San Francisco: Nopalito on 9th

Tags: Mexican

The offshoot of popular Nopa restaurant in the North of the Panhandle (NoPa) neighborhood in San Francisco, Nopalito has become a popular spot itself for traditional, organic Mexican cooking. Nopalito has two locations – the original in the NoPa and the second, larger spot on 9th Avenue in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. While I’ve never been to the original location, I have eaten dinner at the second location many times; it’s one of my favorite restaurants in the 9th and Irving area and very close to Golden Gate Park. Nopalito on 9th consistently serves delicious upscale Mexican food from carnitas to ceviche in an open, airy space.

I recently tried their lunch service for the first time and was delighted to see the Enchiladas de Mole con Pollo on the lunch menu. The chicken enchiladas’ mole sauce made with chocolate, chiles, and nuts brought back memories of the deliciously sweet mole that my friend from Mexico City once made for me. Do note that the chicken mole served at dinner (Mole Manchamanteles con Pollo on the menu) uses a different mole sauce.

Popular on the dinner menu is the carnitas plate – pork braised in orange, bay leaf, milk, cinnamon, and beer and accompanied with fresh tortilla, cabbage salad, pickled jalapeño and salsa de tomatillo.

For the lunch menu, the carnitas is offered as tacos. I found the pork juicier in the dinner plate than in my lunchtime tacos plate, but adding the salsa helped. For tacos, I prefer the flavor and tenderness of the fish tacos (Tacos de Pescado al Pastor).

For dinner, my friends and I usually share a small pitcher of the seasonal sangria. During this lunch visit, I tried the Strawberry Almond Horchata, Oaxacan Style for the first time and loved the sweet strawberry puree with the pieces of almond in the horchata. The strawberry almond horchata is also available on the dinner menu but be warned that the glass looks much larger in the photo than in reality.

Nopalito on 9th has around 75 seats including the small sidewalk seating area on 9th Avenue, as well as in the back patio. Windows wrap around the front of the dining room and can be opened on warm days. Less than half a block away is the entrance to Golden Gate Park in which you can walk to the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden, DeYoung Museum, and California Academy of Sciences.

Nopalito on 9th (1224 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122 // 415-233-9966)

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