Restaurants & Bars 2

snacks and a drink at Zocalo....

susancinsf | Jan 29, 200501:25 AM

I've really been wanting to try Zocalo. Nixed it for my business lunch, see other posts above and below, based on reported noise levels. However, I drove by at around four Thursday, after my meeting, and since it was open but almost empty, that seemed like a good chance to give it a try.

First impressions: really, really nice room. In all respects, particularly the tile floors and high ceilings, this place feels like the real deal: could have been in my old neighborhood (Colonia Condessa, DF), for sure. Have to disagree with a prior poster btw, that the big screen TV (I only saw one) detracts: I thought it was right at home.

Kudos also for the seating arrangements. Between the windows lining the front room, the beautiful bar, and the fireplace in the back, I don't think there is a bad seat in the place. I particularly liked the two-top booths. Comfortable and well spaced.Indeed, the amount of space between tables seemed almost luxurious by SF standards. No having to share your conversation with neighboring tables here.

Second impressions: sure, it was an off hour, but surely someone could have cleaned up a bit: both the bar and the restrooms looked like a big party had just ended. Indeed, I had originally planned to sit at that great bar, and chat up the bartender about the fairly impressive tequila collection, but was turned off by the unwiped counter, so took one of the booths instead.

Ordered their top shelf Margarita: I could see pulp, but it didn't taste of fresh lime. I think they just overdid the Contreau. Generous size though, served on the rocks. Next time I will try one of the tequilas straight instead....

The server brought out fresh tasting chips and a trio of salsas. One was chipotle, which I ignored (I am not a chipotle fan). However, the other two were quite good. First off, the pico de gallo actually was picante, with honest to goodness non-genetically- altered jalapeno. Jalapeno seems to be a forgotten ingredient in pico de gallo most places in the US. However, the real winner was the tomatillo salsa. Not a particularly spicy version, but very fresh tasting and, most importantly, I could really taste the tomatillos. I'd guess they used fresh and made it in house. Big thumbs up, very addictive, and like the atmosphere, just a bit transporting. I'd go back just for more of the salsa de tomatillo...

Food: ordered two antojitos from the lunch menu, sopes and shrimp ceviche.

Sopes: three to the plate. The sope base was appropriately thick but tasted a bit overdone. As for toppings: One with shredded chicken and chipotle salsa was forgettable, but then, as I said, am not a chipotle fan. Another with black beans and thick crema Mexican was tasty (especially with a bit of that tomatillo sauce). The third sope had more of the forgettable chicken, but had a nice mole topping. I am not really a big mole fan either, but it was interesting enough that I would consider ordering an entree with mole, perhaps enchiladas.

Ceviche: it was a HUGE serving for six dollars, attractively served on tortilla chip triangles with a coleslaw in the middle. Since I was there basically between lunch and dinner, I am wondering if I was charged lunch prices but got dinner portions? (At dinner ceviche is $8.50, but then, even at that higher price it would have been a fairly generous portion) As for the ceviche itself, it was overly salted, and lacked any other depth of flavor. A shame, since the shrimp did taste fresh, and the portion was so generous. As for the cole slaw, well, the less said the better. Don't think I would order the ceviche again.

Service was efficient and friendly, but then, at four in the afternoon I seemed to be the only patron who wasn't a friend of someone working there...

Bottom line: I don't know that I would want to go when it is very crowded (while it was quite peaceful at four pm I could see its potential to be very noisy given the hard surfaces and large rooms), and while the food isn't consistent, there was enough of interest in my snack, and the room was inviting enough, that I will go back to sample more....

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