the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Zona Rosa Upper HaightOMR: 7.69
1797 Haight
cross street: Shrader
ph. 415/668-7717
Map Visits: 7
Corner joint Zona Rosa has maintained a steady clientele since the 1980s, something we mainly attribute to the twin complacency-breeding elements of convenience and familiarity. It certainly can't be the fair-to-middling burritowork here, or the fact that you may end up sitting adjacent to someone who could — how do we phrase this gingerly? — use some “help.” It’s also a pity that the terrific chips are paired not with a similarly glorious salsa bar, but rather, mediocre sauces in plastic squeeze-bottles. So weak. Cash only. Bottled beer available.

Will My Health Be Violated?

05/15/13Super Grilled Steak$8.687.75 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); size (9); beans (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (6); cheese (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Soft, poorly mixed, and intangibly blah, our buxom lunch at this veteran Haight Street slabbery nevertheless mustered enough momentum to merit a respectable Overall Mustache Rating in the end. At the top of Zona Rosa's credibility heap was this burrito's heavy-duty spice, while the exceptionally tasty refried beans weren't far behind. Most everything else — from the token-grilled tortilla and thin sauce action to the low-profile cheese and dull (so dull) carne asada — elicited yawns at best from our panel of judge-clowns, but at least hot bites and reasonable construction (random drips excepted) persevered throughout; the thick-ass guacamole, meanwhile, turned in a sharply flavorful performance. Onions? Sure.

03/08/09Super Chile Verde Pork$7.847.58 Mustaches
Swish: spiciness (10); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); beans (7); cheese (7); temperature (7); meat (6); rice (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Who do they think they’re fooling? Not our grizzled judges panel, for one. Come on, it’s the 21st century – a taqueria can’t spice-torpedo the hell out of a drab-tasting burrito and expect savvy burrito-eaters to not recognize such a third-rate snowjob. Not that we didn’t enjoy the barnburning, ten-mustache spice – we almost always do – but when the pork chunks are this tough and dry, when the rice is this sequestered and overcooked, and when the side-to-side temperatures vary this much, who cares how walloping the salsa is? Contrary to what that one guy on Valencia in the “Nurses Do It Better” T-shirt thinks, we are not buffoons. On the less irritating side of the ledger, the chile verde was tasty enough, and we appreciated the heavy inclusion of diced onion and good-enough guac. But the tortilla got chewy late. And the Jack/cheddar mix was only mostly melted and too heavy on the cheddar. And intangible cred was lacking. And the restroom was out of paper towels.

02/21/07Super Carnitas$7.197.75 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (9); meat (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: beans (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); rice (6); cheese (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Despite an overbearing set of dry, poorly integrated Spanish rice, and an ingredient mix that won’t qualify for any year-end achievement lists, we enjoyed Zona Rosa’s carnitas-fueled slabwork on this evening. The fried pork’s flavor seemed to jump right out of the toasty tortilla in all its salted-just-right splendor – fortunately, our panel of big-mouthed judges was there to catch every meaty morsel and award nine mustaches by the end of it all. Although the guacamole and refried beans disintegrated beneath the mass of all that rice, each managed to invisibly contribute to the positive side of the ledger; meanwhile, robust jalapeños brought forth a more tangible sort of firepower. Fat shards of jack and cheddar were somewhat melted (enough to warrant a bit of respect), but it could have been done better. Temperature/construction/sizing fundamentals were all sound. Unspectacularly enjoyable.

06/03/06Super Chipotle Chicken$7.198.17 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); size (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9)
Shrug: tortilla (7); meat (7); rice (7); beans (7); cheese (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

No rating system is foolproof, not even ours. So imagine the looks of consternation on the faces of our judges panel when this overachieving effort cleared the eight-mustache bar (and then some). How could slightly undercooked Spanish rice, not-quite-completely melted grated cheddar, dull chicken, a steamed tortilla, and a merely adequate ingredient mix be part of such a high-scoring slab? Doesn’t its shrug-worthy intangibility rating tell the story? Did our arithmetic department botch this burrito’s scorecard? Are we about to set a record for most consecutive rhetorical questions in a burrito review? Reasonable statements, all, but they don’t take into account this foodpiece’s perfect burstage abatement, generous length, thick-as-a-brick-but-softer-than-an-actual-brick guacamole, ace vegetable contingent, and consistently warm-to-hot temperature. And leading the charge, along with Zona Rosa’s usual hellacious spice, was a supreme sauciness that landed everywhere but the rice stronghold down in that one corner. Admittedly, the chipotle sauce was an awkward shade of light orange, but we’re not judging a beauty pageant here. If only.

09/05/05Super Barbecue Chicken$7.197.92 Mustaches
One of San Francisco’s priciest super burritos, and certainly one of its longest and sauciest. Zona Rosa’s barbecue chicken lived in a thick marinade – not as glurgy as KC Masterpiece, but still 30-weight in its own right – and its tastiness penetrated most of the space within this steamed tortilla. Given the direction we faced as we ate, the burrito’s north side was dominated by some dense and carrot-inclusive, yet somewhat dry Spanish rice. Not coincidentally, this was the only area of the slab that, sadly, remained sauceless. Spirited spiciness is a constant at Zona Rosa; if only their under-represented pico de gallo and guacamole lived up to the same reliable standard. Also a little disappointing were the refried beans and low-impact grated cheese. On the bright side, instant burstage at the top of the burrito was of no real concern, while the chicken itself fought through the saucy tsunami to prove its tender worth. Though it narrowly missed cresting the crucial eight-mustache plateau, this burrito still scored well on our intangibility scale.
12/14/03Super Spicy Steak$7.158.46 Mustaches
These people have the widget of deliciousness, and it’s in their spicy/marinated steak – not their regular carne asada. For us, an impossibly spicy burrito such as this is the right kind of burrito, and Zona Rosa was all business with the peppery fire; the flavorful guacamole and pico de gallo were equally nonpareil. If only they’d grill their tortillas and lose the minor hind end drip.
08/31/03Super Carne Asada$7.157.00 Mustaches
Fit and trim, lengthy and svelte. Nothing came off as radically offensive, but short of a cavalcade of hot bites and tongue-piercing spice, there wasn’t much to loudly trumpet here, either. We sensed greater possibility in the air, but couldn’t pinpoint its point of origin. Perhaps it was in the meat bin.