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Irma's Pampanga

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I stopped by their booth at Pride yesterday and I have to say my bbq chicken and rice was damned tasty. Friend's adobe was so good, she immediately went back and got another. I can't verify as she wouldn't share and I was too busy scarfing my own food down. They have a restaurant on 16th and S. Van Ness but I don't see any reviews here except one. Has anyone else been and willing to post their experience? Granted, the bbq fresh off an outdoor grill is going to taste better than the restaurant version but I am curious...

Irma's Pampanga Restaurant
2901 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 626-6688

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  1. The lines to their booth at the 3rd Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration (May 19, 2007) were long... and the food was enticing. I've driven by the 16th and South Van Ness restaurant with curiosity ... is this a chowdown in the making?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Cynsa

      If people don't mind a dump, then sure! Chowdown! But it seriously looks like a dump from the outside...

      1. re: chaddict

        Dump? Where are the euphamisms ... mom & pop ... uh ... there must be more.

        Actually Irma's is a family run place if with a ... no-frills decor.

        Looking around it seems you might have hit on Irma's specialty though the lumpia Shanghai are said to be good.

        One mention on Chowhound? Maybe mine during my Philipino crawl a few years back? The one where I walked in ... could not work up enough enthusiasm for the steam table food and walked out to my car two spots away to find it vandelized during my few minutes in the restaurant ... good times, good memories.

        Seriously should I find myself back there, I'd go for the anything they made to order. BTW, it is cash only.

        1. re: rworange

          Yep, your post was the only one I found and you called the food greasy. Not that that has ever stopped me. So Chowdown it is, check the SF Yahoo group for an annoucement. Heck! We did a Chowdown at a hole-in-the-wall Burmese joint...why not Irma's?

          1. re: chaddict

            Don't drive.

          2. re: rworange

            I should add it's not a dump. I had only seen it from the outside and it looked a bit down on its luck. Even though the sign says it also serves Viet and Chinese dishes, they don't seem to...

      2. I have been twice. The bbq pork and bbq chicken seem pretty reliable. Tasty and not dried out both times. Other items I've tried were not so great. The adobo I recall as both oily and not especially tasty (I like my own better). My dining partner on one visit had the fried fish (small whole fish) which he liked. I don't know what kind of fish it was though--I don't think it was bangus, but since I thought it looked like it had been sitting around for awhile and looked overcooked, I didn't try it. The lumpia shanghai are fine, but not great by any means,

        Having said all that, I have been to several parties thrown by Filipino friends where they had some or all of the food catered by Irma's. The food in those settings was always very good--pancit, adobo, lumpia shanghai, bbq sticks--all good.

        1. Thanks for giving it a trz. the pampangans are considered the best cooks in the philippines.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            According to my dad it was the reason he married my mom. :)

            1. re: coolbean98

              Hopefully he has been chowing happilz ever since. Was seated next to a filipina diplomat at a dinner partz on sat. night and was explaining the chowhound lifestzle-philosophz. Also asked about the papamgan thing, and she said thez have the rep as the best cooks, though she would also nominate other regions too. she added taht the pampamgans are the most obsessed with food. . . so mazbe that counts for something.

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Tekka muna...ang pagkain taga Bikol?

              Whoa...what about Bicolano food?

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Tama si Melanie. Mas masarap yon pagkain sa Pampanga. =)

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  have no idea what zou guzs are sazing, but let's hear it for bikol express.

                  p.s. was thinking about zou, sam, on fridaz as mz host was describing the social anthropologz of his village as identical to papua, n.g.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  Pampanguenos consider themselves the best cooks in the Philippines (and like to say so, too), and they do have some very good food. But, like Sam, I'd say the Bicolanos--not to mention the Ilonggos, who get my vote--can give them a run for their money any day. (My favorite Filipino restaurant in Manila is has a Bicolano cook.) Now you've got me wondering if there are Bicolano and Ilonggo restaurants in the Bay Area. . . But, honestly, I think good food depends far more on the cook than on the region from which the cook comes.

                3. OK, let's make this informal. Anybody who wants to, show up at 7:00 on Monday, July 2 and we'll give it a whirl!

                  1. Okey dokey...So a couple of us went last night. First, I should have done my research better, both the hours and menu. The place basically shuts down around 7:30-8:00, depending on how busy they are. There are a lot of menu items with only the Filipino name and no description. Knowing next to nada about this type of cuisine, a little homework first would have help. The lovely cysna was there picking up food to go and generously bought us lumpia (I seriously need to know how your deep-fried pig knuckle was! Is crispy pata REALLY cooked in 7-up?). You get 15 for $2.77 (tax included). Fairly tasty and not too greasy. Much better with the dipping sauce, a little plain on its own.

                    We waited until almost 7:30 to order as we were waiting for one more and they were already closing up shop so pickings were slim and we could only order what was on the steam table. I stupidly do not have their menu so I won’t get the correct names right. We did BBQ pork, chicken adobo, some noodley dish (name escapes me, rice stick noodles with some carrots and cabbage), rice, and she threw in fried chicken skin for free. Total cost? $11.00. Seriously cheap. And enough leftover for someone’s lunch.

                    BBQ pork was swimming in some sort of red sauce; my BBQ chicken I had at Pride had almost no sauce. For meat that had been sitting out, it was pretty good and not dried out. I think the real secret to this place is to come for an early lunch, when everything is fresh. I’ll bet it would have been tenderer too. But not bad…I am unclear if one can order everything off the menu or whether that’s just everything they MIGHT have and you are limited to the table. Will have to back and check it out.

                    Chicken adobo: I really needed a knife to cut this with some semblance of decorum but I couldn’t see any in all the containers on the tables. Good (but what do I know of adobo?), comfort food. Not as greasy as I would have thought. I would try it again.

                    They also serve Filipino breakfast for anyone that’s interested. While my meal didn’t wow me, there is serious promise there. Next time will go earlier.

                    Walking up S. Van Ness, I stopped to look at a classic Chinese-American diner that I had never noticed before. I couldn’t believe the prices; it was like they were stuck in some bygone era. As I was walking away, an old man driving by honked and waved me over. Um, OK, just keep walking (he looked pretty scruffy, had a grimacing face, and, well, you should see that neighborhood). He drives up and is crawling along, wagging his finger back and forth. What? “No good, no good! Very dirty, very dirty!” he says in a thick accent.

                    “You mean the restaurant?” and we point to the Chinese diner. ‘Cause he sure as hell had better not be talking about me…

                    “Yes, don’t go there! Very dirty!” Like he should talk judging by the interior of his car. I can’t say a passing motorist has ever given me restaurant recs before..

                    OK, now I am REALLY curious about this diner, between 16th and 17th, Anyone know anything? Name?

                    How about the 2 hole-in-the-wall Hispanic restaurants on 16th between Capp and S. Van Ness? One I think is called Sonia’s and sold nacatamles and the other looked like it specialized in tortas.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: chaddict

                      Chaddict ... that was a food angel ... listen to the warnings ... a guy out of nowhere in a dirty car complaining about a dirty restaurant.

                      Of course I know from my own insanity in situations like this it would only further pique my curiousity Go with God ... make sure your health insurance is paid.

                      Let's say there are situtations ... particularily on Pier 39 where I've seen strangers looking at a menu and said "don't do it ... please don't do it".

                      1. re: rworange

                        Ha! God bless Google Street! The name of the diner is Kenny's. The torta place (who knows how old these pics are though) is Familia Lopez Cafe. And it is Sonia's.

                        1. re: chaddict

                          Here's the Dept. of Health rating for "Kenny's"...

                          http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/eh/Violations...

                      2. re: chaddict

                        Crispy Pata! OMG - it's fantastic with its crisp crunchy deep-fried skin and the moist succulent pork meat and it's HUGE. Is it a pork knuckle or hock? That's some big porker.
                        Now, I've had my crispy pata at another take-out steam table place for $5 on Mission Street and at Tribu Grill in San Bruno... Irma's tops them all ... it is served with a garlic-jalapeno vinegar sauce - I'll be back to have this again. On the menu, Crispy Pata is listed for $10... but my total for one crispy pata + one order of Lumpia Shanghai (15 pcs.) was $10 + tip...
                        I'll try the fried rice and eggs for breakfast here some morning very soon.

                        Your noodles might be Pancit Palabok, or the Bihon— any pork, shrimp, or egg with it?

                        ...oh, about the food angel, take heed. don't go where the food angel fears to tread.

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          Na, we TRIED to order the pancit palabok but she said "No more! Only this left!" It still had good, garlicky flavor.

                        2. re: chaddict

                          Kenny's menu:

                          http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Thanks! Looks like they are missing some of the items I saw in the window menu. But heck! Do you see how cheap that is?

                        3. This is what you get when work gets too busy and you have to stop reading Chowhound for a week. I have been facinated by Irma's for years (I pass it on my way home every day). I have had a few plans to stop in but something always gets in my way.

                          On the plus side, this facination means I have found an online menu for them to try to help the figuring out of what you guys had:

                          http://www.allmenus.com/menus/81785/I...

                          And if anyone does want to try it for lunch, I would love to join - I work a few minutes away.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Meredith

                            I'm game for a weekday lunch. I'm Filipino but have never been to Irma's. I can translate the menu for you. And if Cynsa says the crispy pata is better than Tribu's, it must be worth a thorough going-over! I'm also on the hunt for a good Pancit palabok, and I suspect Irma's may be the source of a particularly good one I had at a party last year.

                          2. Thanks to the posts here, especially chaddict and Cynsa, I just got back from Irma's this afternoon. I ordered the lechon kawali (side pork cooked like crispy pata), daing na bangus (fried marinated milkfish), and pancit palabok (or was it luglog?) The lechon kawali was delicious--rich and porky,freshly cooked-- and the palabok was the best I've had on this side of the Pacific, with thick rice noodles coated with annatto-tinted seafood-flavored sauce. The fish was okay, and the rice that came with it very good. (Yes, the quality of plain steamed rice does matter!)

                            This place looks and tastes like a contender for one of the best, but we'll need a solid meal with several hungry, adventurous hounds to check out a lot more before rendering a verdict. The place is pretty basic, but it looks better on the inside than out.