After hearing so much about Nopalito, I am proud to say, that the whole family stopped in for lunch. Our dining experience far exceeded our expectations.
History: Nopalito, serving traditional Mexican cuisine, is the little sister restaurant of Nopa- which lives but a few blocks away.
Nopa opened a few years ago, offering Mediterranean inspired cuisine within a well crafted industrial venue. Nopa is kind of a big deal, as it is considered to be the saving grace of an otherwise defunct neighborhood. Nopa was and still is a very popular establishment- so co-owners Jeff Hanak and Allyson and Laurence Jossel knew what they were doing upon opening Nopalito.
Obviously, the names of both restaurants are connected, but what you might not know is, nopalitos is the edible part of the prickly pear cactus- which is a common ingredient in Mexican dishes. Clever.
The interior design was charming, modern- yet warm. Shades of green, brown and natural oak family-style tables made for a great combo, instilling the character and reflecting the food. The feature wall (behind the bar) comprised of margarita colored Bisazza tile, while metal birdcage-like lampshades perched above the tables. The use of wood slats (some reclaimed) provided an extra texture and depth of color. Most striking of all, is the sheltered patio dining area. I felt a sense of calm and comfort- more than one would imagine- all while avoiding San Francisco’s temperamental weather. The mixed selection of succulents around the perimeter gave the area a “homey” feel- like I was dining in a friends backyard. Lovely.
We started with a mint-lemonade and a ginger-lime beverage.
Then ordered the Ceviche Verde de Pescado y Calamari: Marinated rock cod, calamari, lime, tomatillo, jalapeños, cilantro and avocado. This combo was refreshing & spicy, the avocado off-setting the acidity of the lime. So far so good.
Then came our entree. Gourmet Carnitas (note: the “gourmet” part does not appear in the menu): Long braised pork, orange, bay leaf, cinnamon and beer Cabbage salad, pickled jalapeños, salsa de tomatillo. This dish was everything it would appear to be, and more. Moist, and tender. Served with homemade tortillas and a habenero garlic salsa. I was blown away- and completely satiated. My mouth still waters.
I’ve been to Nopalito several times since our first introduction, and have yet to be disappointed- by the food, the ambiance, and by the staff.
This place has quickly become a favorite.