August 24, 2009

Dinner on 22nd Street

Many travel food stories go something like this... While exploring a foreign city, a tourist comes upon a small cafe down a side street and enjoys wonderful meal.... Sometime this story can happen closer to home.

San Francisco's Mission District is a fantastic place to go eat. There are many outstanding restaurants serving a wide variety of different types of food for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. In this neighborhood there are several little gems hidden among the plethora of well known dining establishments. Two such places are on 22nd Street on the block between Mission and Valencia Streets.

Chile Lindo in a welcoming and very tiny cafe. The narrow room is painted a warm red color and seats only about a dozen guests. This cafe serves wine and empanadas – both traditional ones with pino (ground beef, onion, raisins, black olives, hard-boiled egg, and spices) filling and ones with cheese and chili filling for vegetarians. The menu is written with colored chalk on blackboards along the wall. We sat down and both ordered a glass of wine and an empanada. My empanada was excellent with a flakey crust, creamy cheese, and warm chilies and my husband (Jonathan) enjoyed his traditional meat filled pastry.

Chile Lindo is simple and perfect. This is the place to go for an excellent empanada!

Not far down the street is Loló – a restaurant and wine bar with eclectic décor. When you enter the restaurants you enter the first small dining room, the bar and second dining room is through a small black hallway. Both dining rooms have bright and crazy decorations made from recycled materials – from red plastic bottle cap dots on the walls to mirror glass cut into the shape of a flying seagull to silly home accessories all around the restaurant. Even the bathroom is full of unique décor – including several car rear view mirrors hanging from the ceiling. The overall result is a cheerful and fun atmosphere!

But, on to the real reason to come to Loló – the food and wine! The menu is tapas and everything sounded good! We tried stuffed squash blossoms with a creamy cheese and spice filling, an heirloom tomato salad, and Jonathan also got some octopus. The bread and tomato spread served with dinner were excellent! My favorite dish was the heirloom tomatoes – perfect tomatoes and goat cheese dressed with fresh herb olive oil! I look forward to returning to Loló soon to try more tapas!So, whether you are traveling the world or in your own backyard, I encourage you to seek out the small cafes and hidden gems!

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