Oaxaca to San Francisco.
Chef and owner Isai Cuevas is a native of Zimatlán in the southwestern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Moving to San Francisco in 2004, he’s worked in restaurants across the city for nearly two decades. After starting out as dishwasher, Isai quickly moved up to line cook at Kuletos, a busy Italian spot downtown; then a sous chef at Epic Steak, the luxurious steakhouse with a view of the Bay; and eventually taking over as executive chef at Liverpool Lils, the beloved local bar in Cow Hollow (now closed).
Isai returned to his roots with fresh masa, and he’s determined to make the best tamales in the Bay. He and his wife Alison Cook first launched Tamalitos in 2018, selling tamales at farmers’ markets. And they opened Donaji restaurant in the Mission in 2021, giving them a permanent home. Focusing on organic and local ingredients, he shapes the masa into tamales, sopes, enchiladas and more, some smothered in mole poblano. Donaji takes its name from Princess Donaji, the Zapotec princess who lost her head but became a legend of Oaxaca.
@donaji | San Francisco