Since I’ve been talking about burritos it seems only fitting to continue on with Mexican food for another day and I thought what better to talk about than a sorely missed restaurant in Mission La Rondalla and their specialty dish, Birria de Chivo.
For those who don’t speak Spanish, Birria de Chivo is goat stew [sometimes complete with goat head]. Me being allergic to lamb I decided it would be fitting for me to give it a go one day. I had never eaten goat before so this would be a new experience. I didn’t realize how popular a dish this was until the day after when I was talking with some of my Mexican friends at work who laughed at me for just ordering it and not adding in, lean and clean.
When my bowl arrived it had an over powering smell of well, goat. The other Hispanics at the restaurant looked at me with a bit of surprise. I guess they didn’t expect a white person to ever order it. On my first bite I tasted a bit of the peppers and well, goat. Everything about this dish was goat. I felt like I was in a barnyard, but it had a very hearty rustic feel down to the bones in the stew. The part that caught me off guard was the fat and gristle in the stew. After eating about half the dish and having the rest boxed up to take home and after talking to my friend José the next day I learned what lean and clean meant. No bones, no fat, no gristle. I never thought while eating this where do they buy goat meat in San Francisco? I’ve been to many of the Mexican carnecerias in the city and I’ve never seen Chivo in the meat cases. Sometimes it’s better not to ask questions.
Sadly, La Rondalla went out of business sometime ago and for that I’m sad because it was the first place after a long night out partying that I had my first vegetarian burrito thanks to the girl I was dating at the time. I don’t know of any other places in the city that sell Birria de Chivo, but at least I know that if I find one an order it again I’ll remember to add lean and clean to the order. I was glad I stepped a little outside my comfort zone for a day.
When Muni started the 48 Quintara bus line some where back in the 80’s I was happy because I could be a lazy guy and just walk down to the corner to catch a bus. I like many never stayed on past West Portal station, but now I’ve been given a reason to and it’s an interesting trip that shows the social and cultural stratification of the people along the route.
I hop on in the central Sunset and most of the people that are on or getting on are of Asian decent. Most of elderly or at least in the 60+ category [60 is young nowadays]. As you continue on the route the people who get on are mostly Asian again until you hit West Portal. Then the bus empties out. There might be 5 people left at most. Then as you continue on the drive up Portola into Diamond heights the crowd changes. Once you make the turn off of Clipper onto Grandview the crowd gets decidedly hip and Caucasian. I see younger people with iPhones and iPad looking at no one else except their screens. As the bus turns off of Douglas onto 24th street you now start to see the age go down. early 40’s on Grandview to 30’s on 24th and Douglas and then it drops down to the 20’s around Castro and 24th street.
As the bus reaches Valencia street all the young hipsters vacate the bus probably stopping at a cafe before going to work or the Mission campus of City College to help them develop their mad skills in graphic design or computer programing. The next stop is Mission street where the last stragglers get off to hop onto BART, which as I have noted is a nice ride. This is also the part where all the Hispanic people jump on the bus.
I find it interesting that San Francisco as a city has worked to integrate everyone together over the years making it so people of all races can live together, but when you get on the bus you see the real picture. While we don’t mind people of other races, we still like to live amongst our kind.
I have a love of Mexican food. I eat it at least a couple of times a week and I’m lucky enough to have the two best taquerias in San Francisco and they’re both in the Sunset District.
For Mexican food you have to go to the Mission District right? Wrong. The food out there isn’t up to par with two places in the Sunset District. I used to think you would go to Mission for Mexican, but after I got a burrito with peas and carrots in it or a quesadilla that was so greasy on the inside AND outside I have to give props to El Burrito Express and Beach Burrito. Now for burritos you definitely go to El Burrito Express. They are hands down the best. For tacos and tostadas and all the other stuff, head over to Beach Burrito. We just came back from there and we each got a chili verde chicken super taco. For those of you unfamiliar with it, chili verde is “green chicken” that means it’s been marinated in a green tomatillo salsa. We each got one with chips and a coke and my wife and I got lunch for under $9. The best part is that these are like the “street tacos” you would get in Mexico [and yes I’ve been there and had them]. You get the standard meat and cheese plus salsa, beans [black is my choice] lettuce, guacamole & sour cream. One is enough for me, but my appetite is starting to grow a bit so I might have to start getting two.
It’s ironic that the best Mexican food is found in a place with very few hispanics living, but it wasn’t me that gave them the title it was the SF Weekly and Bay Guardian. Two of our local papers that are the alternative publications for the City.
Now I do have to add that Beach Burrito, while it’s good could be better, but it does have something else going for it. The atmosphere of the neighborhood. Beach Burrito is located in SF’s outside lands meaning it’s close to the beach. There’s a little strip on Judah Street just as you pass Sunset Boulevard that you have these little dots of commercial property. When you get down to 44th avenue that’s where the fun starts. This whole strip down to the beach is a great place to be. I used to live just a couple of blocks from here and on the weekends when it’s sunny [and yes, the Sunset does get sun now] it’s a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Just next door is the Javaholics coffee, smoothie & ice cream shop and on the other side is the Other Avenues health food store then you’ve got the Sea Breeze Cafe [that’s for another post]. These places are all run by locals and it’s fun to walk the streets. Down at the end of Judah is Java Beach. It started as a small coffee shop that’s upgraded to adding a beer & wine bar as well as serving food. This place is packed frequently and the Sunset locals like to come by have a coffee or beer and shoot the shit. They done such a good job that they just opened up another Java Beach out near the zoo.
So in all I’ve had a good day so far. I got me my Mexican food and it was good.