Pancho Villa: Great Burrito Amidst Inanity

Baby Burrito with Carnitas

Pancho Villa Tacqueria on the Embarcadero has been on something of a roll with me lately.  Their burritos are consistently good, but the last few have approached the zenith of the art of burrito making.  Per usual, I ordered a baby burrito (not to be confused with a burrito baby), which, despite the diminutive name, is sufficiently gut-busting to sate my appetite.  The ingredients are fresh and delicious as always – tender and savory carnitas; well-seasoned and spicy pico de gallo; rice and beans; avocado slices (generously applied and pretty much always superior to guacamole in both taste and texture); some cheese (which was nice and melty);  jalapeños; and some extra tomatillo salsa alongside.

Clearly, with such an array of well-executed burrito fillings, there is not a whole lot to screw up.  But today (and on my prior visit), I found the ingredients to be perfectly distributed throughout the burrito, the hallmark of fine craftsmanship – because, really, is there anything worse than a mouthful of just a single ingredient from one’s burrito, be it plain rice, a huge chunk of meat or a gusher of salsa?  I think not.  The whole point of a burrito is to enjoy a bit of each ingredient in every bite – and Pancho Villa’s burrito ladies have been doing a bang-up job of making this happen.

Not to mention, the burrito assembly technique is superb – symmetrical and wrapped tightly enough to ensure that it maintained its shape and integrity until the very last bite.  I went nearly foil-free from the very first bite.

So, the burrito was excellent.  Any complaints?  But of course – the fine folks at Pancho Villa need to set up some type of line-management system.  As any of my readers are no doubt aware, people in general are incapable of forming a line correctly.  To wit:

Where do I begin?  First notice that rather than logically swinging the line to the right of the entrance, thus ensuring easy egress for patrons leaving the establishment, these fools instead completely blocked the left half of the entrance.  The “line” (if one can even call it that anymore) then snakes on in a completely willy-nilly fashion, veering erratically through the outdoor seating area – which is blessedly empty now, but will soon be filled with hungry worker bees, clueless tourists and stroller-wielding moms.  And while I hate all of these people, far be it from me to wish upon them a parade of fat asses shimmying mere inches from their faces while trying to scarf down lunch.  The soon-to-arrive marauding pigeons certainly seem punishment enough…

And then there’s this dame.

"Well, this one looks green, so it's probably spicy. And this one's sort of orange, so it's probably spicy. This one is kind of red and thick, so it's probably spicy. I'm not sure what this is - it looks spicy, though. I think this one is spicy, too. What're those? They look spicy."

She committed two of the cardinal sins of standing in line.  First, she spent a good portion of the several minutes we spent in line standing to my left, rather than behind me as required, causing me both consternation and increased blood pressure.  When she was standing behind me, she repeatedly came into contact with my person, apparently under the widely-held misapprehension that simply being physically closer to the head of the line will somehow result in faster service.

Adding insult to injury, I could not help but overhear her long conversation with her co-worker regarding a recent highly-controversial and vexing Pancho Villa take-out order acquired by another co-worker on their behalf.  Apparently, they had deemed the pico de gallo far too spicy, despite their request for “medium.”  As the two of them discussed ad-infinitum the visual cues provided by the salsa behind the counter (“See, that one has more green things in it like green peppers – that means that’s the spicier one.” “Are you sure? I think that might mean it’s milder.”), they soon concluded that, owing to the presence of only two bowls of pico de gallo, that there was not, in fact, a medium spicy – only spicy or mild!  Well, I never…  Can you imagine such a thing?

The conversation continued in this vein after they had completed their orders and proceeded to the salsa bar, with its far more varied offerings.  Each of the salsas was subject to a visual inspection and then a degree of spiciness assigned to it based on the color and consistency (i.e. in a completely arbitrary fashion).  Thankfully, my number was called just then…  I collected by burrito, pushed my way through the still-blocked doorway and ran for my life.

But I will assuredly be back.  The siren call of carnitas cannot be ignored…


One response to “Pancho Villa: Great Burrito Amidst Inanity

  1. Ah, but I do love a fine burrito. Might I suggest if you are visiting Los Angeles that you try Yucca’s burritos in Los Feliz ( Spanish for “The Happies”). One of the finest burritos I have ever had in this burrito soaked town. In a more traditional vein than the Pancho Villa, the Yucca’s burrito is a simple offering of meat and beans- no rice or avocado adorn this purists version. That said, the carne asada burrito has won the James Beard award and rendered this very small burrito hut some well deserved fame.

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