What Taqueria Is Tasty Enough for an MS-13 Member to Risk Getting Shot?


View Tacos on 24th Street in Norteño Territory in a larger map

SF Weekly reporter Lauren Smiley followed up on her (stunning) cover story, “A Rat's Life,” with a blog post yesterday, “The Insider's Guide to the MS-13 Gang.” In between tidbits like not using gang funds to buy broken-down Impalas and why even MS-13 doesn't like Muni, we noticed one tip in particular:

10. You can cross into rival gang turf — for a tasty taco.

In one of the more bizarre moments of [former MS-13 member Abraham] Martinez's testimony, he said he'd venture into the heart of [rival gang] Norteño territory on 24th Street to get food at one of the taquerias. “I'd make a dash for it, in and out really quick. Or I'd have someone go for me.” Try Yelping that.

Which got us wondering: Which taqueria was serving up food so good that Martinez was willing risk assault or even death for it? This information came up as defense attorney John Philipsborn cross-examined Martinez during the trial.

Philipsborn: There are some taquerias on 24th Street you like? There are times you'd go in disguise to get some food?
Martinez: That's incorrect. I'd make a dash for it, in and out really quick. Or I'd have someone go for me.

Intrigued, we looked at Norteño territory as defined by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2007, when his office filed a gang injunction against Norteño members. Norteño territory, says the City Attorney, is “an L-shaped area generally bordered by 23rd Street to the North (but extending to 21st Street at Alabama Street), Valencia to the West, Cesar Chavez to the South, Potrero Avenue to the East, and extending to encompass La Raza Park, also known as Potrero Del Sol Park.”

We then plugged in every taqueria we could find that was in Norteño territory and along 24th Street and came up with this (nonexhaustive) list, which you can also see laid out in the Google Map above:

Papalote Mexican Grill
El Farolito Taqueria
Taqueria San Jose
El Tonayense
Taqueria Vallarta
El Farolito Taqueria
Taqueria San Francisco
La Taqueria Guadalajara
El Trebol Restaurante
Chavita's Numero 2
Usulutan Restaurant
La Torta Gorda

Glancing at this list, we'd feel pretty confident in tossing out Papalote Mexican Grill. Our picks (which are completely based on guesswork and reflect nothing on the establishments beyond the deliciousness of their food): Martinez was probably headed to El Farolito, Taqueria Vallarta, or La Taqueria Guadalajara.

What do you think? Which taqueria listed above has food good enough you'd be willing to die for it?

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