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Vallarta, Taq. ExcelsiorOMR: 6.94
4697 Mission
cross street: Persia
ph. 415/452-8037
Map Visits: 3
Much like its celebrated (by some -- even us, at times) Mission sibling, Taq. Vallarta’s Excelsior shop features cursive-neon signage outside, breakfast items, a taco bar (complete with majestically winged tacos on the overhead sign), and bottled beer. But for whatever reason, flies are more of an issue...perhaps this is why predecessors El Fadi (2005-06) and El Taconazo (2006-08) didn’t enjoy long tenures in this space? The place is also less than spotless at times. Note that our most recent burrito here was a festival of lettuce-wracked blandness that sucked real bad. Credit cards accepted; janitors and exterminators welcome. Open real late on weeknights, and real real late on weekends.

Will My Health Be Violated?

06/17/12Zapata Carne Asada$6.505.83 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); temperature (9); size (8)
Shrug: cheese (7); rice (6); beans (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: meat (5); vegetables (4); sauciness (0); spiciness (0)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)

As much as our panel's critical thinking skills urge us to not discount this burrito's faultless construction, brilliantly grilled tortilla, and admirable string of hot bites, we can't help but wonder what in the hell Taq. Vallarta's kitchen personnel were thinking when they completely passed over the salsa while in the clueless throes of assembling our remarkably disappointing dinner. Prior to ordering Vallarta's zapata slab, we ensured that it included salsa (and all our other favorite super burrito fixins, too). So, of course, the joke was ultimately on us when our foiled meal arrived sauceless -- and, therefore, spiceless -- as well as devoid of the pico de gallo the menu description claimed it included. Adding to all the hearty booing was the heavy presence of shredded lettuce (unadvertised in said description), as well as a bunch of chopped carne asada that was flavor-free and less than juicy...although at least it was occasionally gristly. The dry rice was drier than the Sahara in a dry year, while the mega-pasty refried beans were clearly fried more than enough the first time around, so why even bother with the refrying? On the plus side, given that there was no sauce to drip forth, this loser burrito was neat to eat; we also appreciated the mostly melted cheese and generous avocado slices, which gallantly knocked the vegetables rating up to a whopping four mustaches. (Overheard panel member chatter afterward: "It's only mid June, but please let this be the lowest-rated burrito of 2012.")

08/12/11Super Pastor$5.958.58 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); vegetables (9); sauciness (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

What’s with all the overly detailed reviews? Why can’t these jokers at Burritoeater Towers dispatch with all the “witty” attendant verbiage and just post the scores? I want facts! OK, John/Jane Q. World Almanac Enthusiast, here’s why: Because sometimes there’s far more to the mustache rating than meets the palate, and here comes example 1A now.

It was as if the Taq. Vallarta kitchen followed a burrito how-to tutorial on this evening. Sure, there were plenty of top-grade elements to enjoy, from the full-on-got-it-going-on melted cheese along the inner tortilla to three-alarm (and ten-mustache) spiciness; salsa roja, so many avocado slices, and single-napkin behavior also got our panel’s attention in all the right ways, while zero temperature complaints were registered. Even the ingredient mix — more often than not the trickiest part of burrito construction — was on-point. Dig a bit deeper here, though, and we found that while nothing about the generously portioned pork was remotely offensive, it sure lacked any sort of defining flavor; Here, have some protein. More flummoxing yet was the overcooked, bland mass of beige masquerading as rice; How about some carbs as well? But the true source of voluntary shoulder-shrugging here was an alarming lack of intangible charm, which belied our meal’s otherwise glorious mustache rating eight ways to Sunday. This burrito was more by-the-book than Frank Burns.

09/10/08Super Pollo Asado$5.957.50 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); vegetables (9); spiciness (9); size (8); tortilla (8); beans (8); ingredient mix (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: rice (7); meat (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: cheese (2)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

This classic-sized slab dodged a few bullets – low sauce content, fully unspectacular grilled chicken – to keep itself in position to garner a respectable rating by the time the last of the foil hit our red plastic tray. But around halfway through, our panel became concerned with the severe lack of cheese on hand: Where...where are the pillowy tufts? (Or something similar.) Turns out friendly Mr. Slabmaker Fella behind Vallarta’s counter didn’t shoehorn too many shreds of cheese into his oblong handiwork, and that hurt us real bad. Elsewhere, plenty of diced onion, cilantro, and sliced avocado picked up a bit of the dairy slack, while spice levels flew deep into the red from the get-go. But what was with the perilously unseasoned poultry? This is California! The state that brought flavor to America! Come on.