A friend of mine was inspired by a burrito map of San Francisco. Rather than eat burritos, he wanted to do tacos. Well then, let’s taco ’bout it! Just like that, his taco crawl was born.
He studied the map and decided to plot out a route. In his research, he decided to hit up yours truly for opinions on taquerías. I only had one demand (to which he met): end the crawl at La Taquería.
- La Oaxanqueña
2128 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
between Sycamore & 17th St
WARNING: If you have acridophobia, then scroll like your life depends on it.
The taco crawl started off with a bang. We strolled in to the joint and immediately took over. La Oaxanqueña is a small, no frills shop with about 6 tables. If you happen to wind up here and find that a bunch of folks have taken over for a taco crawl, have patience as you order and wait for your food. The kitchen is like the shop, small. Although this place is tiny, they churn out a good amount of food (I’m told their bakery next door is excellent) with a variety of meats like lengua, suadero, cabeza, chorizo, tarantula (seasonal) and chapulines. Say what? Tarantulas?! Yea, you read that right. If you’re truly brave and daring enough, call ahead to see if they have it.
Grasshoppers, or chapulines, are very popular in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are caught, cleaned, and toasted with garlic, lime juice, and salt. La Oaxanqueña serves up grasshoppers in a taco and I was definitely game for this.
Taco number one went down the hatch with a skinny sliver of avocado, sliced radishes, a generous squeeze of lime, and a liberal squirt of salsa.
The verdict? A bit on the salty side, but had a nice crunch to it. This was definitely a new way of getting my protein in for the day. Although I will say I was a bit uncomfortable later on walking around the Mission knowing full well that the food stuck in between my molars were grasshopper legs.
Taco stop number 2 on our list closed early (7pm). Your loss El Faro. On to better tacos we went.
- Taquería Vallarta
3033 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
between Balmy St & Treat Ave
Ah, Vallarta. When you walk in, there is a taco cart on the right. The cook that mans the taco cart plows through the line. He takes your order, cooks up the meat, and deftly constructs your tacos simultaneously. He is a taco master. Garnishes for tacos are self serve, but right in front of the taco cart, so move quickly. Chopped onions, sliced radishes, lemon wedges, and 3 sauces are available. Beware of that orange one, it’s got heat and will leave your lips tingling!
Vallarta has the usual suspects of carne asada, carnitas, al pastor etc but are well known for cabeza, lengua, buche and suadero. You wouldn’t dine at House of Prime Rib and order the fish, right? So I went for the lengua.
Lengua (beef tongue) is usually braised with garlic and seasoning in Mexican cooking.
The lengua at Vallarta is diced up into bite sized pieces fit for a taco. You can see I put a bit of that aforementioned orange sauce.
The verdict? A pretty decent taco, although I personally felt the lengua could have been more tender. I also probably should have used less sauce because the heat lingered on my lips for quite some time after. Still, Taquería Vallarta is a great place to head to for tacos. They have plenty of seating and are open late, 7 days a week. Heck, they’re open until 1am every morning and until 3am on weekends.
Last but not least, the pièce de résistance.
- La Taquería
2889 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
between 24th & 25th St
La Taquería is debatable with San Franciscans. Some say it is overrated and overpriced (the bill can rack up depending on how many fixings you add to your order) while others are the polar opposite and swear by it. La Taquería has been on many food lists but was especially popular on one particular list, most notably for the carnitas taco. That list got it wrong, all wrong. The people who tell you to order a burrito here have also got it wrong, but I digress.
The thing to eat at La Taquería are obviously what this entire post has been about: tacos. More specifically, cabeza tacos. While La Taquería is pricey compared the others, it is worth it for every morsel of meat. Not to mention the size of the tacos here are nearly double the others.
Once you get over the chaos that is the line (and there is always a line) order, and find somewhere to sit, I recommend you put your phone away. Just put that taco in your mouth. The cabeza is cooked to perfection. La Taquería knows what they’re doing with cabeza. It’s incredibly juicy and amazingly tender like pulled pork. No extra salsa is needed, believe me on this. Just enjoy the beefy, meaty, head goodness.
So, where is the best taco in San Francisco? Is it La Taquería? It really depends on your palette, and I’ll let you decide. But this native will tell you that the best is somewhere in the Mission District.