I'm on a random Sunday stroll through the Mission, because it's good to get out of the house sometimes. I usually have no particular direction or goal outside of just wandering around to see what's new, still the same or totally forgotten about. On this particular walk I reach the outer edges of the Mission around 24th and Valencia, a few blocks before it becomes Bernal Heights or something and start to turn around when I see folks heading into this small blue tiled place on 24th Street. Piqued, I walk over and see it's Papalote Mexican Grill.
I've heard of this place, folks seem to rave about their burritos and I remember they even got a segment on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. Where I'll give them props (SPOILER ALERT!) for actually winning. Now I'll go right on record now and say as far as burritos go...eh...I can take 'em or leave 'em. Not always my first choice which I know is odd considering they are so prevalent in this town. I mean there's practically a taqueria on every corner, like a Starbucks. I think for me it's the whole bready tortilla, beans and rice thing, the corn chips--it's a very high carb impact food. I'd rather blow my carb wad on cake, personal choice. But I figure since I'm here and hungry why not give them a shot and see what all the fuss is about.
It's a tiny joint with a small order counter on one side and a few tables on the other. I give the big menu on the wall a look see and figure I may as well go with what they are known for and order the pollo asado burrito and pay the up charge to make it a super--meaning I just paid $10.95 for a burrito.
This is grilled chicken, rice, black beans and pico de gallo on a spinach tortilla. The up charge gets sour cream and cheese added and it would be guacamole but since I'm not a fan I have them leave that off. Plus you get a bowl of chips and their special famous salsa. First off I'd like to say I really did like the salsa. It's almost creamy with some great spicy flavors, I wanted more to add to every bite of my burrito. They sell jars of it so you can take the flavor home with you. As for the burrito, it is quite big--like a large hoagie--I did have to cut it in half to chow down. Here's what you get inside.
I will say they do a good job of getting everything mixed together so one bite has it all. The chicken was tender and well seasoned and overall it decent, tasty and pretty much what you'd expect from a burrito. As is, I can't honestly say it was better than any similar burrito I've had from other taquerias around town (at $2 or so less). I mean everything tasted fine, for me what elevates it to a step above would solely revolve around the salsa--that alone I think makes the whole thing special. I think when you are working with the same basic ingredients as everyone else it's the little extras you need to do to make it stand out from the pack and in that small silver cup of sauce Papalote has done that. I'm no burrito connoisseur by any means, all I can really judge is how things taste to me personally and a spoonful or two of their salsa really goes a long way in moving this from decent burrito to really good burrito you should try.
I'm sure there are folks out there who consider themselves burrito aficionados and will probably say I'm just not appreciating the finer points of what makes a good burrito and it's more than just a sauce. That's cool, everyone has their own opinions, but if I'm expected to hike it all the way out to 24th and Valencia (passing many a good taqueria along the way) or to their other location way out Masonic way, then it better be worthwhile and in this case the salsa has it. Though next time I'll probably skip the tortilla and get it as a salad, or more likely, just buy a jar of salsa and be on my way.