Fútbol, aka soccer, is always playing on the televisions at the Mission's Balompie Café, but the soundtrack of this 23-year-old Salvadoran restaurant isn't the game.
Rather, Balompie's pulse is the rhythmic thwack of two hands slapping a ball of masa dough into a pupusa, over and over again, all day long.
On Sundays, the post-church crowd, conversing in Spanish, sits elbow-to-elbow with hungover twentysomethings, all filling their growling bellies with starch-heavy Salvadoran food: fried yucca topped with chicharróns ($9); chicken enchiladas ($10) blanketed with red sauce and cheese.
Every table has a stack of pupusas, the griddled cakes enclosing myriad fillings, from pork and cheese to beans ($2.50 to $3.50 each). The same waitresses who've worked there for 20 years circulate, delivering bowls of tangy curtido (pickled cabbage) and tumblers of horchata (a cinnamon-laced rice drink).
People don't go to Balompie just because it's good, though the clean plates tell that story. They go because it feels like eating in a gracious friend's home. They go because it's open early and late, and because the picture windows afford a great view on a neighborhood that's done nothing but change since the day the restaurant opened.
And they go, of course, because there are always warm pupusas to be had.
Balompie Café, 3349 18th St. (at Capp St.); 415-648-9199