Mixing Salvadorean food with plenty of televised soccer matches
The bigger plates tend to include large swaths of beans and rice — a worthy combination that can assume the proportions of a small landslide. (You can get the beans and rice as discrete entities, with salad, or mixed together and fried as casamiento.) The wonderful garlic chicken ($9.95), for instance, would have been fine on its own. The meat had been sliced into boneless flaps, then cooked — I would guess on the griddle — until the edges were lightly crisped and caramelized. The finishing touch was a fabulously creamy garlic sauce with a hint of lemon ladled over the top.
A chile relleno ($10.75) turned out to be less routine than it sounded. The pepper, a poblano, was familiar enough; the filling, of chopped, spiced beef, was less so. But the real puzzle was a band of mysterious white threads with the texture of pickled radish and a bitter-fruity flavor. That bite took some getting used to but was, in the end, a real enhancement. We quizzed our server, and she brought forth a jar labelled "pacaya," or date palm — actually a date-palm blossom, pickled in brine. The date palm is a native of Mesopotamia and is one of the world's most venerable food sources.
This is the sort of interesting food factoid that can get overlooked when Mexico scores on Costa Rica and the tiny figures run around on the surface of their flat green planet while, at Balompié, murmurs of exultation or disappointment ripple through the crowd and more beer is ordered, perhaps a bottle of Regia from El Salvador, a gorgeously smooth golden lager in a vessel like a quart of motor oil. Sort of the beer equivalent of the foot-long hotdog.
Daily, 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
3349 18th St. (also at 525 Seventh St. and 3801 Mission), SF
(415) 648-9199 (558-9668, 647-4000)
Beer and wine
Loud but bearable