How do you say the best Puerto Rican food on the planet. I would say that Sol Food has got to be the sure fire winner of this title.
The real story here is about Sol, the owner. I did not meet her, but was told about her journey. Sol Hernandez is a Marin County girl thru and thru. She attended Davidson Middle School, and San Rafael High School. By trade she was a hair stylist, with a booming career. She took a trip to Puerto Rico for 9 months at the age of 20 and met a man who became her boyfriend. He taught her how to cook fresh Puerto Rican fare. Even though her father is Puerto Rican, she did not know how to cook her father’s cultural foods.
Upon returning to Marin County, the place of her birth, Sol started cooking this new food for friends and family. She opened up a stand at the Thursday Farmers market in San Rafael. No sooner did she open, her food get very popular, and she began to sell out way before the farmers market was over. So after that she opened her now famous restaurants in San Rafael. I went to their new location in Mill Valley, but there are three locations in San Rafael, all on the same block and more or less connected.
This is pure, authentic Puerto Rican food at its best. Sol says, “It’s the cheapest vacation you’re ever going to take.”
Sol Food has had great praise in The Pacific Sun and NY Times, as well as Guy Fieri’s Triple D’s mention of the bistec sandwich. Guys coined this great phrase about the steak bistec sandwich, “The Bistec is no Mictec”
Sol Food makes their own incredible vinegar based hot sauce with an assortment of different chiles. They don’t serve alcohol, but the food is so freaking good, you really don’t miss it.
My guide through this experience is marketing gal Tina Ford, who has been working at Sol for a long time. She made a lot of menu suggestions that were right on.
Here are the drinks I tried:
Te Heado – orange mango iced tea. It is served in a jar, which makes you feel like you are sitting out on someone’s porch, so refreshing and filled with sweet mango flavor.
Limonada Fresca fresh limeade. Also served in a jar, very tangy and sour, but thirst quenching.
Here’s what I tried:
Caldo De Pollo – chicken soup, handmade chicken broth, chicken, carrots, potatoes and noodles. Very similar to my grandmothers chicken soup, also known as s Jewish penicillin. Lots of vegetables and very large chunks of chicken, this is a very healing soup.
Pollo Rostizado free range chicken rotisserie chicken with rice, black beans, and plantain. The chicken is a perfect blend of their remarkable seasoning, very tender and moist, the best rotisserie chicken ever.
Nino Pbre the Puerto Rican “po” boy plantain fried prawns, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro-lime mayonnaise on toasted French bread and butter, flat pressed. Wow, this one made me smile. It is kind of like what you would find in New Orleans, but the best is pressed which ads a whole other dimension.
Bistec, thinly sliced steak, sautéed onions, avocado, Swiss cheese, garlic mayo. This sandwich the bread is pressed as well, the flavors in the bold combination are really terrific, this one is a keeper.
Tembleque – creamy coconut pudding with mango sauce and cinnamon, wheat free, vegan. This desert is very light and satisfying, everyone needs to try this one.
Sol Food does a great take-out business, and you can see why. If at the end of a long work day you don’t feel like going home and cooking, here you can bring home delicious Puerto Rican food. The staff seems very proud of the work they do here, everyone had very fun upbeat attitudes. As for the food, the flavors were unique and vibrant. Not one dish tasted like another, each had its own kick. The decor is rustic, creative, and true to the culture. The environment is vibrant and inviting and with “family style” seating, you could end up sharing a table with total strangers. Which is good because after a few glasses of ponche, you will most likely end up with some new friends!
Be prepared for a line though, the wait can be long but the food is great and well worth it. So go for the food, but enjoy this authentic Puerto Rican environment, once you try it, you will be hooked!
401 Miller Ave
Mill Valley, CA 94941
901 Lincoln Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901