Since it opened its Mission District location last fall, Tacos El Patrón has become one of San Francisco’s most popular taquerias, more or less on the merits of a single taco — its quesabirria. Last year, the restaurant introduced the city to one of the first, and best, versions of those cheesy beef birria tacos , which have been all the rage among Bay Area taco lovers.
Now the El Patrón team wants to show that it can do more than just quesabirria. This week, owners Alberto Pineda and Mariana Reza opened a new taqueria called Los Guisados Del Patrón, as the SF Chronicle first reported. The new spot, located in a former coffee shop about nine blocks away from El Patrón, won’t serve quesabirria at all. Instead, the focus is tacos de guisado. These tacos are topped with a selection of the saucy Mexican stews known as guisados: chicken tinga, pork chile verde, chicken mole, and beef albóndigas, plus dozens of less common options as well.
While there are other Mexican restaurants in the city that serve tacos de guisado — Tacos Cala (currently closed as a result of the pandemic) and El Buen Comer are probably the most prominent — it doesn’t appear that anyone else is offering the sheer variety that Los Guisados Del Patrón plans to have on a daily basis. Pineda says the restaurant is working off of a rotating list of about 40 different recipes, with at least 18 of the guisados available on the steam table at any given time. In fact, the restaurant opened on Thursday with a whopping 24 guisados available — enough, Pineda says, that you’d have to visit many, many times before you could ever work through the entire menu.
Pineda tells Eater SF that he never expected that Tacos El Patrón would be known mainly as a quesabirria shop — to the point that he had to install an extra griddle just to keep up with the demand, as the Tijuana-style birria tacos constitute 60 percent of El Patrón’s sales. “I knew it was a really good taco,” Pineda says. ”But we didn’t know it was going to be that big.”
In fact, the quesabirria craze is why Pineda and Reza signed the lease on the space at 601 S. Van Ness Avenue to begin with: They needed extra prep space to chop all the vegetables and marinate the meats.
COVID-19 put enough of a dent into their sales to put a damper on those plans, however, so they decided that opening a new restaurant altogether would make more sense. Pineda says it would make his life “a lot easier” — and would even be financially beneficial — if he simply turned El Patrón into a birria-only operation. But he says he’d never want to limit the restaurant in that way, calling himself a “taco lover” first and foremost. (In fact, the beef birria is only Pineda’s second favorite taco on the menu, behind the namesake Taco Patrón, which is loaded with cheesy grilled shrimp.)
That appetite for tacos drove Pineda to open his first taqueria in Pleasant Hill to begin with: He lives in the area and felt like he had to drive as far as Bakersfield just to snag a decent taco. Why not open his own place where he could get them all the time?
Los Guisados Del Patrón was born out of that same impulse to fill a void with something he himself wanted to eat. Because the Van Ness location doesn’t have a proper kitchen, Pineda and Reza were limited to foods that could be prepared in advance off-site. For a while, they considered the idea of opening a tamale shop before finally settling on the guisado concept, in part because of the stews’ relative scarcity in San Francisco. The stews are cooked at the Tacos El Patrón kitchen from 4 to 7 a.m. each morning, before the sister taqueria’s own crew starts its day.
The tacos cost $3.25 apiece — the idea being to offer a filling meal for less than $10, Pineda says. In addition, customers can choose to get their guisados on a tostada, tucked inside a small burrito, or ladled on top of a rice bowl. In terms of those guisado options, Pineda says the pork chile verde, chicken tinga, and chicken mole were the best-selling options on Los Guisados Del Patrón’s first day of business — no surprise, since those are the ones that have the most name recognition. Birria will also be one of the options, though Pineda stresses that there won’t be any other overlap between the two restaurants’ menus.
As for Pineda’s personal preferences, he recommends the higado encebollado (a beef liver and onion stew) and the moronga, a kind of sausage made with pork blood.
“I like the weird ones,” he says.
Los Guisados Del Patrón is open for takeout from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. See the full list of guisados below: