La Taqueria de San Francisco has the Critics’ Seal of Approval

Editor’s Note: In this monthly column, San Francisco singer and artist La Doña will celebrate the city’s bustling Mexican food scene by reviewing a different burrito from the city’s taquerias each month.

My name is Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea, aka La Doña, and I am an educator, music analyst and artist born and raised in San Francisco. The music I make is a sultry mix of regional Mexican styles, American roots music, cumbia and reggaeton, wrapped in a concise tortilla of salsa instrumentation and arrangements and topped with a scorching bath of furious feminism and hyphy-ass. I look forward to occupying the space here at SFGATE and in your beautiful brains as the new head of the burrito bureau, the interrogatah of flavah, the goddess of food, the one and only Doña 415, as I bring you takes her on the hyphy brick road which leads to my favorite burrito spots.


I grew up in Bernal Heights between a few churches and a few laundromats and a few convenience stores. Bernal was a breezy, hilly backdrop in the early 90s, but we had the best library and the best of the 48 hills in Frisco. (Fight me.) There were only a few restaurants around, including my daughters’ family’s Hungarian restaurant at home and a perpetually empty Chinese place that was to be a facade, but at least there was still browns and blacks in the neighborhood!

I was born in the neighborhood, in my block, in my parents’ bedroom, to a folk revivalist lawyer and trumpeter bridger, while a party was going on in the music room. It’s probably the farthest I’ve been – and ever will be – from the center of the party and I’m okay with that!

My parents, sister and I formed a band, La Familia Peña-Govea, when I was still quite young and performed professionally all over town and in the bay area. When I was in 4th grade, I organized a group of friends to join a young salsa group at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts called “Futuro Picante”. We lugged our instruments all day (I played the trumpet and my very young housewife played the bigger saxophone) and headed to 25th and Mission after school.

SFGATE burrito critic Cecilia Peña-Govea orders food at La Taqueria in the Mission district of San Francisco.

Patricia Chang / SFGATE Special

Professional musician for at least two years already with my family, I used to attend rehearsals, iron my concert clothes and have performances at 10 years old, but Futuro Picante was different. It was a group made up of all my friends! They too thought salsa, cumbia and son were cool! And we sounded GOOD! All the heroes of the art of Mission would stick their heads in our rehearsal room and panic, remembering their early years of discovering and creating the culture of the neighborhood; and when we were playing at the 24th street BART station or in front of the center, all the borrachos were expressing gritos, clapping and waving their arms in the air, showering us all with a Miller High Life celebration fountain – you know vibrations.

Every Wednesday after rehearsal we all crossed the street and lovingly shared a meal, which brings me to our first burrito destination, La Taqueria.

SFGATE burrito critic Cecilia Peña-Govea tries a burrito at La Taqueria in San Francisco's Mission District.

SFGATE burrito critic Cecilia Peña-Govea tries a burrito at La Taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Patricia Chang / SFGATE Special

Growing up, I always ordered two chicken tacos with guacamole; at that time there was no dorado or regular, the tortilla just came one way, which was crisp and fried and heavenly. My dad always complained about eating at La Taqueria because, to be honest, these tacos were about four times the price of the others in the neighborhood and “Who pays more for a burrito without rice?” Of course, since I loved these tacos and the time I spent with my group (and I was his little girl) he would give in and walk me across the street for dinner.


La Taqueria has been owned and operated by Miguel Jara since 1973. He’s sometimes touted as the innovator of the “Mission’s burrito” but anyone who’s actually from the Mission, or even from San Francisco, knows that’s not true. : This burrito is unlike any other you’ll find in SF Even Jara denies this attribution, stating, “It’s my own style. … I don’t know what a Mission style burrito is. There are a few things that make this burrito different from others in SF, which I’ll cover now before I dig in:

  1. There is no rice. And listen, I’m not a big fan of rice, not at all. But for the burrito-scape we reside in, it’s odd. Like who fills a burrito with real, expensive food when he could fill it with a filling ingredient like rice …
  2. The burrito is spongy, dripping and supple. Linked to the lack of rice but also concerned about the sauce of meats and frijoles and the consistency of avocado.
  3. The salsa verde is piping hot. I’m Mexican, the kind of Mexican who bully all his non-Mexican friends because they can’t eat chili peppers, whose roommates have to beg me to stop adding jalapeños to salsa, which literally won’t eat if I don’t have any chili or anything picoso on hand. For the context, my grandmother would take a bag of marinated jalapeños with her if we didn’t eat at home because otherwise she “wouldn’t be able to taste anything”. And I think this salsa is hot.

SFGATE burrito reviewer Cecilia Peña-Govea tries the super chicken burrito (dorado) at La Taqueria in San Francisco's Mission District.

SFGATE burrito reviewer Cecilia Peña-Govea tries the super chicken burrito (dorado) at La Taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Patricia Chang / SFGATE Special

My recent meeting with the Taqueria started with me driving my Impala ’65 with no power steering at my car fathers Luis and Aldo at the Cesar Chavez gas station. It was one of those rare days in town when it’s over 65 degrees, and between the treeless walk from the garage and my impromptu day of arm driving my car, a doña was sweating.

Fortunately, I was able to show my immunization card and sit down to eat with my wonderful housewife Alyssa Aviles. We ordered a carne asada burrito dorado, a great chicken burrito dorado, a horchata and an agua de fresa, and walked in.

La Taqueria is one of the few taquerias in the neighborhood to offer very high quality meat. I grew up in a vegetarian household and am a bit scared of meat so I usually don’t order meat burritos as it’s hard to question the quality of every bite of meat when your meal is all comfortable in a tortilla blanket. But here I’m happy and confident enough to bite into it: they have very high quality meat, tasty and delicious whole pinto beans that are deep fried in a big batch, and a delicious spicy salsa. This is what you can expect from the burrito asada.

An interior wall in La Taqueria in the Mission District of San Francisco.

An interior wall in La Taqueria in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Patricia Chang / SFGATE Special

The star of the show, however, is definitely the pollo. They cook it in a much better tomato-based sauce than the typical grilled chicken you usually get in a burrito. From my first bite of chicken burrito, I met the squeaky, fat pollo and his friends – the smooth aguacate and salty cheese. Both burritos were made in a dorado style, which means they’re lightly fried on the grill, so get that extra ounce of smack.

While not your typical San Francisco burrito, La Taqueria’s burrito comes highly recommended, 9/10, and a few tips: wrap the leftovers twice, because this naughty little thing will end up on you.

Keep an eye out for La Doña’s new single, “Mi Nuevo Amor,” which will be released on October 15th.

You can catch La Doña’s upcoming shows at UC Berkeley Theater on November 2, at the De Young Museum gala on November 5, at Amoeba Records on November 12 for its vinyl release party, and at KQED on November 17.

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