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This Indigenous Mexican Food Pop-Up Is Back for One Night Only at a San Francisco Museum

Molcaxitl Kitchen’s Nomar Ramirez says the Institute of Contemporary Art is an ideal place to pop-up as a chef

Tacos on a plate.
Molcaxitl Kitchen is teaming up with Tacos Los Cuates for a last supper in San Francisco.
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

If you’ve ever felt torn between a night at the museum and an evening of San Francisco’s finest fare, waffle no longer. The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) opened in 2022 and is already a popular destination for anyone looking to enjoy modern art on a budget as the museum is free to attend. But this spring, the ICA is rolling out a fresh chef pop-up series, bringing in talent including Christina Alexis from the Pleasure Principle and Mike Raskin and Jeffrey Wright from uber-popular Edith’s Pies.

First, Nomar Ramirez is kicking things off on April 27 as he returns to his pop-up Molcaxitl Kitchen for a “Last Waltz”-style final gig. “I think the ICA does a genuinely great job of making it easy for people,” Ramirez says. “It makes it profitable and easy.”

Ramirez stopped running his Indigenous Mexican food pop-up in December 2021, but through the grapevine heard about a guy from Puebla making tacos in the Bay Area. “It was the closest thing I’ve had in the Bay to a Los Angeles tacos,” Ramirez says. “And it inspired me to do one more pop-up.” Around the same time, Jacob Croom from Chicano food pop-up My Friend Fernando hit him up to let Ramirez know his partner was curating the pop-up series at ICA and that the museum was looking for vendors. The stars aligned. Ramirez called up his old crew, many of whom are traveling back to the Bay for the event, and is partnering with that aforementioned taco wizard Noe Hernandez from Tacos Los Cuates. In June, Ramirez will move to San Diego, so this is a big deal meal for the young cook.

A plate of food.
Ramirez’s cooking is meant to amplify Indigenous cuisine while inviting folks into Chicano culture.
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

The result is a one-night-only menu of trompo-sliced tacos — Hernandez’s specialty is al pastor — next to Ramirez’s battered cactus, filled with queso Oaxaca and mole. But be warned: trying Ramirez’s nopal requires a membership to the 901 Club, the ICA’s $9.01 membership, and a nod to its address at 901 Minnesota Street. Zucchini tacos, turkey mole, and rice and beans will be available in addition to the al pastor for non-members. It’s a simple menu, but Molcaxitl has always shown its diners the power of Indigenous cooking through well-sourced ingredients prepared with an eye toward the past.

Really, Ramirez says the event series is a home run for would-be pop-ups. The installation is the result of Meantime, the ICA’s program to highlight experiential art and pop-ups. East Bay vegan Palestinian wunderkind Mishmish appeared at an earlier engagement. The museum handles beer and wine, trash pick-up, video marketing, and even prints menus for its vendors. Ramirez sees himself as an artist more than a chef, too, pointing to the four-hour cumbia playlist he made for the dinner event. On top of that, the museum pre-purchases those member-only items, meaning Ramirez and vendors like him can budget in advance. “And they don’t charge me a single penny,” Ramirez says. “It’s literally just supporting San Francisco chefs.”

The ICA’s spring chef series begins on April 27 at 6 p.m. at 901 Minnesota Street.