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Burrito Recommendations...

a_and_w Nov 23, 2008 09:25 AM

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?

  1. a_and_w Jul 2, 2009 11:37 AM

    Was only able to hit my two favorites, Taqueria San Jose and Taqueria Cancun, on a recent visit. The super chicken with black beans was as good as ever at TSJ. Unfortunately, my veggie burrito at Cancun fell short of the gold standard I've come to expect. In particular, there was way too much rice on my burrito.

    1. naberens Dec 3, 2008 10:25 PM

      El Balazo on Haight. Yum!

      1. a_and_w Nov 28, 2008 02:53 PM

        Tried Taqueria Guadalajara for a super burrito al pastor. I think I must have hit them on an off day. The main culprit was an extremely watery pico de gallo that left the burrito cold. The al pastor had a rubbery texture and lacked flavor, though it may have been dulled by the pico liquid.

        2 Replies
        1. re: a_and_w
          t
          tex.s.toast Dec 3, 2008 10:16 AM

          i have had good and bad al pastor from guadalajara, though the bad was not as bad as you mention. the oddest experience was when it had (many) large chunks of obviously canned pinapple in it. so strange.

          i find their burritowork to be above par, in general, however.

          1. re: tex.s.toast
            a_and_w Dec 3, 2008 11:24 AM

            They were clearly competent -- the burrito was otherwise well constructed. I tasted the pineapple just a bit. I'm not averse to pineapple with my al pastor, but I wonder if the juice contributed to the liquid in the burrito.

        2. a_and_w Nov 28, 2008 08:16 AM

          Tried Papalote the other day and was really impressed. Ordered a super chicken burrito with whole black beans and wrapped in foil. Chicken was well-marinated and juicy. Burrito was smaller than most but had great proportions and distribution of ingredients. That orange salsa they make is ridiculously good. I will definitely be back, particularly for a lunch burrito.

          1. Chuckles the Clone Nov 25, 2008 10:16 PM

            For the first time in like a hundred years I went into Pancho Villa yesterday. Got
            a regular al pastor. It was pretty ok. It was also $7 which is --way-- too much for
            a rice-beans-meat regular. But tasty and there's a salsa and jalapeno bar in the
            back. I guess technically I spent $8 because the mariachi guys did the come begging
            with the hat thing. I figured, I'll give this guy a dollar and maybe he'll tune his
            violin.

            The carne asada itself at La Cumbre hasn't changed. I think it's the rice. Something
            about the regualr with cheese is just drier and bulkier than it used to be five, six
            years ago.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chuckles the Clone
              a_and_w Nov 26, 2008 08:39 AM

              Yes, I was a little overwhelmed by the rice, which dominated the burrito. I'm generally pro-rice on burritos, but I think we ordered them without rice when I was a child.

            2. a
              adamshoe Nov 24, 2008 04:44 PM

              Might wanna search for burritoeater.com (I think) A local SF fanatic who's been blogging burritos for a while. Adam

              1 Reply
              1. re: adamshoe
                a_and_w Nov 28, 2008 08:02 AM

                Thanks -- I'm a big fan of burritoeater.com.

              2. s
                sugartoof Nov 23, 2008 06:49 PM

                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
                  a_and_w Nov 24, 2008 10:33 AM

                  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
                    s
                    sugartoof Nov 24, 2008 12:25 PM

                    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
                      a_and_w Nov 28, 2008 08:03 AM

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

                2. m
                  ML8000 Nov 23, 2008 04:19 PM

                  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
                    a_and_w Nov 24, 2008 10:32 AM

                    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
                      a_and_w Nov 26, 2008 08:36 AM

                      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: a_and_w
                        wolfe Nov 28, 2008 03:07 PM

                        ML800, demoted or decimated?

                        1. re: wolfe
                          m
                          ML8000 Nov 28, 2008 04:05 PM

                          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 burritoeater.com 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
                            a_and_w Nov 29, 2008 08:06 AM

                            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
                              m
                              ML8000 Nov 29, 2008 04:34 PM

                              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. w
                    weem Nov 23, 2008 04:13 PM

                    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
                      a_and_w Nov 24, 2008 10:30 AM

                      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
                        w
                        weem Nov 25, 2008 07:39 PM

                        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. x
                      xanadude Nov 23, 2008 03:02 PM

                      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
                        a_and_w Nov 24, 2008 10:28 AM

                        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
                          t
                          tex.s.toast Nov 24, 2008 11:43 AM

                          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
                            w
                            walker Nov 28, 2008 10:38 AM

                            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
                            w
                            walker Nov 24, 2008 01:55 PM

                            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. Civil Bear Nov 23, 2008 12:49 PM

                          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
                            a_and_w Nov 24, 2008 10:26 AM

                            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
                              Civil Bear Nov 25, 2008 10:56 AM

                              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
                                a_and_w Nov 26, 2008 08:53 AM

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

                                1. re: a_and_w
                                  a_and_w Nov 28, 2008 02:57 PM

                                  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
                                    Civil Bear Nov 28, 2008 05:33 PM

                                    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! :>)

                                    1. re: Civil Bear
                                      a_and_w Nov 29, 2008 08:08 AM

                                      Chacun a son gout!

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