Nopalito started it. In the past few years, restaurants such as Tacolicious, Rosa Mexicano, and Mamacita have been putting the Mission burrito in its place, broadening our palates for Mexican flavors with mid-priced sit-down spots. Call them gringo-fied, or call them upscale Mex. Either way, they have lines out the door. Now, the crew behind Mamacita and The Tipsy Pig is serving south-of-the-border fare in Cole Valley at the already bustling and likeable Padrecito.
Given all the tequila and baskets of tortilla chips making the rounds, the ranchero-style dining room, with glass walls overlooking the neighborhood, is more lively and loud than in its previous incarnation as Eos. At the crowded bar a few steps upstairs, bar manager David Ruiz slings margaritas and a dozen unique house cocktails, several highlighting mezcal, the oft-maligned, smoky cousin of tequila. The Misterioso, for instance, is a well-balanced drink with cassis, lemon, and allspice syrup.
Tacos take the spotlight on executive chef Luis Contreras’ menu of elevated-taqueria fare, which is similar to but more polished than the food at Mamacita. The best among them is the darkly spiced, arugula-topped skirt steak taco. Unusual spins on Mexican classics are also a welcome surprise—think chilaquiles topped with smoked bacon, Brussels sprouts, and bright salsa amarilla, as well as a Mexico City-style bowl of ceviche with mahi mahi submerged in a tart citrus-serrano aguachile. The lamb albondigas (meatballs) with guajillo mole and cilantro-flecked rice show the most promise. Topped with Manchego and crispy Brussels sprout leaves, the meatballs are both comforting and complex—totally worth going back for more.
This article was published in 7x7's May issue. Click here to subscribe.