A Cuban restaurant in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission district is not that surprising. But Media Noche finds a perfect middle ground between fast-and-easy, pleasing-to-the-eye, and novel. Pops of turquoise abound. The floor is lined with custom tiles. Mismatched lanterns hang from the ceiling. In the bathroom, images of bright yellow bananas line the walls.
The menu is small, so we get a bit of everything, starting with crisp plantain chips that come with a silver dish of Media Noche’s green sauce, which is chimichurri-like, but a little lighter.
The Verde salad is huge — piled high with fresh cabbage, baby kale, chunks of avocado, shredded manchego, and an addicting mojo vinaigrette. A scattering of spiced pepitas add nutty crunch. If you want it to be more of a meal, you can add roasted squash, chicken, or lechón (pork).
My hands-down favorite is the Celia. It’s as if the Cubano went to the islands and came back a whole new sandwich. Juicy fried chicken has a slightly sweet, crunchy crust that’s balanced by a coconut slaw that has big slices of green pepper, avocado, and a touch of that green sauce. The textures and flavors just really work.
The Cubano is well done, with a huge pile of roasted mojo pork, slices of smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles made right in the back, and a thin layer of mustard.
Finally we get a Picadillo bowl, which arrives as four neat piles: black beans, white rice, coconut slaw, and spiced ground beef with olives and raisins. You mix it all together and it eat it with a touch of the green sauce.
Media Noche’s two owners are no strangers to the San Franciscorestaurant scene, and have spent enough time in Cuba and Miami to fuse the right flavors with Bay Area ingredients. It’s easy, delicious, and wallet-friendly.