Restaurant Review: Nopalito

Considering I usually find myself walking past Nopalito a few times a week, I was kind of ashamed it took me as long as it did to get around to finally trying it. The place is always packed with people and overflowing with a fun, lively energy every time I wander by, so I had a feeling I was missing out on a great spot right under my nose—which turned out to be exactly the case.

Photo courtesy Jessica C., Yelp

The sister business of sorts to nearby NOPA, the awesome bar and restaurant that many consider to have rejuvenated the North of Panhandle / Western Addition neighborhood it resides in, Nopalito is smaller, more intimate and much more casual all-around. Nestled up next door to the Falletti Foods market, the restaurant specializes in serving upscale Mexican food with extra attention paid to using local, organic and sustainable ingredients and practices whenever possible.

Walking in, I immediately loved the modern and vibrant feel of the place, which was achieved via soft lighting, simple décor, a visible kitchen and tightly-packed seating. The mood was luckily far from being quiet or snooty, and fell much more in line with that of a classy but loud and fun neighborhood hangout. To the south side of the building, I noticed a take-out window, which operates separately from the main part of the restaurant, thereby making call-in ordering and pick-up as painless as possible.

After debating for far too long on what to order, I settled on the Quesadilla Roja con Chicharron ($9.50, pictured above), which was stuffed with pork belly, onion, cilantro, jack cheese, salsa and queso fresco. While the look of the quesadilla probably could have been a little more colorful or pleasing to the eye (my first visual comparison after seeing it was a Jack in the Box taco…), the taste was another story entirely. The pork belly was perfectly tender and a touch crispy, giving it a great texture, and the complementary ingredients were all indisputably fresh and really added to the pleasing mix of flavors. Pork seems to be one of Nopalito’s trademarks, and I hope to go back soon to try the carnitas plate ($15.50) that I’ve heard people raving about.

For a side dish, I ordered the Totopos con Chile ($6.00), which I was told was a customer favorite. A bit of an upscale twist on the simple pleasure of nachos, the dish came with a generous portion of thick and delicious totopos (kind of a mix of a chip and a fried tortilla) topped with shredded cotija cheese, crema, salsa and lime juice. The flavors were amazing together and for the money, it seemed like one of the better deals on the menu.

I topped it all off with an almond horchata ($3.95), which was served over ice and had a nice silky consistency to it. Other drink options included a small but interesting wine list, sangria, Mexican cocktails, unique craft beers and Blue Bottle coffee.

Full and satisfied, I ended my meal by looking forward to getting to try other things on the menu in the (hopefully) near future. As I looked at the interesting and delicious-sounding plays on ceviche ($11.00), pozole stew ($12.00) and chicken mole ($14.50) sprinkled throughout the take-out menu, I couldn’t help but wish I’d started coming to Nopalito sooner. Here’s to making up for lost time!

306 Broderick Street (between Oak and Fell), SF
Phone: 415 437 0303

Do you agree with this review? Let us know in the comments section, or via our Facebook and Twitter accounts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *