the Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly Apparel Bazaar

Reina's, Taq. Crocker-AmazonOMR: 8.34
5300 Mission
cross street: Mount Vernon
ph. 415/585-8243
Map Visits: 8
After taking over this corner shop in 2008, Taq. Reina’s didn’t make many changes to the room itself, choosing to leave the beer ads and crazy-illusionary wall artwork intact. (Don't miss the righteous 3-D Last Supper woodcarving on the south wall.) Although our most recent visit took a turn for the more mediocre, the place still merits a field trip from the city's central neighborhoods. Staff is often extra-friendly. Breakfast and bottled beer available. Credit cards accepted.

Will My Health Be Violated?

06/07/12Super al Pastor$6.507.75 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); temperature (9); tortilla (8)
Shrug: size (7); meat (7); beans (7); cheese (7); ingredient mix (7); rice (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

All good things must eventually slam into the brick wall of inevitability, and so it was that Taq. Reina's perfect run of eight-mustache burritos came to an end with this comparatively lackluster effort. Although a number of elements — impeccable construction, sharply flavorful pico de gallo, tongue-lashing spice, hot bites — scraped the top of our mustache scale, too many laggard moments occurred for this slightly undersized slab to make a truly positive impact on our meat-headed / meat-eating panel. The liberally sauced pork maintained a faceless, strangely beef-like profile throughout, while neither the refried beans nor (especially) the mushy, bunched-up rice impressed us much. The ingredient mix may have been harmlessly effective, but this meal's one-mustache intangibility had all the intensity of a Yanni show. To hell with Yanni! To hell with that guy.

11/10/11Super Carne Asada$6.508.25 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); temperature (9); size (8); beans (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: meat (7); sauciness (7); rice (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Slightly short, but shapely in all the right places, this meal-in-foil from our favorite Crocker-Amazon slabeteria was indeed a success, albeit a flawed one; it also tasted real good. The tortilla possessed an earthquake fault-sized ingrown strip running up its spine, but it was so voraciously grilled that we got over it pretty quickly. Other top-shelf moments included impervious construction, zero cool bites, a smattering of avocado slices, a level of spiciness that gently poked our panel’s senses, and a heaping helping of properly melted cheese lining the tortilla’s interior. Substandard elements? OK, there were one or two. Taq. Reina’s ordinary rice brought things down a notch, and the divisive mix didn’t do much for it, either. The burrito somehow toed the gossamer thread separating dry and saucy, and the seemingly star ingredient — the industrially diced steak — did the job on its own facelessly effective terms. But our dinner’s grasp of intangible credibility was undeniable, and that’s why this place gets the corner office and the fat salary.

12/08/10Super Pollo Asado$6.258.00 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); rice (8)
Shrug: size (7); beans (7); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

A trio of ill-advised turns — surprisingly flat spiciness, a lack of obvious sauciness, and an ingredient mix that bunched most of the meat together and leaned a bit too heavily on the rice — sent this Scrum burrito slipping down into the lowest reaches of eight-mustache credibility. Still, it was still an eminently enjoyable meal-in-foil overall, with a wisely grilled tortilla and subtly masterful melted cheese leading the way; major avocado involvement also furthered the delicious cause. We enjoyed the boldly charred and winsomely seasoned chicken...we just wished that most of it wouldn’t have been stuffed into the hind end of the slab. We had no room to grouse about any remotely cool bites, the rice/beans foundation was solid enough, and two bonus mustaches for intangibility was a sure thing throughout. Yet dimensions were a little on the short side, and we felt as if the kitchen cut a corner or two by leaving us with such an ingrown tortilla. A far cry from this shop’s finest effort only a few weeks prior (see 11/20/10, below).

11/20/10Super Carnitas$6.259.17 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); meat (10); cheese (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: sauciness (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Gee, that sure tasted good. Taq. Reina’s spent 2008-09 firming up its death grip on 8.50-mustache business, but it turns out those stellar performances were a mere prelude for its first 2010 moment in the spotlight, this 9.17-mustache hellbanger. Dimensionally monstrous and stuffed full of some of San Francisco’s finest carnitas, this was one of the greatest burritos our panel’s ever had hurled in its direction. The tortilla was a grilled thing of beauty, fragrant and flaky in all the right ways, while inside, burly avocado slices, melted cheese, and fort-holding refried beans and rice were all welcome constants. You’d like more details on this all-time carnitas, you say? Start with descriptives such as "plenteous," "perfectly crispy," and "impossibly flavorful," and make your way home from there. Spice kicked into gear about a third of the way in (thus preventing a perfect ingredient mix rating) and became an immovable object the rest of the way; elsewhere, construction proved itself worthy of sure-grip-maximum accolades. Oh, certain bites could have been saucier — the one shrug-level element here — but the ever-present pico de gallo ensured things never got parched. And you’re not handed a 9.17-mustache foodpièce de résistance without it possessing the sort of intangible delights over which jousts occur.

On second thought, never mind that silly bit about jousts; rad intangibility, though.

09/27/09Super Ranchero Steak$6.258.58 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); sauciness (8)
Shrug: tortilla (7); ingredient mix (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Never mind the saucy burstage on each end, or the somewhat moisture-addled tortilla, or even the minor side-to-side ingredient mix issues. When the burrito is this rife with intangible credibility, everyone’s in luck. The convivial folks in Reina’s kitchen clearly know the way to our judges panel’s heart, and it involves hearty avocado slices, hell-bringing spice, and scads of melted Jack cheese bleeding white and gooey over real good refried beans. Even the negatives here turned positive, with the internally dry beef counterbalancing itself by somehow delivering sharp flavor. Sometimes we can say it all in under a hundred words. Hang on, one more: onions!

11/19/08Super Chile Verde Pork$5.758.42 Mustaches
Swish: sauciness (10); tortilla (9); cheese (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); temperature (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); meat (8)
Shrug: rice (7); beans (7)
Clang: spiciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

It was perfectly shaped. The burly chunks of boiled pork got it done right. The rich salsa verde performed extraordinarily. The tortilla was expertly grilled to the point of flakiness. The cheesework deserved every mustache that came its way. The vegetable array was diverse, sharp, and delicious. Other than some very minor sauce seepage, construction was fairly quakeproof. And everything was mixed way pro-like. So if you’re at all wondering why this beauty queen of a meal didn’t turn out to be a Burritoeater Hall of Fame slab, look no further than its somewhat mushy rice grains, refried beans that seemed to bleed into all the salsa, and most notably, surprisingly bantamweight spice. Your burrito can have all the intangible cred in the universe, as this one certainly did. But when spice comes up limp, well, damn. This one could have been a contender.

07/12/08Super al Pastor$5.758.67 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); vegetables (9); ingredient mix (9); rice (8); beans (8)
Shrug: size (7); sauciness (7); spiciness (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Its only real shortcoming being a dearth of truly spicy firepower, this outstanding burrito connected most of the other dots on our scoresheet -- namely, the thoughtfully grilled tortilla, the here/there/everywhere melted cheese, and the pico de gallo- and avocado-rich vegetable contingent, among others. A beguiling set of pastor tasted as if it had visited a crackling bacon fryer before being dumped into our lunch slab, and while that may make a few members of our audience shudder in disgust, the rest of us will contort our faces into expressions that pretty much say, Aw yeah. Top-notch construction, slab-wide heat, and a sharply designed ingredient mix sealed the delicious deal.

06/02/08Super Tinga Chicken$5.758.50 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); rice (8); beans (8); sauciness (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: size (7); tortilla (7); vegetables (7)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

In spite of a tortilla too prone to saucy soak-through for it to be taken completely seriously, this out-of-the-way shop’s debut slab was a quiet hit on our mustachometer. There was much to appreciate here, like the kitchen’s instinctive ability to go light on the rice without allowing it to disappear entirely. Elsewhere, Reina’s proclivity for tall spice resulted in a great deal of beverage-swilling on our part. And the cheese! Abundant and fully melted, all that Monterey Jack softened each of the 15 bites in a way we’d never experienced. Avocado slices were also plentiful, although a few other usual vegetables (pico de gallo, cilantro) were strangely skimped upon. The tinga chicken appeared in cumbersome lumps, but retained enough of its external juiciness inside to mitigate its made-for-lumberjacks aesthete. And as much as we’d get a kick out of ending this review with the very poncey aesthete, the refried beans and Spanish rice deserve closing shouts for ideal supporting contributions.