TACOLICIOUS IN NORTH BEACH WHEN YOU CAN'T QUITE MAKE IT TO THE MISSION
High end taquerias are a real anomaly to me, I mean, there are so many good ones around the city serving up tasty tacos and burritos at affordable prices, then why do I need to hit up one charging $5 a taco? I can get a whole burrito for close to that! Still, for whatever reason, a number of them persist through the city and one has even branched out to 3! locations in the city and 1 in Palo Alto, you know, when you can't be bothered to make your way down to the Mission or something. It's called Tacolicious and I've avoided the place that got it's start in---the Marina (probably why they have a Marina girl salad on their menu). But, you can only not eat somewhere for so long before you just go WTF, why not try it since I just happened to be in North Beach and blah, blah, blah. I actually ended up going here twice, for whatever reason, and now I get to regale you with my visits.
Each visit occurred on late afternoons on weekends, not quite lunch, not quite dinner. Business seemed relatively steady each time. The first occasion seemed to have been quite bustling before we got there as they were out of a handful of dishes already which was unfortunate or my restaurant curse rearing it's head since the first two dishes I picked were out. Ugh, at least I can start things off with with the chips and salsa they bring to the tables and we added on the chile con queso because--melted cheese!
It's a big bowl of melted cheese mixed with their chunky salsa. I'm not gonna say they re-invented the wheel on this, but they also didn't mess it up either. It's cheesy, hot, only slightly spicy, not too thin or too thick and props to the fact it required another bowl of chips to get through. At $8.95 a bowl and endless chips I'll put it on the worth it list.
I guess if taco is in the name seems we gotta try them, plus they weren't out of all of them. We went with the 4 for $17.95 "deal". Though I'm gonna say technically you do get 2 small white corn tortillas with each filling and there is just enough to make 2 tacos from each flavor. Which would make them $2.50 each, more or less, but still, a little on the pricey side. First up--asparagus, green garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and an ancho chile recado--that's like a chili paste. Decent, a little heavy on the potato, little kick from the paste, veggies cooked properly. It was okay. Next was their taco of the week, beef bulgogi--thinly sliced short rib in a Korean marinade with jalapeño cabbage slaw and cilantro. Tender beef, nice tang and crunch from the slaw. Can't really tell it's bulgogi though, just kind of tasted like sautéed meat. Third is baja style Pacific cod with cabbage and cumin crema. Baja just means battered and deep fried, though these weren't all that crunchy or hot, more like room temp and they tasted a little fishy. We did like the cumin crema, it was a nice change from standard fish taco sauces. Lastly was traditional carnitas with onion and cilantro. I think dry was the thought that came to our mind on the first bite. To be honest, what saved some of these tacos from being outright unmemorable were the sauces they serve with them. You get a mild--the green, a medium--the reddish and a spicy--the yellow, almost like Chinese mustard. All the sauces added brightness and flavor punch to the tacos that made them more interesting than they were on their own.
Somehow, a month later, I found myself wandering through North Beach around not quite dinner time and thought, well, I missed out on some stuff before, let's try them again. They weren't as busy as before, but still had a decent crowd going on, particularly at the bar. I grabbed a seat inside and perused the menu intending to try a couple things I missed out on. Well, lucky me, they were out of a few things AGAIN! Really, who's doing inventory control/kitchen management/food prep whatever! Sigh, I'm here so....
I'm doing taco again, this time chicken in mole Colorado with pickled onions and queso fresco. Not sure what Colorado has to do with the mole but I did like these. There's just a hint of chili spice here and small subtle notes of chocolate in the mole. The queso fresco was lost here, it really is too light a cheese to compete flavor wise with mole. It paired well with the mild green sauce and the medium reddish sauce. Both seemed to compliment the mole instead of overpowering it, a nice blend on them both. Plus it was a large portion and 2 tortillas for $4.95. This was a good one.
My next default dish was albondigas guisadas--that means meatball stew. It's beef and pork meatballs in a spicy chipotle tomato sauce with cotija cheese and cilantro. Holy f**ks-a-moley! When they say spicy for this, they mean it. My first bite was a taste bud burner. Halfway through my eyes were watering up and my nose was running a bit. I like kick, though for me this more kick in the tongue. I could see the seeds from the peppers floating in the sauce. I ended up scraping as much of the sauce off the meatballs as I could so I could try and enjoy them on their own. They were large balls with rice, onions and garlic mixed in with the meat. I liked them on their own, chunky, juicy, meaty. Though, overall, I couldn't really enjoy the whole dish due to the pepper fire. Had I know it was that spicy I might have gotten something else, but the server didn't really offer up much guidance after my first couple choices were out of stock. Maybe they should offer this in a medium version, but then again, it would just be something else they'd have to keep track of and they already seem to have enough issues with that. It was $11.95 a bowl by the way, and that is on the pricey end of things.
Well, what can I say, they chips and cheese were nice. I liked the sauces for the tacos you get and one of the tacos was tasty. I guess if you are in North Beach or the Marina where traditional taquerias are scarce and you want some beer and chips they seem like an okay place to go. I doubt I'll be going back, unless, you know, someone else is paying. For me, I'd just as soon make my way to the Mission or one of the taquerias in my SOMA hood for some quick Mex. It will save me some time and definitely save me some money.