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Dec 6, 2009 02:17 PM

Chilango: favorite new restaurant of 2009 (Church & Market, SF)

Chilango is a couple of months old, started by a former chef at Mexico DF. I've had two fantastic lunches here, with food ranging from very good to best in class. Their carnitas are small pieces of moist, fatty pork deep-fried so they are crispy on the outside yet unctuous within. Served with pickled onions, chunky guacamole, four salsas, and handmade tortillas, their carnitas may be the best bite I've had this year. At $12 for a half-pound portion, they constitute most of a meal for two, making them a bargain as well.

They offer four types of sopes, thick masa cakes topped with cheese, picadillo (ground-beef based), potato and chorizo, or poblanos. I tried the first two, and even better than the toppings was the starchy cake below, with a resilient bite and toasted corn flavor. Although I usually don't love tamales, theirs are creamy and loose with a spicy salsa. Perhaps second only to carnitas was huarche, a big oval corn cake (thicker than tortilla, thinner than sopes) with carnitas-flecked refried beans, pulled braised short ribs, cheese, and herbs.

Both times I've been it's been pretty empty. It's pricey relative to taquerias, but a bargain compared to restaurants serving handmade food with sustainable ingredients, which is what Chilango is.

235 Church St near Market, SF

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  1. I had the filet mignon tacos and thought they were delicious. Not quite sure I'd go as far as to say best new restaurant of 2009 with so many great restaurants opening (RN74 comes to mind as one, I'm sure i'll think of several others), but definitely among the great ones. i also don't know if i'd even count it as "new" as it appears to be very similar to the owner's SOMA restaurant....

    5 Replies
    1. re: vulber

      which SOMA restaurant would that be? Is the former chef at DF also an owner at DF, or are you referring to somewhere else?

      I haven't been able to find a menu online: is it mostly antojitos, or do they serve dinner plates as well?

      I did find a reference on another board to their quesadillas...the poster said they were made of a thick masa sort of like an empanada (and thus she decided she didnt like them and wouldn't like quesadillas in Mexico City) hmmm...made me want to drive right over and try them!

      1. re: susancinsf

        yes, i believe it's the same chef as DF

        they recently split it up into a lunch and dinner menu, with antojitos for lunch and bigger antojitos for dinner, haha

        1. re: vulber

          Yes, the menu comparison is funny. Lunch = 2 sopes, tamales, or quesadillas per order; dinner = 3. But pretty much all the same items appear on both menus.

          I was a little fuzzy whether someone left Mexico DF to open Chilango or whether they're under the same ownership. I thought the former but am not sure.

          1. re: david kaplan

            I read about this place on an SF blog in October (tortillas made from cactus masa intrigued) and filed it for CH corroboration, and here it is! Thanks, dave k.

      2. re: vulber

        Plenty of restaurants have opened this year that I haven't tried (RN74, Commis, etc.)! I can only say it's my favorite of those I have tried.

        Haven't tried those tacos yet. I did have the fish tacos, which were very good for fish tacos even though next time I'll take off half the lettuce piled on it.

      3. Chilango is excellent. I hope the SF crowd appreciates real Mexican food (the Mission is awful and not authentic). Go Burritos (yeah).

        3 Replies
        1. re: SFguy

          Chilango is actually owned by the same person who used to own Azteca, the traditional Mission-style burrito shop that used to be in the same place. It's also the same person who owns Casa Mexicana up the street. So it's not even about anti-burrito sentiment, it's about providing a contrast of Mexican foods.

          1. re: vulber

            Are Casa Mexicana and (formerly) Azteca also very good? I've lived in the Mission for years and never tried either, though I realize it's too late now to try Azteca.

            1. re: david kaplan

              They are (were) the exact same place, which made their extreme proximity puzzling.

              I definitely think that Casa Mexicana has the best burrito in the Lower Haight/Duboce Triangle area, even though El Castillito seems to be more popular. It's just your typical greasy mission burrito.

              Not a destination spot though (especially now that I live right around the corner from Taqueria Cancun).

        2. Thanks to your recommendation, we tried out Chilango last week. We tried the Carnitas plate ("1/2 lb", large enough for two) and the Tortilla soup.

          Both were excellent. We will be back, definitely.

          1. Mrs. Wineguy and I dropped in for lunch recently, and loved Chilango. We shared the following: Tamales filled with rajas, corn and cheese, Duck Flautas, and Carnitas. Everything tasted extremely fresh. We also had some Jamaica that was as good as I've had outside Mexico. This will become a regular stop for us.

            1. The bf and I went here last night and it was great. The menu says that they serve bottles of wine at cost and don't mark them up. We had a great $30 bottle of zinfandel. The owner said that we had to order the huarache with short ribs which lived up to expectations. We also had the tacos campechano which were skirtsteak and chorizo. The bf loved the mahi mahi ceviche. We thought this place was really great and well priced considering the quality of ingredients.

              Unfortunately they were out of the churros which according to some blog are the best churros in SF.