CHEAP EATS I can’t tell you how beside myself I am to be back in San Francisco. I can tell you, but it will sound like it’s coming from over there. It’s not! I’m right here where I belong, typing at you from the warmth of my very own(ish) clawfoot tub in the bowels of my old dungeon-y hovel at 18th and Guerrero.
Upstairs, in the relative sunshine of our other, airier studio apartment, Hedgehog is pacing back and forth and saying to herself: We live in San Francisco. We live in San Francisco. Until finally she can’t take it anymore and shaves off her eyebrows.
You too, dear reader, must be pretty somewhat goddamn happy to hear this. It means instead of me writing about restaurants in Oakland and Berkeley all the time, not to mention points even farther east, I will likely go right back to hardly ever leaving the Mission.
Just last night for example, because neither of our two refrigerators had any food in it yet, we were stuck in one of those where-to-eat thingies, wherein I kept saying: Sichuan Home! And I kept saying: Halu! No, Sichuan Home. No, Halu. And Hedgehog kept sitting on our pretty red couch, looking daggers at me and altogether having eyebrows.
Then she said, “Let’s just go outside and walk around the neighborhood and find something. You haven’t lived here in almost a year. There will be new things.”
“Yeah sure,” I said.
We grabbed our jackets and stepped out into the hallway of our apartment building just as Scotty the House was walking by with a bass. “What?” we all said.
“We’re back!” I said.
He was going upstairs to get Earl Butter to practice for their cute little bandy. But first he wanted to tell us about where he’d just had dinner, and how awesome it was. New place. Small plates. Outside tables. Tacolicious.
Can there be a dumber name for a restaurant?
Please don’t be in the Mission. Please don’t be in the Mission, I repeated to myself.
Scotty the House is a vegetarian.
“Where is it?” Hedgehog asked.
Scotty the House lives in Oakland. “In the Mission!” he said.
It was just around the corner, on Valencia, he said, between 18th and 19th. So OK so that was where we eventually walked to.
We were not the discoverers of Tacolicious. In fact, there was only one table left, and it was outside.
“The heaters are on,” our hostessperson assured us, and we were sold so she led the way.
Outside is a nice little alleyway between buildings, with a big black-and-white mural of the city along one wall. There are words on the mural, too. And the heat was on and the chips were fresh-made and immediate, the salsa spicy and delicious.
Uh-oh. If I’m not careful, I’m going to like this restaurant, I thought.
I wasn’t careful. At $3.95 a pop, 4 for $13, we ordered one of everything, tacowise, give or take the vegetarian one. Give, to be precise. But to make up for it, we tacked on a taco of the week, which was achiote chicken, and a side of drunken beans that promised us both bacon and “pickled things.” Their words, not mine.
Problem being, we couldn’t find anything at all pickled in those beans. It was either an oversight, or a very subtle drunk.
Neverminding that, though, the tacos were, generally speaking, pretty great. Except I don’t much like mole so I let Hedgehog have almost all of that one. And the shot-and-a-beer braised chicken and chorizo-and-potato ones were also not my favorites.
I loved the carnitas, the cochinita pibil and the braised beef short rib tacos. The fried rock cod one was also especially wonderful: one nice-size lump of white fish delicately breaded and bursting with juiciness. Honestly, at first bite I wondered if they had injected the fish with melted butter or something. It was heavenly.
Oh yeah: bistec adobado, with big chunks of actually rare steak and pickled onions. You have to add a buck, it’s so good. Not cheap. But close enough.
Daily: 11:30 a.m.-midnight
741 Valencia St., S.F.