No. 92: Goat Tacos from El Norteño

Categories: SFoodie's 92
Jonathan Kauffman
El Norteño's goat taco (foreground).
SFoodie's countdown of the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

Since the Kogi revolution of 2008, we have eaten more tacos then during our many years covering International Boulevard in Oakland. We have eaten tacos filled with octopus (tako taco, get it?). With Cantonese roast duck. With kalbi, sisig, and braised bacon. We have gotten used to spending $5 a piece for tacos made with organic corn tortillas and sustainably raised pork or duck confit. Any day now, we expect to hear smørrebrød described as "Danish tacos" rather than "open-faced sandwiches."

And yet, if there is one taco that compels us to circle the block over and over again, hunting for a legal spot to ditch the car for a few minutes, it's the übertraditional goat taco at El Norteño, the taco truck parked across the street from the Hall of Justice. Each taco is only three bites' worth if we're feeling dainty; the tortillas are mass-market ones, and we'd rather not know the provenance of the meat. But the seemingly paltry bits of tender goat on top are saturated in a braising liquid that concentrates and crisps as the meat is reheated on the griddle. Their swaggering potency is heightened with a spoonful of salsa verde ― slashing acidity followed by an eight-beat burn ― and the crunch and flash of chopped onions and cilantro. To eat El Norteño's ur-taco is to remember why we got obsessed with hunting down roving taco trucks in the pre-Twitter era. Oh, and the truck's carnitas tacos? They're just as good.

El Norteño: Bryant Street (between Sixth St. and Harriet), 756-1220.

Other dishes in this series:

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.
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Don't kill goats and eat them. They are too smart. Eat a lamb instead or a pussy.

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