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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Tacos at Tacos Cala Are Terrific

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

When I ate at Cala some weeks ago, I was impressed with with frito mixto, the tamal de mijilloes, and the mixiote of black cod with red chile adobo. All delicious, and all — at $15-$36 — priced for dinner. To make better use of Cala’s space (it fronts onto Fell, with its rear end on a weird block of Hickory Street that doesn’t see much traffic, vehicular or pedestrian), chef-owner Gabriela Cámara has opened things up during the day for tacos.

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
First, a few caveats. Although some people are referring to Tacos Cala as a “back-alley taco stand,” that connotes something a little darker. But if you use SketchFactor or Nextdoor to plot your way around town, go away and leave Cala to the rest of us.

Additionally, although these tacos come with an impressive pedigree, you will not find carnitas or carne asada, or plain chicken for the gringos; nor do they come al vapor with chopped cilantro and radishes. There are four to choose among: a pork chile verde with green beans, rajas poblanos with potatoes, Swiss card, and soft-boiled egg (all for $3.50), and you can only get them on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

click to enlarge This is the entrance on Hickory. - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • This is the entrance on Hickory.
If the price appears steep, it’s not. All of these tacos are filled to bursting, to where it’s almost inadvisable to pick them up. Sitting on a bed of rice and black beans, the rajas poblanos (or strips of poblano pepper) are just spicy enough, and cooked down to where they’re beginning to lose their defined edges. Should the idea of a boiled-egg taco sound like an after-thought, it actually comes off as a perfect trinity of carb-and protein with the rice and beans. And the pork chile verde, carnitas-esque after all, came studded with. To wash it down, you can choose from a lemon chia or Jamaica (hibiscus) agua fresca, straight from the hive-shaped vessels you expect, or else an iced coffee horchata.

While people were crowded around the one table that serves the back of the restaurant, with a window in the kitchen, Cámara herself poked around, saying hello. At one point, she climbed the stairs halfway, paused, and looked down, seemingly surprised that a small menu would be such a draw — and maybe realizing that Tacos Cala is going to outgrow its allotted space, soon. - PLK

Tacos Cala, 149 Fell (but accessed via Hickory), 415-660-7701.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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