Monday, January 28, 2008

Mission: Taco Tour. Part I - Taqueria Vallarta

While visiting San Francisco's Mission district, Elise and I decided to take a local friend up on a thorough tour of the area's infamous taquerias. We went to as many as we could before they closed for the night, all three of us sharing one taco at each locale. Saving our disposable silverware from the first stop, we did a good deed for the environment and developed what proved to be the best way to tour a neighborhood: with outstretched fork in hand.

Our first stop was the Taqueria Vallarta. The large sit-down section was packed, but there were even more people standing in line for a quick bite at the specially designed grill by the door. From above, the grill would look like a wagon wheel, each spoke representing a divider separating different fillings. The center was thereby kept clear for warming tortillas, which were rapidly filled with different kinds of meat, doused in grilled onions and sauce, and sprinkled with cilantro, more raw onion, and served with a lime wedge. We ordered an al pastor.

The flavor was fantastic and made even better by the strong accoutrements, though the texture was a little chewy. While it tasted great, I know how tender such slowly cooked meat can be, and was a little disappointed, though only in that aspect. We discussed the "pastoral" origins of the dish and the general (and thankful) disappearance of those hard shelled tacos we'd each grown up with on "taco nights" in our respective homes. As with all good taquerias, the price was inconsequential.

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