Go Eat This Now: San Jalisco

Soups are the star at this half-century-old, family-run institution in the Mission.

Caldo de albondigas. Photo by Ryan Basso

On the corner of South Van Ness Avenue and 20th Street, San Jalisco is a warm, home-style Mexican restaurant that specializes in, well, exactly that: its specials. They serve breakfast all day, including chicharrones with huevos and four different types of chilaquiles. The menu at San Jalisco — a portmanteau that plays on San Francisco and the Mexican state of Jalisco — is huge, but it’s the homemade soups that will keep you coming back every week. Monday through Friday, they run through an assortment of delicious soups like caldo de mariscos (seafood stew with prawns, trout, octopus, and clams) and two different types of pozole: verde de pollo y roja de puerco. Deeply flavorful, the pozoles taste as if the recipes have been mastered over years and years, dappled as they are with corn hominy and garnished with cabbage, onion, and radishes. The green chicken pozole is bright and zesty, while the red version with pork has a fiery, meatier spice.

Today is Tuesday, so I’ll be having the caldo de albondigas for lunch. It’s a pork, beef, and herb meatball soup made with stewed vegetables, rice, and pico de gallo. The soup is bright and fresh. The surface is breached by floating, colossal hunks of beef and pork that tear apart like cotton candy. For those who like a little more adventure, San Jalisco also serves menudo on the weekends, a chile-and-tripe soup made with onion, oregano, and lemon. It’s fatty and rich with oily flavors, ideal for a ripping hangover (or a meal after church).

These soups taste as good as something only a loving grandmother could make, because that’s exactly what they are. Dolores “Josie” Padilla-Reyes has been running the restaurant for decades, which her parents had operated as far back as the 1950s. She continues to run the restaurant today alongside generations of her family. The flavors that make this town have gone through a lot of changes over the years, but some things remain the same, and thank God San Jalisco is one of them.

San Jalisco, 901 South Van Ness Ave., 415-648-8383, no website.

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