(OMG ADM, aye Dio mio)
Despite repeated queries on the board, there was never a Chowhound response about this place. So while in SF today, I stopped by Mexico au Parc which calls itself a fresh Mexican Grill.
The name and concept has been putting me off. Wrong. This is going to be a regular stop inexpensive, fresh food that is interesting and delicious. So bear with me here and dont be put off by some of the items.
In addition to grilled meat and fish, theres a steam table holding stewed meats and beans. A side table has five delicious salsas, limes and chopped onions. VERY vegetarian friendly to boot.
The idea is to choose your filling for the taco, sope or burrito. Beans are black, pinto or refried.
Meats are mole chicken, green mole chicken, tinga chicken, carnitas, chorizo, al pastor, broiled steak, broiled chicken, and cochinita pibil (marinated pork with achiote sauce and banana leaf).
Tortillas are flour, whole wheat, spinach and tomato I told you to bear with me.
For my huge sope ($3 no kidding) I chose carnitas and whole beans. A layer of delicious fresh tasting beans was piled high with thick chucks of succulent, delicious, deeply porky carnitas. It was generously sprinkled with crumbled cojira cheese, drizzled with sour cream (really crema) and topped with a slice of avocado. It was pure porky pleasure.
They ask if you want hot or mild sauce on top. I decided to skip it to try the five salsas at the salsa bar. For good measure, I sprinkled the sope with chopped red onion that had finely diced jalapeno.
My favorite was the smoky red chipotle with some chopped jalapeno and a nice medium heat. Next was the spicy-hot brown tomatillo with chopped white onions. The mild salsa verde was delicious too. There was also a nice deep brown vinegary salsa I couldnt identify.
Even though it isnt tomato season, the salsa fresca was good and I saved it for the chips CHIPS. Yes, this came with a grease-stained brown bag of medium thickness chips that had a good corn flavor.
Since I didnt know how big portions would be, I ordered a salmon taco. ($3.05 yes, five cents). A nice generous piece of salmon was on two corn tortillas with a huge pile of thread thin but crispy iceberg on top. I added the salsa verde. This was excellent, but oddly oily, in a good way. After eating half the fish and lettuce so I could fold the taco, it kept slipping out of the napkin I was holding it with. Surely they wouldnt grill it in lard. Whatever it was, Id order this again.
Arroz con Leche ($1.95) was a large container of sweet rice pudding, the top sprinkled with cinnamon and strewn with raisins. It was not the usual creamy version, but a very homey pudding.
Other interesting things on the menu:
Besides omelettes, scrambles ($3.60 - $4.25), huevos rancheros ($4.75) and huevos a la Mexicana ($4.25) there are molletes, described as toasted bread topped with refried beans, melted cheese and pico de gallo sauce ($2.50).
Unique version of French toast prepared with sweet potato bread, cream cheese, marmalade and crispy bacon on the side ($5.25)
Paradise salad baby greens with apple vinaigrette, apples pecans and cojita cheese ($5). Add meat for an extra $1.80 uh, could I have that with carnitas on top.
They also have some large, delicious looking chile rellenos. There are fajitas: Al Pastor, chorizo, shrimp, salmon, vegetable and mushroom. A side of grilled garlic mushrooms can be purchased for $1.65.
There are super nachos $6.35 with beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and choice of meat. Uh, could I have carnitas on that. Can you tell I really liked the carnitas?
There are veggie and tofu tacos and burritos including a tofu ranchero burrito. Cheese and mushroom quesadillas are offered. For the non vegetarians there are also shrimp, chicken or steak quesadillas.
The also have tamales ($2.20). Darn. Didnt see that till I got home. Double darn, they have Mexican hot chocolate. In addition to rice pudding there is flan ($2.25).
Other drinks include aqua frescas, fresh orange juice, Mexican sodas, Snapple, Nantucket nectars, Calistoga, Orangina, Diet Coke, beer, wine and coffee.
It is a modern, lovely space with large sunny windows that look out onto pretty South Park near Café Centro.
It seems they have other restaurants in the city, none of which Ive been to. Dont know how similar they are to this one. Reading a review of one, Azteca Taqueria, it didnt sound the same. They also own La Fonda, Casa Mexicana (2), and La Tortilla.
Mexico au Parc
24 S Park St
San Francisco, CA 94107
415 495 0409
Enthusiastic reports on Yelp. From a long review on Burritoeater (link below).
Slices of jack cheese were gloriously melted upon the steamed tortilla not quite to El Castillito-like levels of mind-blow, but pretty rad nonetheless.
Mustache rating 7.88 out of 10.