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Cheap Date: Mr. Pollo

It’s a small space with a faded orange awning that easily blends in with the taquerias along Mission Street. I probably wouldn’t have noticed Mr. Pollo at all if I hadn’t walked by when chef Manny Torres Gimenez (who’s worked in the kitchens of Coi and Quince) was serving a four-course tasting menu in his whites by the window. For $15, Gimenez offers a tour of Venezuelan fare that shows off his butchering skills and eye for what’s best at the market that day. Most recently, the tasting began with a cheesy arepa alongside a brightly dressed organic baby greens salad with foie gras and the last of the season’s cherry tomatoes, followed by house-made goat chorizo on top of green garlic rice, then baby octopus and yucca cooked on a flat-top grill called a plancha, and finally, a grilled freshwater prawn over delicate string green beans and cool pomegranate seeds.  

There are just five tables plus two counter seats, leaving barely enough room for an open kitchen the size of a small closet and the pastry chef, who stands by to seat people and later, for dessert, completely take over the deep fryer to make mini doughnuts with coconut whipped cream and caramel for dipping. It’s a quirky two-man show: I’ve never seen a chef cook, clear, and then clean dishes. They don’t have a liquor license, but they’re quick to point you in the direction of the closest liquor store. The menu also includes  house-made tropical juices, such as guanabana, lulo, and passion fruit, as well as empanadas. 

Since Gimenez came on earlier this year, word has started to spread about his daily tasting menu. In September, it was featured on the Food Network, and throughout my meal, there was a line out the door, which may be the best way to spot this hidden Mission eatery. 2823 Mission St., 415-374-5546