The Bean, Tinga, and Carnitas Tacos at Taco Gordo
Picture this: I’m sitting on a concrete stoop near Valencia and 24th Street in the Mission district of San Francisco. It’s just past 1 a.m., and the fluorescent lights of my favorite taqueria cast an off-lime glow on the paper plate perched on my lap. Two chicken tinga tacos — bloated with smoky meat, radish coins, cilantro and white onion — are halfway finished.
I devoured those tacos in five hulking bites shortly after finishing a demanding Saturday night grill shift at an upscale Hayes Valley restaurant where I cooked on the line. Perhaps it was the fatigue, or the fluorescent lights, but I’ve never tasted tacos so damn satisfying.
Fast-forward to two years later, on the corner of Church and Cherry streets in downtown Burlington. I’m hungry, but I’m not looking for tacos. To be honest, I gave up the quest when I returned to the East Coast, where the bagels are unmatched and the maple syrup is dark and glorious, but the tacos tend to be flabby replicas of the ones I enjoyed during my brief stay out west.
Then I find Taco Gordo, the wheeled, wooden food cart on Church Street Marketplace.
The first thing to catch my eye on Taco Gordo’s small chalkboard menu is its housemade corn tortillas. Good tacos require good tortillas, and those at Taco Gordo are very good. They’re soft yet toothsome, with a toasty, deeply fresh flavor that doesn’t just pair well with the fillings, but asserts itself as a crucial backdrop. I can get two tacos for $7, or three tacos for $10. [See update below.]
Did I mention I'm hungry?
I try three tacos on the menu: “The Bean,” a pile of spiced, perfectly cooked pinto beans; crisp-edged “Carnitas“ with slow-cooked pork; and “Tinga,” my old favorite: slivers of tender pulled chicken hinting at cumin and coriander. A row of toppings includes bright cilantro, limes, radishes, shaved cabbage and sweet white onion. Beside these trappings sits a trio of homemade salsas. I opt for Pineapple Serrano; it’s fresh and hot with an ample kick of sweetness. Plus, they have Mexican Coca-Cola in those curved glass bottles.
Only $10 later, I’m not just stuffed, but completely satisfied — satiated in a way that is only possible after one quells a long-standing craving.
Update: Taco Gordo contacted us after this post was published to let us know that the business no longer offers three tacos for $10 (or two for $7). Prices per taco are $3 to $5, with a side of rice or beans for $2, so my meal currently costs $11 — still a deal.
Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.