Elena Una 3347 Fillmore Street
Have you ever had Filipino food? It's okay if your answer is "no" - in fact, most people I know haven't had it. I'm half Filipino, so my answer is an enthusiastic "yes!" In fact, I can't imagine my life without having enjoyed such a cuisine. I grew up eating the usual suspects - pancit, lumpia, halo halo - and some of the "unusual" suspects - kare kare (my favorite!), dinuguan, tuyo, buro, and bistek for breakfast. I've always wondered why Filipino food hasn't become more mainstream, because (biased opinion coming through), it's really, really good. The flavors are hearty, and though the food may not be on the healthier side, it's full of culture and to me, it tastes like home. In San Francisco, there's not a whole lot of Filipino restaurants around. In fact, before Elena Una, I only knew of one long standing restaurant in the Mission, along with one pop-up, also located in the Mission, and a food truck here or there (Hapa SF, is that one still around? And Senior Sigig). Then, last year, Elena Una came along. I first found out about the restaurant during one of my walks home - I saw the sign: "Filipino Asian Cuisine," and stopped right in my tracks. Could it be? Truth be told, I was skeptical. Could it really do Filipino food right? And, in the Marina of all places? I was skeptical, yes, but nonetheless, very excited to try it out.
The first time I tried Elena Una was during a private blogger dinner at their restaurant. It was a great experience, not only because the food was ah-mazing, but also because I got to connect with other fellow lady bosses and learn more about the people behind Elena Una. Things I learned about Elena Una that night: for starters, it's a pop-up! The owners are testing out the dishes on the menu to see what resonates and the top sellers will make it to the menu once they find a permanent location. The menu also rotates - inspiration for dishes come from the different regions in the Philippines, so you can take a journey through the Philippines all through a few bites. Finally, I learned that the chef's squid ink paella is award winning. (After trying it for myself, I could see why!)
After experiencing dinner, I knew I had to make it out for brunch, and I'm so glad I did. In my opinion, Elena Una's brunch menu is even better than its dinner offerings. I'm probably biased because I live for brunch, but I really appreciated that it's got something for everyone. I came with my family, so we got almost everything on the menu (did you see that first photo)? It was kind of ridiculous, but also not, because we ate almost everything and had a nice helping of leftovers to leave with. Honestly, everything on the menu is great. But, for the sake of being succinct, here are my favorites... If you're into sweets - the pan de sal french toast is an absolute must. Pan de sal is a Filipino style roll; it's a little sweet (reminiscent of a Hawaiian roll). It comes with bacon and eggs, so you get sweet and savory in one dish. We also tried the the bangus (milkfish), which was bathed in a sour broth, and came with a side of rice, eggs, and veggies. If you're into fish, you've got to try it.
If you've never tried Filipino food, or love it lots and wish you could find a bomb place in the city to eat it - try Elena Una. They're really doing it right.