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Food & Drink

The taco of the moment is a saucy little number from the Castro

A cultish taco arrives cityside via Richmond. Plus, the ultimate California salad and a unique Indian tasting menu.

Two tacos at Tacos El Tucan in the Castro
Tacos el Tucan serves up their popular quesataco made with griddled cheese and fire-grilled carne asada (right). | Source: Omar Mamoon for The Standard

This is All Things Consumed, a weekly column by The Standard’s eater-at-large, Omar Mamoon, featuring three great dishes he’s eaten and one drink he’s stoked on.

Carne asada quesataco at Tacos el Tucan

I’ve been a fan of Richmond’s Tacos el Tucan for years, so when I found out the taqueria’s owners, brothers Alfredo and Edgar Padilla, were bringing their Tijuana-style tacos specializing in flame-grilled meats to the Castro, I was stoked. The restaurant’s opening day was last Sunday, and as expected, the lines were long. 

However, I knew it would be worth the wait. A massive menu contains photos of the usual suspects, including tacos, burritos, quesadillas and, of course, quesabirria. But my favorite is the most simple: the carne asada quesataco. To make it, a handful of shredded Monterey Jack cheese is melted on the plancha until crispy, then topped with handmade corn tortillas, smoky carne asada, diced onions, cilantro and the requisite swipe of smooth guacamole. Pick a salsa of your choice from the bar. I’m partial to the roja, which is just moderately spicy despite being made with killer little árbols.

💰 $4.50
📍 3600 16th St., San Francisco

Shrimp salad with eggs at Hayes Street Grill
The bay shrimp salad at Hayes Street Grill is perfect paired with an order of french fries. | Source: Omar Mamoon for The Standard

Bay shrimp salad at Hayes Street Grill

It only took me 39 years to get to the ballet, but I finally did. Before taking in the San Francisco Ballet’s rendition of Swan Lake, I grabbed a pre-show dinner at the always-wonderful Hayes Street Grill. Opened in 1979 by the illustrious writer and restaurateur Patricia Unterman, the charming old-school restaurant still has it going on: the dark green carpets, the white tablecloths and, of course, the iconic and simple California fare.

The bay shrimp salad is a perfect example. Crunchy, shredded Star Route Farms’ little gem, sliced sugar snap peas and chopped celery are swathed in a herby, creamy green goddess dressing fortified with salty anchovies. It’s all topped with hard-boiled eggs and a few generous spoonfuls of tiny, pink, first-of-the-season shrimp from Oregon. Of course, to balance things, I had to pair it with a side of french fries. They’re some of San Francisco’s best.

💰 $16
📍 320 Hayes St., San Francisco

A bowl of food with two croquettes, a brown-orange cashew sauce, crushed nuts, and a leaf garnish.
Besharam's malai kofta features paneer croquettes coated in a spicy-creamy, lick-the-plate cashew sauce. | Source: Omar Mamoon for The Standard

Malai kofta at Besharam

No one in San Francisco is cooking like chef Heena Patel. At her Dogpatch restaurant, she offers a very personal ode to Gujarati cuisine. Because my parents are Indian-Burmese, I grew up eating some of the same dishes that Patel did, and I love tasting her unique spin on things like dahi vada, made of cool, spicy-tangy lentil fritters soaked in yogurt. Traditionally, it’s served soft in texture, but she keeps it intentionally crispy.

To best experience the full range of the restaurant, I recommend the refreshingly short tasting menu. Served family style, the meal starts with chickpea crackers served with an array of chutneys, followed by chaat, a sweet and tangy dal, and a few mains fortified with rice and parathas. The highlight of these dishes was the malai kofta, which features paneer croquettes coated in a spicy-creamy cashew sauce. It had me licking the plate. 

💰 $75 for the tasting menu
📍 1275 Minnesota St., San Francisco 

A drink I’m loving: Moonland white wine 

I found my new favorite Dolores Park wine, and it comes in a can. Moonland is from winemaker Jason Edward Charles, who is also behind Vinca Minor Winery in Berkeley. The white is a blend of Vermentino and orange muscat. The grapes are fermented on the skins for almost a week in a combination of neutral French oak and stainless steel and then force-carbonated at canning, resulting in a textured wine with the tiniest touch of effervescence. It’s a highly quaffable picnic pounder.

💰 $11/12 fluid ounces
📍 Available at Bottle Bacchanal, ​​4126 18th St., San Francisco

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer and cookie dough professional. Find him on Instagram.