In the Mission District between 24th and 25th streets stands the world's greatest Mexican joint, just don't be put off that it looks like a Tijuana knocking shop...
We’d already done a lot of walking that day. From our base high above San Francisco we’d strolled down to The Castro and feasted on eggs and hot sauce to blast out the after effects of the previous evening spent drinking Pisco Sours in a Peruvian place in the docks area.
Sitting and watching the zoo that is early morning Castro, all colourful queens in drag, dog walkers with 17 types of poodle, drunks saying their prayers to a paper bag and cab drivers smoking in the morning sun, we made a rough plan for the day, which started in the Basilica of Mission Dolores and finished at SOMA, before heading into the Tenderloin for more booze.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the stuff we did that day was memorable, but like all memories they have begun to fade into one another. But not what we did in the middle of the day. Not what we did for lunch. That is burnt into my tastebuds until kingdom come.
After getting dropped of in The Mission by a cabbie who looked and spoke like Gil Scott Herron, we wandered around some pedestrian alleyways and streets covered in colourful murals. Protest images, Hindu gods, elephants, you name it, they’d painted it. Then we set off in search of meat heaven.
Located on Mission Street in between 24th and 25th, La Taqueria looks, from the outside, like an upmarket Mexican whorehouse. Yet no knocking shop in the world, irrespective of how beautiful, cheap or accommodating the girls inside were, can have ever had queues like this outside of it. Down the street they waited, the gangbangers with bulges in the back of their T-Shirts, old Hispanic men with three teeth and cheap specs, young Mums with six kids, white folk in Chinos and businessmen in polyester suits shouting into phones.
As soon as I bit into the Taco I knew I was having more. Taking that first bite, I watched from our outside booth as a bald man with forearms like a Wrestler turned a four-by-four foot half-inch thick slab of cooked beef into mince for the tacos and burritos. His rhythm became my rhythm. As he turned the knife from straight up to sideways, I stopped chewing, when he completed a piece, I set down the Taco and slurped heavily from a bottle of Modelo.
I’ve eaten my own bodyweight ten times over in Mexican food, some of it good, some hideous and some just Ok. This was a genuine life-changing moment. One of intense happiness as I ate my second and third Tacos and guzzled beer at a stomach stretching speed, and also one of deep sadness as my wife made me get up and leave. If I close my eyes I can still taste the beef, I can still feel the heat as the fresh weapons grade salsa hit my lips. I can remember opening my eyes, knowing that I had my sex face on, and looking at two of the gun-carrying teens laughing not at me, but with me.
“Good hey, Gringo?” One said.
“Fucking brilliant,” I replied.
They nodded, drained their beers, threw their napkins in the bin and sauntered off. We did the same.
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