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Food & Drink

A hot new Mexican restaurant brings rare sizzle to the west side

The folks from Original Joe's get spicy. Plus: Tartine isn't just for daytime now and the best Burmese curry in SoMa.

A cast iron skillet with steak, onions, and peppers sits on a wooden table. In the background: a plate of rice and beans, salsa, and toritllas.
A sizzling plate of carne asada fajitas at Elena’s Mexican Restaurant. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

This is All Things Consumed, a weekly column by The Standard’s eaters-at-large featuring three great dishes we’ve eaten and one cocktail we’d happily drink again and again

Carne asada fajitas at Elena’s 

In early February, the family behind Original Joe’s, the beloved North Beach restaurant, set out to prove they’ve got a lot more than just meatballs and ravioli up their sleeves. The group opened Elena’s in West Portal, a sweeping restaurant that pays homage to Elena Duggan’s two daughters, whose father has family ties to central Mexico. 

A pitcher of margaritas at Elena's
A pitcher of cold margaritas is best shared with four thirsty friends. | Source: Lauren Saria for The Standard

The new restaurant aims to capture diners’ hearts with an intoxicating combination of atmosphere and Mexican-American classics. The restaurant will entice anyone with a nostalgic craving for the ’80s, the heyday of chains like El Torito and Chevy’s, where sauce-covered combo platters and mountains of salad served in crispy tortilla bowls still reigned supreme. In a sun-drenched space lush with greenery, tables overflow with favorites like a molcajete of guacamole served with paper-thin tortilla chips fresh from the fryer; esquites, served off the cob for easy scooping; and a tangle of crispy calamari punched up with whole jalapenos.

Order the $65 pitcher of frosty margaritas and split it between four (or more) people and then crown your meal with a platter of sizzling fajitas. It’s a prototypical presentation with a cast iron skillet sizzling, popping and blowing off steam as it travels through the dining room. But after all that bluster,  you can still count on slices of perfectly cooked steak. From there, it’s a choose your own adventure of Spanish rice, creamy beans, sour cream and blistered peppers. It might not be a meal that pushes any boundaries, but I’m enamored nonetheless. —LS

💰 $36
📍 Elena’s, 255 W. Portal Ave., West Portal

An open-faced sandwich topped with anchovies and fresh herbs on a plate ceramic plate.
The anchovy tartine at Tartine Manufactory stars shiny little fish and a spicy 'nduja butter. | Source: Lauren Saria for The Standard

Anchovy tartine at Tartine Manufactory 

After four years, Tartine Manufactory, the cavernous restaurant attached to the legendary bakery’s production facility, has reintroduced dinner. Unlike during the daytime when it’s counter-service only, an evening visit means you’ll get to enjoy table service, so I gathered around with a group of friends and split a bottle of chilled, brightly acidic red wine to kick off the meal. 

The dinner menu offers about a half-dozen sharable starters including thick slices of bread slathered in black garlic butter, salads and meatballs swimming in light tomato sauce. Pizzas get top-billing, though they’re not the top option. They showcase a crust made in the “biga starter method”— which involves preliminary fermentation before the flour gets mixed with Tartine’s famous starter, followed by a secondary cold fermentation that lasts two days. The result is a mostly unremarkable crust that lacks the distinctive tang of most sourdough pies.

But if you’re really looking for a starchy fix, I recommend sticking with the restaurant’s namesake specialty: the open-faced tartines. Right now, there’s an anchovy tartine on the menu built on a base of thickly sliced Country Bread, then slathered in spicy ‘nduja butter before getting a layer of shining little sardines. A last-minute blast of lemon, black pepper, Thai basil, and olive oil balances the salty fish and sausage-infused butter, making this seasonal dish both simple and symphonic. —LS

💰 $16.75
📍 Tartine Manufactory, 595 Alabama St., Mission

A white bowl of chicken curry garnished with cilantro next to a bowl of rice on a wooden table.
Tender chicken swims in a powerful curry enriched with caramelized onions. | Source: Sara Deseran for The Standard

Dorfy chicken at Bay of Burma 

On my first day at The Standard, I was treated by my editor to a great lunch at Bay of Burma. I’ve been dreaming of the little SoMa restaurant’s sprightly ginger-coconut salad and rich, pungent curries ever since. So when Lauren, our new deputy food editor, started this week (hooray!), it was a perfect excuse to return. 

The cement walls in the small but soaring industrial space feel almost antithetical to the rustic, warming food. We slurped up the mohinga, a national dish in Burma, the mild carp stew a comforting, ugly-delicious mess of slippery rice vermicelli topped with fried shallots and sliced hard-boiled egg. We demolished the palata—a kind of buttery roti filled with ground chicken keema—a treat you’d normally find on the streets.

And then came the Dorfy chicken. Made with a young and tender Halal bird, the oily, brick-red curry has a base of deeply fried, caramelized onions, cumin, bay leaf and a Burmese curry powder flewn in from the source. The chicken is chopped into large, bone-in pieces, allowing the marrow to escape and enrich the sauce and seep into the accompanying potatoes. Spooned over sweet coconut rice, it is both hearty and, somehow, effervescently bright. —SD

💰 $17
📍 Bay of Burma, 1174 Folsom St., SoMa

A brown cocktail on the rocks garnished with an orange peel sits on a red bar.
Chai Masala Old-Fashioned at The Blue Room is a smooth spin on a classic drink. | Source: Astrid Kane for The Standard

The Chai Masala Old Fashioned at The Blue Room

No style calls to me quite like Streamline Moderne, the sleek, sexy offshoot of Art Deco. Throw in a neon sign and I’m completely powerless before its late-1930s charms. The Blue Room, a three-month-old cocktail bar in Lower Nob Hill, might sound like a part of the White House with fussy drapes, but it’s one of San Francisco’s most stylish debuts of 2024, offering 12 high-ABV, New Orleans-ish classics from the post-Prohibition era, like an Aged Negroni, an Aviation or a “Corpse Reviver #Blue.”

The Chai Masala Old Fashioned, an effortlessly smooth spin on a true classic, swaps chai syrup in for the traditional bitters-soaked sugar cube, taming the bourbon. Garnished with an orange peel and a Luxardo cherry that almost appear to float above it, it all but forced me to sip it with a self-aware elegance. Patrons can enter the Blue Room from the street or from Stookey’s Club Moderne, the glamorous nine-year-old lounge that feels exported from an ocean liner, making it not quite a bar-within-a-bar. Its decor has a lighter, campier touch than its neighbor, too, with a disco ball and a TV that was playing the horror-satire film “They Live.” Elegant, sure, but also fun—and a little louche.

💰 $17
📍The Blue Room, 891 Bush St., Lower Nob Hill, San Francisco

Lauren Saria can be reached at
Sara Deseran can be reached at
Astrid Kane can be reached at