A spotless dining room, fresh salsa and friendly kitchen staff distinguish this Mission District eatery.. In Short Compared to its many rivals, this friendly taqueria is low-key and comfortable, with plenty of seating in its good-sized dining area. The menu features standard taqueria fare, with an assortment of meat choices for a burrito, taco or torta. A selection of agua frescas and imported beers ease the jalapeno-flavored pain.
Regardless of what "Best of the Bay" says about Poncho Villa", La Altena has the best flavor in their burritos/Tacos, esp the barbeque pork (el pastor). This place has a super burrito that's so big you can easily split it between 2 normal diners, and both feel great after. Great shrimp cocktail, too. And salsa, and the tortas.
Avoid on weekend nights after 1 am, unless you're as drunk as the rest of the crowd that goes hungry at that time. It's not pretty.
If you want the real Mission District taqueria experience, you can't get any more real than the Taqueria Altena (should be a ~ over the n). It's not primarily a gringo place, unlike some taquerias that you hear a lot about. It's not self-consciously cute. It is very basic, but it has wooden tables and chairs and the food is very consistent and authentic. Have one of their aguas frescas or carrot juice to drink. Unless you're a snob, you'll feel comfortable there. They actually have 2 places, one in the Mission Mall and the other around the block on 22nd St.. But the one attached to the Mission Mall on Mission St. is the original, the busiest and most colorful. It's fine for small groups but it's not the kind of place where you would celebrate a birthday.
It's a tough choice with all the good taquerias in the neighborhood -- but this one is a real find. Perfectly done pork (tastes like roast pork should --- not squishy or fatty) inside a well-constructed burrito. We have tried ALL of the taquerias -- this is the one we keep going back to again and again.