Observations on Food in the Bay Area
On Burritos and Taquerias
(last updated 9.7.04)
I do have some preferences as far as Taquerias go, and I figure I'll mention them, broken down by the cities in which I've sampled... and oh, how I've sampled. mmm... Food Tube.
Taqueria La Bamba, at Rengstorff and Old Middlefield. Far and away the best outside of San Francisco. Grilled tortillas, which gives the burritos that extra tasty flavor and non-sticky consistency; a fantastic lightly spicy marinade on the grilled chicken. The homemade salsa is very tasty and slightly unusual in flavor. Technically Salvadorean food, the Quesadilla Zuiza is fantastic, though I recommend no more than 2 per year given the quantity of grease. Chile Colorado is also quite good.
Commonly viewed to be The Best, but actually somewhat sub-par:
La Costena/Burrito Real, same location. A build-your-own burrito place, so those who like to feel 'in charge' of their burritos might like it better, but La Bamba actually offers you as much control; they just don't ask you to make each choice. Most of their meats are bland and boring, the tortillas are only steamed, and I've just never been impressed with the flavor of their burritos. Quality of meats doesn't seem to be as high as La Bamba.
There's nothing worth eating here. I should note, however, that I'm speaking of only the truly take-out friendly, grab a burrito wrapped in tin foil & go type of places. Andale is reasonably good, but is more of a sit-down type of place, with their burritos wrapped a bit too large to be truly eat-in-your-hand worthy.
Pancho Villa Taqueria. They have baby burritos, which are the perfect lunch size, and a bit cheaper. Mole sauce is, as is often the case at fast-food sorts of places, dull and boring, but the grilled chicken is tasty, as is the Chile Verde chicken. All the meat seems to be quite good quality. Like many taquerias, the steak is good, but often rather fatty. They also have the best salsa selection - many varieties, and all quite tasty. If that wasn't enough, there's also a huge selection of agua fresca. UPDATE 3.22: Actually, the steak is quite fatty, and a bit gristly as well. I won't be getting it again.
The Not Best:
Tres Amigos, same block as Pancho Villa. Sorry guys, but while you're cheaper, the quality of the meat just isn't as good, and tends to have lots of fat & gristle. I mean, really - it just ain't that hard to trim, ya know?
So hard to decide.
The Best ones:
Pancho Villa - same as in San Mateo, though salsas tend to be spicier.
Taqueria El Farolito. Best carnitas I've ever had - rich, juicy, lightly crisp outside... -drool- And they grill their tortillas too. Also dirt cheap. Dirt!
Taqueria CanCun. Only go here for the al pastor; it's a different, much more flavorful take on it than you get elsewhere. Everything else is average at best.
La Taqueria. Carnitas to potentially rival Farolito! But first, a more detailed description. Their burritos are a different animal, entirely devoid of rice. Mine, a carnitas, could best be described as follows: meat, with some tasty salsa, some more meat, a sprinkling of pinto beans, and maybe a little extra meat, just cuz. I mean, this was carnitas in a tortilla, with a splash of beans & salsa for kicks. Nice selection of agua fresca, as well, though I've had better jamaica. But anyway, the carnitas was very, very good - slightly crunchy on the edges, but the stuff just fell apart, and was fantastically juicy. I need to return to Farolito for the ultimate grudge match: Battle Carnitas! La Taqueria is a bit pricier, though, at $4.75/burrito.