Fresh flavours with sustainable, organic ingredients await at Nopalito, a Mexican eatery in the heart of San Francisco

You could spend weeks‚ nay, months‚ scouring around the endless grungy counters and food stands in San Francisco's billowing urban grid, searching for the city's most delicious taco. But why waste your precious travel time and dollars when I've already done the legwork for you?

For a taste of authentic, indelible Mexican food that trumps them all, make the most of your Frisco visit and beeline for the warm, casual confines of Nopalito.

Sustainable and Delicious

Food at Nopalito

Opened in early 2009 by the proprietors of another local classic (the Mediterranean-focused Nopa, a few blocks west), this community-anchor-in-the-making sits on the eastern edge of The Panhandle, a park next to the popular Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood.

It's no wonder it was quick to snatch up SF Weekly's best new restaurant nod, as Nopalito serves up wonderful, sustainably- and lovingly-crafted food. Best of all? None of it costs more than US$20.

Rich, homemade organic masa (cornmeal dough used for making tortillas, tamales, etc) holds together a couple of must-try dishes, including US$5 appetizers on the lunch and dinner menus‚ either with stewed pork, cheese, chiles and guacamole, or with two types of squash, pecans, currants and cream.

There are also salads, soups and great sharing plates, all driven by fresh vegetables, spices and smart accents. Appetizers aim to explore Mexican cuisine's underrated complexity, like irresistible long-braised carnitas (US$15) or goat stewed to near-perfection in chiles, chocolate, roasted tomato, pinquito beans and salsa (US$14).

Nopalito goes to great lengths to accentuate the pedigree of its organic, regional suppliers and raw materials, from produce to poultry to booze to cheese. The focus on slow, conscientious food is well-complemented by vibrant colours in a casual, open room that visually connects kitchen to patio, all of it attached to an upscale food market, bakery and small cafe.

When You Go

Nopalito sign

Nopalito is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

The bad news: they don't take traditional reservations. It's first come, first served.

The good news: You can call ahead to put your name on a waiting list. If the restaurant is running a wait, staff will take your name and phone number, then call when your table is ready.

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Eric Rumble

Eric Rumble is a full-time freelance writer. He has written for up! about hunting wild pig in Hawaii, soaking up the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria, B.C., and exploring concepts too infinite for the naked eye in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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