Sol Food 732 4th St./Lincoln Ave., (415) 451-4765. B-L-D daily; $$. No reservations.
Though this teeny, tiny Puerto Rican spot features a festive atmosphere, it has only several short counters of seating. Less appetizing seating spills into the parking lot. Check out the super cool website and plan your meal ahead. Signature dishes include: pollo al horno (boneless, skinless, flattened chicken thighs served with pink or black beans and sweet (soft and juicy) or garlicky (crispy and flat) fried plantains); camarones criollos (large prawns sauteed in a delicious tomato-garlic-onion sauce and served with rice, avocado, and plantains); and pressed sandwiches—the jibaro features steak, garlic mayo, and crunchy garlic plantains, and the Cubano has roast pork, ham, mustard pickles, and Swiss cheese. Vinegary hot sauce on the table adds to the flavor, and a heavy plantain keeps napkins from blowing away. Fresh limeade and orange-mango iced tea are served up in mason jar glasses.
If the crowdedness of this small take-out place sounds unappealing (the kitchen here is stuffed with almost as many cooks as the counters are with diners), or if it is overflowing when you arrive, opt for their branch at 901 Lincoln Ave./3rd St., (415) 256-8900. It is just a block away and has much more seating, but it doesn’t serve breakfast and can also get very crowded with happy diners.
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image ©2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers