Neighborhood Gems: Contigo

This Noe Valley Spanish restaurant is as solid as they come

Last month, Tasting Table asked readers for their favorite neighborhood gems. Now we're introducing the winning picks.

"We like to say that you can see the farmer behind every dish," says Contigo co-owner Elan Emerson. Such a San Francisco thing to say.

But that's because Contigo's approach to tapas is as Spanish as Delfina's pastas are Italian: respectful, even worshipful, but thoroughly Californian.

In a city that prides itself on consistently good food, Contigo is as solid as they come.

Contigo's kitchen

When Elan and her husband, Brett, opened the Noe Valley bistro four years ago, they installed a griddle-like plancha for searing and a wood-fired oven for roasting and braising so that Brett could recreate what the couple calls "taste memories" from his frequent travels across Spain.

Translation: Your creamy-centered jamón croquettes ($3) might be followed by grilled local sardines ($3) on toasts smeared with avocado.

Elan and Brett Emerson

Last week we signed on to the Emersons' tapas tasting menu ($40 per person) and let the universe bring us small marvels like smoky roasted padróns ($10), a bright salad of arugula and persimmons ($13) crowned with a plancha-crisped round of goat cheese, and roasted prawns atop a densely flavored arros negre ($15).

We spotted the farmer, the fisher and the traveler.

Our Other Favorite Noe Valley Neighborhood Gems: La Ciccia, Incanto, Firefly, Tataki South