Don Pistos

510 Union Street, San Francisco, 94133, United States

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The restaurant is in North Beach, located in a fairly quiet spot but a short walk from a clutch of other restaurants. It opened in 2010 by Pete Marber, who operates a few other restaurants under different brands in the city. and Don Pistos itself has sprouted a second branch near Lombard Street. The dining room is fairly basic, with bare tables and a kitchen open to view as you enter. Music was playing, and the hard surfaces mean that noise levels were quite high as Michael Jackson’s tunes bounced off the walls and tables, even when the restaurant was far from full.

There were a few generic wines on offer, as well as several Mexican beers including Pacifico at $6 a bottle. Tortilla chips came with a green salsa that was quite lively in terms of chilli punch (13/20). I started with prawn diablo, five decent sized prawns cooked in their shell and served with a red chilli guajilo arbol sauce, made with dried mirasol chilli peppers. This was very good, the prawns being tender and properly cooked, and the sauce delivering a rich, spicy kick (14/20). Pork tacos was not quite as good but still enjoyable, the meat just a little stringy in places, but avoiding dryness and coming with tortillas with soft texture, the meat brushed with some arbol pepper sauce that could have been more plentiful (13/20).

Service was basic, and even providing cutlery seemed to tax the capabilities of the waiter that I had. It was certainly efficient though: from walking in to receiving an entirely unprompted bill took barely thirty five minutes, so this is not a place designed for you to linger. My bill was $46 (£35) per person, with beer to drink, and this was probably quite close to what an average spend per head might be. Don Pistos was a pleasant enough, if rather express paced, experience, and I have certainly eaten plenty of worse Mexican food in this city over the years.

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