One sad result of my downtime on this site is that the Arthur Hungry record no longer reflects my dining patterns. During undergrad, I'd say that most of the places I went to regularly were well-documented here. Since I've started working, this hasn't been the case. I guess it's time to catch up.
Sol Food is the backbone of my work-week lunch rotation. The place is just about the worst-kept secret in San Rafael, as evidenced by their framed, signed picture of Guy Fieri, who visited earlier this year for Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Originally a tiny storefront on 4th street, Sol Food expanded into this building a couple of years ago, and the crowds have followed. The original spot (one block away) is still there, but I've found the food to be reliable at both locations. It's a lot easier to grab a seat at Sol Food Green. Orders are taken at the front counter, and they'll give you a number that you can bring to one of the tables (including 2 larger communal tables).
Tangent: it's worth mentioning that the green display in the brick entrance that everyone is reading contains not a menu as one might expect, but a handwritten complaint letter from a concerned neighbor about the building's color and its impact on the downtown San Rafael skyline. The letter's been there for about 2 years; Sol Food shows it off proudly.
I'm certainly no expert on Puerto Rican cuisine - in fact, I've never really had it anywhere other than Sol Food. But if you happen to visit at around 12:30 on any given Monday through Friday, you probably have about a 20% chance of running into yours truly. After spending 5 days a week for 3 years in the culinary mecca known as Marin County, I am pretty comfortable declaring that Sol Food is the best place to eat lunch north of San Francisco and south of Napa. It's delicious, not too expensive, and consistent. So while it's never made an appearance on the site before, trust me when I say that Sol Food has effectively solved the age old problem of Arthur Hungriness many, many times.
The next thing I need to establish is the deliciousness of Sol Food's hot sauce. It's a tangy mix of vinegar and chiles, and they actually sell it by the bottle. It's a very thin, liquidy sauce, and quite different than your typical American-style hot sauce. It tastes good dumped on pretty much anything on the menu. Also pictured is the biggest single serving of iced coffee you'll find at any restaurant. It's surprisingly strong - moreso than what you'd get at a corner coffee shop - and comes sweetened, with milk. Mango iced tea is a refreshing alternative.
The menu at Sol Food focuses on a few different proteins - marinated chicken, sauteed shrimp, sliced steak, pork chops, and more. I generally rotate through the menu, but I figured I would start you guys off with one of my most frequent orders: the steak combo plate. This, believe it or not, is the small size, and you can get a bigger plate with more meat for an extra 3 bucks. Lean but tasty beef is served with your choice of tostones (fried, flattened, garlicky plantains) or maduros (softer, sweet plantains), black or pinto beans, rice, and a generous little salad with some lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Pour a bunch of that hot sauce over this mix and you will end up with a wonderful combo of flavors and textures.
Another great preparation for the steak is on this sandwich. Sol Food has a variety of sandwiches and generally serves them on flat-pressed French bread, but those in the know order tostones as a substitute for the bread. It usually takes about 3-4 visits to Sol Food to figure this out, but you should just skip that waiting period. The garlic plaintains are a crispy, dense (plus gluten-free!) alternative, and provide a whole new twist on your typical steak sandwich. Of course, I highly recommend that you dip this in some of that hot sauce, at which point you'll basically just have a really delicious mess on your hands.
The menu has quite a few more things on it, including marinated chicken thighs, pork chops, sauteed shrimp, and a variety of daily specials. I'll get to them all in time. For now, make note of this place the next time you're driving northbound on the GGB. If you need a pitstop for lunch on the way to Novato or something, Sol Food is your best bet. If you're a San Rafael local, then you probably already know about this place. But did you know they're open for breakfast and also open late on weekends? Can you say score?