At the corner of 16th and Market in the space formally occupied by Bagdad Cafe (which was a great place for a burger at 2am) sits the latest edition to the Castro food scene Criolla Kitchen (they need to set up their website for sure).  You can check out the menu here.  I was passing by one Saturday around lunch time and decided to give it a try.  Fortunately they have kept the layout pretty much the same which means they still have the counter to eat, which when you are dining solo is a really good thing no waiting for a table just sidle up to the bar like I did and dig in.  The place was hopping for lunch and since they have been open for at least a month now is a good sign that people in the area like the place which is good as we all know San Francisco eaters can be notoriously picky, I mean just look at the reviewers on Yelp--vicious bitches!!

I like a good iced tea and that they had with a sprig of mint which is meant to give it that Southern vibe.  And yes they served both unsweet and sweetened, which has simple syrup (sugar dissolved in hot water) also very Southern.  So those touches are there at least.

First I just had to try the appetizer of yam tater tots with cilantro lime crema and this I must say I really enjoyed.  It was a large basket portion of tots fresh out of the fryer and appropriately crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and salty sweet all over.  The cilantro lime crema dipping sauce I liked, but it tasted to me a little on the sweet side and combined with the sweetness of the yam tots was a bit too much sweetness for an appetizer.  I felt it would have benefited better from a slightly spice dipping sauce, like a remoulade or something, and yes I did add hot sauce to the crema and it worked for me.  But still they are worth trying.

I figured since this was a Louisiana-ish based menu with some California nuances I'd go the full bore and try the bowl of gumbo and half a shrimp po'boy sandwich.  The gumbo was a good consistency of not too soupy not too goopy.  There were plenty of shrimp, sausage, okra, rice and all the goodness that gumbo encompasses.  I liked but here again, since this was Cajun cooking I guess I expected more spiciness or some kind of kick but it was not quite there and yes I added some hot sauce to this too which did the trick and made the gumbo a worthwhile bowl.  As for the half a shrimp po'boy, well, hmmm, I guess this was my least favorite of what I had.  I think most of this had to do with the shrimp itself.  While I like the breading on it, the shrimp had a fishy taste and let's face it when seafood gets that fishy taste it's can throw your tastebuds off the whole thing.  (I guess it's because I've always been told seafood should not smell or taste fishy, if it does it means it's on the verge of being bad/old).  The remoulade sauce that was used again was not as spicy as expected.  Leads me to believe the chef is "dumbing" down some for California tongues that are not used to the hotness but I would just get over it and do what you do, when the food is good people come around to your way of flavoring.  Now the bread was good.  A French roll that was crunchy flaky on the outside and soft on the inside, just perfect.

Overall, I liked this place.  After an app and an entree I was a bit too full to try dessert even though I really wanted to, especially the bread pudding.  Thus I will be going back to try some of the other items they have to offer.  The gentleman next to me at the counter was having the burger and it looked really good though they seem to stack to french fries it comes with on the burger and well I'm still dubious about that but willing to give it a try--like the rest of Criolla Kitchen's menu.