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Nov 23, 2008 09:25 AM

Burrito Recommendations...

I'll be in SF for a week and am looking to try some taquerias outside my usual routine. I would love to get SF Hounds' reccommendations for places with good structural integrity (no knife-and-fork burritos) and an emphasis on chicken, al pastor, and asada, in that order.

To give you a sense of my preferences, my gold standard is the super burrito with chicken or al pastor at Taqueria San Jose. I'm also a fan of the super burrito al pastor at El Farolito, and the veggie burrito at Taqueria Cancun. I'm not such a fan of the burritos at Pancho Villa (poor structural integrity), La Taqueria (no rice) or the al pastor at Cancun.

I'd also welcome any thoughts on these places specifically:

La Cumbre: I was practically raised on asada burritos from La Cumbre. I love the way they steam the cheese in the tortilla. But I've read some reports that the asada is a pale shadow of what it once was. Is this true? Is it still worth trying the chicken? For some bizarre reason, good chicken is hard to find in LA taquerias...

Papalote: I've heard some great things about this place. One thing I'm not so keen about is the refried black beans (I get too much of that at Oaxacan places in LA). Is this place worth trying if I get other beans?

El Castillito: I understand they do the cheese similar to La Cumbre. Is this true?

El Faro: Supposedly the first to sell a Mission burrito. Worth trying?

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  1. One exceptional burrito joint not mentioned is La Corrneta. But then again I also like the burritos at La Taquaria and Pancho Villa (as a civil engineer, I find the structural integrity just fine, lol), so La Corrneta might not be your thing. Excellent Spanish rice and carne asad though.

    One small note, if you mean beef for asada, you need to include the carne part, as in carne asada. One of my favorites is the pollo asada (chicken) with extra pollo, spicy salsa, and the rice & beans on the side at Cinco de Mayo on San Bruno.

    La Corneta Taqueria
    2834 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

    6 Replies
    1. re: Civil Bear

      Many thanks for the info and correction. That just shows you what a low priority chicken is at LA taquerias. Down south, ordering "asada" gets you beef most of the time. Perhaps I had bad luck at Pancho Villa. Between them and La Corneta, which do you prefer?

      1. re: a_and_w

        Good question, but without a doubt the carne asada at La Corneta reigns supreme. I just had one yesterday with no rice & beans but extra meat and mixed salsa. With a little salsa verde added from the the plastic squeeze bottles to cover each bite -- very juicy and flavorful.

        It has been awhile since I have been to Pancho Villa, but I usually order the carne/shrimp combo burrito or the shrimp quesadilla without disappointment..

        1. re: Civil Bear

          Awesome -- I believe La Corneta will be my next stop.

          1. re: a_and_w

            Sadly, La Corneta was closed when I went by today for lunch. Also, I was a little turned off by reports of veggie niblets in the rice, which is a pet peeve of mine.

            1. re: a_and_w

              Yup, La Corneta has some vegies in the rice. I find it to be a nice touch. Sounds like we are just on different wavelenghths when it comes to taquarias! :>)

    2. Taq. Guadalajara and Taq. San Francisco are also worthy contenders. Papalote is def. worth trying, as is the El Tonayense taco truck.

      4 Replies
      1. re: xanadude

        Thanks. I'm a little OD'ed on taco trucks in LA, but I'll give Taquerias Guadalajara and San Francisco a look. Regarding Papalote, is it worth trying even if I don't want the black refried beans? Do they even have other options?

        1. re: a_and_w

          As a mission native now also living in abstencia, i have found both guadalajara and san francisco to be superlative in thier offerings. while its not traditional (and by this i mean in the tradition of the mission, without regard to any debates over authenticity) the chile relleno burriot at Taq. SF is a cheesy hunk of deliciousness. Consult your cardiologist before conusming.

          salivating from afar . . .

          1. re: tex.s.toast

            I tried the chile relleno burrito at SF but it had a moldy taste and no avocado!!! I got a grilled chicken one for my daughter, and also, no avocado!! I was specific, paid for same. How sad to get home to discover the omission. Didn't like enough to ever return. Who else has a good chile relleno? Farolito's on 24th seems to always drip all over the place. La Taqueria does not sell them.

          2. re: a_and_w

            They have other kinds of beans. I like their grilled prawn burritos. Even if you eat it there, try to remember to have them wrap it in foil. Great salsa; (it's pureed).

        2. I'm certainly no burrito expert, but I do eat a lot of them since they are tasty and economical. If you're in town for an entire week, I'd suggest you have the luxury of being able to sample a variety. So you needn't worry about sampling something uncertain like El Faro (and there are several scattered around town), since you'll certainly find something to satisfy you while you're here.

          I work at 16th and Mission, so I'm familiar with many of the burrito places in that area. While the food at Pancho Villa is fine, I've never quite understood the raving mania about that place. I fail to see the point of standing in a long line for food I can just as easily get across the street. I'd much rather get a "spicy chicken" burrito at Mariachi's (I'm slightly addicted to that one these days) on Valencia near 16th, or a carnitas burrito at Los Coyotes (on 16th between Valencia and Mission). For health and financial reasons, I've been getting a "regular" burrito these days, which doesn't include cheese. But a flavorful meat, some creamy pinto beans and some hearty rice can be a quite satisfying combination, in my humble opinion.

          2 Replies
          1. re: weem

            Thanks for the tip. I actually like cheese on my burrito. Is the "spicy chicken" burrito you mention grilled or stewed?

            1. re: a_and_w

              I love cheese, too. In fact, I love it with the works. Even "wet", with enchilada sauce. But lately I've been economizing on my money and calories with just a regular.

              And the "spicy chicken" meat that I've been getting lately is stewed, not grilled.

          2. The pollo asada at La Cumbre is definitely worth ordering. I think it's the best in SF. Great marinate, big chunks and usually fresh since it produces high turn over yet it sits okay as well.

            For the carne asada at LC, it can be good like the old days *IF* it's fresh. If I see it being grilled I'll order it and ask for it. If I was coming out of town, I'd ask for a fresh piece.

            The thing is, beef has gone semi-out of style at many taquerias, or chicken is just order more. This has effected turn over and thus quality. Grilled skirt steak (or any steak) shouldn't sit around. Another thing, they tend not to salt the beef.

            My strategy when going to LC is to plan on ordering the pollo asada and often order both if the beef looks good. The pollo asada will not disappoint.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              Awesome -- La Cumbre is definitely on my list this time. Like I said, chicken is an afterthought at most LA taquerias, so I'm excited to taste places that do it well in SF.

              1. re: a_and_w

                La Cumbre was my first stop yesterday. Ordered a super chicken with no lettuce. Chicken was moist and the burrito was very well constructed -- I have no doubt it would have passed my test of making it through SFO security with no burstage. But the overall result was a little bland. I was disappointed that I couldn't taste the cheese, which is what I remember most about La Cumbre.

                ML800, have you tried the chicken burrito at San Jose Taqueria? They marinate the chicken in red-chili abodabo. I like it with black beans.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    Hard to say. I never order a super or get cheese on my burritos, or lettuce.

                    Burritos are not only subjective but the possibilities of combo makes it a very difficult comparo. For example, if you picked the following basic options:

                    1 type of meat (pollo asada, carne asada, carnitas and al pastor)
                    3 types of beans (pinto, black, refried)
                    2 options for rice (yes or no)
                    2 options for cheese (yes or no)
                    2 options for sour cream (yes or no)
                    2 options for salsa (hot or mild)

                    With these you end up with 48 possible options plus the subjectives like quality and preferences. If you pull one option you still have 24 possible combos. My point is that it's not always a straight ahead comparo.

                    THAT SAID - if any one doesn't like what they ordered, nothing else really matters.

                    Side note: I can't remember if it's or the other SF burrito review site but orders the exact same combo -- a carne asada with certain things ( I think black beans, cheese and sour cream). Scientifically this makes for a better comparison but cusine-wise (or if that's not "your" combo), the point is somewhat lost in my opinion.

                    Also, for taquerias, I stick to the assumption most mom and pop ethnic places (heck, any mom and pop) usually prepares 2-3 things exceptionally well, and another 4-5 well -- and it's your job to figure out what works for you best. Additionally, if you factored in 4 types of meat options at a taqueria, you're at 192 combos from the list above, which simply means it's even more difficult to compare taquerias head to head vs. just one type of burrito.

                    Side note #2: My order varies to situation, like if it's pollo asada to go - I order refried beans (hold up better IMO) and I will only eat some burritos there, like Cancun's toasted tortilla.

                    As they say, YMMV.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      ML8000 (sorry for the typo above LOL!) I'm talking strictly about the chicken here. Have you tried the pollo asado at Taqueria San Jose? If not, I urge you to give it a shot, as I'd be curious to get your thoughts. Also, to clarify, doesn't Cancun steam and toast the tortilla?

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        Honestly I haven't been to TSJ for at least 10 years. It use to be the place to go, a long, long time ago because they use to stay open until 3 a.m. (or maybe that was El Faralito).

                        My late night go to place has always been Cancun (La Parilla Suiza for you real old timers). A few friends like TSJ. I don't live in the City any longer, moved to the East Bay 3 years ago, so I only go to a handful of places in SF.

                        If I'm in the hood, I'll have to check out TSJ, unless someone wants to go to La Taqueria...which many feel is safe in that area (I find a bit bland).

            2. El Burrito Express. I get the shredded chicken, but be warned it's a classic SF burrito...with rice.

              I tried Papalote recently and don't get all the fuss. The burrito on the plate thing loses points for starters.

              3 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                Thanks -- I'm not at all averse to rice in my burritos. Does Papalote wrap its burritos in foil or is it a knife-and-fork affair?

                1. re: a_and_w

                  I imagine takeout comes with foil, but if you eat in at the 24th St. location, they'll tell you to take a seat, and bring you a burrito on a plate without tin foil. Might be tolerable if my carne asada wasn't so tough.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Try the grilled chicken -- it was well seasoned and delectable.