I'm going to stand behind the fact that the al pastor burrito at Taqueria Cancun is, in fact, a local treasure, and I'm glad that yet another burrito reviewer agrees with me.
Burrito critic Anna Maria Barry-Jester, who's based in Miami, is doing a very long and involved national Burrito Bracket for Nate Silver's site FiveThirtyEight. Barry-Jester begins her work with an initial round of sixteen separate heats of well regarded burritos from around the country, all totaling 64 of the "best" as determined from some Yelp data mining.
The last two heats have focused on L.A. and San Francisco, with our very own La Taqueria beating out some L.A. competitors last week, and this week we have a heat that includes the San Francisco greats, El Farolito and Cancun, along with the fusion-y HRD Coffee Shop and Sacramento favorite, Chando's Tacos.
As is his wont, Silver talked exhaustively about the process of data mining to determine which 64 restaurants of the 67,391 in the country that have some kind of burrito on their menu. Silver himself, being a big burrito fan, did a burrito bracket of his own back in 2007 just in his Chicago neighborhood, thus inspiring this project. They did have some experts to help curate that list (and to knock off things like a well regarded "superman burrito" that was actually just an overgrown sushi roll at a Japanese spot in Texas), but as with anything, I'm sure you could make some arguments for why certain local trucks or taquerias were egregiously left out in favor of places like La Taqueria which is popular, sure, but is really better known for the cone-style tacos, and not their burritos.
While I'd suggest that Barry-Jester gets a little overly flowery when it comes to describing these things, I have some sympathy since describing burrito after burrito, 64 times, and trying not to repeat yourself, is tough.
Of Cancun's glorious al pastor masterpiece, she writes,
But ultimately it was the al pastor, fiery red with bright chile flavor and a kiss of sweetness, that won me over. Cancún uses rice, lots of it, but it was moist, evenly distributed and flavored with tomato and cumin, making it an appealing addition. The pintos were tender and plump, the crema thin, seeping into every corner. Thick slices of avocado, not guacamole, lay throughout and found their way into each bite. The tortilla was beautifully griddled, flaking off on the outer layers. It all came together in a deliciously solid bundle with a personality big enough to rival that of its nighttime clientele.
As you may know, many others have swooned over Taqueria Cancun over the years, which often won the "Best Burrito" and "Best Vegetarian Burrito" prizes from SF Weekly and others and they of course made it onto SFist's Best Burritos list too.
Next comes the round of 16, Round 2, in which La Taqueria and Taqueria Cancun will compete against other favorite burritos from other corners of the country, including Lolita's Taco Shop in San Diego, Al & Bea's in L.A., Delicious Mexican Eatery in El Paso, and Taqueria Tlaxcalli in the Bronx. See the full bracket here, and place your bets accordingly.
Hear Barry-Jester discuss her task below, which involved an initial baseline-establishing trip to Taco Bell. It's all very scientific, you see.