I don’t usually think of Spanish food as vegetarian friendly, but when I inquired about the menu at Contigo, the woman who picked up the phone said it would be no problem for not only a vegetarian, but even a vegan. And no advance notice was necessary! With that type of attitude, I couldn’t not go to Contigo with Will.
The restaurant sits in the middle of Noe Valley, flanked by expensive childrens’ apparel stores and expensive pet apparel stores. The space itself is scarcely big enough to contain a large wood-burning oven, the open kitchen, a bar, a few seats, and an outside patio. Thankfully, the outside patio had heaters and was some-what enclosed, which made our dining experience a lot nicer.
I started off with a piece of toast with house-cured sardine and a nice bite of olives and anchovies. It was the perfect thing to get me in the mood for the food to come.
Will had the avocado and pea toast topped with fresh porcini. The avocado and pea mixture was good enough already, but the porcini sent it over the top. Can I just sit outside and eat a plateful of that with a glass of Txakoli, please?
The white gazpacho was similarly great. It really surprised me because I’m usually lukewarm about gazpacho. This one was creamy, savory, and had those great tart cherries as garnish.
Next, Will had the chickpeas and spinach, which looked almost like an Indian dish. They were pretty good and nicely spiced.
I had the chorizo, chickpeas, and tripe, which is a fairly common Spanish dish. It was my favorite thing of the night. The tripe was wonderfully tender and the amount of paprika from the chorizo was perfect. The dish had that wonderful stick-to-your-ribs satisfying taste that only things that are slow cooked for a long time seem to have.
We also had the patatas bravas which we knew we couldn’t pass up as soon as we saw it on the menu. These were probably the best version of the dish I had ever had. The potatoes were shatteringly crispy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside. And the sauces! Wow. I’m drooling just thinking back to that dish.
Is Contigo worth the bus ride into Noe Valley? Yes. Would I return again? Yes. Am I sad that there’s nothing like that near me? Yes, but my wallet is happy.
1320 Castro Street (at 24th)
San Francisco, CA 94114