An unexpected stop on our trip to Marin County was Sol Food in San Rafael, a local Puerto Rican favorite of my host friend which I would’ve never have found on my own. The dine-in restaurant (appropriately referred to as “The Big Place”) is adjoined to a takeout counter, which is necessary considering the tremendously long line of folks willing to wait for some ambience. The fact that even the takeout counter had a pretty long line was a good sign. We opted for the latter as we had some wine with us that we were looking to enjoy with our dinner in the comfort of my host friend’s familiar residence. Plump pollos spinning slowly on a spit, their fat dripping down to create the sizzle and smoke that flavored them. Starchy, thick platanos crisping up in the frier. It was enough to keep me distracted from hearing what my friend was ordering. By that point I trusted his judgement enough to just leave it up to him anyway.
We ended up getting the Pollo al Horno, a combo which came with boneless, skinless chicken thighs flavored with plenty of oregano and garlic, rice and black beans. Chicken is not usually my protein of choice, especially in boneless, skinless form, but this particular bird was very satisfying in its simplicity. The meat was juicy and moist, with a feint touch of bittersweet flavor from the garlic. The rice was fluffy and steamy, buttery rich but without a greasy feel. The beans were likewise very comforting, a good ratio of starchy, thick bean juice to beans. Along with the platter my friend also ordered some of their sweet fried yellow plantains (Maduros) off their plantain menu, which also featured Tostones con Mojo/Queso, Mariquitas and Mofongo. Nice to see a place take advantage of the versatility of the fruit. Ours were honey-sweet, mushy more so than firm, with most of the starch broken down. Not a very complex meal but one that satisfied after a long day of driving around Wine Country.
My friend also unwrapped a Bistec Sandwich which looked and smelled as amazing as it tasted. A pressed French bread sandwich with thinly sliced beef steak, caramelized onions, swiss cheese to stick it all together, avocado and garlic mayonnaise. The bread was crunchy and thin enough to let the filling shine. Perfectly ripe avocados added a buttery, mushy texture to contrast against the firm, lean steak, while the mayo hydrated the whole thing and bound together the pieces of onion. The favors were great too, peppery beef, a slight funk from the Swiss and a sweetness from the garlic mayo that was potent enough to make me think there was some sort of fruit or jam in there as well. My friends finally convinced me that it was the combination of garlic, creamy mayo and sweet onion playing a trick on my palate. Either way, it was a delicious sandwich with a good combination of moisture and crunch, flavored very nicely. A filling thing, for sure.
I’m not sure when I will be back in San Rafael, California (not to be confused with San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina which might see me around pretty soon actually). But when I do I will definitely be paying Sol Food a visit. I will also definitely be trying another sandwich they have, in which fried tostones plantains replace the bread. Until then, I hope to at least meet someone from around there so that I can tell them about having had a dinner from this place and having loved it. 🙂