It seems we are being inundated with Yucatecan restaurants lately, and the newest addition is Loltún. Loltún, which means “stone flower” in Mayan, is named after a beautiful cave system in the Yucatan, southwest of Mérida, Mexico, whose walls are covered with ancient Mayan paintings.
There’s nothing cave-like about this new spot (in the old Mateo’s taqueria space). However, the inside is (too) brightly lit and the décor is sparse, save for big-screen TVs showing the World Cup finals the night we went. Loltún is more of a sit-down restaurant, compared to our other new Mayan place, Al Carajo (reviewed here), with full entrees that bring to mind your abuelita toiling away lovingly in a steamy kitchen. The plates here are so generous they reminded me of some of our older Nicaraguan and Salvadoran restaurants in the neighborhood.
To start, we split a carnitas panucho and an empanada.
The panucho was a nicely corny tortilla (homemade), stuffed with mashed black beans and topped with glistening chunks of tender pork, with a deeply satisfying roasted tomato salsa, cabbage and avocado. All of it bristled with flavor.
The ground pork empanada was also lovely. The empanada shell seemed a little thin at first, but the whole thing was, again, tender, and perfectly balanced texture and flavor-wise. And fried, not baked (or why bother?) I’d try the cheese one next time. It came with a different, garlicky, bright-red salsa that I absolutely loved and sloshed onto everything else.
The BF’s main was chicken milanesa.
This, for me, was a bit of a miss. I found the chicken bland, though perfectly crispy, but the BF cleaned his plate. The milanesa treatment is also available on pork, beef, or fish filet; perhaps one of these other options would work better.
Both our dinners came with small bowls of thickly pureed black bean soup (bad reviewer; forgot to take a picture!), which only needed a little hot-hot-hot-habanero salsa (squeeze bottle on the table, very good if you like heat) to kick it up. Along with that, we both got fluffy rice, cool cabbage, pickled onions, and homemade corn tortillas.
My poc chuc was fantastic.
Everything you want in poc chuc: Marinated and grilled pork steak, smokey, tender, and juicy. Loltún’s homemade tortillas are excellent, and I made little tacos of each bite, with the bean puree slathered over all.
Loltún has much more to offer: Caldo de res, mondongo, escabeche, and other homey soups, as well as tamales, Man Handler-sized platters of carne asada, cochinita pibil, roasted chicken, carne deshebrada (shredded beef marinated in sour orange), and daily specials. There are no plans to introduce beer or wine to the menu at the moment, but they offer aguas frescas and soft drinks (Jarritos!).
I noted, with regret, that we were the only people there on a recent Friday night, and I asked if there were times when they were perhaps busier. “Sometimes, the weekend lunch hour is good,” I was told a bit ruefully. Family owned and run, the service was friendly and sweet. And, Loltún is wallet-friendly too, nothing to sneeze at during these times when seemingly everything costs more. I really hope they get more business soon.
In case you were hesitating, you know, a neighborhood can’t have too much Yucatecan food. To paraphrase (and with apologies to) Walt Whitman, “We are large, we contain multitudes.” There’s ample room for the multitudes of different people and cuisines in the Mission. And we are the better for it. So let’s get out there and support our new neighbors! Y buen provecho.
2471 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110