Number 22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

Montecristo_Pupusas.JPG
Jonathan Kauffman
Pupusas revueltas with rice and beans from Montecristo.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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Just a few streets down from McLaren Park, on a stretch of Geneva that takes you from San Francisco to Daly City and then Brisbane in a matter of blocks, is Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo, whose exterior is draped in Christmas lights and whose interior is clean and sparse. The television is always on -- telenovelas, a soccer game -- and the staff occupy the place as if it's their home, stopping by tables to visit for a few minutes or gathering around a table to share a snack.

The informality is not a measure of quality: The restaurant's Salvadoran food is some of the best in the city. Montecristo's pupusas are patted out with the surest of hands, forming the masa exterior as thin as a few millimeters at its center. The pork, beans, and cheese inside, spread all the way to the edges, are blended so thoroughly that, by the time the griddled corn cake is blistery and a little crusty, they alloy into an oozy, meaty mass.

A pupusa -- even a great pupusa -- is a little blank on its own. Its flavor explodes when you pile on the curtido, a crunchy and vinegary cabbage slaw with a big note of oregano, and then pour tomato salsa over top, adding on some chile heat. Comforting without being dull, filling without tasting like a grease trap, Montecristo's pupusas are proof that if you have a few crumpled bills in your pocket in this town you can still eat well.

Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo, 2101 Geneva (at Carrizal), 334-2326.

Other favorites in this series:
23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's
24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan
25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack
26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli
27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke
28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich
29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket
30: Custard buns from City View
31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami
32: Panisse frites from Frances
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach.
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Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

2101 Geneva Ave., San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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