Photography by Sarah Chorey

First Taste: Veg-friendly Mexican food and funky design at family-owned Otra

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Walking down Haight Street between Scott and Steiner on a Monday in the early evening, a strange scene grabbed our attention: a restaurant that was popping. We repeat, on a Monday.

The tables on the parklet were socially distanced yet packed. Inside, every available chair (49 of them) is occupied. The bartender barely looks up from his constant mixing of drinks. This is Otra, a newcomer to the Lower Haight that already has the low-key It factor, friendly service, and outside-the-border flavors of a future neighborhood classic—think Nopa or Pearl 1601.


It's not surprising, really. Otra is the sophomore project of Anna Sager Cobarruvias and Nick Cobarruvias, the couple behind the Mission's fast favorite, Son's Addition. (Their cauliflower tacos made 7x7's list of the best takeout in SF.) Like its elder sibling, Otra is also a family affair.

Photography by Sarah Chorey

Start with chips and refried black bean dip with homemade queso fresco and peanut salsa macha, which was recently named "the Bay Area's hottest condiment right now."

The spirited design is the work of Son's Addition collaborator Dan Vickery, who washed several surfaces in watery aquamarine. In the back dining room, Rachel Sager, Anna's sister, painted a 54-foot mural inspired by Oaxacan landscape and wildlife in the style of Rousseau or Gauguin. Mexican paper art flutters overhead. All in all, the space is a "a modern interpretation of my family," says Chef Nick (formerly of Marlowe and Jardiniere). "The menu is filled with family recipes and the walls are covered with old family photos."

In Cobarruvias' case, family recipes mean Mexican, and here he's playing with the ingredients he grew up eating, many of them—including the crumbly queso fresco, spicy salsas, and masa tortillas—are made in house daily. Start with bites and dips before moving on to tacos and tostadas. There are just three large plates for heftier appetites or sharing with the group.

Vegetarians will quickly notice the menu skews in their favor with sweet potato tacos, asparagus tostadas, frijole bean dip, and charred cauliflower all on offer. Meaty options are fewer but equally delightful. Omnivores must order the beef tacos if for no other reason than Chef Nick put a lot of effort into them: "It comes out to be a 36-hour taco," he says.

Of course, Mexican food is meant to be washed down with margaritas and palomas; you'll find them here, along with a few other classic drinks, complements of mixologist Shanti de Luca (also formerly of Marlowe).

Call your friends—weeknight dinners out are a thing again.

// 682 Haight St. (Lower Haight), otrasf.com

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