My son Salvador loves crispy tacos, so I ordered a Blue Corn Taco a la carte, and a bowl of rice, beans and cheese from the kid’s menu. For me I ordered a bowl of the Green Chile Stew with Pork, and decided to try the Sangria. When my friend arrived we decided to share the stew and order an entrée and then share that too. She walked to the counter and ordered the Carne Asada Dinner, an order of Sopaipillas (Native American fry bread that look like small pillows of dough), and a Pacifico beer.
They first brought out the Green Chile Stew and food for Sal. Sal loved his ground beef taco. My friend and I ate the stew and were instantly warmed with the spice and flavor. There was a small dollop of sour cream in the middle of the stew and a house made flour tortilla on the side. It is hard to describe how satisfying the stew is with its spicy hot chile flavor mixed with slow cooked Niman Ranch pork. It is a traditional as it gets. And on a cold rainy day it is exactly what I wanted. Then came the Carne Asada Plate, tender pork, slow roasted in red chile and spices, and served with a tortilla. The side of Sopaipillas was beautifully cooked. The Sopaipillas are great with a bit of honey and perfectly combine with the chile, meat, rice and beans.
I enjoyed my visit to The Green Chile Kitchen. It is a great choice for anyone who has an adventurous palate and loves spicy food. The green chiles are native to New Mexico and have more flavor than most of the chiles I have tried, and the heat is usually not unbearable. I am always happy after a meal at the Green Chile Kitchen.
Occupation: Investment Company, Partner
Favorite Restaurant: Bay Wolf Restaurant
Reviewed Green Chile Kitchen: Sunday, March 4, 2012
There are so many great places to eat in San Francisco and so many great neighborhoods, that it is always a treat to get into the city. Although, the emergence of so many fantastic Oakland restaurants keep us local more often and the trek across the Bay is not quite as common. Many times we now pick SF restaurants based on the distance from a BART station, as well as the quality of the food. Green Chile Kitchen is in NOPA, so driving was required. As I was looking over the menu, the Southwestern cuisine looked quite interesting – chiles, tomatillos, blue corn tortillas – yummy. They’re espousing the use of local, organic ingredients sounded promising.
We headed out and the drive across the bridge was easy, and found a parking spot less than two blocks away – not bad in this neighborhood. We were going to be joined by two other “foodies” – one of whom is a chef by profession. A text from one of them earlier in the day: “I want one of everything on the menu.” So far, everything was going exceedingly well.
We walked past their sister restaurant “Chile Pies” on the way – maybe we will stop there for dessert afterwards. Getting to the restaurant, it was a nice corner location – lots of windows, so bright and sunny from the outside. The inside was very inviting. Brick red walls, hanging chiles, wood chandeliers, and chunky wood tables all helped to migrate your mind to New Mexico.
This restaurant is an order at the counter type of place, take your number and find a table. The prices are not expensive by any means, but at the price point, I’d rather have had a sit down and waiter service experience. It would have been more conducive to ordering a bottle of wine and getting your order in courses and not all at once. We dined at 5:30 on a Sunday evening, so the restaurant was abuzz with lots of happy families. Generally well behaved, but not sure why one set of parents were quite content letting their kids climb in and out of the open windows to the sidewalk outside. It was lively, and as my friend described the atmosphere at that time of night as a “Southwestern Chucky Cheese.”
I wanted to really get the experience of what the restaurant had to offer, so we ordered lots of food. There was a small line, but not the long lines described in some reviews of the restaurant. It was a quick process to order. I got a glass of Albariño from California. It was quite pleasant and a nice effort for this grape – hint of sweetness with some nice minerality that I hoped would play well with the chile and spices to come. I might have gotten a second glass, but when I looked over at the line later on, it had gotten longer and I did not feel like waiting in line while food got cold. Others stuck to beer to pair with the New Mexican fare.
First to arrive was the blue corn tortilla chips with four salsas. We all agreed that the Citrus Habanero was the best (it had good spice accented with sweetness), followed by the Tomatillo Avocado and the Roasted Tomato. No one really cared for the Pico de Gallo, the onion was a bit overpowering and the rest was bland. My cup of Green Chile Stew came next – really tasty – just the right amount of heat, with great flavor from the tomatillos and the pork was well cooked. But why had my partner’s cup of Pozole not arrived at the same time?
Then the entrees started to arrive. My Green Chile-Rubbed Half-Chicken was terrific. The skin was crispy and the rub really made it pop. The meat was moist and tender. The sides were a mixed review at best. The Calabacitas (zucchini, squash and corn) was nicely charred but needed seasoning. The pinto beans and rice were also highly under seasoned – we all agreed. The other entrees were: Blue Corn Enchiladas, Enchilada/Tamale Combo, and Chile Relleno Combo. I also ordered the Savory Stuffed Sopaipillas for the table. In general, the food was under seasoned again, a surprise as I was expecting a pop of flavor in every bite. Chile Relleno was a bit soggy with the green sauce and more satisfying than the red. Enchiladas were decent, and the Beef Sopaipillas were the most flavorful of the other entrees. Oh, still no Pozole though. I asked the server and he said, “Oh, I have been wondering where that was supposed to go.” The pozole arrived shortly thereafter, and this was a good dish. Nice flavor and textures. It was worth the wait.
I came in here really anticipating a great meal. While several dishes were very good, I did not leave feeling that I would rush back. If I were in the neighborhood, I might try one of the burritos, and the Green Chile Stew, Rotisserie Chicken, and Pozole were the stars for us that night. It had a nice atmosphere, but the counter service does not equate to making a great overall experience – as your table quickly fills up with all the courses at once. If they made it sit down, I would probably be more inclined to give it another try.
Occupation: Graduate Student
Location: Palo Alto
Favorite Restaurant: Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill
Reviewed Green Chile Kitchen: Sunday, March 4, 2012
GREEN CHILE STEW: PHENOMENAL. Everything else was just average/meh.
AMBIANCE: Casual rustic. There are communal tables as well as smaller group tables and seats along the edges of the room. Be prepared to WAIT for your table. Your best bet is to hover around tables that look close to finished and hope to snag seats before other people do. Try not to poach. GCK seems to attract large family groups with young children-- so don't be too offended by dirty table tops (although the staff does its best to clean everything off) and kids running around under your feet. It ended up getting pretty noisy while we were dining; so much so that it was difficult to hear someone speaking to me from across the table.
SERVICE: The girl at the register was really friendly and helpful. Otherwise no real service to speak of-- you grab your own utensils and water. The busboys have hawk eyes and swoop on your plates as soon as they're empty.
***Green Chile Stew ($9/16oz bowl): MMMM so hearty and delicious. Absolutely hit the spot from first spoonful to last slurp. There was quite a bit of heat, which I wasn't prepared for, but enjoyed immensely. Beware if you can't handle spicy. I asked for sopaipillas (you have the option between that or a flour tortilla) and wasn't impressed. It was stale, greasy, and smaller than expected. It would've been so much better if it was fresh from the fryer.
- Blue Corn Flat Enchilada ($13): Got this with ground beef. It was ok, but not great. It didn't really have any bold, standout flavors or textures, but I was hungry and it did its job. The sides were pretty bland (zucchini, refried beans)-- why couldn't they pack as much of a flavor punch as the green chile stew?!
- 1/4 Rotisserie Chicken Dinner ($9): Received a leg/thigh, plus black beans, veggies (zucchini), rice and a shredded lettuce salad. The chicken was also only OK-- moist but lacking in any flavor. I liked the rice that came with this dish more than the chicken.
I also got to try a small bite of the green chile burrito (again, meh. It was super cheesy, but I felt like it was just a "normal" burrito) and some of the green chile nachos. My companions were both satisfied with their choices, so I guess my one bite of each didn't really do the dishes justice.