A newcomer to Dogpatch, Gilberth’s quietly started serving a unique menu of pan-Latin American fusion last month. Without a sign, beer and wine, or news releases, its opening has been so soft, hardly anyone noticed. But once you eat there, you won’t forget it.
My road to discovery started around the block from the Workshop Residence on 22nd Street, where I was picking up some handmade Martha Davis shoes — one size 27, the other size 28. While teaching me how to put them on, the salesperson told me about Gilberth’s. Two of us walked right over for lunch.
My first Gilberth’s bite — roasted chili-lime Brussels sprouts, brown and crisp, tart and spicy, modulated by shaved manchego cheese ($5) — startled, it was so good. Then I ordered so many dishes that owner Gilberth Cab, acting as a waiter, cut me off.
He allowed legumbres fritas ($5), nutty falafel-like balls with chipotle yogurt and chimichurri, an Argentine green salsa. His chimichurri, a Gilberth signature, comes with many dishes.
Then arrived an exciting sandwich of expertly rendered pork belly in a light brioche bun ($10), with smashed, gold-fleshed potatoes on the side.
When asked about dessert, Gilberth told us they would someday come from ice cream makers Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, on the corner. In the meantime, he served us a bowl of fresh papaya preserved in palm syrup.
I can honestly say that I have never eaten a finer $10 lunch ($20 for both of us).
I came back for dinner a few days later with a group of seven to taste more. Fried marinated cauliflower with romesco sauce ($6) came a close second to the Brussels sprouts.
Chili-lime-marinated fried chicken livers ($8), soft and creamy inside with crisp edges, were completed by that chimichurri.
A super moist, sensitively grilled filet of yellowtail jack ($12) needed nothing more than its refreshing apple-fennel slaw. There were delicate wild boar and pickled vegetable turnovers — empanadillas ($10) — with exceptional flaky crusts.
Too many at the table tried, and took seconds of, mondonguito ($9), immaculate beef tripe braised to buttery tenderness. Usually I have tripe all to myself.
Sustainably raised meats, procured from Olivier’s, the French butcher shop located in the same building as Gilberth’s, create a lively hamburger of lamb and chorizo ($10), dressed with a secret sauce of chipotle-scented Thousand Island.
A hunk of roasted pork chuck comes with an airy mofongo ($15), the Puerto Rican classic of smashed plantain seasoned with lime and garlic. Get a side of gallo pinto ($4), rice cooked with black beans, aromatic with herbs.
A believer in staying hyperlocal, Gilberth hired designers, artists, artisans and contractors in his building to create a polished and modern, though soulful, look for his place. He chose buoyant Cafe Tacuba music to play in the background.
Gilberth told me the beer and wine license should be granted soon; the Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous dessert menu will be in place and there will be signage.
But neither a website nor a formal announcement that Gilberth’s has actually opened seem imminent. Frankly, I consider all this good news for those of us who want to be able to get in.
Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at email@example.com.