Another favorite is the statuesque causa rellena, a cold yet comforting preparation of tuna, chicken, or crab salad (changing daily) sandwiched between two yellow potato disks and topped with half a hardboiled egg. The adorable, heaping assemblage is then smothered in a chilled amarillo sauce like a distant relation of hollandaise. The entire dish is only about the size of a tall hockey puck — but at $7.99 it is perfect for a cheap and refreshing, not-so-light, lunch.
Cholo Soy is not just one of the best kept secrets in town, it’s one of the only secrets left. If you’ve ever walked by 19th and Mission streets, although you probably didn’t realize it, you walked right past this Peruvian counter restaurant. Plaza Adelante (2301 Mission St.) is a MEDA building that houses organizations providing “vital services … for families seeking ways to build prosperity” — and it’s also home to Cholo Soy.
Immediately beyond the mimi-mall’s front doors, in its atrium, there are three stainless-steel tables hugging the right wall and stretching back to a counter that curls around open kitchen. The diners enjoy their rice, beans, chicken, tripe, and morsels beyond my recognition, as they all shoot the shit and eyeball patrons trying to catch a glimpse of what’s on their plates. Ready to put my Spanish skills to the test, I approach the counter.
I come here for two special treats, the first being the ceviche de pescado, made with white basa fish, onion, cilantro, lime, garlic and ginger. The buttery texture of the white fish is complimented by the crunchy onions and a limey tang. Served with canchas and a pepper rocoto sauce, this ceviche will set you back a whopping $8.50. It is a sophisticated, delicate, and humble delight.
What makes Cholo Soy special, other than its affordable, exciting food, are the vibes. The experience embodies that small-town feeling, one where no one has to let anyone know they’re going to show up, because odds are they just will. And if they don’t, they will tomorrow. When out in a neighborhood known for its photo ops and taqueria tourist traps, it’s nice to eat in a place where the locals find refuge on their lunch break. It makes me feel like a local, and I like that.
Cholo Soy Cocina, 2301 Mission St., 415-312-7232 or cholosoycocina.com