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Tasty tapas in secret Pawn Shop on Mission

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Clockwise, from top right, Patatas Bravas, Bomba, Pinchos de Ternera, Montado de Setas and Esalada de Escarole are on the menu at The Pawn Shop, a new South of Market tapas spot. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)

Entry into The Pawn Shop at Mission and Sixth streets in The City requires a bit of effort, but it’s worth it.

Visitors must dial in on gold wall phone at the storefront; they’re greeted by fast-talking pawn master Jerry (in a bad wig), who, instead of making deals on the vintage merchandise, ushers them through a secret display case entrance (fun!) into a sleek tapas bar.

Spanish and Cuban food and drink are on the menu at the eatery, which opened Jan. 25 and is the new affiliate of Monarch, the club around the corner. Monarch Management Group owner Christopher Smith (he also owns The Great Northern) and manager Michael Anthony count on patrons checking out both spots in one visit.

The phone schtick aside — it’s hard to figure out why San Francisco bars have to be hidden these days — The Pawn Shop’s menu is what’s going to keep the customers coming.

From the wine list of more than 50 choices, a great server pointed to two glasses, at $14 each. The white, Vina Moraima albariño from Spain, and the red, Caruso e Minini Nero d’Avola from Sicily are both smooth and highly recommended.

Two cocktails ($10) also are delicious: Try the Uno, with elderflower liquor, prosecco, grapefruit, bitters and lime, and the heavier Tres, with vermouth, madeira, bitters, orange, pomegranate and rosemary.

Patatas Bravas ($10), from the menu’s “bites” section, are truly heavenly: cubes of fried potatoes are crunchy outside, creamy inside, topped with the perfect tang of garlicky aoilli.

While the vegan Ensalada de Escarole ($12) with escarole, Asian pear, almond and citrus vinaigrette tastes fresh, it’s quite light and doesn’t compare with the highly flavored, substantial tapas: Gambas al ajillo ($16), nicely spiced, buttery shrimp with pepper, lemon, sherry and parsley (with bread to soak up the sauce) and the super delicious Bomba ($8), a large, snowball-sized spicy beef croquette with a perfect crunch on the surface.

Pinchos, meat skewers, are also offered: The hanger steak in Pinchos de Ternera ($12) is tender, topped with pickled onion, though not extraordinary.

Montados ($6) are toasted baguettes with toppings; Montado de Setas, with mixed mushrooms, tomato and goat cheese, is pleasant.

A terrific vegan choice is the is the Coliflor con Romesco ($10), proving the beauty of the combination of the cauliflower and deep fryer.

Five dessert choices (all $10) include a silky chocolate lava cake, served with ice cream and nice light touch of caramel.

With reservations not taken for parties fewer than 10, The Pawn Shop’s proprietors suggest coming early to ensure easy entry; they’re expecting club crowds to take over the joint.


IF YOU GO

The Pawn Shop
Location: 993 Mission St., S.F.
Contact: (415) 874-8041, www.thepawnshopsf.com
Hours: Dining from 4 p.m. to midnight Sundays-Thursdays, to 1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; bar service from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Price range: $5 to $19 for tapas; also higher priced daily specials
Recommended dishes: Patatas Bravas ($10), Coliflor con Romesco ($10); Bomba ($8)

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