First Taste: Nopalito
I don't have many restaurant phone numbers programmed into my cell phone (mostly just the few places I'll order ahead from and pick up on the way home), but last night I added Nopalito's number (415-437-0303) and you might want to, too. Because this new little Mexican cantina from the people that brought us Nopa does not take reservations. They will, however, add your name to a list if you call ahead, a boon when the wait on a rainy Wednesday night at 8 p.m. stumbles into the one plus hour territory.
What I'm saying? Plan ahead. That way you can just slip into seats at one of the communal tables and begin snacking immediately on complimentary spicy fried chickpeas while those waiting on the (covered, heated) patio look on with envy. This little space, next to Faletti's, is not nearly as spectacular to look at as Nopa proper, more resembling the type of spot you'd find in—I hate to say it—a fancy food court. Blond wood and lime green accents give the room a clean, efficient look—stools, hard-backed chairs and wood banquettes don't encourage lingering. It's a little bright, and there's no dessert menu, at least not yet. But I can't remember the last time I ate such well-made yellow corn tortillas, and I would go back again for the very simple chard, onion and cheese quesadilla, with house-made queso fresca and a bright, tart tomatillo sauce. There are still some stumbles—the potatoes in my enchiladas, which are dipped in a lush and sneakily-spicy chili sauce, were more of the crisp-tender variety, for example—but the carnitas are world-class, flavored with orange and bay and accompanied, yes, by more tortillas.
From my end of the table I was able to clearly hear the conversation between the four women seated beside us. "I heard Mexican and Divisadero," said one woman, "And I thought it would be way dingier." That may be the only way in which Nopalito disappoints. 306 Broderick St. (between Oak and Fell).