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La Castro Taqueria

April 2, 2007

Once upon a time, Short Exact attempted to keep track of Bay Area taquerias just by personal experimentation, and while that led to the consumption of some great tacos and burritos, it also led to the consumption of some rather poor ones, as well. Thankfully, one day, a website was brought to our attention that, once and for all, obliterated the need to consume any inferior burritos ever again. That website is none other than the glorious compilation of the Burritoeater. The Burritoeater uses a numeric rating scale that is an ever so appropriate blend of science and pure taste. We won’t go into any details here, as you can read all it on the site, but we will say that it was a surprise in the Burritoeater’s recommended taqueria list that led to this review you’re reading now.

It was not surprising to see that the mythical Papalote, one of our favorite taquerias in town (though not reviewed here on Short Exact yet), maintained the hefty rating of 8.71 even after being scrutinized on eleven separate occasions by the Burritoeater. What was surprising, however, was that it was not in first place! In an unexpected twist, that honor was given to La Castro Taqueria, once a member of the El Castillito chain. True, the score difference between Papalote and La Castro Taqueria was only 0.01, and the Burritoeater has only visited La Castro Taqueria four times to Papalote’s eleven, thus indicating that Papalote’s rating is the more trustworthy of the two. Still, this upset was enough to convince us that a trip to La Castro Taqueria was definitely in order.

La Castro Taqueria is a pleasant little place. Although the lighting is a bit dark, the seating area is laid out in a more inviting way than what one often finds at similar establishments. A note, though: if you’re squeamish about bathrooms, you may want to use one before coming here, as the bathroom is rather squishy and has a leaky toilet — watch out when you flush! It’s probably best to just leave it at that, but the big question here is: did the food deliver?

The Burritoeater’s very complimentary reviews of the burritos here led us to have quite high expectations going in, and while our burrito was quite good, it did not not live up to our expectations. We ordered the super al pastor:

tb_la_castro_taqueria_al_pastor.jpg

As a general rule, one of the most common frustrations we experience with burritos is segregation of the ingredients. If we get five bites of rice, followed by three bites of vegetable, and then four bites of beans, then something is definitely wrong. Thankfully, La Castro Taqueria excelled on this point, as the ingredients were thoroughly integrated, and each each bite we took contained all or a majority of the ingredients used, including the pork, rice, refried beans, fresh chunks of avocado, and pico de gallo. Our primary complaint with the interior of the burrito was the uniform mushiness. Of course, getting refried beans instead of black beans certainly contributes to this, but even so, this was mushier than your average refried bean burrito. Ideally, we would like to pick out the different textures contributed by each of the ingredients. Unfortunately, the textural diversity was missing, as all textures were replaced by mush. The meat was decent, but not extremely flavorful, and while the pico de gallo was solid, it did not furnish quite the level of bite and kick we were hoping it would.

This burrito had some great points though. Fresh avocado chunks scattered throughout added an extra dimension to this burrito, as did the uniformly melted cheese. As you can see in the picture, the tortilla was thoroughly grilled, giving it a flaky texture. In addition, the interior ingredients were quite juicy, and it’s worth noting that despite the juiciness, eating the burrito was not the least bit messy, even though we cut it in half first to take a picture. It held together very well: good, solid construction here.

At any rate, a hearty thanks to the Burritoeater for alerting us to a very promising taqueria that was not on our radar screen. We have only visited La Castro Taqueria once, so it’s best to take this review as just our initial impressions. The Burritoeater’s reviews suggest that this taqueria is capable of some fairly substantial burrito magic, and although we were quite satisfied with our meal, we don’t think we quite experienced that magic yet. You can be sure we’ll be returning to try again, though.

RATING:

COST:

4001 18th Street (at Noe St.)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415.621.6940
Hours: Daily, 11:00 am – 9:45 pm.

Cuisine: Mexican
Neighborhood: Castro/Duboce Triangle

How to get there: Easy access via Muni lines 24, 33, 35, 37, F, K, L, M, and T. The restaurant is two blocks from the Castro Muni Station and one mile from the 16 Street Mission BART station.

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3 comments

  1. Ah! Good to see you found BurritoEater!


  2. Yeah, the burritos now are just so gigantic, that the separation of ingredients is a real problem.


  3. Embarassingly I have not yet checked this place out, and not for not spending much time in the vicinity. But I’m with you on the Papalote thing. Love them!



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