Taqueria Los Coyotes
If you live in San Francisco chances are you have passed Taqueria Los Coyotes dozens of times and may not have even known it was there.
I was in somewhat of a rush to make a connection via Richmond to Amtrak and the thought, perished quickly thankfully, crossed my mind to grab something either at the adjacent Burger King or McDonald's.
Luckily my programming kicked back in and my better angels kicked my inner devil's ass. "You're on 16th Street, idiot, get a taco!"
Situated on the corner of Hoff alley and 16th Street, between two produce bodegas, across from Wells Fargo and a mere skip from BART.
Of course, Los Coyotes is just one of many oft passed by gems that exist in a Mission District many fear is changing - for the worse; upscale bistros and the flavor-of-the-week posh retail stores squeezing out traditional cheap mom & pop affairs that cater to the local community.
Cheeky foodies (the Bi-Rite, coconut water and cardamom gelato-crowd) might be expected to keep this place held close to the vest (coy with Coyotes), but considering the brisk and multi-socio-economic lunch crowd last Friday this taco is out of the bag.
When I arrived, shortly before noon, local Mexican workers in groups of three and four were busy discussing the days affairs over platas y tacos, glass cans of Jarritos and "Mexicoke". A cook pulled freshly pressed sopé dough out of a mechanical press and onto a hot griddle.
Within minutes scores of office workers, locals, hipsters, cops and construction workers had lined up for lunch.
Soon, my order of tacos cabeza, lingua y al pastor* was ready, served on a plastic plate with grilled onions, chopped raw radishes, sliced cucumber and a lime. I added another fist full of radishes from the salsa bar plus a couple varieties of freshly made salsa.
The tacos come laid out on two warm, white masa harina tortillas almost assuredly produced mere miles away at one of the peninsula's many tortilla factories. Crispy, slow cooked meats were garnished with a generous handfull of raw white onions, cilantro, a molcajete style salsa picante and a light dusting of queso cotija (by request).
This is food made with pride and love and made fresh daily. While each item probably does not boast a pedigree comporting to the (finicky, arbitrary and unevenly applied) standards of the modern yuppie ("...where was the beef raised? Are these radishes organic?") the food is certainly far and away better (healthier, fresher and more ethical) than those fast food monsters down the street that momentarily appealed me in my haste.
All for about the same price.
Just say no to McNotFood.
[ * Cabeza - "head meat", beef cheeks, tendons, eyes and glands. Lingua - slow roasted tongue. Puerco al Pastor - slow roasted, smoked BBQ pork. ]
Taqueria Los Coyotes
3036 16th Street
San Francisco, CA