Taquerias in the Mission are like religious institutions. People prescribe to one or two favorites and tend to follow them dogmatically. And they can be awfully fervent in their belief that their place is the best.
Consider this a revelation, then. The best tamale in the Mission is tucked into a corner place you probably haven't heard of, and it comes in a little plastic basket swathed in . . . plantain leaves.
Bet you didn't see that coming. It's not the standard corn husk cover, and the change in wrapping gives this delicious masa morsel a trademark woody/smokey/herbal flavor profile that is delicious. At the very least, it's a new twist on the familiar, and it works extremely well. Order the chicken mole filling.
The spot, you ask? Taqueria La Oaxaquena, on the corner of Mission and Clarion Alley. And while you're there, order the interesting pupusas (goat cheese and sundried tomato is my favorite) and hot chocolate, too.
2128 Mission Street