I’m no burrito expert, nor do I claim to be. I am and always have been a taco salad girl; I can count on three fingers the number of times that I’ve ordered something else at a Mexican restaurant. The taco salad holds both nostalgic and realtime gustatory pleasure. It allows one to see and to fully integrate all the salad ingredients, ensuring evenly-balanced bites (v. important), and the fried shell provides a crispness with which to offset the texture of most of the [soft] other recipe components.
One summer in college, I worked at the Baja Fresh Mexican Grill newly opened in my town, where I had a pact with T, one of the co-owner’s sons: T agreed to fry me fresh taco salad shells if I agreed never to reveal that he spent most of his time out back, smoking with the line cooks. Done! For those three months, I ate unfilled taco salad shells almost daily. In college, I marked my calendar for Taco Salad Day in the Oak Room, the school’s scaled-up (“scaled-up?”) older sister to the plain old cafeteria.
Though my love of the taco salad is true, there are times when only a burrito will do. One of these is, of course, after a long evening spent sipping PBRs and munching only on delicate & snacky morsels. Like few other foods, a burrito provides the illusion of “reuptaking” said PBR, potentially protecting the eater from a subsequent 12-hour headache.
Nestled between narrow storefronts on Church, the exterior of El Castillito isn’t much to look at. Neither is the dining room, with its stark tiled floor, church-basement tables, and gliterry vinyl chairs. No matter: the taqueria meets all the criteria I have for a burrito joint: it’s fast, cheap, and open late.
I got the regular vegetarian burrito, hold the guac. (Note: I’ve never been an avocado lover. The avocado’s texture is buttery-pleasant, but the taste is so bland!) The ingredients were pretty standard: homemade tortilla, rice, pintos, pico de gallo, a liberal squirt of sour cream, and extra hot sauce (upon request). My rice was surprisingly un-greasy (a good start!), pintos were standard, the pico was fresh. Papalote lays claim to my favorite commercially-prepped hot sauce, but El Castillito’s version was solid, hot enough to add interest to my otherwise plain order without leaving me an unpleasant afterburn. The tortilla was warm and baby cheek-smooth.
Less gluttonous was Hook’s order of two chicken tacos, served in double-layered tortillas with onions, cilantro, and a heavy application of hot sauce. For the price ($2.85 apiece), they were more than satisfactory. H. reports that he found a few hard bits of chicken, but at least he didn’t find any gristle.
Chances are we’ll be back to El Castillito, but not in the near future. Yas, the dining room was homey and the food was filling and the prices were the lowest of the low, but I’m not enough of a burrito devotee to make a special trip to the Castro for a visit to El Castillito. For a Hot Cookie, maybe — but that’s another story.