You can’t throw a tortilla chip in this town without hitting a taqueria, a burrito shop, or a taco truck (not that I recommend blanketing San Francisco in chips to test this theory — I’m sure it’s bad for birds or something). Now the folks behind Super Duper Burger have gotten into the game with Uno Dos Tacos, a haven for taco lovers who don’t want to traipse to the Mission to get their fix.
After a lengthy pop-up stint in Russian Hill, Uno Dos Tacos is now comfortably settled into its spacious FiDi home, complete with a sizable outdoor patio equipped with blankets for chilly nights. The airy indoor space has an industrial feel offset by bright colors and a warm, friendly staff.
Food and simple drink orders are taken at the main counter, and there is a separate bar counter that’s open during happy hour for things like micheladas, a recent obsession of mine, done nicely here with a pleasing citrus-tomato tang and a savory, slow-building heat.
The happy hour menu also offers some special small plates, including stand-out gorditas, one of the best bites of food I’ve had here. Thick masa cakes with crispy edges and fluffy centers are topped with a spread of richly flavorful refried black beans, a dusting of cotija cheese and drizzled with sour cream and salsa.
The cooks here clearly know their way around masa, and their homemade tortillas are a big selling point. Uno Dos Tacos’ namesakes are simple street-style tacos with only a few ingredients, so each element has to hold up its end of the bargain, starting with the tortillas. Springy and strong, not the least bit mealy or tough, they have a bright, subtle corn flavor.
Of the six available taco fillings, the noble bovine provides my two favorites: charred, simply seasoned carne asada and meltingly tender lengua. These two tacos side by side are like a study in meat taste and texture. Grilled crispy bits of flap meat asada power up with a robust drizzle of the paired roasted tomato salsa, while the deep, sumptous braised lengua brightens just enough with a dash of tangy tomatillo. Both are simply topped with smatterings of diced onion and chopped cilantro.
The carnitas were strangely bland and lacked the textures I’m used to — in both burrito and taco form, the meat seemed soggy and underseasoned. The vegetariano filling had flavor, but an odd sourness pervaded the peppers, mushrooms and squash that were so soft they bordered on mushy.
The pescado taco, though, is a beautiful rendition of a classic. Beer-battered wild cod is partnered with chipotle crema and cabbage for a bit of crunch. The fish is supple, well-seasoned, and gently fried, flavors and textures melding together with every bite.
Uno Dos Tacos’ rice-less burrito is a decent no-nonsense, no-frills version of what is arguably San Francisco’s most famous item of food, but like the tacos, because the other ingredients are minimal, it’s all about the headliner. Again, your best option is to go with the beef, although the chicken tinga is also a fine choice.
While Uno Dos Tacos may not be breaking any new ground in Mexican cuisine, its focus on simple pleasures is enough to draw me back. Never underestimate the power of a great tortilla.
Uno Dos Tacos
Location: 595 Market St. (at Second Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 974-6922, www.unodostaco.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays
Recommended dishes: Asada taco ($3.25), lengua taco ($3.25), pescado taco ($4.50)
Price: $3.25 to $7.75
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted