Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, May 18, 2012

El Nuevo Frutilandia: Everything Old is New Again

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Batido de Guava - CAMILA MCHUGH
  • Camila McHugh
  • Batido de Guava

El Nuevo Frutilandia is figuring out what it means to be "nuevo" again, changing ownership after over 30 years on 24th Street. Long ago an ice cream and shake shop, Frutilandia now serves up an array of Puerto Rican and Cuban specialties -- something of a rarity in San Francisco. A slew of seasonal shakes and juices are still on the menu, made from a variety of fresh fruits including Puerto Rican guanabana (kind of apricot-like, and fun to say) and mamey (a nuttier fruit with a denser consistency).

Though neither the previous owners nor the new proprietors, Rafael and Tyrisha Frias, hail from the Caribbean isles, Frutilandia remains an outpost of Caribbean cuisine. The chef, Gary Millar, who had done some cooking for Frutilandia before but has now come on full time, is from northern Puerto Rico. Millar grew up cooking with his mother, and suffuses the menu with the comfort of good home cooking. 

click to enlarge CAMILA MCHUGH
  • Camila McHugh
Camila McHugh
A simple, chicken soup with large pieces of carrot and zucchini simmered in a flavorful broth was delicious -- inspiring something of a Proustian moment for the chicken soup your grandmother used to make. If your grandmother had been Puerto Rican and not just heating up bowls of Campbell's.
The rest of our meal at El Nuevo Frutilandia on their opening day this Wednesday, while not quite as poetic, was certainly satisfying. Frias waited attentively on tables, eager to elaborate on the menu, reference her experience in Cuba when she traveled there with a dance group. She hand blended our shakes, momentarily drowning out the lively salsa that played in the background.

Plantains and yucca are the center pieces of Caribbean cuisine. They made their way onto the menu fried into savory or sweet fritters, mashed and stuffed with meat for an alcapurria or ground into the masa for a puertorriqueño, something of a Puerto Rican-style tamale.

The fried sweet plantains, a typical snack both Cuba in Puerto Rico, were our favorite. The sweet emulsion of banana, oil, and a crisped exterior had us licking our fingers. The Cuban sandwich was also delicious. The roasted pork, however, didn't stand alone as well as it did smothered in mustard and pressed between pickles, swiss cheese, and ham. The roasted pork on the entree platter, outshone by the beans and rice that accompanied it, tasted slightly salty rather than of the pineapple and Caribbean marinade the menu promised.

In its transition, El Nuevo Frutilandia hopes to appeal to a younger crowd, using promotions like Yelp deals. Though the new Frutilandia team has some fine-tuning to do, they certainly have the enthusiasm as they serve up Caribbean cuisine with the simple goal of "getting the word out that its delicious."

Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , ,

About The Author

Camila McHugh


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"