Nopalito, the favorite Mexican restaurant from the Nopa team, is permanently closing its second location on 9th Avenue in the Inner Sunset, as first reported by the SF Chronicle. This location was larger than the original on Broderick Street in NoPa, and handled catering operations, so when coronavirus canceled events, it just didn’t make sense to staff up and stay open, says chef-owner Gonzalo Guzman. It’s sad news for fans of the beautiful location where both Sunset locals and international tourists wandered in from Golden Gate Park, and tucked into crispy carnitas and handmade tortillas on the patio.
“I’m going to miss the neighborhood and the community we built while working there,” Guzman tells Eater SF. “But what hurts the most is the people who lost jobs. I feel in some way responsible. There are a lot of immigrants who are going to get no help from our government.” Nopalito has been handing out up to 50 despensas, or boxes full of pantry staples, to friends and families in need throughout the crisis, but Guzman still wishes he could give jobs back.
Nopalito Inner Sunset was known for the same fatty and crispy carnitas and freshly handmade corn tortillas as the original, although some eaters also loved menu items that were unique to this location like the albondigas. The original Broderick location opened in 2009, and the 9th Ave location followed in 2012, boasting a bigger space, tall front windows, sidewalk seating, and a patio. In a prime walking district of the Inner Sunset, it was cozied up to the park, pulling in tourists during the day, although Sunset locals do tend to stay in at night. But just this past year, that block was hopping with new openings, including Um.ma, Tartine Sunset, and Queens Superette.
While it’s sad for fans of this location, rest assured, it’s far from the end of the story for the Nopalito team. The original location at Broderick remains open and is doing steady business in takeout and meal kits. And the team is taking over a commissary kitchen and throwing open a takeout window in Mission Dolores. Even before the pandemic, Guzman was already in conversation with Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, who is turning over the kitchen at 18 Reasons, the former events space, and including the adjacent takeout window, which formerly churned Bi-Rite soft serve.
Apparently when one park-side restaurant closes, another park-side takeout window opens. Guzman says the window won’t be open for a month, but he’s already excited to serve carnitas, tortillas, totopos (chips drenched in salsa), and other delicious, from-scratch Mexican fare to dig into while kicking back in a lawn circle.