As is common with a lot of taquerias in SF, Papalote is pretty standard looking. The layout is what you’d expect, long skinny kitchen along the wall with a register at the end and a few small tables near the entrance. The crew is friendly and things move pretty quickly. There is a nice grill smell in the air, the type of smell that comes from well seasoned meat hitting hot metal (a personal favorite of ours). There are two locations, one in the Mission and one right off the Panhandle. We haven’t been to the larger Mission location, so this post will be in regards to the Panhandle location.
We wouldn’t be surprised when looking at this post if you asked either one or both of the following questions: Is the dish JUST chips and salsa, and why is that salsa orange? To answer those questions (even if you didn’t ask them), yes, just the chips and salsa, and yes, it is orange. Don’t fear, there is a good reason for both. There are two obvious parts to this dish, the chips and the salsa. The chips themselves are pretty unremarkable. They seem to be bought vs. made, and really are no different from what you may get at your average neighborhood barbecue. Upon seeing the quality of the chips our hopes started to waver until we hit the salsa. We gotta say, this salsa is unlike any other we’ve had before. It has a very rich and meaty tomato flavor, almost bordering on a pasta sauce, but not in a weird way. It’s got a great spice level that helps balance out the roasted tomatoes and really is very unique. The blend of flavors is fantastic and it instantly kicks up any dish it’s added too. The salsa has been featured on the Food Network and has gotten rave reviews from Bobby Flay himself. It’s been such a hit they’ve begun to bottle and sell the stuff online. It’s a fire roasted tomato salsa, and that’s about all the info they will give you since they’re a bit tight lipped about the recipe (we don’t blame them, this stuff is orange gold).
It’s worth it to go to Papalote for no other reason that to try the salsa. The rest of the food there is great. They’ve even been voted best burrito a few times, so it’s a good bet your going to have some tasty food. We’d even suggest buying some of their salsa online, it’s that good.
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