Sunday, August 8, 2010


Bacon waffles bring back wonderful memories of childhood for me. Never a child of the South nor even a visitor, my Italian grandmother made these for me. When the opportunity arose I made them for my niece, while telling her stories about her great grandmother. When I read that they were on the Stack's menu I had to try them. They were very good, but the bacon was a bit too crisp for my preference. After an anointing of butter and a baptism of maple syrup they did take me to the promised land of a hearty, delicious breakfast.

They make a decent sandwich too. This ham and turkey club sandwich was proof of that. Since it was almost time for lunch when I ordered the waffle, my "usual suspect" of a dining companion was less nostalgic and ordered something more time appropriate, the aforementioned club sandwich.

On our second visit we both ordered eggs, that came with a small portion of hash browns and a small cup of fruit. The egg dishes themselves were very large portions and more than enough to fill a person. The Eggs Benedict were just as expected, but the Crab Benedict was the real stand out with a generous amount of crab and avocado slices. We had swift courteous service and judging by the line of people waiting to get in this is a very popular restaurant. Not being great breakfast or "brunch" fans we will probably not be returning soon, but someone who does prefer those meals would like Stack's. It's an upscale diner of the 21st century providing old fashioned comfort food.

Stacks' Website

501 Hayes Street 
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 241-9011

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Nopalito is a treasured neighborhood restaurant North of the Panhandle in San Francisco, and luckily for me, it's located in my neighborhood. That privilege affords me the ability to go there on a regular basis, so this review can be broader than many. My familiarity with it may also afford me the courage to be more candid with criticism, since no negative comment is going to stop me from returning there, nor should it discourage others from trying it. Like a relative, it may have it's short comings, but you gotta love it all the same.

One never knows where to start at Nopalito, so let's just go with the Gordito de Picadillo. For under $5 you can't go wrong with this solid little starter made of a crispy tortilla pocket, grass fed beef, refried beans and home made queso fresco.

One of the first items I ever ordered from Nopalito was the Pozole, because I like hominy, but this version was and remains too thin for my taste. I had to add all the condiments and tortilla chips to get anything close to a thicker soup. I prefer the Pozole served at Green Chile Kitchen a few blocks away.

No one, however, could fault the Carnitas that were so very flavorful and fall-off-the-bone tender, after being slowly braised and caramelized with orange, bay leaves and beer. They were excellent and are a dish I return to without hesitation. They came with corn tortillas, cabbage salad and a tomatillo salsa, so they're easy to make into a do-it-yourself carnitas taco.

Here are two variations of Nopalito's citrus salad. The first came with watermelon radishes and blood oranges, the second was made with pickled onions and blood oranges along with cara cara oranges and grapefruit segments. Both were christened with the house made queso fresco, lime and chili; both were refreshing and worth ordering again.

On the ever changing menu, you can usually find a variation of Panucho, a corn tortilla with beans, Chicken Pibil and pickled red onions; another tasty starter or small plate for under $5. Many patrons stick to the tapas, but I really find the entrees enticing, so ordering one of each works to create a full meal.

This blue corn tortilla was an item that only appeared on the menu when we first encountered the restaurant. I admired that the tortilla was house made. the Jack and fresh cheeses worked with the mushrooms and made a nice vegetarian option.

Potato Taquitos were an option one evening with respectably crunchy corn tortillas cradling the potatoes, with salsa verde and cabbage as accompaniments. There was very little guacamole, but sour cream came in a small bowl. I'd rather have more guacamole. Still it was a good vegetarian option.

Taco de Pescado al Pastor always comes with citrus fruit. The fish changes and on the occasion when I took the photograph on the right, it had been made with sturgeon with ancho chili and chimichurri sauce.

Birria de Chivo was an unexpected pleasure. It is seldom that I see goat on a menu and when I do see it, most often in Mexican restaurants, that's what I order. This was a decent recipe, but a bit skimpy on the meat, even though they did make up for that with the beans.

The best $4 ever spent at Nopalito was on the Tamal de Frijoles con Hongos y Huitlacoche, a blue corn tamale with black trumpet mushrooms and corn smut, sometimes called Mexican Truffle, because it's a fungus that grows on the corn. It was served with a guajillo salsa and crema. I have Nopalito to thank for introducing me to so many different chilies in the form of sauces.

Mole Manchamanteles con Pato has been my favorite entree to date. The roasted apples and sweet potatoes went so beautifully with the mole and duck leg. Their sweetness paired with the rich duck and complex mole was inspirational. I tried this combination on a cold evening and it was an extraordinary comfort food. Well priced at $12. I have never, before or since, been served duck in a restaurant for such low a price. I think this was a "loss leader".

Who could resist a Mexican Paleta for dessert? These traditional ice cream bars are something we are lucky enough to see on a regular basis in San Francisco. It was a simple but satisfying end to a very good meal.

Nopalito Website

306 Broderick Street San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 437-0303
Open Daily 11:30am-10pm