Salsa time

about San Francisco, CA, USA
I did, finally, go mexican - Taqueria Andale near the hotel.

It is, like so many things American, a chain - leading to the usual touches of 'traditional' decor, slicked up homecooking look (down to handwritten menus), and all the staples on offer. The working fireplaces (there are two) and the outdoor seating was nice, though. The food (I had a fish burrito) was not bad. Character is too much expect in a fast food chain, but this was definitely tasty stuff; a nice tomato and chipotle sauce that had all kinds of smells and tastes leaping out of a slightly leathery burrito. Not quite the standard (or genuine local attitude) of La Taqueria in the Mission District, but satisfying enough if you want to avoid a bad meal.

Of course, not to say the every chain is boring. Chipotle Grill, for instance, is as fastfoodchain as they come - it's even owned by McDonalds. However, there's something distinctly infectious about their burritos, enough even to brave the lines and occasional fast food jibe - but how excited can you be about food that's pretty much at every doorstep. La Taqueria is quite a different animal, though; it sells very specific food to a fussy local population, and whoever hates their food can shove it elsewhere. That makes for character, but it also means there will never be a branch in Hong Kong. Taco Bell is Mexican only in the sense that Smirnoff is Russian; La Taqueria on the other hand, is a single malt scotch.

So what makes La Taqueria good? Don't bother too much with either location (bang in the middle of Mission's discount shopping) or decor (nice white stucco on the outside, but school cafeteria and long lines on the inside). Unpretentious is something that definitely comes to mind. They don't even hang reviews telling everyone how great people think they are. The tacos and burritos are cheap ($3+), don't come with much by way of frills. No rice, beans, cheese, guacamole or fifty seven other toppings - just meat meets tortilla in a very satisfying fashion. And we're talking serious meat here; once you chuck the rice out there's space there enough to make a pastrami sandwich jealous. Also, for a change, tortillas that don't stretch.The most popular choices are carnita or carne asada, but the tongue was great too.

Stand in a long line, eat at a crowded communal table, and burp loudly with satisfaction at the end of it all.

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