24th Street Series: La Palma Mexicatessen
La Palma Mexicatessen
There isn’t a neighborhood of any city in our union that is completely static, no urban zone where the prevailing skin tone will forever be reminiscent of elephant tusk, obsidian, or mole poblano, or where every household will be able to afford the exact same tier of consumer crap. There’s always some variety of demographic shift occurring, either in minute increments over an extended period, or all at once in a short burst. One such burst is happening in The Mission, specifically on 24th Street. The pace of gentrification there is staggering, making the tarting-up of Valencia Street (having started somewhere in the late-80’s or early-90’s, depending on your perspective) seem glacial by comparison. The rate at which the 24th Street of yesterday (literally, yesterday) is disappearing elicits in me an urge to document (nay, elegize) some of my favorite spots on the strip.
The first of such places is La Palma, a Mexicatessen which doubles as a general store selling goods imported from Mexico and elsewhere. While the title “Mexicatessen” suggests otherwise, most of what is in the offing at La Palma is not in the arena of the sandwich-making arts; they’re distinguished most by their sopes and huaraches. A sope is a thick, round, palm-sized maize-plate with raised edges upon which is spread refried beans, upon which is piled your choice of meat, cheese, lettuce, and hot sauce. A Huarache is essentially an oblong sope, as far as I can tell (may the gods of culinary accuracy strike me dead if I’m wrong) . On my most recent visit I bought two sopes de carnitas and two tacos al pastor, the latter blowing almost every other I’ve had out of the water. Your order is wrapped to go willy-nilly, after which you can take it up to your Google-sponsored loft, you carpet-bagging fuck, or sit at one of four cast-iron tables set outside in the full blaze of sunshine, where you eat while gazing across the street at one of The Mission’s many riotous, hyperbolic murals.
The interior and atmosphere of La Palma is to be commented upon, as well. On my most recent visit the joint was a loud, jostling clamor of children begging of their elders various imported sweets arrayed upon the shelves, as well as the savory ones being noisily and aromatically prepared in the huge kitchen. There, tortillas of various shapes and sizes sizzled next to cauldrons full of slow-simmering meats and sauces, wafting their glorious smells around the cavernous space in defiance of powerful industrial fans. La Palma’s vibe and affordability are two things emblematic of a 24th Street which is swiftly being shunted aside by the rapidly expanding tech bubble. Judging by hungry masses crowded inside its humid interior during that particular day, La Palma has a fighting chance of resisting the tide.
2884 24th Street
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