Tacolicious: The Mission by way of the Marina (now in the Mission) [San Francisco]
A weird thing happened on Saturday night when we ended up, unexpectedly, at the new Tacolicious on Valencia. Hold up a mirror close to another mirror and what you see is a weird never-ending glass staircase that isn't an exact reflection of either. The new Tacolicious, a SF-Mex mix that is the Mission as interpreted by the Marina and then brought back to the Mission has that same strange, disorienting effect.
The menu includes the unfortunately named "Marina Girl Salad" (romaine, radish, pepitas, avocado for $10, +$4/$5 for chicken or shrimp) and pomegranate margaritas as well as La Palma tortillas and Rancho Gordo beans. The space is huge and bright, with pretty tile and plenty of room for overflow. The spacious bar serves the full dinner menu as well as an extensive list of custom cocktails.
We sat at the bar at around 8 p.m., after only a few moments wait, though the restaurant was full for our visit. We ordered just bar snacks and drinks--two small plates of chicken enchiladas, a fish taco and drinks. The cocktails were the most successful--I had the Paloma (el jimador, grapefruit and Saint Germaine) and the balance between tart and flowery hit the right happy medium.
The food wasn't as great--the avocado advertised with our enchiladas would be translucent if held up to one of the elegantly spare lighting fixtures; the chicken inside was moist but not flavorful. The taco, at $4, was a small piece of rock cod with a dollop of crema. In comparison, the pescado tacos at Papalote are $9 for two, but a much more generous portion in a less elegant (but still not bare-bones taqueria) setting. It's scene-y, well designed, and a little bland--probably not somewhere I'd come to settle a taco craving, but perhaps worthwhile for a drink and snack.
Full menu: http://tacolicioussf.com/menu
I was there yesterday for lunch and agree with your last-paragraph assessment. I don't understand the taco pricing -- groups of 1, 4 and 10? The table of 2 next to me split a 10-taco platter. It felt like they were in a contest.
So two of us shared three dishes, starting with the enchiladas mentioned above, which looked great but which we thought were just ok (and too salty). The best-tasting dish of the three was the albacore tuna tostadas. We also liked the shrimp a la diabla, which came with 2 tortillas but should have come with 4. It was all pretty tasty, but fairly overpriced compared to what you'd get at Chilango, for instance. We also were served chips and a tangy mild salsa (no charge).
It's very cute, very bright on a sunny day with a long patio and great mural outside. The tile floor is pretty to look at, and as we were told, was the only component of the restaurant to arrive/happen on time. But I'm not dying to go back.
The "too salty" comment is not a surprise, as their tacos at the Ferry Building on Thursdays have gradually become so salty they are, to me, not edible. I mentioned that to a random "counterperson" (not the primary crew there that day), that there was a notable increase in the saltiness, and she said it's their "flavor profile." Whatever!
I did like the traditional vertical-spit-cooked al pastor (which they tested out for a bit on Thursdays), with the meat shaved very thinly; it wasn't too over-the-top salty. Also, the Contramar-inspired tuna tostadas will be worth trying.
The al pastor tacos are available next-door at the 350-tequila Mosto Bar. Here is another menu: http://sf.eater.com/uploads/Mosto%20B...
I've eaten at Tacolicious twice now, and have generally enjoyed both meals. Both times, we mostly stuck to tacos, sharing several types. I like the fried fish tacos a lot, and the various meats are good too. On the most recent visit a few days ago, I had a taco with chicken mole which was quite good...not too sweet as mole sometimes is.
I also tried the Contramar-inspired tostada, which I was very excited to see on the menu (I wasn't aware of it before going to the restaurant). I didn't think it was as good as the version at the original Contramar in Mexico City (see here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/870467 ) mainly because the aioli at Tacolicious seemed too salty and too smoky to me...the one at Contramar was more subtle, allowing the flavor of the tuna to shine. But it was still quite good. Here's a picture, and you can see my Mexico City post for a picture of the same dish there.
I've had the misfortune to eat here twice and both times were pretty horrible. The food both times was bland, very small for the size, salty as you mentioned and served lukewarm. They mention on their site and the guy I think was the co-owner mentioned that the "inspiration" was food he ate in Mexico City but it tasted nothing like the food I've eaten in Mexico city.
The second time we were there was a really weird mix of parents drinking cocktails while their spawn was running around unattended.
I've been surprised by all the press they got until I realized the owner's wife was the food editor at SF Magazine.