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Castillito, Taq. El MissionOMR: 7.92
2092 Mission
cross street: 17th St.
ph. 415/621-6971
Map Visits: 10
With a perennial crowd of dicey hoodlums hovering outside (and sometimes inside), Taq. El Castillito’s Mission St. burritoteria is a favorite hangout for both undercover constables and overcover seekers of quality slab-fare, although one look at its up-and-down Mustache Ratings through the years and it's clear that the place is tougher to figure out than a four-dimensional Rubik's Cube. At least the interior's less blindingly yellow than it used to be. While you're face-deep in your burrito, keep a slyly watchful eye on the 18-year-old girl with the brass knuckles two tables over. Credit cards accepted. Breakfast, bottled beer, and occasional arrests available. Open real late.

Will My Health Be Violated?

10/10/12Super Pollo en Salsa Roja$6.997.83 Mustaches
Swish: temperature (10); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); tortilla (8); meat (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: rice (7); cheese (7); beans (6); sauciness (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Our panel couldn't quite determine what made this burrito so peculiar. Was it the fact that the pollo en salsa roja we ordered turned out to be pollo en salsa verde? Could the overload of rice have contributed to all the baffled expressions at our table? Perhaps it was the staunch two-mustache intangibility that somehow held forth? Whatever it was about this maddening meal, it still managed to ring up a reasonable rating, if not one that demands folkloric language as we clumsily describe its (lack of) historical significance. The moist and flavorful chicken arrived in chunky chunks of chunkiness, while the shamefully overmatched refried beans and low-profile cheese should have turned in finer performances, damn it. Drippiness occurred more frequently the further down we drilled; paws got damp, napkins got used, frowns crept in. However, there was plenty of avocado to put up with, which didn't bother us none. Same went for the perfect run of hot bites. A weird burrito...a good burrito...but not a great burrito.

09/11/11Super Carnitas$6.998.75 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); spiciness (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); tortilla (9); beans (9); cheese (9); size (8); meat (8); ingredient mix (8)
Shrug: rice (7)
Clang: sauciness (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Here we had another Castillito classic in the making, full of all the usual Little Castle hallmarks: a lovingly grilled, fragrant tortilla; thoroughly melted cheese along the inner wrap; avocado slices aplenty; gracefully burly spice; hot bites!; stooge-proof construction; swishtacular intangibility. All this, plus a heaping complementary helping of refried beans best described as “full-on ragin’, yet delectably pasty.” Even Castillito’s carnitas — never this taqueria’s star meat attraction — earned eight-mustache credibility. But the element that unwittingly restrained this otherwise bitchin’ burrito from our nine-mustache promised land? Good grief, it was dry at times. Our sizable dunch certainly could have done with some of Castillito’s legendary salsa verde. But, noooooooooooo. These things happen...and it’s too bad they do.

08/30/10Super Carne Asada$6.997.83 Mustaches
Swish: size (9); tortilla (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); meat (8); rice (8); spiciness (8); temperature (8)
Shrug: beans (7); cheese (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Even if that old Castillito intangibility didn’t desert the venerable slabhouse, its legendary cheese-melting acumen sorta did. Clumpy and only mostly melted, Castillito’s co-calling card (along with its rad grilled tortillas) didn’t entirely make it happen on this trip through the mustache mill. Hefty sizing extended the life of this disappointing lunch, its most significant sin being a poorly realized ingredient mix that brought on a few vaguely cool moments here and there — again, strange times for Castillito. We dug the jalapeño-rich middle section, and all that sliced avocado and pico de gallo (however sadly integrated into the rest of the burrito) was totally OK with us as well. Carne asada was appropriately flavourful, if over-aggressively diced, but the refried beans kept to themselves a bit too much. Remember when we used to have nine-mustache burritos here? That was great.

02/12/09Super Pastor$6.237.17 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); cheese (9); size (8); meat (8)
Shrug: vegetables (7); spiciness (7); temperature (7); tortilla (6); rice (6); beans (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

We forgave the bone-in barbecue pork and ingrown tortilla. We mostly forgave the overly pickled pico de gallo. But when it came to this burrito’s atrocious ingredient mix, we had to draw the line. It’s rare when any element of a Castillito burrito descends into clang territory, but the alarming segregation within the strangely sticky-steamed tortilla didn’t do anyone any favors. Such bunching of ingredients – particularly the veggies – resulted in a few subhot bites that kind of bummed us out. Despite the small bone we picked out of the pastor, we enjoyed the pork’s smoky, almost tart flavor. Shame then that the Spanish rice was so criminally dry, and the refried beans were so outmatched by the overly abundant rice and in-charge meat. Spice teetered on the fence dividing polite and edgy, and things got saucier the further down we drilled, but intangibility was lacking and strangely un-Castillito-like. What the hell’s going on here lately?

09/26/08Super Pollo$6.238.08 Mustaches
Swish: vegetables (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (9); tortilla (9); cheese (9); spiciness (9); meat (8)
Shrug: rice (6); beans (6)
Clang: ingredient mix (5); sauciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Castillito: civic legend. Expectations: sky-high. Burrito dimensions: buxom. Bites: 21. Tortilla: real grilled. Veggies: on-point. Guacamole: yes. Avocado: oh yes. Onions: onions! Spice: noseblowing. Ingredient distribution: highly suspect. Rice: spacehogging. Rice: sauce-deficient. Rest of burrito: same. Beans: fried, and fried again. Beans: overmatched. Gunplay: minimal. Chicken: real grilled. Chicken: peppered, deeply flavorful. Chicken: bunched up. Jack cheese: plentiful, melted. Construction: faultless. Temperature: Tucson, late June. Jalapeño slices: thank you. Intangibility: unassailable. Napkins: one. Taqueria: rad. Burrito: kinda.

12/31/07Super Breakfast (Chorizo)$6.259.08 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (10); ingredient mix (10); temperature (10); tortilla (9); meat (9); eggs (9); vegetables (9); burstage abatement (9); size (8); beans (8); sauciness (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: no elements elicited shrugs
Clang: no elements clanged
Intangibility bonus: 2 (of 2)

Breakfast burritos don’t get much better than this, people. From the infallible veggies and wall of melted jack along the inner tortilla, to the devastatingly delicious chorizo/egg scramble, everywhere we bit within the Little Castle’s brilliantly flaky tortilla provided further evidence that San Franciscans are the luckiest lot around for having three El Castillitos at their immediate disposal. Throughout its long career, our judges panel had rarely, if ever witnessed an ingredient mix this seamless and equal, and while the sausage and eggs rose to the fore more often than any other elements, they continually made room for other enjoyable additions (hefty avocado slices, durably tasty refried beans, much chopped onion). Spice attained full respectability without moving into grab-the-beverage-every-time territory, and Castillito's salsa roja accented the whole piece of work gracefully. Intangibility, meanwhile, could barely be contained by our piddly two-mustache bonus system, as with each passing bite, this slab's date with Burritoeater immortality became gloriously inevitable. Happy new year to us.

07/23/06Super Carne Asada$5.497.83 Mustaches
Swish: tortilla (10); cheese (10); temperature (10); burstage abatement (10); size (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); beans (7); vegetables (7); ingredient mix (7); spiciness (6)
Clang: sauciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

With increased sauciness, this effort would have surely cleared our crucial eight-mustache bar. Alas, aridity was the order of the evening at El Castillito, along with a stunning grilled tortilla / melted cheese combo, scoops of dully effective brown rice and refried beans, and some genuinely run-of-the-grill carne asada. This burrito opened with a few strong bites that had our judges panel all up in a hyperbolic lather, but an unwelcome salsa-drought made the early groundswell a distant memory by slab’s end. And it was too bad, because a quick glance at the individual element ratings above indicates several run-ins with mustachioed success. Four ten-mustache ratings? Impressive. Dimensions were generous, as expected, but aside from Castillito’s usual avocado salvo, the vegetables were merely serviceable. The ingredient mix was fine enough, but all in all, that certain something was lacking. An off night for this civic heavyweight.

03/01/06Super Carnitas$5.498.42 Mustaches
This fried pork-studded scud may not have been the equal of its pollo forbearer two months prior, but looking and feeling like a super burrito ought to look and feel, it still commanded much respect from our panel of dunce-capped blockheads. And if not for a creeping paucity of salsa at each end, a mustache rating in the high eights would have been inevitable. The middle half saw all elements hittin’ on the ones: easygoing brown rice that stayed within its support role; hey-look-at-me avocado slices that provided tasty greenery; Castillito’s always-on-point, deliciously melted cheese along the grilled tortilla’s interior; and, an ideal amount of chunky carnitas, always an entertaining burrito centerpiece when done well. Perhaps the refried beans could have made a bit more noise, but really, the ingredient mix – which shoved all the fiery, pepper-flecked bites toward the center – was the sole grousing point here, and a relatively minor one at that. (We’ll forgive the arrowhead-shaped bone. These things happen on occasion in this business.) There were 22 bites, and every one was a hot one. Construction? Impeccable. And intangibility ratcheted up the maximum bonus of two mustaches. The hot streak continues.
01/07/06Super Pollo en Salsa Roja$5.499.00 Mustaches
This handsomely sized foodblimp followed a direct, workmanlike route to nine-mustache success by simply smacking a backbreaking three-run homer, circling the bases humbly, and not giving the opposing pitcher any reason to knock it on its ass next time it came to the plate. We gave El Castillito’s red-sauced chicken a whirl for the first time here, and were immediately impressed with its lingering flavor and aversion to mushiness, as well as the fulfillment of its peppery promise. Our scorekeeper ratcheted up nine mustaches for the main white meat, and a trio of tens for stunning cheese deployment, full-up foolproof burstage abatement, and an overall temperature that had us thinking of July days in Fort Worth we’ve thankfully never experienced for ourselves. A bevy of smartly dispersed cilantro, sharp pico de gallo, and spectacular avocado slices anchored a well-balanced vegetable cadre, while the building blocks of Spanish rice and refried pinto beans remained in good stead throughout. Despite landing ever so slightly on the thin side of the consistency fence, we took to the chicken’s red sauce right away, while perhaps most notably, a truly shrewd ingredient mix demonstrated that even a burrito containing upwards of 8-10 individual elements can adopt inner harmony. Three cheers for the Hank Aaron burrito.
03/27/05Super Pastor$5.498.25 Mustaches
Success in the face of adversity: El Castillito’s traditionally on-the-money standby – a beautifully grilled, cheese-lined tortilla – wasn’t fully on its game, but the tortilla was nevertheless nicely flaky and the tasty adhesive was still melted, so nobody felt too jilted about things. Mighty meaty: lots of pork on hand, and it was all real well barbecued. Half-and-half: the burrito’s polarized ingredient mix gave way halfway in to a more integrated ensemble. Solid fundamentals: a fine foundation of refried beans and brown rice held the fort. Oh come on: we didn’t appreciate the limp, half-arsed spice effort here. You are forgiven: grease factor remained quite harmless throughout. Mucho perfecto: 25 hot bites!