Champurrado (and hidden Guatemalan too) at La Espiga de Oro in San Francisco's Mission
- Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 02:33 PM
On Saturday I popped in here to grab a drink. My hopes were dashed when the English-speaking proprietor informed me that atol de nuez and atol de elote were both sold out. My consolation prize was the champurrado. This was decent enough, not too sweet, but could have used a little more chocolate.
This is a tamaleria and features a huge list of tamales, including "Estilo Guatemala", $2.81, and "Chuchita", $2.14. A variety of masa styles are offered by the pound for make-your-own. i noticed some good-looking handmade tortillas next to the register and a sack of still warm gorditas. Pupusas are available, as well as tacos and burritos. The oother possibly guatemalan dish might be the pollo frito.
The only other mention of La Espiga I could find was when it came in second in the Tamales by the Bay event last year. The award is displayed proudly over the counter. I asked the proprietor where his family was from. He said Jalisco and Guadalajara, however, some of their employees are from Central America and prepare the foods of their homelands.
What have 'hounds tried here?
La Espiga de Oro Tamaleria
2916 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Hi Melanie - I was lucky one morning when I went in for tamales and tortillas and saw the handwritten sign for 'atol de elote'. I asked the gentleman behind the counter about it. He told me it was a popular Guatemalan breakfast beverage. There wasn't enough to sell me a cup, but he offered what was left to taste. I love anything corn so, of course, I said yes! After tasting it I was so sorry I hadn't gotten their earlier. I love champurrado, but this atol de elote is probably one of the best breakfast beverages I've ever tasted - It was something else! I've gone back since several times, but each time too late.
Of course, I've had their tamales - La Espiga de Oro is my go-to for tamales because they are consistently good. They have the balance of maize to filling I like. Although more moist than what I'm used to in tamales, the Guatemalan tamal I was particularly delicious - good flavor and balance of filling to masa. I've also tried their tortillas. The family prepares their maize (nixtamal) on-site which would explain why everything is so fresh.
Last weekend I had a chance to return to La Espiga de Oro to test-drive a couple tamales. I ordered a Guatemalan tamal, $2.81, and small-size atol de nuez, $2.82, to eat there. The banana leaf-clad tamal was hot from the steam table.
I unwrapped it myself, uncovering a chicken drummette, more chunks of chicken, red pepper and some sauce in the soft-textured, strained masa. This has quite a bit more filling than typical and is big for the price. Scented by the banana leaf, greasy and rather bland, this wasn’t something I’m inclined to order again but I’m glad I tried it.
Likewise, the atol de nuez, was a non-event. The stingy ration of ground nuts added little in the way of flavor to the hot, milky, cornmeal base. The moderate sweetness was the most distinguishing characteristic.
On the way out, I bought a tamal de piña (pineapple) to take home. Hurrah, this turned out to be a much better bet. Easily beating the median in the world of pineapple tamales, this one was medium-sweet with firmish, smooth masa flecked with bits of pineapple.
My return to Salinas for Christmas was delayed unexpectedly, making it impossible for me to buy tamales from our usual suppliers. So, I dropped into La Espiga de Oro on the 23rd and bought a couple each of pork, rajas y queso, and piña as back up. I would have purchased some from La Palma on the next block . . . but it had a line of people waiting that snaked outside and around the corner kept in order by the crowd control cordons. I ate on of the pork ones right away, still warm from the steamer, and I'd say it was pretty good for San Francisco. The seasoning was rather mild with firmish, well-seasoned masa. We had the piña on Christmas day and I still like them. I didn't get to try the chile & cheese ones.