Nopa Restaurant in San Francisco and its smaller sibling, Nopalito, are doing their part for sustainable organic farming by serving “simple food created with seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors.”
At Nopalito, the emphasis is on Mexican dishes like enchiladas mole with chicken, carnitas (slow-cooked pork), ceviche (marinated seafood) and pozole rojo, a soup made with pork shoulder, hominy, chile mulato, radishes, cabbage and onion. The rustic pozole in particular is Mexican comfort food and very satisfying on a dreary December afternoon.
Nopa and Nopalito also look to local producers for some of their beer, although the selection is sparse compared to the restaurants’ wine lists. Nopa’s wine menu runs 11 pages, compared with two beers on tap and seven in bottles. Nopalito actually has more beer than its larger sibling, with four beers on tap and nine in bottles. Although pickings are slim, you can make some good beer/food matches with what’s available from Magnolia, which is just down the street in the Haight; Mission Brewing Company in Chula Vista; the popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa; and Moonlight Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.
Owned and almost solely operated by Brian Hunt, Moonlight only produces about 1,000 barrels per year, which is tiny even by microbrew standards. Nopalito features Moonlight’s delicious Death and Taxes California black lager on tap, which makes for a nice match paired with the soulful pozolo rojo. The other draught options are Magnolia’s Kalifornia Kolsch, a pale, relatively light German-style beer; Negra Modelo, a Munich dunkel lager made in Mexico; and Michelada, which is something like a bloody Mary, but with beer.
Nopalito also has some interesting bottles to choose from, including a 16.9-ounce bottle of Russian River’s tasty Blind Pig India Pale Ale; a Schonramer “Gold” Spezialbier, a German marzen/Oktoberfest beer; and a 22-ounce “bomber” of Mission Brewing Amber Ale. There are some interesting imports from Belgium as well: a Dupont “Foret” Organic Saison, a De Proef “Reinaert” Flemish Wild Ale and a Verhaeghe “Duchesse de Bourgogne” Red Ale.
Lagers are a good choice with Mexican food. The gentle carbonation is refreshing against the Mexican spices and the subtle, understated hops in the beer don’t overpower the simple food. Death and Taxes is a very good California dark beer, and at 4.2% abv, it won’t paralyze you for the rest of the afternoon.
San Francisco, CA
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.