Tucked among the Mission's rampant taquerias, it's possible to find authentic regional Mexican food.
An appealing new spot advertises its roots in its name: La Oaxaquena. Its tidy storefront, with tiny blue formica-topped tables and wooden chairs -- there are a few more seats perched at a counter in the back -- is nicely decorated with textiles, pottery, and folk art from its namesake home in Southern Mexico.
The Oaxacan specialties featured on the menu include the enormous tlayuda, a crunchy giant tostada topped with quesillo cheese imported from Oaxaca, chopped lettuce, and your choice of a dozen different toppings ($12.50 with meat, $10 without), including Milanesa (chopped breaded pork), carne asada, jamon, longaniza sausage with potatoes, chorizo, and three different kinds of chicken: stewed (tinga), spicy (asado), and cooked with tequila. We tried cecina, a tasty cured spicy pork. It's big enough to feed two or three, or four as part of a meal.
We weren't thrilled with the rather ordinary tilipia fish taco ($3.75), or the carne asada taco ($1.50) -- you can find better versions elsewhere in the neighborhood. Much, much better are the sopes (one for $3.50, three for $8 with meat; $2.50/$6.50 without), thick slabs of masa spread with pureed beans and topped with quesillo, lettuce, and your choice of meats (we tried the chewy, beefy carne asada).
We also liked the homemade tamales, which you can have classically wrapped in a corn husk ($2.50) or Oaxaca-style in a green plaintain leaf ($3.50). The chicken with mole sauce was very good; other versions include pork with salsa verde, rajas (peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos, and cheese), and spinach and cheese.In addition to the usual bebidas (fresh-squeezed juices, licuados of strawberry or plaintains, horchata), you can sip fresh coconut juice from a trimmed coconut ($1.60).
We love La Oaxaquena's convenient hours: like an old-fashioned San Francisco bar, it's open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. (You must slake your thirst for Oaxacan antojitos elsewhere during the four hours they're closed. Good luck.)
La Oaxaquena is also a bakery, though as with most Mexican panaderias, the baked goods look better than they taste. We saw a huge sheet cake being adorned with frosting and maraschino cherries. Very sweetly, they gave us a free slice packed up to go when we left.
It looked better than it tasted.
La Oaxaquena 2128 Mission (at 17th Street), 621-5446.