Copita is a new Mexican restaurant owned by Joanne Weir, who is kind of a big deal. You may recognize her from a number of things: culinary trips across the globe, TV cooking shows, an iPhone app, a wine label. She and co-owner Larry Mindel (of Poggio) were spurred into creating Copita after a competitve bout of margarita-making on his yacht. Now their baby is a full-blown, clay-tiled ode to Mexico City, turning chickens seasoned with chile guajillo in a huge rotisserie—a notable change of pace amidst the burger and Italian joints of Sausalito.
Weir and Mindel bring years of combined expertise and industry practise to the restaurant, and the trendy appeal of Mexican food seems to know no bounds. So, is it surprising that Copita's sidewalk patio was literally overflowing with good-looking Caucasions and the inviting smell of warm masa when I visited on a warm night earlier this week? Probably not.
Honestly, I was a little surprised that the second thing I saw was Weir—her head of red curls bobbing through the crowd with the calm of a pro. She's a woman constantly on the move with ideas and projects. Great for Copita: she's working the floor with her signature charm on a random Tuesday night.
We were seated at a two-top with a view of Sausalito's main drag. I got a margarita made with habanero-infused tequila—really good if you like a drink that makes you sweat. A wide-rimmed glassful of lobster, shrimp and scallop ceviche ($13) glistened in a toss of chile and fresh-squeezed orange juice—the first appetizer of the night. "My cooks say it's legit—just like home," said Weir. It was indeed surprisingly bright and fresh. The last time I had something like this was on a trip to Zihuatanejo.
We continued to eat our way through too much of the menu, making a meal of solidly balanced flavors. The manageably-sized beef albondigas ($9) came in a sweet tomato sauce deepened with housemade chipotle. Tacos come three to a plate—my favorite piled with curls of near-translucent shrimp, roasted poblanos, a spray of corn kernels and lime crema ($15). All of the tortillas are made in house by Mexico-born sous chef Dilsa Lugo (hence the masa smell filling the dining room).
Then, carnitas. Oh man. They rival Nopalito's adored rendition, for sure: crisp edges, enough salt, a hit from the lime wedge, and—well, my friend said it best: "This is like crack!" I let her bring home the leftovers.
Needless to say, we didn't have room for the wonderful-sounding Oaxacan chocolate milkshake with anejo tequila, and I had really wanted to try Weir's recommended "Mexico City" quesadilla filled with potatoes, chorizo and queso fresco.
My point here, is that I'll be back, and you should not be afraid to cross the bridge on a Tuesday for a mid-week Marin escape. Considering the mangeable prices at Copita, you could even make it a quarterly thing. Just don't underestimate the power of a Mexican restaurant in Sausalito. Make a reservation.