Slideshow: San Francisco: The Best Tacos in the Mission District?

The Best Taco Near 24th Street?
The Best Taco Near 24th Street?
At each location we ordered at least one taco with carnitas along with a couple more filling options that looked appealing. In a few rare cases, carnitas were not an option so we used our best judgment. On to the results!
El Gallo Giro ($1.50)
El Gallo Giro ($1.50)
Figures that the best tacos of the day would come from a truck, and a very friendly one at that. They're best known for their extraordinarily tender and flavorful chicken, but everything we tried was outstanding.

The Tortilla: 7/10 Soft, though slightly dry

The Filling: 15/15 Textbook carnitas—tender, flavorful, juicy, and nicely crisped. Equally good were the carne asada and roasted chicken. Into pork fat? The chicharrones are thick slices of pork belly cooked down with beans. Delicious.

The Toppings: 5/5 The salsa is bright, fresh, complex, and hot, while the onions and cilantro (applied sparingly) are as freshly cut as you could hope for. Ditto for the radish chunks.

Overall: 27/30

El Gallo Giro, Truck parked from 10:30 to 5, Monday through Saturday on ‪23rd Street and Treat Avenue‬, ‪San Francisco, CA 94110‬; map

Taqueria Vallarta ($1.50)
Taqueria Vallarta ($1.50)
It's got a real taqueria feel to it, with a dozen varieties of steamed or grilled meats piled around a large circular comal. Ask the cook to get your filling extra hot, and he'll pull a bit out to the center to crisp up on the hot cast iron plate.

The Tortilla: 8/10 Cooked on the circular comal, helping it soak in the collected juices from the steaming meats around it.

The Filling: 13/15 Very flavorful and all perfectly cooked. The meats are kept in close proximity to each other, so that they feed off of each others' steam slowly building flavor. Extra crisp is the way to go.

The Toppings: 5/5 The only place that offered grilled or fresh onions, along with grilled jalapeños, you can also help yourself to ultra-fresh cilantro, onions, and great salsa (the green is better).

Overall: 26/30

Taqueria Vallarta, ‪3039 24th Street‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110-4131‬; ‪(415) 826-8116‬; map

La Espiga de Oro ($2.35 per taco)
La Espiga de Oro ($2.35 per taco)
Piles of deep-fried pork belly line the glass cases near the entrance, and with good reason—they're the best thing in the shop.

The Tortilla: 6/10 A little dry, bordering on crunchy in parts.

The Filling: 11/15 Love the chicharrones, though the carnitas were slightly undercooked and chewy and the chorizo, while juicy, were overwhelmed with too much cumin and cinnamon.

The Toppings: 4/5 Plenty of fresh cilantro, and punchy salsa.

Overall: 21/30

La Espiga de Oro, ‪2916 24th Street‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110-4127‬; ‪(415) 826-1363‬; map

La Palma ($2.39 for machine-made, $2.99 for hand-made tortillas)
La Palma ($2.39 for machine-made, $2.99 for hand-made tortillas)
The taqueria is tucked into the back of a Mexican grocery where you can also get yourself some fresh masa, and pretty much every other ingredient you need to throw your own taco party.

La Palma, 2‪884 24th St‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110-4233‬; ‪(415) 647-1500‬; map

Casa Sanchez ($2.30 per taco)
Casa Sanchez ($2.30 per taco)
A neighborhood institution, if you've got the corn-riding vaquero tattooed on your body, you dine for free. Supposedly. Things here move pretty slowly, and things don't look promising when the taco fillings are pulled out of individually-bagged portions, but forget what you saw—their flavor tells all.

The Tortilla: 7/10 properly softened, but minimal charring

The Filling: 10/15 The tastiest Al Pastor we had, and beefy carnitas that were chopped into tender submission (they could have used more charring).

The Toppings: 3/5 Make sure you ask for none of the bland salsa or lettuce that come by default, instead adding onions, cilantro, and the better hot salsa yourself at the bar.

Overall: 20/30

Casa Sanchez, ‪2778 24th Street‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110‬; ‪(415) 282-2402‬; map

El Farolito ($1.95 per taco)
El Farolito ($1.95 per taco)
Its location right next to the BART station makes it a prime stop for late-night hunger pangs. They're more well known for their gigantic burritos, and rightly so—just a look at the overstuffed tacos, and you can tell that they were made by burrito-makers.

The Tortilla: 4/10 Soft, but weak—they collapsed half way through eating.

The Filling: 7/15 Nicely charred carne asada and tender, flavorful carnitas (they needed some more crisping), but the lengua tasted of stale refrigerator.

The Toppings: 4/5 Excellent salsa, and fresh onions and cilantro.

Overall: 15/30

El Farolito, ‪2779 Mission Street‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110‬; ‪(415) 826-4870‬; map

La Gallinita ($1.50 per taco)
La Gallinita ($1.50 per taco)
It's certainly got the looks of a taqueria—fluorescent lighting, crammed into the back of a butchery, very cheap, but looks are deceiving. The tacos here are tender, but that's about it.

The Tortilla: 3/10 Flexible and tender, but stale around the ages.

The Filling: 5/15 Both the carnitas and lengua are tender, but bland, gristly, and completely lacking in any crisp bits. Several chunks of bone and connective tissue.

The Toppings: 2/5 There's a serve-yourself salsa and topping bar, but the salsas aren't really worth the effort of scooping.

Overall: 10/30

La Gallinita, ‪2989 24th Street‬; ‪San Francisco, CA 94110-4133‬; ‪(415) 826-4600‬; map

El Tonayenses ($1.75 per taco)
El Tonayenses ($1.75 per taco)
Rumor has it that the trucks are better than the brick-and-mortar location, but when I asked, I was told that the fillings are all produced in-house, then packed onto the trucks in the morning. Perhaps there's some magic transformation that takes place en route?

The Tortilla: 2/10 Small, dry, and unheated

The Filling: 3/15 Carnitas and Carne asada are both intensely garlic flavored. It tastes steamed more than anything.

The Toppings: 4/5 Fresh cilantro and onions, and a flavorful salsa, tired lemon slices and radishes that looked days old.

Overall: 9/30

El Tonayense, ‪3150 24th Street‬, ‪San Francisco, CA 94110‬; ‪(415) 550-9192‬; map