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Contigo
A super-authentic Spanish joint in Noe Valley

San Francisco

Though the romantic notion of immersing oneself in another culture conjures up candlelit visions of savoring wonderfully authentic grub with friendly locals, the reality is, it's all just a ploy to lull you into buying fake pot. Get the grub, not the stems, at Contigo

The culmination of an ex Lulu/Chez Panisse chef's five sojourns to Barcelona, during which Catalan pals schooled him on the intricacies of their cuisine's rustic awesomeness, Contigo's a casually mod, way-authentic Spanish joint w/ two comfy stool-lined bars, a redwood two-/four-top-spotted dining room, and back patio w/ an herb garden they promise they won't trick you with. The fully open kitchen (equipped w/ wood burning oven) handcrafts $7-8 apps like oxtail croquetas and squid a la plancha, plus bigger "platillos" like oven-roasted Dungeness crab, heaping chorizo burgers, and slow-roasted duck that's "fall apart-tender" (aka, the Roger Federer of water fowl). Perhaps more uniquely Espagnolish is Contigo's selection of jamon, sliced paper-thin and served on wooden slabs: Iowa and Tennessee's finest (La Quercia Berkshire hog/Benton), 18-month-aged Serrano, and extremely rare, glisteningly marbled Iberico, produced from free-roaming Spanish pigs who graze on fallen acorns -- so you can still get acorn-fed deliciousness while escaping your monotonous diet of squirrels

To wash it all down, there's 60 Iberian wines, 4 cavas by the glass, and 12 beers, only one of which (Estrella Damm) is Spanish -- an authentic intoxicant you'll use to amiably lull touring Spaniards into buying your old Datsun.

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1. Contigo 1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Contigo's a casually mod, way-authentic Spanish joint w/ two comfy stool-lined bars, a redwood two-/four-top-spotted dining room, and back patio w/ an herb garden.

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