"[C]ritics Casey Deeha, Chipp Oatlay, Sal Savirdy and 'El Presidente Mole' promise to provide 'not merely a description of burritos, but a more writerly experience that gives the attention to burritos that they deserve.' Yep. You heard it here, folks. - Jay Barmann, SF Grubfest

"[Casey Deeha] also thinks it could be a matter of cultural heritage and sense of place why a Mission-style burrito is thought to taste the best in San Francisco." - Tamara Palmer, Zagat

"Bay Area Review of Burritos -a must read for anyone remotely interested in foil-wrapped tube food" - Kevin Montgomery, Up Town Almanac

Saturday, April 20, 2013

El Toro, Mission, San Francisco

Written by Casey Deeha

Perhaps a natural evolution of the 'Mission Style' burrito with regard to method is a somewhat militaristic drill, where various peoples behind a counter littered with choices are shouting at you. I'm not so sure that El Faro's Febronio Ontiveros had this in mind when he decided to do away with menus in a traditional sense to allow the customer to choose amongst fresh ingredients. Nevertheless, walk into any Chipotle on a busy day and this is the experience that you may very well have - a range of worker drones shouting at you to choose your al dente rice, or over cooked black beans in such a way that I feel like going Gomer Pile on them. And where El Toro Taqueria is certainly no Full Metal Jacket, there is an element of the military buried beneath the remodeled space.

Let's be clear and let's go ahead and lay everything on the table: the Mission is changing, has changed and is changing. There are more independent shops which have brought in a new generation of Mission locals over the past decade, all with a little bit more money than the last, all driving up prices - thus making trend an ever greater commodity. One only has to slowly meander down Valencia on a Saturday afternoon to see how many new eateries have opted to license themselves in order to pour tables out on to the sidewalk for the trendy do-das walking by can admire the trendier do-da patrons at the swish SF eatery as if they were walking down Sunset in Hollywood catching a glimpse of A-list royalty.

The Mission taquerias, in this regard, are the oasis amongst this money-trend desert. And El Toro certainly seemed no different than the others, upon an external glance. Walking in however, I was overwhelmed by a cafeteria like feel - and given El Toro's remodeling efforts, I would say they were intentionally going for something specific, something clean and perhaps more modern, something perhaps like Papalote on 16th but far from it; it felt something like a school canteen and I'm afraid the service wasn't too far from the militaristic penache of a Chipotle. I ordered a salmon burrito and felt that I was being punished for it - there were questions being shouted at me like bullets whizzing by my ear and the quality of the burrito didn't necessarily make up for it like at Los Cantaros in Emeryville. A decent burrito - yes, but worthy of being among taqueria legends in the Mission? No.

If one had the choice to avoid the trend river of Valencia, to remember authenticity on some cultural level, then opt perhaps for Taqueria Cancun or El Faro.

Salsa Rating: Mild Sir!

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