When I saw the price of a burrito at Cantina Verde, the new Mexican joint in the Financial District, my eyes goggled. It's $6.50, which is also the same price as three tacos (or a salad), and a hair under the prices at obvious archrival Chipotle. Nearly all the toppings are free, which if you're a shameless glutton like me, results in a massive burrito, and chips are a dollar extra. (There's also fresh cilantro, which if memory serves, can't be ordered at Chipotle except off the secret menu.) So in that sense, win!
To handle weekday lunch traffic while also sticking to fresh ingredients, Cantina Verde employs an assembly-line system in which both customers and employees line up elbow-to-elbow and which might induce snap-decision brain freeze in anyone who isn't already familiar with the horde of toppings and options. (And there's no website, so you can't even peek first.)
As for my carnitas burrito, I managed to make a number of right decisions, going with brown rice, pinto beans, both guac and pico de gallo, cotija, and cilantro -- although I probably should have avoided the caramelized onions, which were way too sweet. With all due respect to Lucky Shirt's "zoned burrito" rant, my personal pet peeve is a bad wrap job with the foil (it should peel off easily but stay tight). Cantina Verde's wrapper lacked such panache, and I was sure I'd have bean fallout and juice running down my forearm as I chewed the second half in desperation to prevent a total structural collapse. But the tortilla was slightly over-toasted, so that didn't happen. For flavor, El Farolito's smoky depth is probably impossible to replicate, but this was a solid B+, almost as good as Papalote.
Of course, the décor is nothing much, as you'd expect. There is no reason whatsoever to eat dinner here unless you're going back up to the office. Borderline-propagandistic images of greens harvested in the fields break up the floor-to-ceiling neutrals, but at least Cantina Verde is very clean. (It's not actually on Market, though, but around the corner on Pine and Front Streets.) In the final analysis, this is no La Urbana, but considering the price, the location and the overall freshness, Downtown scored a winner.
Cantina Verde, 398 Market St., (415) 393-4525.