Another impromptu Sunday afternoon stuffing ourselves around the Mission. Arlene suggested we try to hit a few of the places we'd missed on the taco crawl the week before. With that in mind, we met on the bench outside
Taqueria San Jose #1
Mission & 24th Street
This visit confirmed what we'd felt the week before. Great tacos at bargain prices. Excellent al pastor (if not as spicy as Jennie's taco truck), decent lengua (not as silky at La Taqueria's), fine ceviche tostada and strawberry agua fresca, mediocre chips. Two tacos, a tostada, and three aguas came to $9. We then crossed 24th to go to
El Taco Loco
24th between Mission & Capp
My friend Doodad had been here before, and it qualifies as a find. We enjoyed a huge bowl of birria, which none of us had had before. Tender male goat stew in tomato sauce with onions, cilantro, and lime, without a trace of gaminess. We used the tortillas to make tacos and couldn't get enough. We also had a tasty chorizo taco and a decent carnitas taco, and an enormous super quesadilla with carne asada--like a grilled burrito on steroids but with better Monterey Jack. Like San Jose, Taco Loco has a full salsa bar, plus the spiciest pickled onions and carrots you can imagine (yum), with hot pepper flakes and oregano on the table. This was the first taqueria on all the crawls where no one even used the salsas because everything was more than adequately spiced.
Looking over the menu, we were curious about buche tacos, which we hadn't ordered--turns out they're a step beyond offal: snouts, ears, tails. Maybe next time? We spent $17 for a feast we couldn't finish including sodas. The only drawback was that we'd filled up so much we had to cross a nearby taqueria off the list.
in the Mission Market at 22nd St
We returned to El Perol, the Peruvian cafeteria we discovered on the previous taco crawl, planning on sharing one flan. It always starts small. We got a slice of crema volteado (literally "turned around cream"), a tasty flan with the thick texture of cheesecase. We also shared an alfajor and a tall glass of chicha morada, because of its irresistible purple color. Chicha is apparently made from corn, although we guessed it might contain pomegranites and cinnamon. Arlene's husband Ben, who was too worn out from Saturday's Chinatown tour to come out again for tacos, said it has Aztec origins; a real native American cocktail. (See the link Arlene found below). The people around us were enjoying bistek del pobre (at $11.50, ironically the priciest thing on the menu), Peruvian paella, and other seafood specialties that looked appetizing. Next time maybe we'll actually eat here.
By this time we needed to stretch our legs a little and headed down Mission and then Valencia, stopping in at Paxton Gate (plants, bugs, art, and tea) and the recently opened 826 Valencia, a writing center for teenagers started by Dave Eggars and filled with a lot of strange drawers, labels, and pots.
18th & Guerrero
Having walked a few blocks, we were unable to pass up Tartine, although we did manage to try a few new things. There was a huge line of people manically buying all the tartes, croque monsieurs, and breakfast rolls they could get their hands on. We managed to snag a corner table and rapidly devoured a banana cream tart (filled with slices of banana, brittle, and bits of chocolate that had Derek and Doodad oohing and aahing), an airy nectarine & vanilla cream tart (Arlene & I preferred this one), a chocolate crinkle cookie, and that Limster favorite, a cannelle. The woman in line behind me assured me that while all the bakeries owned by Boulangerie were good, everything at this one was better, especially the cannelles. (She spent $30 on one of everything). The cannelle lived up to its reputation: hard on the outside, spongy on the inside, with a trace of orange. Small for $1.75 but exquisite. Doodad tried to find out what was in them but was told that elves made them. We also took home several of their excellent, chewy if expensive levains, around $4.75 for a big loaf.
We now staggered toward the Castro, the walking part of the day designed to work off some of the tacos. We were far too full to stop in at Tita's, window shop at Joseph Schmidt, or do more than ogle the jars of clotted cream and truffles at Fairie Queene. Britney Spheres and Lou Rawl's Balls will have to wait until next time. At this point, Derek and Doodad decided they were exhausted and bailed. Four hours of continuous eating is enough to make anyone tired, especially if they spent the day before on the Chinatown tour. But Arlene and I soldiered on back to the Mission for the day's final stop.
Valencia & 18th
As we learned the previous week, Luna Park doesn't reopen until 5:30 so we had to go across the street to Community Thrift to check out travel magazines from 1994 (maybe I donated them?) and discarded kitchen gadgets. When we got to Luna Park at 5:29, there was already a line of leather coats including a couple of guys who said they were videotaping for Czech TV. We shared an ahi poke with wonton chips appetizer, Arlene's first mojito, and a glass of NZ sauvignon blanc.
The tuna was great, chopped with a few too many red onions in a clean dressing of ginger, lime, and sesame oil. The accompanying chips were awful: (a whole day without a decent chip!) super greasy, which seemed a shame for how fresh and light the tuna is. Arlene suggested pita chips would have been better.The mojito was beautiful, but not quite sweet enough. The next table ordered mussels and frites, which we lusted after but couldn't fit or afford. Service was condescending. Despite the fact that two of us spent $27 in half an hour, the server kept asking if we were done or wanted to order anything else, even though the table next to us was free and no one was waiting. It's that old Luna Park dilemna; not a bad place with pretty decent food and beautiful cocktails, but is it worth it? I went home and mixed myself a mint julep.
Another satisfying crawl. Will we ever get to La Altena or El Buen Sabor? Probably only if we start there.