Number 8: Taqueria La Alteña's Al Pastor Burrito

Iann Ivy
Taqueria La Alteña's al pastor burrito.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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For as many taquerias and taco trucks in San Francisco serve "al pastor" -- shepherd-style pork -- Taqueria La Alteña is one of only a few of them make al pastor the traditional way: on a spit. If you think the vertical spit resembles the ones at Truly Mediterranean and Ali Baba's, that's because it originated as shawerma, introduced by Lebanese immigrants to the state of Puebla in the 1930s. As "tacos al pastor"  spread throughout their adopted country, the meat on the spit became pork, the marinade became thicker and spicier, and pineapple slices appeared on top, their juices basting the meat as it turned.

La Alteña serves its spit-roasted pork in both tacos and burritos. But we are a burrito town, let's admit it; thanks to some copycat chain based in Denver, most of the country knows what a Mission burrito is. And so La Alteña's Mission burrito al pastor is one of the best in the city (and by extension, the galaxy): the meat spiced and fragrant, fatty enough to crisp up around the edges when the cooks give it a final toss on the griddle, its flavor charismatic enough to permeate every bite. The al pastor also rich enough that you don't need to add in cheese or sour cream or guacamole -- one of the few taquerias in town whose chef d'oeuvre is filled just with rice, beans, salsa, and meat.

Taqueria La Alteña: 2588 Mission (at 22nd St.), 641-8415.

Other favorites in this series:
9: Pizza focaccia from Liguria Bakery
10: Boxing Room's dirty rice
11: Wing Wings' chicken salad biscuit
12: Pamonha de sal from Pamonha's
13: Kasa Indian Truck's gobi aloo kati roll
14: Delfina's trippa alla fiorentina
15: Truffled tater tots from Leatherneck Steakhouse
16: Baia Pasta's durum-wheat pastas
17: Z&Y's flaming fish with chile oil
18: Auntie April's fried catfish
19: None but the Brave from Heaven's Dog
20: Saha's vegan kibbeh
21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann
22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo
23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's
24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan
25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack
26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli
27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke
28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich
29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket
30: Custard buns from City View
31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami
32: Panisse frites from Frances
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Location Info



Taqueria La Altena

2588 Mission St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help

just tried this place after reading the review. Not very impressed with their Al Pastor. 


Is McDonalds going to be at the top of your pathetic list?  Or how about Applebees?  I just want to know how much more mediocre your top 50 list can get.

Eric Burkett
Eric Burkett

Do they actually add pineapple? All the places I ate tacos al pastor in Mexico City added pineapple and, somehow, anything less is just, well, less. 

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