Thursday, August 28, 2008

:The:Mission:Taco:Chapter 3:Chavitas Mexican Restaurant 2:

Before I get into the review for Chavitas Mexican Restaurant 2, I think readers of :The:Mission:Taco: should know just why I consider myself "The Taco Guru." Why is my taste for tacos so keen? How are my taste buds any more credible than some other taco fanboy? Well, fellow taco aficionados, I divulge:

I grew up in the "SOCO" area of Fullerton, CA. This means nothing to 99.9995% of America--but for the .0005% who have some inkling of what I'm talking about, know that I use this term not in reference to the "hip," eclectic mix of cholos, brozillas, and AZNs at the downtown bar scene (which is ironically placed NOCO), but rather for the term's literal meaning: "South of Commonwealth." Many areas south of Commonwealth Ave. are pre-dominantly Mexican inhabited--and my neighborhood was no exception. My next-door-neighbor/childhood friend was Mexican, and his family had biweekly fiestas that I totally crashed. I have many fond memories of stuffing myself sick and silly with tacos while pwning it up in GoldenEye multiplayer. You see, from a very early age, I developed a taste for the more authentic Mexican flavors. Tacos, tamales, birria, pasole, mole--all of these dishes have memories in my mind and places on my palate.

The other main reason why I consider myself "The Taco Guru" is because my tongue has mastered the art of consuming food with various spices and spiciness levels. Both of my parents are Indian, but they also were both raised in Burma. I thus grew up with some of the best and spiciest Indian and Burmese food EVAR. For those who don't know what Burmese food is like, know this one thing: Burma is bordered by India, China, and Thailand. Holy. Shit. It's just a melting pot of some of the best and spiciest cuisines combined into one.

A small aside: If you would like some excellent and authentic Burmese food, try Burma Superstar in The Richmond. It straight up tastes like mommy cooked it. I suppose a 4 star average with 1258 reviews on yelp doesn't hurt, either ( I recommend the cat-fish chowder soup (moh-hin-ga), the chicken noodle soup (oh-no-kauswer), and the tea-leaf salad (la-peh).

Okay--enough about me. Time for tacos. Chavitas is one of those restaurants on 24th that you could pass by and never notice. In fact, there are only two reviews for it on Yelp ( It was for this reason that I had to check it out:

Chavitas2 Mexican Restaurant

I was pretty hungry, so I ordered a 2-item combination that came with beans and rice. I ordered a taco regular and a chicken enchilada:

What a cute attempt at a side salad.

If you order the taco a-la-carte, it's $3.50. A word of precaution: I used my broken Spanish to ask what is contained in a taco regular, and I think the lady said there were beans. This is obviously a big no-no, so I made sure she made my taco correctly.

Here's the thing about the taco: when eating each component individually to test for quality, everything was just whatever. The salsa roja definitely packed some heat, but the flavor just didn't pop out at me. The carne asada was also pretty plain; though the quality was good, it just wasn't marinated properly. The corn tortilla (which was single-layered) was also just so-so. But then, somehow, when I took my first bite of the actual taco itself, everything just worked. It wasn't fantastic, but it definitely wasn't as bad as I had expected it to be. The taco was simply Asi Asi :| I could come back here again for the taco; but I'm betting that some of their other stuff would be really tasty and worth trying because my enchilada was freakin' fantastic.

-The Taco Guru

Saturday, August 23, 2008

:The:Mission:Taco:Chapter 2:Taqueria El Taco Loco:

After a suffocating visit to the SFMOMA today (Frida Kahlo Exhibit+Weekend=Tourist Disaster), my European friends visiting from Southern California were hungry for some cheap Mexican eats. Rather than taking them to get the usual super quesadilla suiza from Farolito's on Mission and 24th, which they had already tried from a previous visit (if you really want to impress someone with something out-of-this-world and cheap, try the super quesadilla pollo asada from El Farolito's--insane), they were willing to try something new--which was perfect since I could do a review. We thus went to Taqueria El Taco Loco ( I had been here once before perhaps maybe a month ago, and from what I remembered, the taco was pretty good; however, I pushed my former experiences out of my mind; I want to eliminate bias in my reviews as much as possible--it's all about the taco.

A nice example of a good salsa roja:carne asada:cilantro:cebolla ratio

So, at first bite, this taco was quite tasty. First thing I notice when I grip the taco: the corn tortillas are perfect. The temperature was not too hot to the point where I couldn't hold the taco without burning my hand, and the consistency was firm--you could tell they took the time to grill this to perfection on the burner. But most importantly, the double-layered morsels of goodness had a taste that was neither too strong nor too weak--just perfect, subtle hints of corn that hit the roof the mouth with the first bite.

The red sauce was quite tasty as well. Great consistency. Maybe it could have been a bit spicier, but all-in-all quite good.

Now, when taking the second bite, I really tried to hone in on the flavor of the meat. I was trying to isolate the flavor, and I got some, but it wasn't much. I then tried the meat by itself, and it just wasn't screaming as loud as I would have liked it to. It wasn't flavorless, and it wasn't flavorful--it simply had some flavor, and that's it. It was then when I realized why the first bite was so good, but the second bite was just merely okay: the meat was decent, but really the taco's flavor was coming from the double-layered corn tortillas and salsa roja that was holding it together.

For the reasons above, I thus rate these tacos as Asi, asi :| -- these tacos are okay, and I could come here again, but there are certainly betters.

Now, earlier I mentioned that I had been to this taqueria once before and remember it as being good, but that I would attempt to erase this memory from my mind when eating and reviewing the taco today. The mere fact that I know this taco has potential because of my prior experience shows that a taco's taste may vary at different visits depending on different factors: did they cook the meat beforehand and simply re-grill it? or are they grilling the meat fresh? is it a good or bad batch of meat?

The only way to truly know a taco's quality is to go to the taqueria at different times and at different days to test for consistency. This is of course the ideal way to review a taqueria, but it is dangerous as it may make one grow tired of tacos--and this is something I'm not willing to do. But what I will do is try my best to see how they are cooking the meat, and mention what time I went to the taqueria. With that said, they re-grilled the meat at approximately 3:50pm today. This may account for why the meat was not as flavorful as it could have been.

-The Taco Guru

Thursday, August 14, 2008

:The:Mission:Taco:Chapter 1:Taqueria San Francisco:

For my first review, I wanted to visit a taqueria that I had never visited before. I thus took a stroll down 24th towards Portrero, thinking that I'd pass at least a couple places I'd never been to. Oddly enough, I ended up at Taqueria San Francisco, located at 2794 24th St.--basically a couple streets just before Portrero:

Nice sign. My 4-year-old nephew made it.

The place was pretty empty, and it was 7ish--this was the first sign that this taq might not be the place to be when in need for a mex fix. But I then thought that I may have stumbled upon a holy taco paradise. So I thought.

I entered. I looked to the left--standard taqueria billboard-menu . Two classes of tacos--regular and super. I asked what was in the "taco regular" (which was $2.25). "Onion, cilantro, hot sauce." "Salsa Roja?" I ask. "Yes." "Two please."

All pictures will be taken via iPhone

So it looks pretty decent--yes? Well we all know that "looks can be deceiving," and tacos are no exception to this saying.

Firstly, notice the puddle of aqua roja in between the tacos. It should not be this consistency. Now, I would be more forgiving if somehow this liquid was tasty, but it really just wasn't.

Even more of a crime than the salsa roja was the carne asada. Simply bland. The carne asada is the integral part of a taco, and they flavored it with a dash too much of nothing. Even salt and lime couldn't save this taco because salt and lime is used to enhance the flavor of the carne asada, but there was no flavor to enhance.

The only decent thing about the tacos were the corn tortillas. It's not even that they were extraordinarly flavorful; they were just well-warmed and had a good consistency. Though this may seem trivial, barely warm, soggy tortillas kind of blow. It's always nice when the tortillas are done right.

Time for the judicial system: how will I rate my tacos? Rather than coming up with a formula based on rating individual components of the taco to give you an arbitrary number rating like 3.14159254/5, I have devised a very simple method of rating:
  1. No Bueno >:| This taco tastes like pig poop--never coming here again.
  2. Asi Asi :| This taco was okay. Would come here again, but there are certainly better ones out there.
  3. Que Bueno! :P This taco is really good. Would definitely come back here in a second.
  4. ODM (Oh Dios Mios!) ^_^ OMG! This taco is indubitably impeccably perfect!
With that said, the verdict is: The tacos at Taqueria San Francisco are No Bueno >:| I would not come back here again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


:The:Mission:Taco: aims to provide my opinions and critique of EVERY single taco in the Mission. Whether it's from a sit-down restaurant, a taco truck, or a taqueria, as long as the taco is created in The Mission district of San Francisco, I plan to review it.

Now, San Francisco district borders oftentimes blend with each other, leaving the uncertainty of exactly where one ends and where the other begins. Where does The Mission become SOMA? And exactly where does The Castro become The Mission? According to Yelp, The Mission is nested in between Dolores St. on the west and Portrero Ave. on the east. From the south, The Mission starts at Cesar Chavez/Army St and extends north all the way until 101/Market St. I will use this geographic definition of The Mission when choosing my taco locale.

Mission St. houses countless tacos just waiting to be unearthed.

There are of course numerous toppings and "extras" that may go onto a taco--avocado, sour cream, and cheese are the main ones that come to mind. In my opinion, these take away from the true taste, the very essence of what the taco is all about. Just as a naturally beautiful woman needs no foundation or mascara, the taco needs no additions. The avocado/guacamole, the cheese, even the beans in some cases--do not be fooled--these merely act as concealer. A true beauty has nothing to hide--appreciate the naturale.

I don't want a high maintenance Gucci taco. I'm interested in a very simple, pure carne asada taco. The taco I review must only contain the following ingredients:
  1. Carne Asada
  2. Corn Tortilla - (may be single or double-layered)
  3. Cilantro
  4. Onion
  5. Salsa Roja (Red Sauce)
  6. Light sprinkle of lime/salt to enhance the carne asada
That's it. The no-frills carne asada taco. There are of course various other choices of meats--if you're interested in them, this is the wrong place for you.

A mighty feat this may be, to review every carne asada taco in The Mission. Some might call me crazy. Some might call this mission impossible. But my goal is to review every taco. My eyes are set on the prize. This is it. This is :The:Mission:Taco: