Gracias Madre - San Francisco, CA
Much to The SE's dismay, Gracias Madre was not a place an eater can just casually decide to visit. The SE hunkered down for a 45-minute wait and stared torturously as plates of decadent vegan Mexican food passed by. Perhaps moved by The SE's best sad-puppy eyes and piteous look of despair, the host seated The SE at a shared table next to a friendly looking pair a mere 15 minutes later.
The SE poured a cup of water and picked up the menu, eyes bouncing greedily between all the options to choose from as only a fellow SE would understand. Hunger and greed getting the best of The SE, the totopos and bowl uno were both ordered.
The SE glanced around the restaurant while awaiting the arrival of the highly anticipated meal. Dim lighting and bulky wood finishes gave off that distinctive cantina feel. Better yet, tables set up in the entrance room allow eaters the option to dine in an "indoor-outdoor" seating area, the benefits of this being fairly obvious (less ogling of food by passerby, less obsessive checking of belongings to make sure they aren't stolen, less of that chilly San Francisco wind).
At last, The SE spotted a waiter arriving with the totopos. They arrived plainly dressed with a simple cilantro garnish. After taking a bite, The SE realized these were anything BUT simple.
House made chips were coated in a thin film of spicy red salsa that was seemingly melded to the chip, yet somehow the chip remained crisp and crunchy. The drizzle of cashew crema added another layer of creamy heat to the chip, balanced out by a squeeze of lime. Each chip delivered a fresh spicy-creamy-tart flavor explosion in The SE's mouth, providing never-ending incentive to keep picking up a new chip.
After picking up a chip and revealing the white bottom of the plate, The SE knew it was time to stop as the main dish and failed stand-up test were fast approaching. Bowl Uno soon arrived but The SE knew it was too late - after two (delicious) bites, the waiter had to be called over to pack up the rest.
With a shake of the head, The SE sighed at having, yet again, let the eyes do all the ordering. Nevertheless, The SE deemed the meal a success as not only had a vegan treasure been discovered, but now there would also be breakfast to boot. Win-win.
Gracias Madre is open daily from 11:00am - 10:00pm (Sunday - Tuesday) and 11:00pm (Wednesday - Saturday) at 2211 Mission Street. Plan on a wait as even their bar seats are reservation only.
Pinky's up, fellow SE's!