Monday, January 01, 2007

El Castillito

In a parallel, more just universe, El Castillito is the West Coast equivalent of Katz's. A line of tourists snakes out the door, across Church St., and into Safeway, where customers kill time by reading In Touch magazine. In this delicious universe, the print of a bullfighter is joined on the wall by framed glossies of celebrities: Richard Dean Anderson, Loni Anderson, Kurt Andersen. Hey, isn't that David Caruso hamming it up with a quesadilla suiza? Ronnie Lott's head looks tiny, for once, next to his Super chicken burrito. Photos of Teamsters leaders, politicians, Bay Area icons (Huey Lewis, Rickey Henderson, the great-great-granddaughter of Lola Montez) jostle for prime real estate behind the cash register.

A sign marks the exact table where Mark Linn-Baker so memorably ejaculated on Shelley Long's tortilla chips in the 1980s romantic comedy Friends With Privileges. Another sign reads "Send A Burrito To Your Friend In Toledo." Smug SF locals remind their out-of-town friends to "get the bottled Coke. It's Mexican. Real sugar."

Why is it my favorite burrito? They grill the tortilla, simultaneously melting the cheese. 3 kinds of beans to choose from. Avocado or guacamole. Option to add onions & cilantro. And-- most importantly-- they re-grill the marinated chicken upon taking your order. The finished product is 2 pounds, easily, and is so delicious that you hardly need to add their avocado/tomatillo salsa. The place hasn't changed much over the years. The name "El Castillito" is remarkably difficult to spot, and is even absent from the sign above the door. They've added a juice machine, and diversified their salsa collection, but it's pretty static.

Chef brother: "Why do you like that place so much?"
Me: "Come on. It's fantastic."
Chef brother: "It's all right."
Me: "All right? All right? Are you kidding?"
Chef brother: "Low standards."