No. 80: Quesadilla from Rico Pan
There are dozens of Mexican and Salvadoran bakeries in the Mission, most of them the size of your parents' pantry and not quite as well-stocked. Two-and-a-half-year-old Rico Pan, on the corner of Mission and Highland, operates on a different scale. Cleaner, newer, more brightly lit, its cases are filled with maize-colored cookies, fruit-filled turnovers, breads, cakes, and slabs of caramelized banana-topped bread pudding (the last: bombastically rich). In the afternoons, there's a steady traffic of schoolkids, some picking out a pastel de piña for a snack, others stuffing a bag with banana leaf-wrapped tamales for family dinner.
Once you've had your look around the room, zero in the corner where the two cases meet for a tray of gold cakes, sprinkled with sesame seeds, each the size of a saucer and an inch thick. If you think a quesadilla is always a greasy, Jack-filled flour tortilla, you need to taste the Salvadoran version. When they're still warm from the oven (say, late morning), Rico Pan's quesadillas are buttery enough to crisp around the edges, and larded with pockets of soft, barely tangy cheese. There's no convincing yourself a quesadilla is a dainty snack, but the sweetness doesn't overpower, tempered as it is by the toasted sesame seeds on top. One last tip: If the quesadilla has been sitting around for a few hours, resist devouring the cake in the shop ― take it home to rewarm in the microwave for a few seconds. If the quesadilla is fresh, the odds of it making it 20 yards past Rico Pan's door are 50 to 1.
Rico Pan 3717 Mission (at Leese ― take the 14/49 to Bernal Heights, and get off two stops after it swings round the bend), 550-1565
Hungry for more? The dishes in our countdown thus far are linked below: