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Hayes Valley's Cala Opens for Tacos During the Day 

Wednesday, Nov 18 2015
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When I ate at Cala some weeks ago, I was impressed with the 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.

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 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 2 p.m.

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 carbs and protein with the rice and beans. And the pork chile verde, carnitas-esque after all, came studded with hot pepperes. 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.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Bio:
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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