Lunch today was the Friday special, a whole fried tilapia fish (pescado frito), at Sol Food in San Rafael. Despite the drenching rain, the line at lunch time was out the door. Luckily this was mostly for take-out orders, and I was able to snag a seat at the crowded counter. A bonus for eating in was the warmth radiating from the floor heater under the counter and getting my feet toasty for the first time it seems in days. While I waited, I studied the vintage family photographs and scenes from Puerto Rico under the glass top of the distressed counter.
Generally, I'm not a fan of tilapia. But this fish was prepared so masterfully, I was bowled over. Slashed deeply on the diagonal down to the bone, the exposed surfaces of the flesh were fried to a deep brown crunch and stayed crackly even after the squeeze of lime and dousing with the spicy and vinegary pique (homemade hot sauce). The flesh was still moist and not dried out at all, and it was so satisfying to crunch on the crispy skin and brown crackly edges.
I loved the rice and beans too. Bits of potato and briny stuffed olives blended with zesty sofrito to season the pink beans ladled over soft short-grain rice. With a splash of pique on this too, the combination was delicious magic in the mouth.
This was accompanied by some beautiful organic greens with a light vinagrette and a wedge of ripe avocado. Topped with some garlic, the tostones were made with firm, green plantains.
Café con leche was good, made with d'Aqui or Yaucono coffee from Puerto Rico. The milk and sweetening were well-balanced to the lighter roast drip brew, but I guess I was hoping for the stronger syrupy Cuban-style.
Lunch set me back $16.11, plus some change for the tip jar.