Taqueria Cancun - 2288 Mission St., Mission District, San Francisco
An al pastor taco, a carnitas taco, a Mandarin Jarritos
It’s different in San Francisco. The architecture here is painted in colorful pastels, the sky rivals London for all the shades of grey it can turn, I’m treated to daily views of the Golden Gate Bridge outside my window. It’s beautiful and calm, it’s lonely and foreign, it’s overwhelming and exciting. I’ve been exploring the sights like a fourteenth-century conquistador, walking the city out of breath from its insurmountable hills.
One particular area of interest for me is the Mission District. Before I settled in the Richmond, with its alluring mix of Hakka joints and Russian bakeries, I was planning on living there. It was the closest thing to my beloved East Village, my friends told me. And though I’ve found it closer to a mashup of Sunset Park and the Lower East Side, it’s still an intriguing cross-section of thrift shops, homeless people, swank bars and taquerias.
Knowing me, the taquerias came first and foremost. I did my research, and learned about Taqueria Cancun, which has won more superlatives than a high school beauty queen. It sounded delicious and the prices were extremely affordable so I anointed it my first official meal in my new city. As I walked in, the smells of frying beef were thick in the air and a homeless man in a ragged suit was screaming. A punk girl with a scissor-sharp mohawk was ordering a burrito. Her cuter friend had piercings up and down her face.
Eager to show off my newfound knowledge, I stepped up ordered an al pastor taco and one with carnitas. I trilled my R’s, flaunting my accent from my days of presiding over the Spanish Honor Society. I did my best not to drool as I watched the line cooks scrabble together the meal. Then I took my free basket of chips, and picked up my first grilled tortilla. To my mostly uninitiated taste buds, it proved to be an experience, an event. Not just good Mexican, but outstanding, soul-shaking, rapturous Mexican. I tasted flavors on some other level, a tango of cilantro, hot sauce and tender, seasoned meat, simple and unpretentious but oh so necessary. It was as good a welcome mat to my new home as I could hope for.
Of my two tacos I had, I preferred the al pastor, but compared to any others I’ve had, both easily ranked at the top. Next time, if I decide to brave Fear Factor territory, I may even try the tripe or brains also tantalizingly featured on the menu. Whatever I get, there’s no doubt that I’ll be back at Taqueria Cancun to keep being amazed, while also checking out the hundred other taquerias within walking distance.
After so many incredible food experiences in 2005, I was surprised and grateful that one last one snuck in under the wire. After so many highlights, I couldn’t believe that something could still taste so new and unknown. So while I may have given up great bagels in the trade, my Cancun trip made coastal differences seem ever more beautiful. 9/10
From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out
- Name: Lonesome Hero
Sunday, February 19, 2006