Only a few blocks away from its sister restaurant, Nopa, Nopalito serves an authentic San Francisco take on south of the border cuisine. Mexican fare meets slow food.
Not unlike Pizzeria Delfina–also located next to a popular park, waiting time is directly proportional to the temperature outside. In foggy weekends, getting a table shouldn’t take too long; but if it’s sunny outside, be prepared to wait up to 1 hour and a half. Ouch.
While the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, you can call in advance to put your name on the waitlist. When your table is about to become available, they will give you a call.
The atmosphere is hip and modern, San Francisco casual style. A welcoming dining room features a high communal table and counter seats in addition to the regular 2 and 4-tops.
Designed in earthy tones and small green tiles on the walls, the room benefits from the direct sunlight of the ample windows. Additional seating is available in a covered patio outside.
If you come expecting staples of Mexican-American fare, Nopalito’s menu may take you by surprise. There’s only one taco option and no burrito in sight. Instead, the restaurant offers a fresh take on it, including slow-cooked rustic dishes; all made with organic, locally sourced ingredients. Appetizers are priced from $5 to $9.50 and main courses from $10 to $15–more than your average Mexican eatery but definitely worth the price. The same menu is available for takeout in a convenient side counter that lets you skip the waiting crowd.
Sangría de Fresas ~ Strawberry Sangría. Topped with a generous amount of diced fresh strawberries, this is a very refreshing drink, by the glass or bottle.
Instead of bread and butter, crunchy spicy garbanzo beans are served as a snack.
Ceviche Verde de Pescado y Calamari. Marinated halibut, calamari, lime, tomatillo, cilantro and avocado. Although fresh, this dish is too acidic; the lemon marinate overpowers every other flavor. If ceviche is your thing, try La Mar.
Quesadilla Roja con Chicharrón. Chile ancho corn tortilla, crispy pork belly, salsa guajillo, jack cheese, onions and cilantro. Nopalito’s quesadillas are lighter than the traditional crispy-gooey tortilla sandwiches with cheese dripping from its side. More like a savory French crêpe, the folded tortilla is filled with a nice layering of flavors; definitely worth a try.
Carnitas. Long braised pork, orange, bay leaf, cinnamon and beer. Cabbage salad, pickled jalapeños, salsa de tomatillo. One of Nopalito’s signature dishes, the braised pork is tasty and very tender.
Guiso de Pescado al Estilo Toluca. Ling cod poached in tomato, green olives, capers, pickled jalapeños and cilantro. Another tasty dish with fresh fish, Mexican flavors and a lovely hint of comfort food.
Pozole Rojo. Stew of pork shoulder, hominy, chile mulato, radishes, cabbage and onion. Unfortunately, a bit of a letdown. The broth is watery and almost too mild, there’s not enough pork and too much garbanzo beans inside.
What somewhat saves this dish is the plate of accoutrements. Dried oregano, red onions and lime make up for the lack of flavor intensity of the broth.
If like me, you think no meal is complete without a rich dessert, then Nopalito may let you down. The restaurant only offers popsicles. Yes, they are house-made popsicles, but popsicles nonetheless.
Nopalito is not your traditional Mexican eatery. While you won’t find some staples on its menu, the restaurant offers a fresh take on authentic Mexican cuisine, prepared San Francisco style. Some dishes are better than others but, all in all, Nopalito brings a welcoming sophistication to one of California’s most popular cuisines.
Nopalito is at 306 Broderick St
To get your name on the waitlist, call 415-437-0303