Dear readers – I’m back after a few weeks of R&R after a knee surgery where I had friends delivering *gasp* healthy non-grub food for my bed-ridden self. I’ve now received clearance from my physical therapist to venture back out into the world, though checking out Mariposa Cafeteria may not have been her first suggestion.
1599 Tennessee Street
Corner of 26th St. & Tennessee St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Hours: M-F 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Sat. 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
I drove all the way out to Dogpatch at lunchtime on Monday based on a tip from Fran (yet again). This place isn’t a secret for the laborers and other blue-collar folk that frequent it, but only a few of the yuppies know of its existence.
This dingey hole-in-the-wall in the middle of low industrial office buildings apparently serves up a mean Roast Pork special. I was advised several times to just get the order for takeout, and not dine in. Once I arrived there, I could see why. It’s not THAT bad if you’re into serious grub…but you must expect old yellowing fluorescent lighting, fake wood laminated lunch tables, metal chairs with red vinyl seat covers, and a lot of men in dirty white tshirts, blue jumpsuits, MUNI uniforms, and such.
The cafeteria is indeed there. The Chinese ladies behind the counter will ask you for your order before your eyes have finished focusing on the grimey menu behind their heads. But save your time. Just say “Roast Pork to go” and move up to the head of the line. I was warned that their attitude would be less than Four Seasons-stellar, but given my deer in the headlights look, I think they were pretty patient. $7.50 later, I was initiated into the club.
Note: I went on a Monday by chance, and the Monday special is “Roast Pork.” And apparently they sell out of this stuff pretty quickly, so get there before 12:15pm and it’s ok to double park outside. I’m not sure if they sell the pork on the other days, but I’m guessing they do. You don’t want to be stuck having to order the other more standard Chinese cafeteria fare (like greasy chow mein or fried rice) – I quickly glanced at the prices on the menu and assessed that the Chinese food plates were a little overpriced.
So now about this Roast Pork dish. The brown bag that housed my takeout bag was heavy! This was gonna be good. The Roast Pork special consists of slabs of, well, tender roast pork over a bed of rice and steamed cabbage, with a generous slather of a sort of soy-like thick sauce over it. Not as sweet as teriyaki sauce, but of similar consistency. We’re talking SLABS.
I’m usually impressed and half-expectant of portions to allow me one additional leftover meal. This helping could easily serve as 1 lunch “in the now”, and 1.5 leftover meals for later.
What about the taste? Different. But still good. What I mean is that I wish I had expectations set for me. This is not your BBQ type of roast pork, or carnitas, or anything vaguely Southern, or Mexican, and not Chinese like the roast pork that’s in the baos. I think this is more Filipino-style, but I’m not an expert. Maybe it’s another common type of flavoring that I’d never had before. Basically, the pork is roasted with a lot of black pepper, and other than salt, I think that’s it. So the pork is peppery, and with the soy-ish sauce, rice, and cabbage, it definitely takes on a different tangy taste. Got that? But it’s still melt in your mouth, and I still can’t get over the portions.
- Did I mention the large helping of pork?
- Efficient service
- Good for one of those “let’s go on an adventure to a real dive” type of meals
- Rumored grumpy waitresses behind the counter, though I didn’t experience it
- Kind of a depressing sit-down environment
- If you don’t like the special, don’t bother
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I’m also experimenting with embedding Google maps into these posts, but even the smallest size takes up a lot of room, so I’m keeping it at the bottom of the post. Let me know if you want a map….