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.
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.