Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
In seeing Shokutsu’s review of venerable Mission Burrito institution Papalote, it got me thinking. It’s so interesting how two people with a similar philosophy and preferences can look at a similar place with a completely different view point when dining in isolation. Especially when they come in with different expectations. From his perspective, it was a recommendation from a local guide. “Several good meals” had been had. A solid, yet unspectacular review.
On the other hand, in my never ending quest for great burrito’s, driven by my first experiences in Pasadena CA, I ran across super burrito fan website burritoeater several years ago, who consistently had the Mission location of Papalote rated in the top 3. Of particular note was the consistently high scores for the Carne Asada and the Tofu. The carniverous side of me was intrigued that someone who was so diligent and structured in his passion for burritos could place tofu on the same pantheon as meat!! Truly shocking.
Just off the corner of Valencia and 24th, around the corner from my favorite San Francisco coffee house Ritual Coffee Roasters, Papalote can be difficult location to spot.
Luckily, the low-key exterior hides a clean, warm, bustling interior. Not on this day though, when i came looking for a burrito at 11am.
As you enter, you are confronted with a bustling kitchen. Watching the staff work frenetically, efficient and compact even with no lines, gives you a rough idea of how busy they get. Everything is done at light speed here.
The complimentary chips and salsa are unremarkable. Decent for house made, but the texture of the tortillas are a bit coarse.
What they are famous for, and what they do best, is the Mission Burrito. I’ll leave the argument of what exactly a Mission Burrito is to others better versed, but most will agree that it is most distinguished by size, and a very different ingredient mix from your traditional burrito. The Papalote Burrito fits the description to a tee. A solid forearm sized slab of flour tortilla.
On this day, the Super Carne Asada is my burrito of choice. It’s a nice combination of everything that matters to me – phenomenally grilled meat, with great balance in texture and flavour, guacamole, salsa, rice, beans
Surprisingly, the Tofu Burrito is also fantastic. The texture mimics a lot of the nice firmness that comes with real meat, while delivering some flavour. I was genuinely surprised.
So what’s my point? Nothing really. Papalote’s serves great Mission Burritos. And another example of what a difference expectations have on one’s dining experience.