Gallardo’s was new to me, but certainly not to the Mission. They’d been around for 17 years at their old address on Folsom, and four years now at their new space on 18th Street and Shotwell. The current restaurant still looks new — all bright and bold in primary reds and yellows, framing the black-and-white photographs of glamorous Mexican stars of days gone by.

Outside, even the sidewalk is festive, with painted flowers entwining the tables and chairs set out for lunch. Even though the space is newish, the feel is still of an institution, a family-run legacy. The Gallardos, headed by owner Juan Gallardo, all pitch in to run the family empire, and this warm spot serves up home cooking to its customers, old and new.

First off, they bring killer chips and salsa to the table.

The chips are warm and fresh-tasting, and the salsa is FIERY. Like, I had to stop eating it after the eighth chip. But it’s a good pain, one you crave again 10 minutes later.

The BF ordered the Guadalajara combo dinner.

Guadalajara dinner .

This delectable mountain of Mexican standards consisted of a chile relleno, red chicken enchilada and a carne asada crispy taco. In one fell swoop, all your cheese requirements met for the day. Cheese, creamy goodness.

I ordered the milanesa:

Milanesa.

Served with fries, because, carbs!

Milanesa is a breaded and fried steak — here, it’s offered as a chicken or beef option (I went with beef). Super crispy! The guacamole that came with both our dishes was chunky and very flavorful. Unfortunately, that night the rice was somewhat bland, but the beans were delicious. But once you mix the beans in with the rice and add some of that painfully delicious salsa, nothing will taste bland. Too much food meant the BF got to have Dinner Part 2 later that evening.

I vowed to go back extra-hungry the next time.

For our second visit, we split a gordita — masa disk filled with refried black beans, griddled, and we opted for the chorizo and egg topping:

Gordita.

Look at the structural integrity of that masa! Laden as it is with cheese and crema, it still managed to maintain texture and flavor. I absolutely loved the many contrasting textures and the corny taste. Even the greens were good in this, instead of being an afterthought. The only bummer was that they were out of guac! All their avocados were too green that evening, our server told us.

That dish easily could have been my main. But no.

I had flautas (“flutes”), or what I knew as “taquitos” growing up.

Flautas.

In my experience, in Mexican restos in L.A. and Orange County, flautas were always made with flour tortillas, and taquitos with corn. I’m not sure that distinction holds up anymore, nor everywhere. But I made sure these were corn. I must say, I really missed the guacamole on these, as they were a little too crisply fried for me and could have used some softening. Still, they were tasty enough. I managed to eat one taquito while the BF ate the other two, but I demolished most of the gordita. The rice was more flavorful tonight, and the salsa was still killer hot.

BF had carne asada “a caballo”:

Carne asada al caballo.

Caballo means horse, but what they actually mean here is “mounted,” as in, a steak mounted with two eggs). The steak is hard to see under all that eggy loveliness, but it’s there. Thin cut, but beefy. Such comfort food. Especially nice when eaten with their refreshing sangria.

Ay, Dios Mio! It was all so good, we brought home NO leftovers this time. This was no easy feat, as the portions are huge.

Gallardo’s serves breakfast all day, which makes me very happy. Another thing I like about this place is that it’s a real Mexican restaurant, not a taqueria — even though they do sell tacos and burritos. They’re also rather famous for their sopas, and I’m dying to try the ultimate hangover cure, the menudo. Lots of seafood items, too.

Gallardo’s is the type of place you bring your family to, and know they’ll make you feel like you’re part of their family. Gracias, familia Gallardo!

Gallardo’s
3248 18th St., San Francisco, CA, 94110
415-436-9387
CASH ONLY