So the smart foodies on Yelp fall all over themselves praising La Taqueria, on Mission Street and 25th. We had set out a month ago to review it, but it was closed for remodeling and we ended up at the place with the pigeon instead. This time we were not to be denied, and set out a little ahead of the lunch rush, because the place is crowded enough at all hours, and during primetime nearly unapproachable. So yes: it’s popular.
On what does that popularity rest, you may ask? Or, at least, we ask…
From the outside it presents an inviting aspect: faux white adobe and a vibrant, graceful cursive neon red “La Taqueria” arching over the doorway. “We are the only place,” it implies, “for those tacos you crave.”
“Yes, yes you are,” your stomach rumbles in reply, so you pass through the glass door. Inside the floor is covered with red clay tiles, on which rest heavy mission-style chairs and tables.
Along the west wall is a counter with eight or nine hard working prep-cooks, grill station jockies, and taco and burrito assemblers churning out a steady torrent of food. Above them is a brightly painted menu board.
They offer a wide selection of meats: the usuals plus lengua, cabeza, chorizo, and a vegetarian option. Tacos come with tomato salsa, beans, onions, and cilantro. Get this: they charge extra if you ask them to hold the beans, but offer the lengua and cabeza tacos with an onions-and-cilantro-only option.
Never mind. They are so busy that a young woman walks up and down the waiting line taking orders and giving you a slip, which you patiently wait to hand over to a surly man at the register who then delivers your order to the cooking line. When your order is up they call your number and you get your food. Also while you wait you are afforded the chance to engage in pecuniary discourse with gentlemen of the grape, who have staggered in from the mean streets of the Mission to emit a certain aromatic enhancement to the atmosphere as they lurch from table to table.
Perhaps this special facet of the La Taqueria experience accounts for its popularity, because the tacos are certainly nothing special. Don’t get me wrong: they’re good, but certainly not as good as those at, say, La Fonda or Guerrero’s. I had the cabeza, the lengua, and the carnitas, along with an icy cold Pacifico beer. Good, but not great: the carnitas was a little dry, the lengua over salted, and the cabeza just fine. Their salsa is conventional, but well executed.
Now here’s Matt on the burritios: Boy, bragging never gets you anywhere. They have a neon sign on their walls saying LA TAQUERIA: The best mexican food in the world! Yeah right. LA TAQUERIA: The most mediocre mexican food in the world! sounds more real. I had a carnitas burrito that tasted like the best mediocre burrito I ever had. It was a small sized one, with almost every ingredient.(Not that many ingredients were available) This burrito was the kind of burrito that was-here’s that word again-mediocre, but it’s also that kind of burrito that makes you full after three bites. And they don’t even have any authentic mexican drinks! MEDIOCRE!!!!!!!!!!
Atmosphere: Two and a half peppers
Selection of drinks: Two and a half peppers
Salsa bar: N/A
Rights to brag: Zero peppers
Excessive Bragging: Five and a half peppers