Chico's Grill, which quietly appeared in Bernal Heights four months ago, feels a bit like an extra room in someone's house, with mint green walls, a TV overhead and a married couple at the stoves.
In other words, it's a classic mom-and-pop shop.
Chef-owner Hilario Chico and his wife took over Olivia's, the popular Mexican-American brunch spot, a few years back, only recently renaming the place and dressing up its dinner offerings.
You can still order omelets or chilaquiles con huevos on weekend mornings. If you stop by at lunch, try a chicken-topped huarache ($7), the crisp masa shell fried at that moment so it retains a creamy core.
Chico, a veteran of Tadich Grill and One Market, imbues simple standards with extra attention. Beans and golden rice haven't crumbled into mush in some steam-table pan before they're spooned onto a plate; handmade heirloom black-corn tamales accompany orders.
Layers of spice and dried fruits come through in his classic mole poblano ($11), far more complex than the sugary jarred pastes too many San Francisco restaurants use. We enjoyed his pork chile verde ($11) even more; the stew simmers together long enough to soften the tomatillos' tart edge and marry its flavor with the now-tender meat.
Homey in the best way.