Thursday, September 17, 2009

Los Gallos

Los Gallos has been around a while, but since it's up on Mission and De La Vina next to the Daily Grind, an area of town I pretty much never go to....well.....I pretty much never go here. It also represents a style of Mexican food that I not-so-lovingly refer to as 'Fresh Mex". It's a standard type of fare, the kind of food that those shitty Mexican chain restaurants (Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Rubio's) rip off from decent local joints like this one. That said, I don't think I've ever seen a person of Hispanic descent eating here. Deb absolutely loves it. That right there tells you a lot of what you need to know about the food.

Speaking of Deb, she ate here a couple days ago and was stark raving mad over the veggie burrito she had. I didn't even get to have a bite of it, so I can't tell you if she was on crack or not, but it had mushrooms in it, so I probably would've hated it. Anyways, I was coming through this part of town tonight I decided to stop by and check it out again, since it's probably been a year since I've been here.

Stepped inside, looked around at a scattering of white people eating at the tables (BTW there is a fantastic "Mexican streetcorner" mural on one wall), ordered up a chicken burrito ($7.95 - and NOT a super) and then hit the salsa bar, which is fairly extensive and excellent (including an avocado/tomatillo salsa that's outstanding). I remember back when this place opened up they used to charge you for tortilla chips if you ate inside...always thought that was lame. I don't know if they still charge for chips on dine-in, but now they only give you two cups for salsa and charge you for extras. Also lame. If salsa theft is a big deal, then do what El Buen Gusto does and put the cups behind the counter: you get two with your meal, but you can ask for more...only gratis.

The burrito was good. The grilled chicken was very nice. But there wasn't a lot of action in the filling (for a definitive definition of what action is in a burrito, go to fucking Cuca's). Basically it was fresh Mex, so you already know what it tasted like. We shared and Deb absolutely loved it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chiripita, Take Dos

I walked down the street towards El Buen Gusto this evening but made a left on Spring Street and quietly snuck behind the laundromat on my way towards De La Guerra. Such is my love for the almighty El Buen, that yes, I do feel a tad bit guilty when I stray elsewhere. But on a street chock full of fine Mexican grub, I feel a little bit like Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion in the 70s....there's a lot of good stuff in the near vicinity, so best not settle down to one thing.

The destination of this evening's feast was Super Taqueria La Chiripita, which I'd only eaten at once (a few months ago). On that visit they didn't give me what I ordered, which was irritating, but I remember being quite pleased with their verde sauce. The general opinion was that, if it survived at all, it'd have potential. Well, it's still here, and upon perusing the expansive menu for a second time, I think I might've found the cheapest taqueria around. I don't know of anywhere else in town that you can get a super burrito for $4.95. That's what the menu says....a super burrito....meat, sour cream, guacamole, the works.....for $4.95. I had to check this out.

I had them roll me up a super burrito asada, packed up some salsa verde and headed home. The verdict is that it's a good, not great, burrito. Everything was neatly put together and the ingredients for the most part were tasty, but the meat was lacking in quality, lots of not so great bits that went straight into the waiting mouth of Tuco, a decidely less discriminating eater than I. A super burrito at El Buen Gusto runs $7.95, pretty sure it's the same at Super Cuca's, but I don't look at the prices because it doesn't matter. It's a bargain at any price because those are the finest burritos on the planet. The meat is nearly always top-notch and very rarely do I go away disappointed (although yes, it has happened).

So on the one hand I was pretty ecstatic about how cheap this burrito is, as I'm always out for a bargain, but on the other hand I'm brought back down to earth when the 'meat' of the matter isn't so great. But hell, I'll be going here again no doubt and I'll filter through the meat choices until I find one that suits me.

Maybe it'll be the tripitas.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Depth Fried

A few months ago I had a chimichanga at Los Agaves and made a noted mention that I would have to go back to Chilango's and see if their chimi is as good as it used to be. Chilango's used to be a regular feasting locale for our gang back in the 90s, generally as a post climbing or pre-debauchery meal, and they had what was by far the best chimichanga in town. For whatever reason, mainly because I got older and began to avoid State Street as if it was festering night and day with flesh craving zombies, I stopped going to Chilango's and have probably only been there 2 or 3 times in the last 8 years.

But today Deb and I found ourselves downtown for a Sunday afternoon movie. Hungry. Walking past Chilango's.
And we went in.

Chilango's was always a typical taqueria.......this is no longer the case. I'm not sure when they re-did the decor, or more importantly, why, but somebody was on a little too much peyote dust when they decided that what a Mexican taqueria on State Street needs is to have a little bit more of a 'modern' look. It's like someone opened up Architectural Digest and found one of those glass houses with the Jiffy Lube roll-up doors, looked at the interior photos of weird art, odd chairs and tables and said, "Now that's the kind of shit that makes me hungry for fat burritos." With a little 'stacked firewood' wall art motif thrown in (yes, firewood....?????). And some unfinished plywood seats. The place looks straight up fucking weird. Basically somebody had their head up their ass when the re-model decision was made. A smart man would've taken a picture to illustrate my point. Also, the once grand salsa bar that took up a good portion of the south wall was now relegated to a tiny table in the corner, so tiny I almost missed it.

All of this got me frightened right away, cause I'm figuring, "Ok, some complete fucking tosser bought this place and turned it into a wank-fest."

Well, enough about how ridiculous the place looks inside....we ordered a chicken chimichanga to share. At $8.95 - completely reasonable, and only $1 more than my breakfast at El Bajio on Friday (the worst breakfast burrito I've ever been served, you'll here plenty about that at a later posting). Figuring that since the food might have taken a turn for the worst, I'd cut my losses and ordered a Dos Equis FIVE bones. Not $4.50 or $4.75. But $5.00. I can't remember the last time I paid that much for a beer that wasn't at a concert venue or the ballpark...but I guess this is State Street and they try to rook the late night drunks, thereby screwing the daytime patrons. Another reason I rarely set foot downtown anymore.

Back to the chimichanga. It came out looking pretty close to the same as it used to, complete with the black plastic plates that I remember, a beautiful crisply fried burrito split down the middle with big dollops of sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo placed next to it. Holy shit it was good. The chimi at Los Agaves (everyone's new favorite restaurant in SB, Mexican or otherwise) is pretty good, but Chilango's doesn't have a damn thing to worry about, they are still the absolute KING of this dish until someone can prove otherwise (to me at least). The thing is, I can't even pin down one thing that makes it so much better than others. There's something delightful about their chicken for sure....however I don't think the regular chicken burritos are anything super special. There's also something about the tortilla, but once again, I've had their non-fried burrito's and while they're good, I'm not writing new Psalms in their favor. So maybe it's the oil they fry it in...or how long...?? I don't know, and I don't particularly care. You can't imagine how happy I was that with the absurdity of the decor, the ingredients for greatness hadn't changed.

I'll be back. And sooner next time. But I might try to get away with BYOB.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

Hola neighbor!

When I picked up my senorita numero uno from work this evening, we asked ourselves, "Where should we eat on this fine summer evening?"
Funny enough, she replied, "Let's stay in the neighborhood."

Me, well I like to be a good neighbor! And El Buen Gusto has liked me as a good neighbor for the better part of 11 years.

So we feasted on one of the finest super burrito
asada's I've ever had, along with an equally delicious chicken tostada....the tostadas at El Buen being the best bargain in the joint, beating out the super nachos by a hair. amigos out there will no doubt relish this evening's discovery that El Buen Gusto has started to stock what fine beer??????, no, no.....not Olympia my friends....but pretty damn close.....
......Pabst Blue Ribbon in bottles.

Now, I know what you're thinking......."Hold on there partner, now does that make this a hipster joint now?"....."Should I start putting on skin tight jeans and ride my bright pink fixed gear bicycle with short handlebars to lunch from now on?"....

I think not.

El Buen Gusto is still the same neighborhood taqueria it always was (although a bit pricier than the old days). I remember the days of sitting out on the back porch with Manny, Brainard, a bunch of Mexicans, and Ratso, while the owner of El Buen passed the tequila bottle around on late summer evening burrito fests. And those great times during the World Cup 1998 in France when the owner would open the joint up at 6am and we'd all crawl out of bed at our house and head straight across the street to watch the games live for a few hours, drinking beer and eating Huevos ala Mexicana in the early morning. We didn't have much World Cup action in 2002 (the Japan time delay was a killer), or even 2006 (I ended up watching most of the games in Los Angeles), but mi amigo still passes the tequila bottle around some evenings on the back porch if you're lucky enough to hit the right night.

He know's what it's like to be a good neighbor.