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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pop Review: A Taste of Oaxaca on Mission

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2009 at 2:53 PM

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Janine Kahn

Tucked among the Mission's rampant taquerias, it's possible to find authentic regional Mexican food.

An appealing new spot advertises its roots in its name: La Oaxaquena. Its tidy storefront, with tiny blue formica-topped tables and wooden chairs -- there are a few more seats perched at a counter in the back -- is nicely decorated with textiles, pottery, and folk art from its namesake home in Southern Mexico.

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Janine Kahn

The Oaxacan specialties featured on the menu include the enormous tlayuda, a crunchy giant tostada topped with quesillo cheese imported from Oaxaca, chopped lettuce, and your choice of a dozen different toppings ($12.50 with meat, $10 without), including Milanesa (chopped breaded pork), carne asada, jamon, longaniza sausage with potatoes, chorizo, and three different kinds of chicken: stewed (tinga), spicy (asado), and cooked with tequila. We tried cecina, a tasty cured spicy pork. It's big enough to feed two or three, or four as part of a meal.

click to enlarge JANINE KAHN
  • Janine Kahn

We weren't thrilled with the rather ordinary tilipia fish taco ($3.75), or the carne asada taco ($1.50) -- you can find better versions elsewhere in the neighborhood. Much, much better are the sopes (one for $3.50, three for $8 with meat; $2.50/$6.50 without), thick slabs of masa spread with pureed beans and topped with quesillo, lettuce, and your choice of meats (we tried the chewy, beefy carne asada).

click to enlarge JANINE KAHN
  • Janine Kahn

We also liked the homemade tamales, which you can have classically wrapped in a corn husk ($2.50) or Oaxaca-style in a green plaintain leaf ($3.50). The chicken with mole sauce was very good; other versions include pork with salsa verde, rajas (peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos, and cheese), and spinach and cheese.In addition to the usual bebidas (fresh-squeezed juices, licuados of strawberry or plaintains, horchata), you can sip fresh coconut juice from a trimmed coconut ($1.60).

click to enlarge JANINE KAHN
  • Janine Kahn

We love La Oaxaquena's convenient hours: like an old-fashioned San Francisco bar, it's open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. (You must slake your thirst for Oaxacan antojitos elsewhere during the four hours they're closed. Good luck.)

click to enlarge JANINE KAHN
  • Janine Kahn

La Oaxaquena is also a bakery, though as with most Mexican panaderias, the baked goods look better than they taste. We saw a huge sheet cake being adorned with frosting and maraschino cherries. Very sweetly, they gave us a free slice packed up to go when we left.

It looked better than it tasted.

click to enlarge JANINE KAHN
  • Janine Kahn

La Oaxaquena 2128 Mission (at 17th Street), 621-5446.

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