The space that previously held Foxsister/Great Gold in the Mission is now home to DONAJI, a casual Oaxacan restaurant from the couple behind Tamalitos Catering, known for their stand at the Outer Sunset farmers’ market, CUESA’s Mission Community Market, and VA farmers’ market. Chef Isaí Cuevas and his wife Ally were doing a lot of lunch catering prior to the pandemic, and after the pandemic hit, they were trying to figure out their next steps. They spent seven months with Cuevas’s family in Zimatlan, Oaxaca, during the pandemic, and went even deeper into their love of maíz, from planting it to grinding it while they were there (they even brought a molino back with them). After an amazing offer from the landlord “seemed to fall out of the sky,” they decided to pursue opening their first brick and mortar on 24th Street, in the heart of the Mission.
Great Gold’s clubby booths and dark interior has been replaced with an airy, bright, colorful look, with bold Oaxacan artwork and pink and turquoise walls. Chef Cuevas “got his chops” working for chef Jan Birnbaum as a sous chef at (then) Epic Roasthouse, who was his mentor during the six years he worked there, followed by a gig as executive chef at Liverpool Lil’s.
His menu at Donaji is a celebration of masa, starting with some truly fantastic tamales made with organic/non-GMO masa harina from Alma Semillera (until they get their own molino going). The exquisitely tender and flavorful tamales include chicken, beef, cheese and peppers, pork, or vegan for $4.50—get some to bring home, thank me later (they’re even selling them from the front door 7am-9am if you want to grab some for lunch on your way to your morning coffee…or work!). There are also empanadas ($8) on the menu, and loaded sopes ($10). Of course, we had to have Cuevas’s enchiladas de mole ($15), two taquitos of chicken (or sweet potato), simmered in such a refined mole negro. There’s pozole, tacos, quesabirria, salads, and Oaxacan totopos, plus a delightful Oaxacan chocolate tart with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. Everything is presented with such care and composition.
Since Donaji is open for brunch and lunch (for now), there are chilaquiles ($14), huevos rancheros ($13), and entomatadas (tortillas dipped in salsa with cheese inside) with steak and eggs ($18)—I can’t wait to try this dish next. So yay, here’s your new brunch spot!
They hope to have their beer and wine license in a couple weeks, but for now, you can enjoy their iced horchata cafe and aguas frescas. It’s fast casual, so you order at the host stand and they bring your food to your table. What a welcome addition to the city—pay them a visit soon. Open Wed-Sun 9am-3pm. 3161 24th St. at Shotwell.
The exquisite enchiladas de mole at Donaji. Photo: © tablehopper.com.