Last Sunday I was tooling through the Mission when a parking space appeared before my eyes near Pancho Villa at dinner time. Feeling capsicum-deprived for my first meal away from Lotus of Siam, I took advantage of this bit of kismet to try it for the first time since its received many favorable mentions on the board.
While very busy and obviously a popular spot, my first clue that something was amiss was catching a glimpse of the sickly pastel green and plastic-looking guacamole. Could a place that would serve fake-o stuff like that actually deliver the goods? Then I saw the steam table trays with carne asada sitting in a pool of liquid and other meats that looked bland and not the right texture. Ok, best to limit my losses here and go for a taco instead of buying a burrito. The pile of carnitas looked the freshest and the least offensive of the bunch, so that got the nod with black beans for my taco.
My expectations dropped even lower when I saw that they dont even steam the corn tortillas to heat them, let alone griddle them. Worse yet, the carnitas are scooped from the steam table without the benefit of a dry-heating on the griddle to intensify the flavor and add texture. Oh, well, only two bucks at risk here.
The line-up of aguas frescas looked very good and I got the sandía (watermelon) that was indeed a nice rendition. Next I stepped over the salsa bar that folks talk up and found three choices: fire-roasted, green tomatillo, and salsa fresca (pico de gallo).
They say that the proof is in the taste, and Pancho Villa failed miserably here. Besides being not warm, the tortillas had no flavor (or maybe they taste like paper?) nor much tensile strength to hold the package together. This is an abomination because there are good quality machine-made tortillas to be had in this City that they could use. The carnitas were bland and much too wet and stringy. More like stewed pork rather than the browned bits of roast pork they should be. The green tomatillo salsa was fresh but one-dimensional and the salsa fresca was mushy and muted rather than bright in flavor. The highpoint of this meal was the fire-roasted salsa that was quite tasty and the sandía drink.
If some people think this is good, I would love to see them taste the real deal from any number of North Bay taco trucks that deliver five times the flavor. Probably their heads will snap back and do several 360s! The Toyanense truck in the Mission does a way better job than this. Or if youre afraid to eat off the trucks, check out Taquería San José in San Rafael or Lolitas in Petaluma for real deliciousness.
Please dont settle for or promote gringo-ized Mexican food. Buy a Chowhound Passport for your next outing to show you're serious.