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L.A. Taco Guides

The L.A. TACO Travel Guide to San Francisco’s Best Taquerías, Mapped

6:41 AM PDT on August 26, 2021

    tacos el pollito

    [dropcap size=big]Y[/dropcap]ou might be wondering why you’re reading a guide about SF tacos over here at L.A. TACO—it’s quite simple really: It's one of the most common guide requests we get. As people are traveling more, taking that really quick flight to SFO, or making the road trip up the 5, it makes perfect sense. After all, we always gotta know where all the good taco spots are and you definitely don't want to be caught slipping out in SF.

    San Francisco’s taco game is strong, diverse, and delicious. From roving taqueros slanging soft and steamy tacos de canasta in the Mission District to cochinita specialist trucks overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has something to offer—you just gotta come with an open mind and a hungry stomach.

    Here is a list of our L.A. TACO-approved spots.

    A taquear.

    Deliciosos Tacos De Canasta

    Felipe Reyes is an inspiration. Originally from Mexico City, he used to cook at restaurants in San Francisco but was laid off when COVID hit. So he took to the streets of The Mission and started selling extra sweaty tacos de canasta out of a little blue cooler—he’s been making and selling hundreds of tacos six days a week since. He does six different guisados daily—the chicharrón prensado is our favorite and sells out first. Felipe moves up and down Mission Street starting at 10 AM and usually sells out by 1 PM, aka, taco de canasta hours. He can sometimes be hard to track down (most of the time it feels like Felipe finds you). This piece I did on him in The Chronicle is worth a read.

    Follow his Instagram for the latest location, and catch him if you can.


    La Gallinita Meat Market

    La Gallinita is one part carnicería, one part Mexicatessan, one part taquería, and 100% one of my favorite spots in The Mission. The business has been around for over 60 years and is run by the Vasquez family. You can still find Sal—now approaching his 80s—behind the counter cheerily cutting carne to order for his customers. The thing to get is the cecina taco—they butcher beef themselves, of course, using the thinly sliced eye of the round and salting for at least 24 hours before searing it on the plancha to order. They have tortillas de mano or regular—the tortilla power is yours to choose. The salsa roja gets its heat from habanero and color from árbol and packs a fiery punch.

    2989 24th St #4133, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Tacos El Pollito

    Tacos El Pollito is one of the newer taco outfits that popped up on Mission Street during the last year of the pandemic. Run by a wife-and-husband couple, the Gutierrez family, who work at nearby Lucky Pork Market a few blocks away (where they also source their meats). Their setup reminds me a bit of L.A., with a tent over their plancha and a couple of tables and some makeshift chairs surrounding. Late at night, the lamplight shines bright, a beacon that beckons the burgeoning bar-hopping crowds, drunk and hungry. The cecina is solid, they have quesabirria for the masses of course (who doesn't these days?), but for me, the cabeza is where it's at. Braised beef cheek is juicy, stringy but intact, a sponge for the spicy salsas. Mulitas is the way.

    2467 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94110 

    La Taquería

    La Taquería is an essential San Francisco institution. Since 1973, people have been lining up for the Jara family’s tightly wrapped burritos and tacos, and for good reason—they’re pfg. A few years ago I broke their secret menu, where it was revealed you can do all sorts of sneaky menu hacks like get your burrito dorado—it’s worth a read before a visit. But these days, my biggest protip is unsuspectingly hidden in plain sight right on the menu: get a carne asada corn quesadilla—a single corn tortilla is filled with cheese and charred meat and put on the plancha until melted—it’s basically a DIY quesataco. Add cilantro and cebolla if you want, creamy bright green guacamole, and plump pintos make it extra. The green salsa verde, however, should not be missed.

    2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Loló

    There are so many things I love about Loló—the owners to start are the warmest and most welcoming: Chef Jorge Martínez Lillard and his wife Lorena Zertuche (who designed the space—she’s a literal artist), as well as Juan Carlos Ruelas the GM. Their cocktail program is mezcal forward and solid, and they also have a genuine obsession with natural wines. It’s been around since 2007, and it’s always poppin' off—the vibe is so real, it makes me feel. The food--Jaliscan-Californian inspired—is eclectic and ever-changing. But the thing I gravitate towards the most, a menu mainstay, is the fried avocado tacos—remember you are in the Bay. It is creamy avocado coated in panko and fried until crispy with a dollop of jalapeno crema over a flour tortilla with melty Oaxacan cheese—truly one of my favorite things to eat in San Francisco.

    974 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    El Gallo Giro

    El Gallo Giro is a taco truck that parks on the corner of 23rd Street  and Treat Avenue in The Mission. Since 2002, Elena Caballero and her husband Jose Perez have been serving up some of my favorite carnitas in The City. Salted pork leg is cooked in a copper cauldron then crisped up on the plancha to order. Some bites contain crispy bits, others contain fatty, meatier chunks, but the best have a bit of both. I always go salsa roja with this—theirs is deeply heady and complex, slightly smokey, and not too spicy.

    986-998 Treat Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

    La Torta Gorda

    Of course, you come to La Torta Gorda for Armando Macuil’s crazy-good, panini-pressed tortas, but his Pueblan specialties are the standouts. Specifically, the taco árabe, the great Lebanese import to Mexico, features tortillas he sources directly from Puebla that are stuffed with sliced pork butt he marinates in orange, lime, vinegar, parsley, onion, and oregano before searing on the plancha. He recommends a schmear of his smokey chipotle morita salsa, but I’m partial to his salsa verde crudo, which is full of spicy serrano, cilantro, onion, garlic, and a good amount of salt. The choice is yours of course.

    2833 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Cochinita

    Run by business and life partners Karen González and Sergio Albornoz, who grew up in Yucatán, the colorful cochinita truck can be found parked right along The Marina with views of both the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. There’s not much more of a picturesque San Francisco scene as you sink your teeth into their excellent, juicy cochinita pibil. Their charred salsa is tomatillo-based and features habaneros, jalapeños, and serranos to spice it up, while the pickled red onion requisitely cut through it all.  You could get it in taco form, but I actually prefer the cochinita pibil panucho or salbute, both of which are made from fresh masa and puffed in hot oil for maximum texture. Sure, they’re technically not tacos, but they’re basically tacos.

    Two locations: One in Golden Gate Park and another at 500 Marina Boulevard.

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