SF is such a great town to have lunch. Here is yet another fabulous place to go.
El Encanto is owned by the same fellow who owns Bert's Burger Bowl and Bert's Tacqueria here in SF. 'Nando has a classier joint in El Encanto. It's sort of fancied-up Mexican home-cooking, but with great presentation in a lovely setting. And when I say "Mexican", I don't mean the border cooking/antojitos that are usually sold under that moniker. I'm talking what folks in Mexico actually eat.
We arrived at the restaurant (just W of Guadalupe on the S side of Agua Fria - in the old La Tortulia restaurant) at 10 till noon. The place was dead. Nobody was at the front to seat us. We waited patiently, then not-so-patiently, and then finally resorted to sticking our heads in the kitchen and calling, "Hello?" A waitress saw us, muttered something, and walked off.
The phone started ringing. It rang for a full minute and then stopped. After about another minute, the host popped out, frowned at the phone, smiled at us, and seated us. From that moment on (and the inexplicable wait had given the experience an authentic "Mexican" feel!), everything was wonderful.
The restaurant is in a nice old adobe (with PLENTY of parking, in lot-deprived SF downtown), with hardwood floors and viga-d ceilings. Expensive (quite decent, tho amazingly overpriced - but it is SF) art hangs on the walls, and the place has a nice calm feeling. White clothes on the tables, starched white napkins, and elegant Guy DeGrenne flatware. In lawyer work clothes, Gina and I were the most dressed-up people in sight - most folks in sweaters and jeans.
Our waitress (Heaven be praised) was not the gal who'd glowered and muttered at us from the kitchen. Ours was smiling, friendly, and attentive. (Yay!)
The chow was reasonably priced. Gina had a big breakfast, so she just grabbed the El Indio salad ($5). This was sort of a "Mexican waldorf" rolled in a big Romaine leaf. It was pretty enormous for $5, especially considering the prime real estate El Encanto occupies. I had the Pastel de Tortilla ($10), sort of a cheese-covered tower enchilada made with crisp tortilla strips, green pipian sauce, nuts and pork loin. It came with a lovely baby green salad and a couple of different dressings dripped around. When the meal was served, the waitress brought around fresh HOT (right out of the oven - 400° F) rolls and butter.
I have to stop here to comment favorably on the presentation. It really added to the experience. Each plate was a work of art. Not at all what you'd expect at these prices in this location.
I had to grab dessert (choice of a chocolate silk tart, a lavender creme brulee, a coffee flan, or various goat cheese crepes), and I chose the flan ($6).
I don't say this lightly: that was the best flan I've ever had. (Gina, too.) The consistency was amazing: creamy, yet actually chewy and caramel-y. It was drizzled with a coffee/caramel sauce and covered in slivered almonds. The plate had been drizzled with various fresh fruit syrup/sauces (lime, strawberry, and something else) to look like a little tree and stars. It was WONDERFUL.
Total bill ran $29 after tip (we didn't drink - working in the afternoon; I had iced tea and Gina just stuck with water with lemon). What a great experience! We will be back - I urge you to give it a shot.