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Jun 2, 2008 10:02 AM

the Eternal Tripitas Taco Crawl

Recently I found myself in the Mission early one evening. I decided a mini taco crawl was in order. I stopped into La Taqueria first, having not eaten there in years, and ordered a carnitas taco. Although I won't so the taco was bad by any means, why on earth do they put beans on their tacos? I knew there would be beans so I asked for refried beans, but they couldn't get that right and I ended up with whole beans. The carnitas were tasty for sure, and the spicy green sauce they have on the tables is doubley delicious, but still, $4+ for a taco is ridiculous, even if it is quite large (almost like a mini burrito). I kinda felt like I had wasted valuable stomach real estate for something was good, but not too exciting.

A bit disgruntled for not being so adventurous lately when it comes to chowhounding I decided to pop into Vallarta next. I'd never eaten there before but had always been enticed by their street-style taco vendor. They myriad of meats all frying slowly on that circular grill is an awesome sight to behold. I watched as a few regulars ordered up delicious looking nondescript meats. One in particular caught my eye so I asked what it was. Tripitas. I figured it was time for me to take a leap of faith and give em a try. So I ordered a tripitas taco to supplement my "safe" chorizo taco. One bite and I knew I had made a wise decision. The tripe was tender and yielding with a bit of crispy bits. It far outshined the chorizo which was good, but certainly not anywhere near the best I had ever had. If only I hadn't already filled up on that generic taco from La Taqueria I would have gone back for more.

Yesterday I got up and decided to continue on my quest for more delicious tripitas tacos. I head over to the Tonayense taco truck on 14th. Ordered one tripitas and one carnitas. Again the tripitas beat out it's competitor. I've had some amazing carnitas tacos from Tonayense, but this one was just ok. No crispy bits. But the triptias were even better than Vallarta. Again tender, but more crispy bits and great flavor. I had considered crawling over someplace else to try someone else's tripitas, but it was so darned good that I just had to have another. So I ordered another round this time with a cabeza taco in lieu of carnitas. This time I asked for the meat extra crispy. The 2nd tripitas taco delivered awesometastic crispiness. The cabeza was tasty, but I guess it's harder to crispy since it's so wet. It was still quite delicious, shreddy, gelatinous beef. But the tripitas definitely won this round as well.

So now I'm wondering where should I go next for more outstanding tripitas?

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  1. Be warned that tripitas is not always crispy -- some places do it in a soft-braised style that I'm not at all fond of (I'm pretty iffy about tripe to begin with). The only tripitas I've actually ordered voluntarily is the tripitas at the El Novillo taco truck in Oakland. They discontinued it for a while (prompting consternation from faithful hounds), but when I was there a week or so ago it was back on the menu.

    El Novillo Taco Truck
    1001 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94601

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I love crispy taco de tripa, but I'm always asking myself: what is "tripa" anyways? The name sounds like "tripe," but it's clearly no form of (beef) tripe that I've ever seen. I don't think it's beef stomach at all. Beef intestines, maybe?

      For that matter, what _animal_ does tripa come from? I wouldn't be surprised if the crunchy little rings are pork intestines. Or maybe it's just that "tripa" can be used to describe a range of meat.

      1. re: snewdl

        All the tripas and tripitas that I've had are small intestines, not stomach.

        I haven't followed this up, but a few years ago the USDA banned the sale of beef small intestines due to BSE concerns and having had pork intestines in other cusines, I'd say that tripas are from hogs.

        1. re: PorkButt

          On the menus of Oakland taco trucks, "tripas" is often translated as "chitlin's" -- which is pig intestines.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            You're right, I do recall seeing chitlins on one of the trucks.

            The El Novillo truck you mentioned above has one of the best tripas in Fruitvale. Stay away from the El Farolito taqueria - soft and it had a very strong taste.

    2. Not in your neck of the woods, but I find the tripas at El Charrito in San Carlos to be the best. When they do it right, it's like crunchy little calamari rings with just the right ammount of tripey goodness. I find the inside of the rings of Vallarta's and Toyanese's version to be too livery in texture and taste, but then again, some might like that.

      1100 Holly St
      San Carlos, CA 94070
      (650) 654-1400

      1. I haven't had much luck with El Tonayense's tripe tacos.

        If you're ever in the town of Napa, the best tripe tacos we've found are at the Tacos La Esperanza truck. They're crispy & perfect. Their chorizo is also very, very good. The truck is on Socal Street, facing south, about 1 block north of 1st street (not far from the ever-controversial Oxbow, Copia, etc.).

        1. Brian is that the truck in front of Best Buy between 13th and 14th???


          9 Replies
          1. re: ChowFun_derek

            Yep. The truck right in front of best buy.

            Based upon the flavor of these tripitas I would absolutely guarantee that these are pork intestines. The pork flavor is extremely pronounced which is partially why I love them so much (that and the crispiness). They taste very like carnitas porkier cousin.

            Don't be afraid to ask for extra crispy. I often do this for carnitas, too. Just make sure to specify the meat needs to be extra crispy, cuz sometimes they might think you're talking about the tortilla.

            1. re: brian j

              Thanks..crispy pork intestines are what I like...Chinese OR Mexican!

              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                Where do you recommend for good Chinese style crispy pork intestines?

                1. re: brian j

                  I like the dry-fried ones at Zone 88

                  Zone 88 Inc
                  2428 San Bruno Ave, San Francisco, CA 94134

                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                      Was there just a week or so ago with DH for lunch - only about 4 other customers... Lunch was delicious as always but what made me especially happy was the warm welcome we received! The friendly woman who took our order and served us was just a delight - she was so tickled that we were ordering and enjoying those crispy chitlins, and a few other interesting dishes - one was new to me - taro with salted egg - I'm really glad that the food is still good there but I wish they had been busier - maybe they are doing more dinner business. I really like Zone 88 and hope they keep doing what they're doing!

              2. re: brian j

                Thanks for the tip re: confusion between crispy tripas vs. crispy tortilla:
                I guess we could try this Babelfish translation:
                "por favor, haga la tripa curruscante"

                I'll give it a try and will report back...

                1. re: RWCFoodie

                  That Babelfish translation is in Castillian Dialect... the blue collar Mexican Dialect version would be:

                  "Por favor, prepare las tripitas bien doraditas"

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Thanks EN - I wish that Babelfish would give us a Mexican/Spanish alternative!

            2. I've had great tripitas at Taqueria San Jose (Mission @ 24th), but they've been inconsistent. And when they don't have the nice crispy texture, they are not so hot.

              I second the Tonayense though, they are the most consistent Tacos de Tripitas that I've found in SF.