loosely wrapped mess of sorts on this, our final on-record visit to the mighty La Laguna. The earliest defining characteristic here was the constant dripping of salsa verde, which overly doused not only much of the carnitas within, but also our panel's precious hands. Even with our championship-calibre containment skills, this burrito wasn't easy to manage at times, but enough complaints — this was an eight-mustache dunch, after all. Perhaps only a few elements registered sky-high — hot bites, powerfully tasty refried beans, and smart intangibility were among this selective lot — but the whole ensemble rang true as more than a few bites were punctuated with “uh-huh”s and “aw yeah”s. And that pretty much says it all.

12/03/12Super al Pastor Fajitas$7.608.33 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8); cheese (8); ingredient mix (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); sauciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It was the Sofía Vergara burrito -- too hot to hold. It was the Joe Pesci burrito -- on the greasy side. It was the...oh, to hell with this unsustainable editorial device. Suffice to say that this spiced-to-the-tens slab had a lot of swish-level ratings on its side, but unfortunately, a few too many disappointing ones that sent its overall fortunes dipping (by La Laguna standards, anyway). Was this burrito constructed amid the Fires of Hell Itself? It was so temperature-hot that the all-melted cheese seemed to practically disintegrate into nothing at times; it was so scorching, the rising steam opened pores our panel members didn't even know they had. All this searing heat resulted in an ultramega-rare two-mustache demerit, because really, we had no choice but to penalize La Laguna for making this burrito an endurance test of sorts while trying to sear our taste buds to death. The serviceable pork was on the greasy side and regularly caused soak-through to the well-grilled tortilla. The rice, meanwhile, was a bit mushy and wilted in the debilitating heat, although the refried beans tended to fare better. Much grilled onion and green bell pepper raised the veggie flag mighty high, and intangibility managed to eke out a twin-mustache bonus. Then we sprinted to the Mustache Van and took ourselves straight to the nearest burn unit.

11/14/12Super Pollo a la Plancha Faj.$7.608.83 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); temperature (10); size (9); tortilla (9); beans (9); cheese (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: meat (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

There are those times — and they still occur far too frequently for our panel's liking — when the taqueria kitchen doesn't follow through on our "extra-spicy" burrito request. There are also those super-rare times when the taqueria kitchen seems hellbent on causing permanent damage to our panel's tastebuds with maximal spice-fire. File this visit under the latter, to the extreme. Fortunately, we had one hell of a burrito in our midst here, so despite La Laguna's best efforts to scorch our mouths clear out of the Bayview, there was no getting around the fact that this place proved yet again that it belongs among San Francisco's toppermost-rank taquerias. Plus-sized and hulking, this mega-slab was piping-hot (in terms of temperature) top to bottom, while its fiercely grilled tortilla was flakier than that one friend who never calls you back. Fully melted cheese and exceptional refried beans provided solid support, although we were a bit let down by the sparsely applied, if salsa-slathered chicken throughout. Heavy fajitafication — grilled onion, green bell pepper, more grilled onion — along with champ-level pico de gallo helped pushed the vegetables rating up to a perfect ten, and there was much to appreciate about our foiled lunch's ingredient mix. Finally, intangible infallibility was never in doubt. Returning to the spice question: It's only happened a few times before when we've been given no choice but to downrate a burrito for being too fiery for us, to the point where the pepper factor goes far beyond being a fiery thrill and becomes a flavor-masking nuisance. This was one of those damn times. Otherwise, we've got another nine-mustacher here.

08/17/12Super Carnitas Fajitas$7.608.83 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); meat (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); size (8); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); sauciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Really, what wasn't to like here? OK, we could grouse away about this sizable slab's unspectacular tortilla or just-OK level of salsafication, but we'd rather spend our time championing its myriad other on-point elements. Such as!: five-alarm (and ten-mustache) spiciness. Like!: ultramega-flavorful carnitas. For instance!: hot bites and idiot-proof construction. As well as!: full-on ragin' melted cheese and the sort of ingredient mix that makes us wonder why other taquerias can't get their own ingredient mixes together. And finally!: a hellacious veggie ensemble, anchored by every fajitas burrito's amigos, bell pepper and onion. Encore!: sky-high intangible charm. Criminy, what the hell are you waiting for? There's always an available table here.

11/16/11Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.309.17 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); sauciness (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); tortilla (9); beans (9); ingredient mix (9); meat (8)
Shrug: eggs (7); vegetables (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

So many elements of this champ slab hit our mustachioed target square in the bull’s-eye, we may as well work backwards and start our rundown with those couple that weren’t virtually perfect. Despite major avocado involvement, this seriously hefty burrito was short on pico de gallo; the eggs, meanwhile, seemed like a coat-tailer to the way more flavorful, ultramega-diced chorizo. OK, enough seven-mustache shruggery — let’s kick out some positive jams all full of superlatives and stuff. Cheese! 100% melted, delightfully fun in its stringiness, and a key factor in most every damn bite. Spice! Masterful...the ideal complement to everything else within the ruthlessly grilled tortilla. Sauciness! Yes! Just the right amount of salsa roja — mighty tasty, alright. Ten-mustache shout-outs also get yelled in the face of this burrito’s bedrock of hot bites and idiot-proof construction, while the graceful ingredient mix and delicious, sordidly pasty refried beans each ratcheted up nines. And if you have to ask...intangibility was so through the roof, we pretty much knew this was a hall of fame-worthy slab a mere few bites into it. Three more of these to go, please.

12/21/10Super Chile Verde Pork$6.558.92 Mustaches
Swish: meat (10); cheese (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); size (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: rice (4)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

So many elements here were so on-the-money, our discerning panel almost — almost — overlooked the fact that this burrito’s weak floppiness was due to a woeful underabundance of rice. Other than one other semi-significant construction gaffe — foil foolishly wedged into the ingrown tortilla — this piping-hot lunch was virtually without flaw. Its intangible credibility shot through the roof almost instantly, and with expertly stewed pork, much melted cheese, and booming spice penetrating damn near every bite, there was a little bit of “uh-huh” and a whole lot of “oh yeah” at our panel’s table throughout this exceptional burrito’s existence. We also owe La Laguna’s mighty powerful chile verde sauce a major shout-out...even if it came close to wiping out so many other elements in its wake (including the real nice refrieds), it was so delicious that we probably could have drank a jar of it on the side. We didn’t wish to be uncouth, though, so we stuck to eating the burrito. And that was OK with us.

11/22/10Super Asada Fajitas$7.309.08 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); vegetables (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

La Laguna’s second hall of fame-caliber burrito in less than as many years was a true barnburner, with special emphasis on flammability — between the crackling spice and non-stop parade of fully heated bites, no ten-mustache hot stone was left unturned. The toppermost ratings didn’t quit there, as scads of persistently gooey cheese and a whole slew of green bell pepper and white onion, along with some thick-ass guacamole and sharp pico de gallo, all sealed ten-mustache deals as well. Nine-mustache element scores were even more prevalent, so why not some token studio audience applause for the on-point refried beans, gorgeously grilled tortilla, and visionary ingredient mix? (Terrific, thanks; that was great, folks.) If anything, the equally sky-high ratings for sauciness and burstage abatement were minor letdowns — the former for exerting a little too much force upon everything in its midst, the latter for the stream of drips late in the slab. In a rare turn for a San Francisco-produced super burrito, the rice here maintained a slightly lower profile, but perhaps all that fajitafication had something to do with this? As for La Laguna’s utilitarian beef, it wasn’t particularly remarkable, but it fit the bill and stood to gain the most from the ultramega-powerful salsa roja. But that’s no way to wrap up a review of a 9.08-mustache burrito now, is it? No, no. We'd much rather leave you with: Onions!

11/30/09Super al Pastor$6.558.50 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); tortilla (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: size (7); cheese (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Studded with rich and tangy pastor that bit right back at us, and jammed with the sort of intangible niceties you expect from a top-tier taqueria, this somewhat undergirthed foodscud still had enough mustache-arrows in its quiver to hit our judges panel’s 8.50-mustache target. The show began with a quietly grilled tortilla ever so slightly victimized by saucy soak-through in spots, before revealing respectably melted grates of Jack cheese and truly dominant pork that was smartly sauced in all the right places. Despite marginalizing much of the veggie content other than the avocado slices, the ingredient mix was tops, and the more bites we took, the clearer it became that the pork’s sauce had upstaged the pork itelf. The refried beans and Spanish rice each did their work efficiently; spice boomed regularly. And in a weird turn, there was this one part of the tortilla that kept flapping open, mid burrito, like some floury door to the sauce-slathered world within.

05/01/09Super Pollo a la Plancha$6.559.00 Mustaches
Swish: sauciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8)
Shrug: cheese (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Our first hall of fame-worthy slab in ten months was worth the wait. Illimitable intangibility cast its spell over every bite of this nicely sized, expertly constructed lunch — so much so that we considered ordering a second one on our way out the door. Toasty as a June afternoon down in Tucson, our foiled meal featured the most elegant mix possibly ever spotted at any Bayview taqueria, with no ingredient getting rudely shoved out of the way; even the rice (the one element usually most prone to space-hogging) knew when to say when. We seemed to strike it rich with sauced-to-the-nines hunks of grilled chicken in most every bite, and we’d be remiss to not give a spirited shout-out to La Laguna’s uncommonly delicious, deliciously gloopy refried beans. Our sole gripe, and it’s a mild one, goes out to the grates of Jack cheese, which could have seen a more complete melting — strange, considering this burrito’s temperature index. Exceptional guacamole and plenty of onion successfully pitched for a nine-mustache vegetable rating. And whomever grilled the tortilla back in the kitchen had their game face on and deserves one hell of a raise.

11/03/07Super Carnitas$6.558.08 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: vegetables (7); spiciness (7); ingredient mix (7); burstage abatement (7); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

While it didn’t operate at the same high-flying level its breakfast burrito predecessor had five months prior, this foiled effort still found the crucial eight-mustache knack. Granted, it should have been saucier, and the bean-seep of burstage was totally uncalled for...but between the sharply grilled tortilla and enough melted cheese to make the whole of Wisconsin sport a state-wide grin, the swishes outshined the shrugs on a sunny weekend afternoon in the Bayview. The mix left the impressive rice out of the party more than it should have, but it brought everything else together harmoniously enough. Meat report: Plenty of shreddy carnitas on hand, and what its edges lacked in crispy grill-lacquer was countered with politely salted deliciousness. Spice contributed enough pepper-fire to warrant a respectable score, and while we could have gone for a more heaping helping of pico de gallo, the rest of the veggie gang held up its end, all the way down to subtle flecks of crushed red pepper. The whole package was piping hot from the top down, and sized to please. Then we took a nap.

05/31/07Super Breakfast (Bacon)$5.658.67 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); beans (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); eggs (8); cheese (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

With a scoresheet boasting a bountiful share of eights and nines, La Laguna’s breakfast burrito was an impressive salvo of hot bites, award-worthy refried beans, and flammable salsa roja, all swathed in a wonderfully flaky tortilla. Add to all that an egg/bacon scramble that, had it been produced in 1959, would have surely been described by someone wearing a cardigan sweater as “keen,” and what we had on/in hand was a 17-bite tour de force. The one strike against this foiled meal was the ingredient mix that divided more than it joined. But even the fact that the killer beans only appeared on one side didn’t get our panel’s collective dauber down too much. The mediocre mix adversely affected spice distribtion as well, but when the heat was on, it was no joke at all. Bacon grease was a minor aberration to the sauciness rating, and the cheese, while a good contributor, could have been even better. But all that stuff we hinted at in the first sentence, along with an excellent, guac-splattered veggie ensemble, helped make this a high- (if not top-) shelf AM slab. Onions!

09/20/06Super Machaca$7.108.17 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); cheese (9); vegetables (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: rice (7); meat (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Carnivores, remember the following equation: Exceptional burrito fundamentals + virtually tasteless meat = effective, yet unmemorable slabwork. That in mind, La Laguna Taq.’s first appearance on the Burritoeater radar would have made for an excellent vegetarian burrito; problem was, this burrito’s machaca meat came up far too blah, start to finish. We’ll never crucify any burrito that’s all-hot, smartly built, and full of both melted cheese and an intriguing vegetable contingent. But when the centerpiece is this dull, the intangibility rating can’t help but suffer some. Other than how it ignored the cordoned-off guacamole, which sported an unusual forest-green hue and appeared to be nothing more than smashed-up avocado, the ingredient mix was impressively all-inclusive. We could have done with more rice, but that’s a minor quibble and we know it. The machaca’s run-in with the flavor removal machine? That’s much more troublesome.