Sunday, February 27, 2011

:The:Mission:Taco:Chapter 8:Conclusion:

Whether you are a first time reader or a long time follower in hope of updates, you'll notice by reading the title of this chapter that this is the final installment of :The:Mission:Taco: "Pero, porque?" One reason: closure.

From the beginning, my mission was simple: to review every taco in the Mission. But I wouldn't settle for just any type of taco--I am a picky mother fucker. There was only one taco I was interested in: the authentic Mexican carne asada taco topped with cilantro, cebolla, and salsa roja on two soft-shelled corn tortillas. Looks, origin, price--these things didn't and still do not concern me. I was simply for the taco AND that is all. But as I tasted taco after taco, the scope of my Mission widened: in addition to trying EVERY taco in the Mission, I wanted to find the BEST taco in the Mission. The pursuit for taco perfection ensued.

Five taquerias in, I came upon Taqueria El Tonayense and this was it: I had fell in love with what was my idea of ideal. It had all the things I was looking for in a taco: soft yet crispy tortillas, carne asada with just enough grease, and a complex salsa that was somehow simultaneously sour, spicy, smoky, sweet, and salty. Tonayense kept me coming back for more each night. I'm talking multiple tacorgasms here. 

But I wasn't finished with my mission--I still had plenty of tacos to try. And I did. I have eaten at dozens of taquerias in the Mish since El Tonayense: La Oaxaquena, La Cumbre, El Farolito's, La Taqueria, El Toro, La Corneta, El Castillito, El Metate, and virtually every other femine or masculine article+noun that you can come up with in Spanish. They all seemed either to offer nothing, or had just one thing to offer: some had legit salsas, others had scrumptious carne, whilst others had managed to master only the tortillas (WTF, right?). Though my quest for the perfect taco continued, I grew uninspired in documenting the dull experiences, for none of them had the fire of El Tonayense. Had I found a better taco than Tonayense in the Mission, trust me lovers of the Mexican taco, I would share.

Now, here comes the real conundrum. Just a couple of weeks ago on my way to work, I made my ritual pitstop to Grand CoffeeI sat down on the stool inside as Nabeel, my bearded Palestinian brotha-from-anotha-motha, served me up my daily dose of a cracked-out-cup-o-cappccuino (beans from Four Barrel). 

Ya'Allah habibi!
The Dude serves up the best cappuccinos in the bay, completely pretense-free. He had been raving about another hub of taquerias outside of The Mission for months, and today was the day he finally would introduce me. Skeptical I was, yet open-minded was I.

Why, yes, yes have I.
I'm not going to delve into too many specific details about the taco per se, but that day I found a taco that was incredibly and stupendously fantacotastic. Every component was amazing--right down to their cilantro chiffonade. You know a taqueria is putting some TLC into their tacos if they chiffonade their cilantro, which is a culinary feat in and of itself

When was the last time you saw a cilantro chiffonade?
But there was more to this taco than what appeared as perfection. It struck another note with me--it resonated on a whole other level: culinary nostalgia. This taco reminded me of Taqueria De Andahome of "The Mexican Taco." Perhaps it was the perfectly minced and marinated carne that wet my mouth at the mere thought, or maybe it was the cumin-infused salsa that kept me cummin' for more--I'm not entirely sure. One thing is certain: this taco was the best damn taco I personally have ever eaten.

My taco journey has taught me that one must tread lightly in the search for perfection. The act of constant comparison to the superlative may uncontrollably result in the exaggeration of negatives over positives in experience. Some tacos are better than others, some worse than others; but if one is going to constantly compare every taco to the best, this may result in highlighting the bad over the good in the moment. Just as you'd use salt and lime sparingly on a taco, it's important to use similar amounts of comparison. In the same vein, the best macaron I've ever had was in Paris, but does that mean I should constantly think of it while I'm eating macarons in San Francisco? This lesson can be extended beyond gastronomy into various aspects of life... like hipster girls with mustaches

Another interesting point to raise is the power of nostalgia. My latest taco experience has managed to trump Tonayense in every aspect. Granted it wasn't located in The Mission, but that's not the important thing. I thought I had the perfectaco at Tonayense, but my latest taco had managed to overshadow it via the power of emotion. Nothing can knock nostalgia--not even if your carne comes from Japanese cows that feed on the greenest grass and get shit-hammered on Pliney The Elder all day while given Swedish massages. "But Taco Guru, must not one engage in the act of comparison when nostalgic?" you ask? Yes--and that's exactly why nostalgia is so powerful. You can't help but compare--you're powerless to its power. Woweekazowee that's some shit right there, eh?

"Egads Taco Guru--enough of this Rhetoric. There's actually another reason I'm updating/closing :The:Mission:Taco:. Lauren Davis, San Francisco-based writer, editor, and blogger, had the rad idea to create The Comic Book Guide to the Mission. She found my blog and approached me to see if I'd be willing to submit an anecdote on my taco adventures--how could I turn that down? Welp, it's finally released, and I figured now would be the appropriate time to update/close. Behold the Taco Guru, full-on comic status below! Special thanks to Greg Hinkle for illustrating "The Mission Taco" as well as for giving me the perms to post his art on this blog. 

You can purchase a copy of The Comic Guide Book to The Mission by mailing, clicking the Buy Now link here, or by visiting your local San Francisco comic book store. There's a release party Friday, March 11th @ 7pm over at Mission: Comics & Art--come swing by! 

Though this is my last post, fellow taco lovers, this is certainly not goodbye. There are still a couple taquerias I have yet to try and new ones constantly popping up; if any are noteworthy, I will Mos Def update the comments section of this posting. In the meantime, stick to the list below and you won't go wrong.

Top 7 Taquerias en La Mission:
4. La Espiga Del Oro (not reviewed; but meat quality is good; salsa similar to That's It Market)
5. That's It Market
6. El Tepa Taqueria (not reviewed; pretty good meat quality; make sure to order sans frijoles)
7. Taqueria Cancun (not reviewed; it's like an asi-asi-and-a-half all-in-all)

Thanks for reading, and keep eating tacos!

-The Taco Guru