"[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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gordo Taqueria, Solano Ave., Albany

Composed by Chipp Oatlay

Reading my first couple reviews you might think one of two things: 1) Chipp Oatlay only eats at burrito establishments in gentrified white suburbia, or 2) Chipp is really picky and never has anything positive to say about the burritos he eats because he eats at bougie burrito eateries.  

The latter is partially true.  I will review the burritos I eat with ruthless honesty, and they have been in bougie areas.  If you want to figure out the bouge factor of your local hot spot take the total amount of Sarah Jessica Parker look-alikes herding around the area and divide it by a factor of 10.  With "0" being the lowest score--think downtown Berkeley--and "5" signifying that you probably live in some version of Sex and the City hell.  Downtown Walnut Creek has an average score of 3.7 and a top range of 4.3 on the SJP Index.  When I find myself eating a tasty carne asada burrito in Taqueria Mexican Grill purgatory, I think of Dante's Inferno, hell can always go deeper and the true degradation is unfathomable.  I try to accentuate the positive and rest securely in the knowledge that there are so many places in LA that are much, much worse.

The burrito offers itself to me as a lunchtime solace.  It is for this reason that I have reviewed in Stepford suburbia--my 9 to 5 takes me away from my preferred habitat where the common person thrives.  I do not mean common as in dull or not interesting, but as in the proletariat.  So, utilizing my local knowledge I made my way to Gordo Taqueria on Solano in Albany for dinner one night after work.

 I knew of that for which I had come.  I had planned to depart from the path of the carne asada.  If you are unfamiliar with Gordos and you are not into meatless burritos, then the carnitas is a must.  If you are a carnitas-lover like me, then you are familiar with the variety of carnitas ranging from unfortunately dry to indecently over-spiced.  You also know the ecstasy of the exquisitely well-crafted and succulent carnitas. 

I walk in and immediately to the right is a wall-length cork message board. Maybe you haven't eaten at Gordo Taqueria, but stopped by to look for work or offer your services.   My wife posted babysitter flyers here when she was fourteen and used her earnings to enjoy Gordo's well-made delights.  I love the message board because it gives a voice to the community and I appreciate some of the really weird shit that gets posted--"Reiki healing in exchange for childcare"--and I realize I  missed the most recent Capleton show--damn.  I should have come in two weeks ago!

Opposite the message board, there is a wall-length mural of a festival in a small Mexican puebla.  The subjects of the mural are smiling, dancing and eating food, which appears to be mole, hot from the grill.  This has always made me hungry for mole.  Someday I will ask, "Is that mole that they are eating?" and then regardless of the answer I will ask, "Have you guys ever thought of making a mole burrito?"

Over the years Gordos has consistently delivered perfectly prepared carnitas burritos for those who actually do work for a living.  I doubt you will see bankers, hedge fund investors and other societal bloodsuckers here. The guy who made my burrito knew what he was doing.  At first, I questioned how clean his hands were...then I noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring--which, in turn,  distracted me from thinking about cleanliness. This is a burrito for the common person made by a common person.  I watch the expert as he works building the burrito, even layers of rice, beans, guacamole and carnitas were rolled in such a way that every bite combined a little bit of each layer.  Quite a tight roll, too.  This was near burrito perfection, and the fact that at least one of the cooks has a family to help provide for makes me want to support Gordos all the more.   

On a hot night, it feels third world--in the best possible ways.  The red neon lights flicker as the ceiling fan rotates overhead.  The dusty window shades swing in the wind and strike the window sill intermittently, and the handmade chairs are a resonant decorative alternative to those Ikea inspired taco shops.  This modest haven typifies the best parts of the East Bay: unpretentious, local and original.  This is the burreatery of the common man.  It fits its location.  I think Weber would approve. 

Salsa Rating: Picante y sabroso
(Sidebar: try the quesadilla; it is fried on the flat top and rolled into semi-burrito form. Amazing.)


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