It was an errand-loaded Saturday afternoon, and while waiting for Mauricio the wonder shoe repairman on Guerrero to fix my canary yellow high heels, it was time to snag some lunch. It was too late in the day for me to get my lunch on at Mission Beach Café across the street, which in hindsight I'm thankful for. Not only because I stopped myself from eating pie for lunch (bad girl!), but it also forced me to venture further down Fourteenth Street to the place on the corner at South Van Ness I've wondered about, ~LOS ROSALES~, formerly New Central Café. Isaac Mejia of Don Pico's in San Bruno tipped me off to this place a while ago, back when it was New Central. He told me about a killer Mexican BLT, and a pickled pig tostada (you'd think he knows me or something). Well, the new owners must be keeping the flame alive, because the recent incarnation as Los Rosales is muy delicioso.
Lucky me, my timing was impeccable, because it was Saturday, which means fab weekend soup specials, baby! I'm a huge fan of birria de chiva (goat stew)--and with the grinning goat painted on the sign outside, it boded well. I was totally stoked to see birria tacos ($4) on the menu, and while four clams for a taco is a bit of a step up from the usual taco truck pricing I like, man, was this good birria, hella good, topped with onion and cilantro. I could have eaten three of 'em. The fish taco I tried was fine, but really no match for the birria.
Random side story: this talk of being no match is making me think of luchadores. A few Halloweens ago, I was at a bar (shocking, I know) and there was a group of guys in luchador masks. Except for one, who had his mask sitting on the bar. I asked him why he didn't have his mask on, and he glumly stated he didn't like his luchador name. He pointed to one guy and said, "See, he gets a cool name like La Fresa, and me? I'm stuck with Horchata." I almost hurt myself laughing. I gave him a pep talk, assuring him he had the baddest name of the bunch. Horchata! Hells yes. Seriously, don't mess with Horchata. He got fired up and put the mask back on.
Okay, so back to the comida. Two other things that really stood out were the super-fresh chips and the crack-like addictive salsa. I know, chips and salsa, whatever. But no, señor. This salsa was so good that I had to forcibly stop my hand, which was in cahoots with my mouth, from eating the whole basket. Seriously, like, stop it.
I dug into my high school Spanish archives and tried getting the breakdown from the friendly Michoacan chef on the salsa ingredients--looks like the chiles used include guajillo and ancho. Dude, they should bottle the stuff, it's the perfect smooth salsa, with balanced heat, tang, and flavor. Ay, dios mio. I even had my remaining salsa packed up to go. (Never done that before.)
I also tried the tostada of cueritos ($4), which are basically ribbons of pickled pigskin--like pre-chicharrones strips (without the fryer action). Very tangy, tender, and not for everyone, but I kind of dug 'em, especially with the accompanying mountain of beans, lettuce, cabbage, crema, and queso fresco.
Washed it all down with a thirst-quenching agua fresca of guava (they have a station dedicated to aguas frescas by the door). The two ladies working here were so nice--I think they were getting a kick out of the gringa eating cueritos and birria. I am so going back on another weekend for their pozole and sopes, and am tempted to take over the side room for a party with my amigos. The menu was full of authentic dishes, must try mas!
NOTE: They couldn't give me a menu; so sorry for no overall pricing details, but it's all super cheap!
301 S. Van Ness Ave.
Cross: 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Open daily 8am-8pm