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Read Text Only: Pride Issue
DINE: Charanga


Call it Cuban, Nicaraguan, or Peruvian cuisine, but Charanga’s Pan (of everything) Latin menu is a consolidation of Owner and Chef Gabriela Salas’s experiences living and cooking in the Latin tradition.  Raised on a Costa Rican coffee farm and earning the Sheraton Hotel’s Executive Chef title by age 27, Chef Salas honors her roots by treating every patron who walks through Charanga’s Havana-style black doors as familia.  Of course it helps that the kitchen emits the smells of la mamá cocina and the decor is a cozy and eclectic labor of love.
 Chef Salas and her partner, Manager Heather Raich, have years of stories to tell about their Charanga familia, from loyal patrons visiting every year from Alaska and Argentina, to a couple who had their first date at Charanga over a decade ago and returned with their five year old child to celebrate their 12 year anniversary. 
 It’s fresh dishes such as the Camarones Puerto Viejo, with its famous chili and ginger sauce that keep the customers coming back.  There’s such a high demand for Chef Salas’s sauces that she’s considered bottling them for local purchase. Yet it was apparent in our discussion with these women that they are as passionate about their clientele and their city as they are about great cuisine, which is why the restaurant has been so successful for over 13 years. 
 Once upon a time, the Valencia area was known as a gay hangout, and although Amelia’s Bar is now a sultry hipster hangout (The Elbo Room), and The Artemist (a women’s only café) is now Beretta, Charanga has survived the lesbian exodus of the last decade with grace. You can still party here with pride and drink your sangria too!
 Charanga’s community involvement is solid; participating in events like Dining Out For Life to fight AIDS, and donating towards the Queer Women of Color Film Festival.  Just walk in the restaurant and you’ll get a good representation of San Francisco’s diversity: from the teen-aged to the transgendered, office managers and octogenarians, graphic designers and gay men; all are welcome.
 And if you’re anything like me, you might appreciate the latest food trends but are always game for home-cooked meals and hospitality. So when I came here for the first time, that’s exactly what hooked me. Even as a devout chicken-n-waffles Southerner, I’ll be the first to fall from grace over this cuisine. 

Dine at Charanga
2351 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA