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PHOTOS: Krescent Carasso

As kids, we were all about the board games that were the most interactive. CandyLand was boring. Monopoly takes seven days. But let us play Operation or Don’t Break The Ice, and we were hooked. So now that we’re adults, we’re into Fénix, a vibrant Mexican spot that lets you choose your own adventure and get hands on with crafting your dinner.

Before you start running away - Fénix isn't a cooking class or a DIY place. It’s a regular restaurant, but the highlight of dinner at Fénix is all the small tastes that come with the entrees. Just like the banchan you get at Korean barbecue, order the goat or pork shank at Fénix, and you'll get some baby tortillas and tons of little dishes with different sauces, condiments, and pickled veggies that you can combine with the protein to make little tacos. It’s mix and match and find whichever sauce or bite you like best - in our case, this was pretty much all of them. If you want to really maximize this experience, hit it with a group, get a few of these large plates to maximize the "Little Tastes" delivered to your table, and then trade them like pogs.

Krescent Carasso

Fénix is in a bit of a netherworld between Mid-Market, SOMA, and the Mission, but don’t let the location deter you. It’s bright and funky, with loud wallpaper and tons of bar seats and a happy feeling the second you come inside. It can get quite hot inside, so just drink your sangria faster. It’s good - and also your only option besides wine and beer since there’s no full liquor license yet.

Will you come across Fénix on your daily commute? Probably not, but it’s worth the trip for a fun, Mexican family-style meal. Which is also probably a more acceptable adult activity than a game of Operation.

Food Rundown

Guacamole & Chips

This is earthy in a good way. Maybe it's the toasted rice (from the earth?) mixed in with the guac. Whatever it is, this is very tasty and better than your average guacamole. The chips are strong as well.

Gulf Shrimp Aquachile

A generous amount of shrimp in a spicy coconut sauce with a hint of curry. Refreshing and excellent.

Esquites Sope

Esquites is corn with lots of cheese and some spicy mayo. You know what makes that even better? Serving it on a sope (little corn cake) so you don’t have to smear mayo all over your face while attempting to eat corn off the cob. These kick ass.

Pork Shank

Holy lord this is spectacular. Slow-cooked and insanely tender, you will be fighting the rest of the table for this guy. Make yourself some tiny tacos or just attack it with a fork.

Goat Birria

Lots of flavor from the sauce. If you’re into gamey things, you’ll be very into this. If not, stick with the pork shank.

Pescado del Dia

The fish itself is fantastic, but on the night we tried this, it had way too many bones. Yes, it makes the little bites more rewarding, but we’d prefer not to have to work so hard for them.

Little Tastes

Yes, they’re complimentary with any larger plate but we don’t care. We’re using the power of the internet to tell you that they’re awesome and one of the best parts of the meal at Fénix. They change up a bit seasonally, but the eggplant, spicy jicama cubes, and pumpkin seed pesto are game-changers. Horde all the little dishes to your corner of the table.

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