Tuesday, August 10, 2010
There was a period ― basically, the '00s ― when I wrote off the burrito as gringo food, snubbing Mission taquerias in favor of Yucatecan restaurants, torta shops, and Oakland's taco truck row. Of late, I've come back around to the notion that the San Francisco burrito is sui generis, worth appreciating in all its majesty and heft.
Which is why I recently paid my respects to the two restaurants that claim to have invented the Mission-style burrito. I laid flowers. I ate chips. And I decided I preferred the al pastor burrito I'd just eaten at Taqueria San Francisco to its ancestors at La Cumbre and El Faro.
In form alone, Taqueria San Francisco's burrito is classic: chewy,
tomato-tinted rice; pinto beans simmered until they barely hold their
shape; an even layer of marinated pork, re-crisped on the griddle to make
its surfaces brown and toasty; a wide swath of salsa.
The burrito owes
its superiority to scale. Not only is it compact enough to hold in one fist, there are no dead spots, no rice clogs or sour cream sinkholes. There is just enough rice, and it is seasoned
just potently enough, to compensate for the beans' flavor-sucking
tendencies. Every bite sparkles with some new
crunch ― cilantro-bright onion here, lime-marinated tomato there. I'd been fearing that the future of the species would be dominated by the kind of taquerias that trumpeted their whole-wheat tortillas and (underseasoned) grass-fed beef. It is reassuring that some burritos have evolved just as far as they need to, and no further.
Taqueria San Francisco: 2794 24th St. (at York), 641-1770.