Cholo Soy isn’t just impressive for the food, but also impressive because they make it all in a kitchen roughly the size of your standard minivan. It’s located inside the lobby of Plaza Adelante, an office building on the corner of 19th and Mission. The only indication there’s a restaurant inside is a waist-high fold out sign with a few pictures of ceviche and other specialties. Inside the lobby, there are a few tables set against one wall and a counter in front of the small open kitchen area. It’s run by a mother and daughter duo who do great things with not that much space. Watching them prepare the food is a lot like how I imagine the scientists on the international space station must look running their experiments in confined quarters with optimized working space. They’ve got a couple small ovens that slide out like drawers, each filled with some kind of slow roasting meat or sauce. As a result, your food is ready almost immediately after you order it.
To be able to work with this setup, they only have certain dishes available each day. There’s a rotating menu based on the day of the week, but the appetizers, which include the ceviche, are served every day. You could easily find the exact same ceviche at an upscale restaurant sold at four times the price, and probably made with one fourth the love. Based on what’s out there, I’ve generally come to think of cheap Latin American food as something that comes in foil and is dripping with grease. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love, and usually prefer, my food to be greasy and wrapped in foil. But even the presentation at Cholo Soy is like what you would find in a more high-end eatery. The colors of the fresh ingredients just pop out at you, and you can tell by watching them make the food that they care how things are arranged on the plate.
The flavors go way beyond just spicy and salty, or lack thereof. Everything has been simmering, roasting, or marinating for a few hours. Peruvian food is known for its diversity of flavors and ingredients due to influences from immigrant populations from as far away as China and Italy, and your taste buds will certainly go on an adventure at Cholo Soy. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say this, but they might have the best pico de gallo in the whole Bay Area.
Lobby of Plaza Adelante
2301 Mission Street