Some of the small restaurants in the Mission have been there for ages. They are small madre y padre places featuring authentic foods from their native countries. There are so many it seems difficult to try them all, or even get back to some once you have tried it. The food is usually good and affordable. I've hit up any number of these places over the years, but since I don't live near there anymore, sometimes returning can be a haul. Every now and then I do get an opportunity to revisit an old favorite and recently I had the chance dine at Balompie Cafe for the first time in a really long time.
It's Salvadoran food and walking into the place it really hadn't changed at all since the last time I was here over a decade ago. Just like the first time I was here, the place is still known for its papusas--thick handmade corn tortillas stuff with meat, cheese, whatever. The menu is full of Salvadoran faves, but let's face it, when you go somewhere that is known for something, the majority of time it's worth it to go with that. I did want to try a couple other things too and fortunately they have combo plates where you can get a little bit of everything, which is what I did.
A beef and cheese papusa, fried yucca, chicharron--cooked, then fried pork and a pastel--a little fried ball of yellow cornmeal filled with shrimp and carrots. It also comes with sides of housemade salsa and a vinegary cole slaw which they set on the table in a big bowl. All for $11.75. Not too bad, though kind of right on the edge for pricing. The twice cooked pork was a bit too cooked and a little dry. It helped--a little--to mix it with the slaw and salsa. The pastel was fresh out of the fryer but a little on the small side and it had more carrots than shrimp. They were kind of ground up together inside. Not sure what I was expecting but this didn't make much of an impression for flavor or anything. The papusa was definitely the standout here. It was beefy and cheesy, crispy outside and I loved the sweet taste of the corn tortilla shell. It seems they are continuing to do their one thing well. So much so that I decided to get a couple of them to go because it's what I should have done in the first place.
I got a pork and a cheese. They are $2.50 each and come with a heaping portion of the slaw and the spicy salsa. I had these 2 days later and I just popped them in the toaster oven to heat them up. They were just as good as they were at the restaurant. There is a reason they give you the slaw and salsa, put them both on the papusa. They add a whole other flavor level and texture to these babies that is totally worth it. Each had plenty of filling. The pork was like a chopped pulled pork and the cheese was oozing out the side when heated. I could easily have bought (and eaten) more of these and probably should have. Very tasty little pockets of meat and or cheese.
I guess if someone tells you a place is good for something then it is probably best to stick with that option. No place is this more evident than at Balompie Cafe, it's all about the papusa and if you are going to go there, get them. You don't even have to eat in, get them to go, they will be just as good later, the next day or whenever you decide to eat them. Don't forget the cole slaw and salsa either, I just want to make sure you get the full experience. Your welcome.