the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Burrito Express, El Outer SunsetOMR: 8.31
1601 Taraval
cross street: 26th Ave.
ph. 415/566-8300
Map Visits: 11
El Burrito Express’ smaller shop in the Avenues is often well worth the haul if you don't live in the area. This corner joint does a brisk business, but since it’s got nine stools at a window counter that doesn’t comfortably fit nine people, you may want to plan your visit for an off-peak time; alternately, pack a towel and head out for a seaside slab picnic two miles west at the edge of the continent. Newcomers will want to give themselves a couple extra minutes to make sense of the biblical overhead menu, and be sure to watch that tricky floor slope just inside the front door. Breakfast and delivery (!) available. Credit cards accepted ($10 minimum). Closed Sundays.

Will My Health Be Violated?

08/15/12Super Bronco Chicken$6.807.67 Mustaches
Swish: beans (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (8); meat (8)
Shrug: cheese (7); vegetables (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (7); tortilla (6); rice (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

A few members of our panel swore this burrito was made in another taqueria's kitchen. How else to explain certain distinctly un-Slab Train-like elements — the criminally chewy tortilla, the not-quite-entirely melted cheese, the ingredient mix that didn't introduce rice and spice until halfway in. Perhaps most egregiously, this burrito lacked the sort of intangible allure that every single El Burrito Express foiled product we've enjoyed since 2005 has possessed, often in spades. We totally appreciated the faultless construction and endless run of hot bites, and those refried beans really couldn't have been any better; we also took no argument with the highly capable poultry and avocado, the latter shining most brightly as the veggie highlight of the show. But the inconsistently placed pockets of spiciness, combined with far too many other ordinary factors (check that litany of shrugs above), ensured the sort of underachieving results we've always come to El Burrito Express to avoid.

12/23/11Super Bronco Chile Relleno$6.008.36 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); beans (9); size (8); rice (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: tortilla (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: vegetables (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

We weren’t fans of El Burrito Express’ shrivelly and sticky tortilla, and everything certainly could have been further sauced up for our panel’s liking. In other disappointing news, other than the fried chile centerpiece, no other vegetables (not even avocado) seemed to make this burrito’s final cut — a fairly major gaffe on the kitchen’s part. Apart from these misfires, however, this Xmas slab sure packed a wallop...a comically cheesy wallop. It was scorching-hot, it was spiced to the tens, its refried beans were uncommonly delicious, and everything on hand was mixed seamlessly enough. Of course, we could go on (and on) about the cheese factor — melted panela galore inside the chile, melted Jack everywhere else. Cascading walls of the stuff. But, OK, enough.

(And yes, we added rice to the Super Bronco. The world continues rotating.)

10/22/10Super Bronco Chile Verde Pork$6.158.17 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); size (9); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); rice (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: meat (7); beans (7)
Clang: cheese (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

Merely serviceable pork, too much unmelted cheese — peculiar, considering the ten-mustache temperature — and laggard intangibility dragged the usually high-flying Burrito Train down into the low eights on a rare grey afternoon in west San Francisco. The tortilla was smartly grilled, and none of our panel members had any latitude to grouse about skimpy sizing, but the somewhat dry pork chunks really should have been better...and the grated Jack should have been a hell of a lot gooier. The generous avocado slices, however, were a bunch of welcome buttinskis, and even though spice didn’t really kick into gear until the second half, the ingredient mix was impressive enough. An untight wrap halted burstage abatement’s ten-mustache march just short of its goal, and it’s worth noting that even though we enjoyed it, all that chile verde looked kind of rojo to us.

10/17/09Breakfast (Chorizo)$7.209.00 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); meat (9); eggs (9); beans (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: size (7); spiciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Oh, you should have seen this tortilla. Gorgeously grilled, flaky, fragrant in all the right ways. Spot-on. You also should have seen the chorizo/egg scramble — how the diced sausage was cooked just to the point of slight crispiness. And the beans! So good, these refried beans. You really should have seen these beans. Same goes for the melted cheesefest (Jack and cheddar...but mostly Jack), which imparted damn near every bite with gooey wisdom. The ingredient mix...oh, the ingredient mix. What an ingredient mix! In every hot bite: all the aforementioned, plus very capable guacamole, small but hearty potato chunks, adequate spice, and pico de gallo that left a bit of residue along the tortilla’s exterior, but hey, whatever. In every unhot bite: There were no unhot bites. Every bite was hot. Result: ten mustaches for temperature. Despite its Burritoeater Pantheon credentials, a few components could have performed better — such as burstage abatement, which took a minor hit due to occasional tortilla bursts and an overall unwieldiness at times. Are we grousing? We are certainly not grousing about another nine-mustache burrito from the Burrito Train on Taraval, the second in a little over one year’s time. And the beans! So good.

11/13/08Super Bronco Grilled Steak$6.158.33 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); cheese (9); vegetables (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

While not The Burrito Train’s most mustachioed effort, this lengthy, yet somewhat slender slab still racked up no shortage of swish-worthy ratings. A clean sweep of hot bites and peerless construction topped the list, closely trailed by a champ veggie mix (led by a healthy contingent of avocado slices) and gooey pads of melted jack cheese. The tortilla wasn’t quite grilled up to snuff, but it got by; inside, a well-concocted combination of refried beans and Spanish rice laid down a smart foundation. Steak was tasty and slightly smoky, but never reached “outstanding” status. Spice increased the further down our judges panel drilled, but given its anemic early level, it couldn’t muster more than six meager mustaches on the Burritoeater fire meter. And somehow the whole thing was unsaucy without being dry. Were those tiny chunks of green tomato in the pico de gallo?

06/28/08Super Bronco Chile Colo. Beef$6.159.00 Mustaches
Swish: beans (10); sauciness (10); temperature (10); meat (9); cheese (9); ingredient mix (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); rice (8); vegetables (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

A big league, professional-grade burrito all the way around – truly outstanding in a few ways, uniformly strong in the rest. In fact, there was nary a weakness to be picked apart, pointed at, and remarked upon with a head-shaking, This really could have been done much better, Jim. The nicely sized dinner was slightly squishy due to the chile colorado’s major role, but construction remained drip- and burstage-proof throughout. We were happy to see a front of all-melted jack cheese blow in early and often along the inner tortilla wall, while the tortilla itself was the portrait of eight-mustache steadiness. Slabby Award-worthy refried beans made every bite a little better (in a marvelously sludgy kind of way); we also appreciated all the robust tomato accompanying the incomparable red sauce, a move that only did good things for the deliciously stewed chunks of beef. Spice never got out of hand the way we like, but it did remain consistently sharp top to bottom. Steam emanated from the roof of the slab early on...the only temperature issues were the Sunset’s annual June gloom outside. Finally, hats off to the all-pro ingredient mix, which managed to effectively work the nice rice into the burrito’s fabric. And a hearty “choo choo” for full-dial, dual-mustache intangibility. Onions!

11/10/07Macho Carnitas / Grilled Steak$8.258.33 Mustaches
Swish: size (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); cheese (9); temperature (9); beans (8); vegetables (8)
Shrug: rice (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

15 inches. Two tortillas. 31 bites. 31 bites! Like standing next to a man who’s 7’2”, there just wasn’t any ignoring the comically mammoth size of this seemingly never-ending slab. Its ten-mustache burstage abatement spoke to its surprising lack of floppiness, while its pair of tortillas showed the delicious effects of some serious grilling. It was a meatfest inside the twin-cam wrap (which wore out our panel’s jaws by slab’s end), and while it was supposed to be half carnitas, half carne asada, the pork ended up elbowing the beef aside more than three-quarters of the time. And although the mix was totally out of proportion, there was no denying the rad quality of each meat, from the carnitas’ salted-just-so shredaliciousness to the beef’s marvelous char. Still, other qualified elements got nudged off the radar more than they should have, such as the tasty refried beans and guacamole, as well as the rest of the veggie gang. The rice was micro-grain and fair enough, but spice should have played a more significant role throughout. The near-completely melted cheese didn't know jack, but it should have - its cheddarness kept it from attaining the highest possible rating. Just as some trains go on and on and on, the Burrito Train’s macho burrito had staying power like we’d never seen.

09/05/06Super Bronco Chile Relleno$5.558.45 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); ingredient mix (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: spiciness (1)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

All those sky-high element ratings worked hard to make this burrito the exceptional slab-show it was. So weren’t we appalled at El Burrito Express’ kitchen skimping so mercilessly on the heavy-handed spiciness we continually covet? The nerve. Some simple seven-mustache fire (do the math yourself) would have placed this effort in Burritoeater’s nine-mustache penthouse. Elsewhere, how often does an ingredient mix this perfect roll up? Once annually, perhaps? There was everything in every bite, and that’s really as it ought to be, in our book. The soft wrap caused little to no angst, while the nicely grilled tortilla (three words we’ll never tire of typing in that order) held it all together with supreme aplomb. The evening’s centerpiece, a mildly battered and cheese-stuffed chile relleno, did its share of the heavy mustache lifting, while the rest of the veggies on hand also did the opposite of struggle. Intangibility was as much a presence as spice wasn’t. Again, virtually no spice? Why? How? All or nothing - longball or whiff - this was the Gorman Thomas burrito, to the end. Maddeningly delicious.

04/11/06Super Bronco Carnitas$5.658.75 Mustaches
It never fails. Whenever a burrito climbs within a quarter-mustache of nine hairy ones on our silly scale, we can’t help but play What If. In the case of this dragon-slaying slab: What if it had been built on a slightly larger scale? Or if its spice index had been positively incendiary rather than just peripherally fiery? Are we micro-managing here? The interior of this burrito’s gently grilled tortilla was fully lined with melted jack, so much so that the cheese even penetrated its way into the burrito’s central regions. El Burrito Express’ avocado-pelted super bronco option doesn’t automatically include rice, so we had it added - smart move, as it filled its supporting role gracefully, as did an ideal amount of refried bean-slop. All bites were hot, burstage concerns were non-existent, and intangibility was off the chart. Fans of externally crispy carnitas may not take to the Burrito Train’s method of pork-frying, but for anyone who enjoys shamelessly tender, pull-apart-friendly meat, welcome home. And there was plenty of it. And it was tasty. We were just sorry to see such brilliant foodwork end a few bites too soon.
10/06/05Super Grilled Chicken$5.258.67 Mustaches
Cozy and chaotic El Burrito Express (westside edition) brought forth a jaw-dropping slab, just as it filled those same jaws with a superior grilled tortilla, flawless and copiously melted cheddar, and pepper-and-onion-laden pico de gallo. A few scoops of the Burrito Train’s delicious refried beans and perfectly fine grilled chicken piled on the taste bud ecstasy in SF’s Fog Belt. A clean sweep of hot bites always makes us real happy, as does an ingredient mix that allows a near-full sampling of the whole slab in a single bite; we got both here, and hooray for that. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t give mention to the subtly crucial guacamole, smart (and occasionally spicy) salsa roja, and this foodpiece’s sagacious overall construction. Not only all that, but intangibility rated the maximum two bonus mustaches. And to think that some snoots still look down their noses at Taraval, dismissing it as a dilapidated corridor of Irish taverns, overhead streetcar cables, and Asian tapioca joints.
09/15/03Super Carne Asada$4.856.00 Mustaches
Cull your own bummer: over-reliance on beans; ongoing burstage issues; bland sauce; a total absence of cheese. It all added up to a dull 8.5 inches.