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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Can't Believe I've Never Been: Taqueria El Castillo

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge Buche burrito ($9.80 with tax). - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Buche burrito ($9.80 with tax).

Once upon a time — 2011, say  — there was a blog called the Tender that covered the Tenderloin. It was a great resource, and mixed thoughtful commentary on the neighborhood's social issues with cheeky appraisals of some iffy local businesses. In other words, the tone was just right. I recall a post asking readers what the worst taqueria in the TL was, and the consensus seemed to be El Castillito on Golden Gate. (Yelpers would appear to have a different opinion, awarding it a solid four stars.)

click to enlarge I love this mural because the perspective is quite good and it has a turkey. - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • I love this mural because the perspective is quite good and it has a turkey.

The Tender isn't archived so I'll never know for sure, but for years, I've been inadvertently avoiding Taqueria El Castillo on Mason Street because I foolishly got the names mixed up. It's pretty dumb on my part, I admit, but to add to the confusion, there is a really good El Castillito on Church Street across from Safeway (and another in the Mission), and also a second El Castillo elsewhere in the Tenderloin. So many castles and little castles!

Apart from opening at 9 a.m. and having a much cleaner atmosphere than my beloved Taqueria Cancun — along with a considerably higher health rating of 88 — El Castillo has buche, one of my favorite offal meats. It's pork stomach, and it tends to break down in cooking a little further than tripe does, so that it's not as chewy. It's not the most elegant pig part, and I'll always love carnitas the most, but buche has a subtle umami quality to it that can be a nice contrast to the otherwise strident flavors of most taco meats, plus it has very little oil. (And offal consumption gives one a feeling of righteousness from knowing that an animal's lesser bits weren't just tossed.)

At $9.80 all told, the super burrito was a bit pricier than Cancun's, but it came out faster and the atmosphere is sunnier and less oppressive. It's Mission-style (natch), well-wrapped, properly homogeneous, and didn't disintegrate at the 80 percent mark. I think I prefer buche in tacos al vapor to burritos, where the chewiness stands out against the rice, but it was well worth trying, a solid A-. And it's great to know that there's another high-quality taqueria in the hood.

Taqueria El Castillo
, 10 Mason, 415-986-0426.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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