After reviewing Californios, it was time to come back down to earth. Taco time! I haven’t reviewed many taquerias because I figured that if you have a favorite one, that’s the one you go to. And everyone does. Besides, we just have so many of them (lucky us!).
But the BF had heard tell of a mystical, magical thing . . .
BURRITOS WITH FRENCH FRIES INSIDE
This, to my mind, is genius. GENIUS! And he learned that these fantastical things were known as San Diego Burritos, or California Burritos. Then he found out that Los Coyotes, a taqueria on 16th Street between Mission and Valencia that has been around for 13 years, makes them. (By the way, Mission Local was way ahead of this game – reporting on this phenomenon back in 2004. And the rest of you were probably already hip to this taste sensation, right? Me, I’m a little slow.
Los Coyotes is huge, for a taqueria. It is bright and lively, with those whimsical Mexican playing card designs on the table tops, a “stained glass” Mayan calendar, colorful tiled walls, flat screen t.v.s, and diverse, toe-tapping Mexican ditties playing non-stop.
It has an immense menu, featuring full dinner plates, burritos, tacos, ceviche tostadas, shrimp cocktails, tortas, quesadillas, guisados (braised meats, rather like very juicy stews), nachos, grilled fish, menudo, deep fried snapper, sopes, flautas, pupusas, hot dogs, salads, seafood soups, and buffalo wings. You could eat here every day for weeks and never do a repeat.
But…. the California Burrito. We had to do it. I remember being in France and having what I thought was your run-of-the-mill doner kebab. But in Marseille? There were FRIES INSIDE. In Paris too! And now I’ve talked to a few people, and everyone’s like, “Oh yeah, they have those in Philly too. I’ve been eating them for years.” WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME?
That may not look like much, but it was so good. I would have thought you wouldn’t be able to discern French fries in the typical carb bomb that is a Mission burrito, but I was wrong. The fries added a lightness, almost, a crispiness to all that smooshy rice/bean/cheese/guac/crema loveliness. The carne asada was tasty, not the best, but for me, it really is all about them frites.
Not one to be left out, I asked the friendly guy behind the counter if I could do a crispy taco with fries inside. Pero claro que si!
My taco was crunchy and flavorful and again, you could really taste the fries in every bite. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to a filled-tortilla product without crisply fried potatoes in it. I also got a sope, which was piled high with lettuce, avocado, and queso fresco. The masa was a little tough, unfortunately, and hard to cut through. While the fries are cooked to order, I have a feeling that the sopes are not, and they suffer for it.
I also had a sangria, which was a tad sweeter than I like, but still refreshing. They have beer, margaritas (another plus, at a taco bar!), micheladas (a spicy, limey beer concoction), aguas frescas (I tried a tamarind one that was too sweet and tasted like it came out of a bottle), shots of tequila, and wine.
They have an impressive set of salsa bars, the first with two kinds of salsa fresca, a spicy mango salsa, a smoky chipotle, a mild avocado one, radishes, limes, and pickled carrots, onions and jalapeños.
And the other salsa bar had a variety of griddled chilies, two warm salsas, and a tray of sautéed onions and chorizo. As a condiment. As you can see, it disappears quickly.
On our second visit, I was determined that we would not order anything with fries inside. The BF had enchiladas poblanas, with chicken mole. The mole had a distinct smoked paprika flavor. The BF liked it fine but he just wasn’t wowed.
Possessing not an ounce of character nor a dram of will power, I immediately caved and went for the carne asada fries.
Just what it sounds like – a pile of fries with a pile of carne asada on top. If this decadence looks and sounds like something you’d throw together at 2:00 a.m. after a night of bar hopping, you’re right. But why do it yourself, when you can have your friends, the pros at Los Coyotes, do it for you? They’re open until 3:30 a.m. on the weekends! Perfectly crispy fries, savory carne asada, really fresh-tasting guacamole, frijoles negros, and plenty of crema to wash it all down with. I was sober as a judge, but it still hit the spot. In truth, I couldn’t finish it all. Portions are generous.
And ok, yes, I just had to pay it a third visit. The menu was just begging me to try more! But this time, NO FRIES.
The BF ordered an al pastor chimichanga:
It didn’t seem to have been deep fried, as a good chimichanga should, but pressed, perhaps, although the edges were rather crispy. Sadly, the al pastor had no al pastor flavor at all, and it was difficult to tell if the meat was even pork. As a whole, I thought it was tasty, and the BF loved the mango salsa he put on it, but he was yet again, unmoved. Except by their exceptional guacamole.
We also got a side order of chile relleno, one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes.
The best chile rellenos I have eaten are clouds of puffy egginess lovingly encasing a poblano pepper that sensually oozes melty cheese, and I feel joyful guilt for days after eating one, so rich they are. For me, the accompanying sauce should be rather mild, so as not to overwhelm the lovely egg coating. Here, the coating was nondescript, flat, and the salsa too assertive. The BF said it was fine, I said meh.
I ordered two seafood specialties: a coctel Campechana, and a ceviche tostada de pescado.
The seafood cocktail had tons of fresh cooked shrimp and octopus in it, along with onions, tomatoes, chunks of that great avocado, cilantro, all bathing in a light, slightly tomatoey sauce. It really needed salt, and heat, but five or six good glugs of El Yucateco red habanero sauce fixed it right up. The shrimp and octopus tasted fresh and had good texture. It came with the requisite saltine crackers, which I never understood, as they get so soggy as a scooping mechanism. Better to use tortilla chips. But I’d get this dish again.
Now, this fish looks odd, doesn’t it? Almost like rice? It was flaked pretty finely, but I was surprised at how fresh it tasted, and with, again, a couple of splooshes of habanero sauce, it was my favorite dish of the night.
So while this may not be my favorite taqueria in the Mission, I now know where to get my California burrito fix that I never knew I needed, and my ceviche tostadas. And more importantly, where to go after last call.
Moreover, Los Coyotes’ people are hard-working and as I’ve said, friendly and welcoming. The place was busy each time we were there, and the staff took prompt care of all its customers alike – the families, the hipsters and hippies, the travelers, the students, and even the homeless outside. Truly a neighborhood place.
Taqueria Los Coyotes
3036 16th Street