Here’s the Dish: Taqueria Cancun

Jennifer Eng

When you think of San Francisco and the Mission District, you probably think of taquerias and Latino culture. I always enjoy going to Mission street to see the people bustling through the district’s seams. I never thought I would be able to identify a favorite taqueria because SF has a plethora of delicious joints that fulfill all of my Mexican food cravings. There’s El Farolito, La Taqueria, Taqueria Guadalajara, and Pancho Villa Taqueria, to name a few. However, my favorite is Taqueria Cancun. Don’t get me wrong: I love all of these other taquerias and they taste amazing, but there’s something about La Taqueria Cancun that makes me keep choosing that establishment over the others. I didn’t start going to Cancun until last summer but I was infatuated after my first bite of their super burrito. The alluring flavors and textures kept making me coming back for more. In fact, that summer I took the bus all the way to Mission and 19th street every Friday for over a month straight just to satisfy my burrito cravings. I’m pretty lazy, so it’s saying a lot when I go out of my way to buy food.

The Decor:

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The location at 18th and Mission is relatively spacious and definitely my favorite. When I step into the taqueria, I feel a sense of comfort because there is so much character embedded in the area. There are lots of colorful banners hung across the ceiling, as well as other vibrant decorations. All of the tables are benches, so there’s never a shortage of seats if you don’t mind sharing a table with a stranger. Moreover, there are rows upon rows of framed awards hung on the walls that La Taqueria Cancun has received over the years.

The Food:

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It is pretty difficult to accurately describe how tasty their food is. Every time I order anything on the menu, I’m always satisfied and full. The only time I get burrito regret is when I think that I can finish an entire burrito in one sitting and all I’m left with is a bloated stomach and a loss of ambition to do anything that involves moving for the rest of the day. Typically, I order the carnitas super burrito and it has never disappointed. Their burritos consist of everything a super burrito should have: flour tortilla, rice, meat, sour cream, avocado, pico de gallo, and beans. Cancun’s carnitas are a perfect balance of crispiness and tenderness. With each bite, I can taste the crispy edges of the pork which have been grilled to precision. Next, I’m hit with the juiciness and the gentle saltiness of the meat, which soaks into the Mexican rice. From its reddish-orange pigment, you can tell that the rice is nicely flavored with cilantro and a plethora of spices that I cannot detect because the flavor meshes well together. Moreover, the flour tortilla has a unique flavor that is quite hard to find anywhere outside of the Mission district. The tortilla is made with lard, which is animal fat, so it adds a distinct umami flavor. To keep this post concise, I don’t want to drone on and on about each ingredient of the burrito. However, I do want to emphasize the miraculous balance that is achieved among so many textures in such a compact food.

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On days when my appetite is lower, I settle for the super taco. It’s just filling enough to satisfy my necessary intake of Mexican food. It has everything that a super burrito has, sans the rice and beans. The super tacos are piled with an abundance of meat, despite the tortilla’s small size, as well as a generous slab of sour cream and avocado. Also, it is layered over two small flour tortillas, so they soak up the flavor from everything above. The first time I took a bite of it, half of the contents fell on the basket-like plate as I lifted it to my mouth. It was pretty difficult to eat because I’m not exactly the cleanest eater and all the juices leaked out. Now I usually just eat half of the super taco contents on the plate with a fork and then eat the tortilla with it after.

Memorable memories:

Usually, I’m in a good mood when I go to La Taqueria Cancun because I am surrounded by comfort food and nice company. There have been many occasions when my friends and I grab food from Cancun and a drink from Boba Guys, then head over to Dolores Park to eat, talk about whatever topic, and people watch. That’s the best part about DP: there’s are many things going on there at once. People play soothing, percussive music, a plethora of dogs roam freely, the Coconut Man cruises along, skillfully slicing coconuts, and much more. Also, the weather is generally nicer in The Mission: the Sunset District can be gloomy and foggy, while the Mission is blazing hot.

Other times, I get food from Cancun after developing an appetite from thrift shopping. There are so many secondhand shops that have great selections of clothes, whether it’s currently in trend or a unique vintage article of clothing. Of course, thrifting is always hit and miss, but there are so many prime shops like Thrift Town, Community Thrift, Mission Thrift, and Goodwill, all within a two block radius that I can at least find one thing to get. Perusing through every rack of clothing gets quite tiring after a few hours, so the reward of a massive burrito always wraps up a great day.