Can't Believe I've Never Been: El Gran Taco Loco

Welcome to Can’t Believe I’ve Never Been, a recurring feature where food writers who very sincerely intend on going to the Restaurant at Meadowood someday recount their lapses in under-the-radar eating adventures.

Although Divisadero is hogging the limelight these days, and Valencia’s slightly dimmed halo is still most luminescent, the two restaurant-heavy commercial strips I love the most are 24th Street between Valencia and Potrero and Mission Street from Cesar Chavez to 30th streets. The latter constitutes the most diverse strip I know of in San Francisco, ranging from Nicaraguan food to Indian pizza to high-end sushi to Good Frikin Chicken.

Having eaten at virtually every taqueria in the Greater Mission Metropolitan Area, I realized that I was missing one: El Gran Taco Loco (not just the crazy taco, but the big crazy taco). At first glance, it’s fairly low-key, as the neighboring 3300 Club’s mid-century signage certainly draws the eye. And the trapedzoidal interior contains a lot of Formica (along with a mural of a sweating, mustachioed jalapeño chasing a bespectacled hard taco with his gun).

It’s best-known for its massive burritos, but the chilaquiles are really something. I prefer them arranged so that the components are next to each other and not layered on top — otherwise, they’d pretty much just be nachos, right? — and it’s even better when the chips hover at the boundary between soggy and crunchy. You can tell when refried beans are cooked with real, lardy goodness, plus having two kinds of cheese on there (queso fresco and Jack) truly defeats the pretenders to this throne. And the alambre (grilled beef with chopped bacon and the standard Mexican accouterments), which was a special on Saturday, melded the immortal bacon craze with legitimate Mexican fare.

It probably goes without saying, but there is a Taco Tuesday special, and they are only $1.50 each. Best of all, El Gran Taco Loco is open until 2 a.m. As much as I love Taqueria Cancún, I think I have to divide my allegiance next time I’m walking out of Hard French or Virgil’s Sea Room on an empty stomach.

El Gran Taco Loco, 3306 Mission St., 415-695-0621.

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