Rick Bayless knows Mexican food. To an extent.
By ALEX ALVAREZ
In case you don’t already know him, Rick Bayless is a well-known chef, television host, and cookbook author who specializes in Mexican cuisine — specifically traditional regional cooking. Recently, a Zagat reporter …
Amazing and Interesting and true. What Makes Mexican food Mexican?
After living 5 years in San Francisco I think I can relate. However there are a lot of loopholes in this and as always, I love to play devils advocate .
RB: No, I didn’t get chance to on this trip. San Francisco doesn’t really have much of a Mexican food tradition aside from the taquerias in the Mission, which is a fairly limited thing. I am curious to check out Nopalito.
For starters If we were to compare San Franciscan mexican cuisine to for example, LA (Im not even going to bother with Chicago, I havent been there in a while to explore the scene) I can confidently say that LA has more options. Now this doesnt mean San Francisco is worse than LA, but obviously LA is the second largest city in the US and hosts the largest population of Mexicans outside of Mexico. Will there be more mexican food options? You bet.
San Francisco in my eyes is a delicious oyster. A city that hardly hits the 7x7 mile, so naturally there is a limitation. But what Bayless is ignoring I think, is the fact that places outside of San Francisco, like Oakland have a good Mexican food scene, on the streets and in upscale places. One of them beingTamarindo with Chef and Co-Owner Gloria Dominguez setting the pace. I went and loved it. I might not be Anthony Bourdain (nor anyone can be) or a credited food critic… but my Mexican taste buds can’t lie. I think food like art is subjective. Some people will love and rave about foie gras… some others will just push the plate. Some people will rave about sour cream on every single taco they eat. Some others will cringe (like me) with the thought of it.
Additionally, San Francisco is a city that hosts dramatic changes. One being the food scene. Many restaurants come and go in matter of years (some are not that lucky) and that’s why SF is so dynamic. The big injection of money into the city (techies) and rent going through the roof are also a factor. You will see that even places as “Mexican” as the Mission are turning to be more gentrified. Is it a good thing? I don’t know, the only thing I can tell you is that many people agree that the Mission isn’t what it used to be. Valencia street years ago used to be somewhat of a bohemian place filled with characters, and while it still is, numerous “gastro-pubs” and upscale restaurants are starting to flood the “hipsterized” streets. But hey I have been to Mosto (more on the upscale side) right on Valencia street, and I enjoyed my experience there a lot. They have an al pastor trompo and a great selection of mezcal and tequila. Will I compare it to famed Tacos Leo in LA? I simply cant, they are just different places, different kind of people and finally a different experience. All of them good in their own right.
Other big factors are produce and the ingredients used, the people you are serving the food to… etc. etc.
All I can conclude is that if we were to compare “upscale” Mexican restaurants (like the interviewer asked) with the food found on the streets, I can assure you that a big chunk of Mexicans and even Americans will choose to chow down tacos al pastor drunk at 3 in the morning, or roam through the markets of Oaxaca tasting different kind of moles. instead of having a mini bowl of semi decent guacamole for 30 dollars.
And in that moment Zagats opinion, Rick Bayless expertise opinion, the audacious Anthony Bourdains or my humble and amateur opinion won’t matter.
Mexican food truly belongs to the streets and their people. (But ill go to an upscale restaurant anytime if given the chance…)
Thank you for viewing and reading.