Nopalito, Nopa's south of the border little offshoot, a high-end artisanal taqueria would not only be an understatement, it'd also be misleading. Yes, the shiny new Mexican kitchen proudly serves local, organic and sustainable ingredients in its quesadilla de primavera and carnitas offerings, but there's nary a burrito to be found, and the thoughtful "green" dining room (both ecological and color-wise) is set up for full-service, not steam-table wrap-and-go counter service. In other words, a brick-and-mortar taco stand this is not.To call the new Inner Sunset branch of
The Space: Think white-washed exposed brick walls, upcycled metal light fixtures, reclaimed wood tables and concrete bar tops lining counter seating. The design firm Abeug-Morris, who did the original Broderick Street location, took great strides to create an interior that is as green as the cactus-leaf colored walls. Even the bathrooms are outfitted with low-flush toilets and high-tech hand dryers.
The Food: Like the original locale, the kitchen specializes in traditional Mexican fare given the San Francisco touch - seasonal, sustainable, lovingly prepared and laced with lots of fresh herbs and spices. In fact, most the menu is the same, including pozole, mole, taquitos, albondigas, but new additions include pepinos - a salad of cucumber, radishes and pickled onions spiked with lime and chile - and a seared trout salad with pumpkin seed sauce. For such a neighborhood spot (and plenty of kids in tow), we'd expect to see to some sort of kid's menu, but the waiter offered to make a child in our party a plain cheese quesadilla, and even invited him to watch the cooks pat out the fresh masa and steam the freshly made tortilla. By day (and during weekend brunch), there are also egg dishes such as chilaquiles, enchilladas and a pork in adobo torta.
Best of all, if you finish your cactus, diners are rewarded with a choice of housemade paleta (popsicle) -opening day choices were Mexican chocolate and guava. Complimentary little amuses, such as chile arbor-spiced chickpeas or almond wedding cookies, add a nice welcoming touch.
The Drinks: The restaurant has its own water filtering system, offering it both still and with gas. Beyond that, non-alcoholic offerings include housemade ginger-lemonade, almond horchata and a hibiscus-valencia orange agua fresca. For the harder stuff, there's plenty of cerveza, both local and indigenous including 12-ounce cans of Modelo (topped with lime and salt), along with some Cali vinos. For those we prefer to drink their dessert, don't miss a mug of the decadently rich Mexican spiced hot chocolate.
The Crowd: It's the Inner Sunset, so expect a range of families, couples, singletons, etc., braving the fog and the parking gods. The restaurant does not take reservations, but you can call ahead and add your name to the waitlist and then mill around 9th Avenue while you wait.
The Cost: A simple fish taco starts out at $4.75, while the carnitas are the most expensive item at $15.50. It's not taco truck prices but hey, it's not taco-truck-quality either.
Nopalito (2): 1224 9th Ave., between Judah and Lincoln Streets, 415-233-9966