First Bite: Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is far more exuberant than the usual Mission joint. Forget understated, reclaimed interiors: Pica Pica is a riot of primary colors, with menu boards and signs throughout announcing the "amaizeing" options, urging diners to "be corny." Located in the former home of Mi Lindo Yucatan, directly across from Little Star Pizza on 15th and Valencia, the Venezuelan restaurant opened its first SF outpost last week (the original is in the Oxbow Market in Napa), with a compact menu that centers around classics, including arepas (corn cakes, here split and filled with a variety of fillings), the cachapa (a sort of sweet corn pancake, also folded around your choice of fillings, and the not-so-traditional maize'wich, a hybrid of the two). Everything is gluten-free.
Among the fillings, the pabellon was an early favorite, a combination of shredded skirt steak, black beans, cheese and fried plantains. It somehow calls to mind a southern-style pulled pork sandwich, on account of the sweetness and the tender shredded meat. There are also more straightforward fillings, like chicken and cheddar, pulled pork and avocado and the classic ham and cheese, as well as a handful of vegetarian options. Fried yuca, Venezuela's answer to French fries, make a fine side dish, and beer and sangria are also available. Nothing costs more than $10. Order at the counter, then prepare to jockey for seating. With only a handful of tables and a short line of stool seating along the wall, competition is fierce.