I’m always in search of awesome tamales so last night a couple of us popped by the newly reopened Roosevelt Tamale Parlor to check it out.
Bottom Line: It’s only been open a week so they’re still getting on their feet and the menu is really small but if you like the Primavera stand at the Ferry Building, you’ll like the new Roosevelt.
Personally, I’m ambivalent.
I love Mexican food. I’m from Texas so I have a special affinity for Sonoran cuisine but love the food from all the regions/cities - Puebla, Yucatan, Veracruz/Baja, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Mexico City to name a few. My undergraduate degree is Latin American Studies, I’ve spent time in Mexico/Latin America and my husband is a Californian of Mexican/Italian heritage so I’ve even come to respect Cal-Mex. My point is that like a New Yorker eating pizza or a Bostonian looking for chowder – I come to the table with knowledge & baggage so I’m a hard customer to please. I’ll definitely check back in a couple of months because they have a lot of potential but right now the food is not particularly interesting to me.
Salsa with stone ground organic tostaditos (free) – The salsa was deep orange and flavorful but didn’t have the slightest bit of spice to it, the tostaditos were fresh but I wonder how they will go over in SF where people seem to have a strong preference to thin, crispy chips.
Guacamole with stone ground organic tostaditos ($4.50) – The guacamole was fresh but had no detectable spice, onion or cilantro.
Ricotta and Squash Blossom Quesadillas served with guacamole ($8.95) – The tortilla was freshly made and beautifully thick. The filling, while fresh, was unbalanced – the ricotta & onion overpowered the squash. And once again, there was no discernable seasoning.
Red Mole Chicken Tamales (2) ($9.95) served in banana leaf with side of refried beans and cabbage salad. The mole was quite good with a slight kick and there was a good filling to masa ratio. The refried beans were black and pretty good. The cabbage salad would have been a lot better if it had been chilled and hadn’t been put on such a hot plate.
Poblano Chile stuffed with corn, cream & cheese ($9.95) served with rice, salsa fresca and tortillas. This was the dish I ordered. The chile was fantastic, properly roasted, filled with super-fresh flavorful corn. The rice was nice (I love it when places take the time to use stock to infuse rice with flavor). The salsa fresca was a total waste – it was almost entirely tomato & onion with way too much onion – and it was served as if it was a side dish, I had as much salsa fresca as my friend had black beans. I guess that’s what I didn’t understand about this plate – the chile was served atop the rice with the salsa fresca on one side and two fresh tortillas on the other side. I didn’t see the point of the tortillas – I wanted to savor the flavor of the roasted chile so I surely wasn’t going to wrap it in a big thick tortilla (and if they want you to do that why not just list is as chile tacos on the menu?) and the only thing left of the plate was rice (starch inside starch?) and the salsa. I thought it odd and couldn’t think if any time I’ve ever been offered such a combination.
I kinda wanted to order a calabacita tamale to go to try later but I was so stuffed I couldn’t do it. They do have the signature Roosevelt round beef tamale & gravy on the menu as well but we didn’t try it.
We all had the melon, mint, lime agua fresca ($3) which was nice. They don’t have their beer/wine license yet.
The remodel is nice enough but I’m sad about the disappearance of the 24th Street of my youth. The super cool St. Francis soda fountain was awesome, the owners ran the place, knew the names of the neighborhood kids who came for ice cream in the afternoon, there was the window where you could watch them make candy and their chocolate-covered English toffee was the best I ever had – now its just another joint that serves boring, average food with rotating 20-something tattooed hipsters that barely acknowledge customers or keep the place clean. Then there’s Pop’s across the street, which used to be an good, dark old-guy bar – now its run by...you guessed it...20-something tattooed hipsters who destroyed the selection on the jukebox, stripped the place down & put in windows so you see just how depressing and grimy it really is. Now Roosevelt has fallen prey to “progress”...the whole time we were there, the only patrons were white - every time I went to the old Roosevelt it seemed like at least 80-90% of the patrons were Latino men & families, the change in demographic in the heart of the Mission just down the street from La Raza, it just seems messed up and sad.