An ever-burning, always contentious question in San Francisco Mission’s district – which fancies itself the burrito capital of the world – is “Where’s the best burrito?”
When I first visited the neighborhood, 35 years ago this month, the answer was La Cumbre, on Valencia, just below 16th. La Cumbre is still in business, but its vogue is long past.
Pancho Villa’s around the corner on 16th does a thriving business, but I have never heard anyone claim it has the Mission’s best burritos. I love the big chile verde (pork stewed with green chile) burritos at La Paz, across from SFGH on the eastern edge of the Mission District, but the question must be settled with the classic burrito: carne asada (shredded, grilled flank steak, though “asada” means “roasted”).
A perennial favorite in the top burrito discussion is Taquería Can-Cún (two outlets on Mission Street and one on lower Market). I like that tortilla chips and two salsas come with Can-Cún burritos. However, unless requested otherwise, they also come with rice. The wheat tortillas in which the meat is wrapped provides my limit of carbohydrates, especially if I have some tortilla chips!
The burritos as La Taqueria, on Mission at 25th, are smaller and wetter, without rice. I think the extras (for instance, avocado at $1.20 when a whole avocado at any of the three produce markets on the next block south are selling avocados that would make three portions for 79 cents) are overpriced. And wet is not a term of praise, since it means the burrito falls apart before one can finish eating it.
But, the meat is more tender. For me, this is the crucial criterion.
The basic burrito (with beefsteak, beef head, beef tongue, chorizo, pork, or chicken) is $6.60. Tacos with the same choice of meats are $3.50, quesadillas with meat $4 ($1.40 without). Vegetarian burritos are $3.50, vegetarian tacs $2.25. Chips and salsa are $1.30.
La Taquería offers Mexican fruit drinks (cantaloupe, jaimaca, mandarin orange, mango, orchata [rice-based], pineapple, strawberry, and tamarind), tea, coffee, and Coca-Cola bottled drinks.
The seats are benches at long tables; backless wicker stools at small ones. One is asked “Here or to go” when ordering at the counter. In either case, one then waits for the number of the order to be called. (At Can-Cún, orders are delivered).
The address is 2889 Mission St. And, yes, “taquería” is a common noun; the definite article (La) in “La Taquería” (the taco-vendor) goes with its boast to serve “the best tacos and burritos in the whole world.”