Tacolicious serves up a Mexico City-style menu in the Mission district 

click to enlarge Tacolicious is a new, full-scale Mexico City-style menu eatery in the Mission. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Tacolicious is a new, full-scale Mexico City-style menu eatery in the Mission.

Are these people crazy? Why bring another taqueria to the Mission where, thank goodness, $3.50 still buys a soulful taco piled high with meat, and $6.50 a burrito that satisfies all day?

Because the Mission doesn’t have anything like Tacolicious, a full-service operation with a Mexico City-style menu, an adjoining tequila bar, a tailored wine list and lovely desserts.

With its cheery, hand-wrought decor, Tacolicious fits right into the smart Valencia Street restaurant corridor. Yet it still feels home grown and a part of the larger Mission. 

The energy comes from a diverse neighborhood clientele, some of whom are drawn to a narrow, protected, outdoor eating area that runs along the side of the restaurant. This enclave, with its eye-catching mural, is just right for families with kids, and anyone who prefers to talk, rather than yell, over dinner.

Another blessed amenity is Mosto, a separate bar room where diners can wait for a table with a cocktail and a botana, a little bite. Two of these bites are exceptional: a delicate Salvadorean tamale of almost custardy, flavor-infused masa topped with chicken and vegetables, and a nopal taquito ($1.50) mounded with tender cactus and topped with a griddle-crisped round of cheese.

The elevated, rather uncomfortable, bar-like seating in the regular dining room does not encourage lingering. These furnishings, combined with very efficient bussing, turns tables fast, a system that works in a place that does not take reservations.

Everyone likes to start with a platter of colorful tacos ($3.95 each, four  for $13). Those filled with moist, deeply spiced chicken mole, or super fresh deep-fried local rock cod with shredded cabbage and Mexican crema, are my current favorites.

But Tacolicious has new dishes to share, starting with a side of broccoli rabe ($7) seasoned with smoky chiles and lemon, a stellar rendition. A seasonal salad of roasted beets and grapefruit ($9.95) takes on Latin flair with spiced pumpkin seeds, queso fresco and fruity mission olive oil.

Grilled calamari goes Veracruzana with garbanzos, a relish of chiles, olives and capers, and a whisper of herbal Mexican oregano ($9.95). Small, peeled, Gulf shrimp and tiny cubes of potato in a creamy, hot, chile and tomato sauce spiked with a little vinegar ($10.95), are divine scooped up with warm flour tortillas, as are big, kid-adored albondigas ($10.95), meatballs infused with smoked chile and garlic.

The kitchen generously sends out baskets of thin corn chips with a big cup of roasted tomato salsa with mint, along with a rainbow of three other salsas. I found myself dipping into the green one with my skillet-roasted mussels ($11.95), instead of the drawn butter served with it.

Look forward to desserts: perfectly crisp, creamy centered churros to dip in Mexican hot chocolate ($7.50), and a winter squash flan velvetized by cream cheese ($7.50). 

A group should share bread and chocolate ($8), a huge curl of the richest, thickest, dark chocolate mousse drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled sea salt, eaten on crisp toasts.

San Franciscans take one pleasure in wolfing down a taco or two at a picnic table in a beloved Mission district taqueria, and another in eating and drinking from this urbane menu in an ebullient, happening, restaurant. It’s all good.

Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at pattiu@concentric.net.

Tacolicious and Bar Mosto

Location: 741 Valencia St. (at 18th Street), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 626-1344; www.tacolicioussf.com
Hours: Taqueria from 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily; Mosto tequila bar from 5 p.m. to midnight daily
Price range: $3.95 to $11.95; botanas at Mosto, $1.50 to $3
Recommended dishes: Fish tacos, grilled squid veracruz, beet salad,  albacore tostadas, shrimp a la diabla, broccoli rabe, churros
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted except for parties of 10 or more in a private dining room

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Patricia Unterman

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