And when I tasted Las Tinajas' plato tipico, I could see my friend's point: The ripe plantains were even more custardy than Oye Managua's, the cheese fatter and more delicately fried. A celadon purée of vinegar and chiles joined the jar of chileros on the table, and I ended up smothering the piquant green paste on everything I ate.

Sometimes the cafeteria aspect seemed to reassert itself. The baho ($10.95) — short ribs partially cured and then steamed, accompanied by yuca and plantains — didn't fall apart, as we'd hoped. And I couldn't warm to the vigorón ($6.75), a common street-food dish: At Las Tinacas, it consisted of a pile of boiled yuca chunks big enough to choke a Rottweiler topped with large sheets of pork rind and the house cabbage slaw.

Then there was the antojitos "Las Tinajas" combination plate ($18.95): Not only was it one of the most expensive things on the menu, it also might possibly have been the biggest, presented on a platter large enough to serve a 15-pound roast turkey. Of course it included gallo pinto, fried cheese, fried plantains both ripe and starchy, and a heap of cabbage slaw threaded through with julienned carrots. Peeking out from underneath the mound of side dishes were two eight-ounce steaks: carne asada (beef), pounded thin and quickly grilled, and lomito de cerdo asado, a pork loin marinated, flame-marked, and as tender as if it had been braised.

You'll need to wait in line for the nacatamales, but they're well worth it.
Jen Siska
You'll need to wait in line for the nacatamales, but they're well worth it.

Location Info

Map

Oye! Managua

3385 Mission
San Francisco, CA 94110

Category: Restaurant > Central American

Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights

Details

Oye! Managua
3385 Mission (at 30th St.), 821-2702. Wed.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Las Tinajas
2338 Mission (at 19th St.), 695-9933. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Adelita's Cakes
3780 Mission (at Highland), 824-4584. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

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While corn tortillas are a part of the daily fare of Nicaragua, they are little in evidence at either restaurant. Neither restaurant serves a nacatamal worth taking home, either. The massive Nicaraguan tamal, a meal in a banana-leaf packet, is either a special-occasion food or a breakfast treat, depending on whether you're making it yourself or buying it off a street vendor. Finding a good one means wandering down to Adelita's Cakes at the farthest end of the Nicaraguan strip, a dim little bakery whose commitment to birthday frivolity seems to resemble Tim Burton's.

In the late morning, not long after the shop opened, I joined the line for nacatamales, which were neatly tied with string and fresh from the steamer. I opened mine in the car, picking off the string and unfolding the wrapper gingerly to keep from burning my fingertips. A square of cornmeal porridge emerged. Chunks of meat and potatoes stuck out of the steaming mass, whose top was stained red from the tomato slices laid on top before cooking. The tomatoes gave the cornmeal a lovely flavor, as did the fat that had melted off the chunks of heavily marinated, long-cooked pork. Unlike the smaller, cakier Mexican tamales most of us are accustomed to, a nacatamal is eaten with a spoon. Each bite delivers a small gift: an olive, a salty caper, or a soft, fat raisin. It is perhaps the most grandmotherly thing I've eaten in weeks.

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