Admittedly, walking in to the new Mission-based branch of Joe Hargrave's Tacolicious feels like stepping through a teleportational nexus into a polished Marina restaurant. Someone on the design team clearly had the grit and grime of the neighborhood taqueria in mind, but married the concept -- and the obviously expansive budget -- with the modern sheen of an IKEA store.
Ignore the Death Cab pulsing from the speakers, the glowing orange plastic chairs, and the giant too-hip-for-words Mission mural. Sidle up to the bar, catch your empirically attractive bartender's eye, and place an order for an achiote braised pork belly taco.
Instead of the small chunks of pork belly so commonly seen these days gussying up lackluster dishes, Tacolicious drops a single rectangular block of seared swine belly in to the center of its house made soft tacos. This isn't an enormous taco (a four-bite affair at most), and the elongated cube of meat stretches from end to end, crested with a minute hill of apple-fennel slaw soaking in a puddle of just-spicy/just-sweet tamarind and habañero salsa.
Seared up top but gooey down below, the braised pork belly manages to both crackle and ooze at the same time. With each bite, the thick fat layer melts in to an addictively salty substance existing somewhere in the texture realm of expertly crafted aioli.
The thin salsa adds a slight hint of heat and tang with the slaw lending a crunch that gently reminds the eater just how perfectly prepared this pork belly is. Nestled in the dual folds of doughy tortillas, this crispy-gooey-salty-sweet concoction makes an aggressive bid for the best taco currently being served in the neighborhood.