Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
401 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Can’t make it to San Francisco? Try Napa!
Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street, #5 Napa, CA 94559
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is a delightful find for anyone on a gluten-free diet or who has developed an addiction to corn-based Venezuelan cuisine. I am almost embarrassed that in the over five years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I’ve never made it to their San Francisco location. Luckily, my gluten-free friends at BlogHer food were more motivated and planned a lunch there which I was very happy to attend. The entire menu is gluten-free. Those who can’t have corn will be out of luck, as pretty much everything contains corn. However, you can easily eat vegetarian or even vegan, and rice isn’t even on the menu if you are rice intolerant! Soy also can be avoided, although PAN, the base for their arepas, may be manufactured on lines with soy. If you thought you’d never eat a sandwich out again or have this much selection if you did, this place will prove you wrong and make you happy in the process. If you are like me, you’ll be a little overwhelmed by all the options, so let me tell you about the vegetarian dishes I tried. The most obvious vegetarian arepa choice is of course La Vegetariana Arepa with tofu, avocado, plantains, black beans and sauce. The ingredients sound perfect, but somehow it is just a bit bland for my taste, to be honest. I had it twice- once at the Napa location some time back, and both times I wasn’t all that excited. I love tofu, but this is quite a big, fairly plain slab of the stuff.
I didn’t order the Morena, or black bean, Empanada myself, but Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen did and generously shared some with me. Usually empanadas are made out of wheat flour, so it is a rare treat to find some that are made out of corn. These are light, flaky, probably deep fried, and have a delicious bean filling. I would definitely order them next time. Yummy! And I loved the spicy sauce with them. De-lish! The Queso Fresco empanada sounds good, too, but it would be hard to beat the savory bean filling.
Deep fried gluten-free goodies are always tempting, as it can be very hard to find them without cross contamination issues from a shared fryer. Pica Pica has two deep fried sides that are both good, but very different. One is a plantain chip. They are soft and sweet, with a thin, lightly fried exterior. If you are expecting intense crunch, this may not be the dish for you, but I like them because you can eat a bunch and not feel terribly guilty. If you’re in the camp that wants your fried food to taste like true deep fried goodness, then I recommend the Yucca fries. These amazingly crispy fries will satisfy all your Southern dreams and then some. I would want to share them with a friend because they are so rich and decadent. Bet you can’t eat just one!
I also tried their hot chocolate, but I am a picky-picky girl when it comes to my hot chocolate and I like it dark, rich, and thick. I wouldn’t order it again for myself but I bet my DH would enjoy it.
Of course the best thing about eating out is usually the company. I shared my meal with a wonderful group of gluten-free bloggers, most of whom I mentioned in this post about our gluten-free meal together at The Plant. *Link to blogs included for New friends not previously listed*
And guess what? My friends wrote reviews of Pica Pica, too!
Wendy’s review and Arepas recipe
Diane’s review of Pica Pica and other gluten-free dining in San Francisco
GF Veg’s review of Pica Pica and photo slideshow
Alisa’s Dairy-free Review of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
Know of any other Pica Pica blog reviews? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!