This is the first post of a new section of the blog titled “Food Roundup” when a group of us travel around to a number of Bay Area locations in an attempt to find the best of a particular cuisine. In this instance there were four of us and five different burrito locations (4×5). We chose our locations based on word of mouth and high Yelp ratings. Without any further ado, here’s the list: Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria, La Costa Taqueria, Metro Balderas Taqueria, La Victoria Taqueria and Taqueria Eduardo. We didn’t leave the house until about 7:30pm so we were working against the clock, not to mention the fact that we hadn’t eaten much all day, so we were also working against our stomachs as well. We rushed out to pick up our friend and guest critic Vishal and we were off to Taqueria Chavez.
Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria: An interesting place on a Friday night to say the least, Chavez Market is a bustling full service Latin American supermarket that also has a taqueria in the back. This place is famous for their Al Pastor which is cooked in the tradition of Mexico City; layers of well seasoned pork, pineapple and onion stacked on a vertical rotisserie and grilled until crispy. If that sounds tasty to you then you would have shared in our disappointment when we found out they didn’t have any left by the time we arrived. The very friendly gentleman behind the counter was kind enough to let us sample a few of their meat offerings before purchase. As Chavez has a full service butcher shop in store, all the meat was of excellent quality and tasty. We decided to settle for a Carne Asada burrito and a Goat (birria de chiva) taco. The burrito had the right proportions of ingredients and a good ratio of meat to rice/beans. We are all fans of Al Pastor, which a couple in the group had here in the past and said it was very good, so we all agreed that we wanted more spice on the meat.
La Costa Taqueria: This little gem of a place had never crossed our radar prior to this evening but it was highly rated on Yelp so we gave this East Side establishment a shot. The colorful sign out front is hard to miss. La Costa reminds me of a Midwestern dairy bar that has been covered in tile and gated in. Apparently, they carry a wide assortment of seafood items alongside the usual taqueria fare. We had to get the Al Pastor burrito as our craving had not been satisfied at Chavez. We didn’t expect much due to the cheap price of the burrito ($3.75), but we were clearly mistaken. The burrito was not only huge but the Al Pastor meat was well seasoned and tasty beyond our expectations. This deal is hard to beat. We also tried a Carne Asada taco and a lengua taco per recommendation. The lengua was good if you are into that delicious tongue taste and the Carne Asada was typical and nothing out of the ordinary.
Metro Balderas: This was another highly rated Yelp recommendation. A unique place that has a kitchen trailer out back with bench seating and table service. The atmosphere out back was pretty cool with hanging lights and bright colors. This is a popular spot among the local Latino community and the man that sells CDs out of the back of his car. The Al Pastor here was also cooked in the rotisserie style of Mexico City. When the burrito arrived we noticed that it had been grilled after rolling to give the tortilla a nice texture. The presentation of the burrito and taco were noticeably perfect. The Al Pastor was very lightly seasoned and the burrito included re-fried beans instead of the usual pintos. It was more rich in texture due to the refritos but lacking in overall seasoning.
La Victoria: Ah, the legendary La Vic with the famous orange sauce. Most of us in the group had been to this place before and had the Carne Asada but now it was time to put the Al Pastor to the test. This place gets pretty packed late night and this night was no exception. La Victoria is most famous for their Carne Asada as the medium of choice to douse with sauce as it is bland as hell and therefore the perfect medium for the creamy, spiced, orange concoction. The Al Pastor burrito was very heavily seasoned and salty as a Santa Cruz dog. We held out on liquids up to this point so as not to get to full but after a bite of the Al Pastor we instantly needed about a gallon of water to dilute the sodium. The tortilla was dry as a board as well, which was possibly due to the meat sucking the moisture out of everything within a two block radius. The best thing about La Victoria is the sauce but you could seriously pour it on cardboard for an enjoyable snack.
Taqueria Eduardo: The final stop on the tour and not a minute to soon. The proper rationing of burrito had proven too difficult as we were all filled to the brim with various burrito fillings. The tiny Taqueria Eduardo of Campbell was pretty vacant at 10pm on Friday night. We ordered two Al Pastor tacos as another burrito might have inflicted too much injury at this stage. The meat was more finely chopped on the grill than the others and a different style altogether in comparison. The seasoning was in good proportion and not as sweet as some other Al Pastor styles. It’s more like a well seasoned tasty Carne Asada than other Al Pastor styles. Very enjoyable style but not like the others. Worth a try for variety’s sake.
Overall winner of the 1st burrito roundup: La Costa Taqueria!
The value of the food is unbeatable and the taste is very good. We will definitely return for seconds to see if it stands the test of time.