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Chino's Taq. Outer RichmondOMR: 6.58
3416 Balboa
cross street: 35th Ave.
ph. 415/668-9956
Map Visits: 5
This charmless echo chamber of a taqueria has been a linchpin of this stretch of Balboa for years, but we’ve always theorized that its popularity in the Outer Richmond is due more to convenience than anything else. Wait a second — isn’t one of our most ballyhooed burrito shops not far from here? So much for that proximity theory. Chino’s had a steady clientele long before the Chronicle gave it an inexplicable shout-out in its 2010 Bargain Bites supplement as one of San Francisco’s top taquerias, so it’s not like a sudden crowd of zeitgeist-chasers have streamed in from other neighborhoods to keep it in business. Why the devil are so many people into Chino’s? It can’t be the limp and soggy burritos; perhaps it’s got something to do with the one outside table and the community bulletin board. Cash only.

Will My Health Be Violated?

10/30/10Super Spicy Chicken$5.506.58 Mustaches
Swish: cheese (8); spiciness (8); burstage abatement (8)
Shrug: meat (7); rice (7); temperature (7); size (6); beans (6); vegetables (6); ingredient mix (6)
Clang: tortilla (5); sauciness (4)
Intangibility bonus: 1 (of 2)

With our earliest impressions colored by shortness, softness, and sogginess — never the sort of intro we hope for in a burrito — Chino’s again doomed itself to the six-mustache disappointment bin. The boiled chicken may have been fine, but it still tasted as if it belonged in a pot of soup, probably because the salsa roja in which it soaked was thinner than the odds of our panel being invited to Chino’s anniversary party; that is to say, the salsa roja was real thin. The refried beans lagged, while certain bites fell cool due to concentrated moments of guacamole and pico de gallo. Cheese was melted enough, and somehow this substandard slab clawed out a bonus mustache for intangibility (who says we’re 100% merciless?). Still, no element here was remotely outstanding, while more than a few qualified as irretrievable drags. Raspberries!

03/26/08Super Carnitas$5.866.58 Mustaches
Swish: burstage abatement (10); beans (8); spiciness (8)
Shrug: temperature (7); size (6); tortilla (6); meat (6); rice (6); vegetables (6); sauciness (6)
Clang: cheese (5); ingredient mix (5)
Intangibility bonus: 0 (of 2)

Chino’s highest-rated burrito to date still nearly bored our taste buds clear off. Mister slabmaker fella steamed the living daylights out of the tortilla, throwing the lever on the steamer not once, not even twice, but three times. The predictable result: a wrap device whose stickiness harked back to Post-It Notes we’ve snacked on during times of particular destitution. This burrito’s partitioned ingredient mix – pale, just-there rice here; overly soft carnitas and steady-truckin’ refried beans here; and, vegetables (including some snuck-in lettuce, boo) over there – fostered lukewarm bites more often than we preferred, and despite the grates of jack cheese hitting the tortilla before the tortilla hit the steamer, they remained surprisingly unmelted. Chino’s salsa roja supplied eight mustaches worth of spice-fire, but the excitement pretty much ended there. A disappointing slab, to be sure, but a minor step up from previous debacles endured here.

10/16/05Super Spicy Pork$4.996.33 Mustaches
Chino’s highest-rated burrito to date still banged the drum of disappointment mercilessly - and off-time, no less. The pork’s considerable salsa roja had that jarred look to it, even though they’d never pull such a stunt (would they?), and its iffy flavor didn’t exactly do much acquitting in our taste buds’ court room. In fact, taken as a whole, the burrito looked kind of pathetic there on the plate – stubby, a little emaciated, and floppier than a fresh-caught sturgeon on the deck of a fishing pier. What else can we bellyache about here? Plenty. For one thing, some flat pico de gallo, a few slices of jalapeño, and that newfangled InvisiGuac™ don’t produce an intriguing vegetable contingent on their own. For another thing, our seventh grade after-school dances were better mixed than was this weak slab. The pork itself wasn’t lousy, there was a respectable amount of melted cheese (although even that was kind of a gaffle, due to its relentless clumpiness), and despite some sauce bleed, burstage abatement wasn’t a major concern here. But at Chino’s, even compliments such as these come with caveats. This is the kind of place where guys read The Onion aloud to one another on Saturday evenings.
12/29/03Super Carne Asada$4.606.31 Mustaches
An improvement over our first visit, but still only average in nearly every area of examination. The tofu-like steak struck us as particularly baffling, and the burrito included enough rice to feed Romania for a week. Burritos from Chino’s appear to best suit those who have grown increasingly irritated with presence of flavor in today's foods.
01/01/03Super Carne Asada$4.604.00 Mustaches
The first burrito to ever go under the knife of our patented 10-Mustache Scale™. Floppiness, smallish size, and an overall disappointing taste assured slow-healing scar tissue on our taste buds, as well as an unsightly rating.