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NOPA lives up to the Hype [San Francisco]

NOPA is the kind of neighborhood place that every hound wants to live near. Delicious, approachable food, generous portions, fair prices, friendly staff and an awesome bar.

Started with the wild salmon carpaccio which was one of the bigger carpaccio portions I've seen. The fish was paper thin and full of flavor and paired well with the scattered arugula. The ingredients were well balanced with just enought arugula to give the dish a kick without overpowering the salmon's flavors with bitterness.

We had the lamb riblets which bordered an entree portion in size. The lamb had a crispy outside layer and the inside was a melt in your mouth braise. I believe they braise and then fry them to achieve that texture. The sauce had just the right amount of spice to it. The was my favorite dish of the evening and I couldn't stop eating it so I sucked the marrow out of the bones.

I commented that I was getting full, which never happens after two apps. For a Cal-Cuisine/New American restaurant, the portions are huge. So keep that in mind; you don't need the usual app+entree per person to leave here full. But we didn't know this when we ordered so we proceeded to stuff ourselves silly.

I always feel silly ordering chicken at a good restaurant but the rotisserie chicken has received rave reviews. What can I say? This is everything rotisserie chicken should be. Crispy skin, tender meat and a delicious au jus. Up there with the best rotisserie chicken I've had. I also really enjoyed the wax beans with walnut pesto as a break to the meat.

I'm really picky about my pork, but a lot of reviews had played up the pork chop and our server's enthusiasm sold me on it. It was a fantastic chop: smokey sear, tender, flavorful meat and nice fat distribution. But what made this dish special was the Frog Hollow peaches it was served with. I love the combination of fruit and meat when it is done right and the sweet, acidic peaches brought the pork to the next level. As with all things, they were generous with the peach slices so that there was enough to enjoy for the whole meal. Add to that the mixed greens salad with house made LARDONS and you can understand my enthusiasm.

Overcooked meat is the bane of my existence so I was thrilled that both the chicken and the pork chop were a healthy pink. Here are some chefs who want us to taste our food, right on! And don't even say the word salmonella to me, when you're using good quality meat that isn't from a filthy, factory farm you don't need to cook it to death.

So we were stuffed. I mean really, really stuffed. At this point, we understood why they never brought us bread, it would have been a waste of space (I'm trying to remember which food blogger said, "bread is the silent killer of a good meal.") But it's impossible for me to eat a good meal and not try a little dessert. So we went for the blackberry crostata with lemon cream. It was good, there was some nice tartness to it, the crust was flakey. Maybe a little too sweet for my taste, but I was honestly too full to give it a fair judgement. I'd order dessert again after a less enormous meal.

The apps are the strongest part of the menu. The entrees were good, and nice and big, but the apps were more memorable. I could easily see myself making a meal out of the apps, something I never do because app portions are so often tiny. And although I wasn't too interested in the rest of the entree menu, I could have happily ordered all of the apps (lamb sausage flatbread! fried anchovies! arugula with house cured bacon! I could go on...) I think the ideal amount of food for two would be three apps and an entree, or even just five apps.

All that plus three drinks was $80 before tip. Totally reasonable, and it would be easy to shave $10-$20 off that bill by not eating like complete pigs (we've been clutching our bellies all night). If I was in the neighborhood, I would be a regular. But even though NOPA requires a drive across the bridge I will return. NOPA definitely deserves all the praise it receives.

I'd like to add that I finally got Fast Track and I feel like a complete idiot for spending all these years sitting in bridge traffic. Travel time from Berkeley to SF: 25 minutes. I'm excited because this means I'll be dining in the city more often.

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  1. Great to hear positive recent reports on Nopa. I need to get back there soon. Thanks for the post.

    1. Portions were substantial. Six appetizers (including a dish of olives and a light salad) was a hearty meal for two people.

      We did have to ask for bread (excellent) and again every time we wanted more, since they'd only bring a couple of slices at a time. My guess is a lot of their customers don't eat much bread and they don't want to waste it.


      1. After going a few times right when it opened -- and feeling like the food was not worth the hassle of waiting for a table and dealing with all the noise, I went back on Friday to give this place one more shot. Thank goodness I did -- I was blown away. It was so much better than my first three visits. Service was genuine and engaging, and the food was superb.

        The one miss for me was the tomato soup. I didn't care for the few spoonfuls I had. It was sweet in a Campbell's soup kind of way, and while it sent my dining companion on a lovely trip down memory lane, it was too cloying for me. That was the only misstep of the night, everything else was superb.

        The cucumber salad was just cukes, feta, kalamata olives, and toybox tomatoes. Simple, right? No way -- these had to be the best cucumbers I've ever eaten in my life. The salad evolved past the typical "Greek salad" classification and became a joyous expression of summer. Texture, flavor, everything was perfect.

        I'd also recommend the strawberry panna cotta. It was wonderful, especially paired with a sparkling Gamay (or it could have been Grenache) that our server recommended.

        Oh - and an individual french press pot of blue bottle coffee at the end. What more could you ask for?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Absonot

          Oooh, strawberry panna cotta. I wish that was on the Saturday menu. Glad I didn't go for the tomato soup.

          Your story is an excellent example of why you should never discount an eatery due to a bad experience during the first few months (ya hear that, all you Ici haters?)

        2. How is it getting a table these days? Do they still have that stupid "don't call until 2pm" reservations policy? Is the walk-in situation bearable on a weeknight?
          Thanks in advance...

          3 Replies
          1. re: foodiegrl

            i don't mind the 2 pm rule, it's just another option and i'd prefer this to no reservations at all. that said, so far i've had no problem grabbing a seat at the bar or common table if arriving around 6/6:30. (this may change as the days get dark earlirr). by 7, it is full and seems to stay that way till 9:30. i have not waited for a table during that time but can usually grab something at bar/common table with a 20 or so min wait (but does require the uncomfortable "hovering").

            1. re: foodiegrl

              I really like their res policy. If they allowed ressies one month in advance, I'd have to plan my dinner there one month in advance. If they only allowed walk ins, I'd have to wait an hour to be seated. Same day ressies give you the flexibility to dine on a whim without a long wait for a walk in table. It's the best of both worlds and I wish more mid-priced restaurants had this policy. And it only takes about 5 minutes to call ahead.

              The bar stools and the communal tables are reserved for walk ins on a first come first serve basis.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                Please keep in mind that there are a lot of us who can't break away from work right at 2pm to make these calls. It just seems a bit unfriendly. I guess I'm just used to restaurants being a bit more accommodating. The early walk-in info is very helpful, though. Thanks!

            2. I agree, Morton. The 2pm rule rules!

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    After hearing all these great things about Nopa I was jazzed to dine there last night. Unfortunately, what I experienced fell far short of these reviews.

                    First, let me tell you what was right: great bar. I had a sazerac, which was perfect, and that's unusual, so already I was pleased. And the physical space is gorgeous. A little loud - open rafters will do that - but a hot, sexy vibe pervades the place, and that's all right by me.

                    Once we were seated, the host gave us an amuse bouche which was amusing indeed. Frankly, I'm still scratching my head over it: two raw radishes, a slice of butter and a tiny salt cellar. (This was neither good nor bad, but it was so odd that I had to share.)

                    The menu is well-presented. It's reminiscent of a denser version of the Delfina menu.

                    I asked the waiter up front what their signature dish was and he said the pork chop. I ordered that, and my date, sensing correctly that the appetizers are hearty, decided to get three appetizers in lieu of an entree.

                    This is where the meal descended into mediocrity. The apps - mine included - were the cucumber salad, the baked goat cheese, the 'little gems' salad and the lamb riblets. Of all of them, I would go back ONLY for the lamb riblets which were delicious, perfectly braised and memorable. Everything else was flat, or, in the case of the goat cheese, something that you'd eat at your next book club meeting.

                    As for my pork chop, it was dry and boring. I'm a pork lover and have had lots of pork chops in my day and this was not worth the build-up. In fact, I came away a little flummoxed as to what the big deal was. A previous poster mentioned something about it coming with peaches, but mine didn't include that, just the chop. (In fact, a peach compote might have been nice, given how dry and flavorless it was.)

                    Dessert was strong. A stone-fruit crisp with vanilla ice cream. Perfectly done. However, while the dessert itself was excellent, the coffee accompanying it was not.

                    I ordered regular coffee, which comes in a little french press. This coffee was very good. My date, unfortunately, ordered an espresso. A former barista, she was used to tasting espresso and knows what espresso should be like. She took one sip and made a face. "Too bitter," she said. She tried to doctor it up with sugar, etc., but it was still undrinkable. Here's where the wheels began to fall off on the service front.

                    The waiter said he'd get her a new espresso, but not before he added, "Everyone RAVES about our espresso." Look, I get that that may be true, but every machine has its quirks and if the espresso's being made in the (busy) bar, they may not be focusing on it. It could have been an off cup. But DON'T argue with the customer.

                    Espresso #2 comes out. Same thing. Bitter, overextracted, etc. This one I tried as well and I'm still trying to cleanse my palate. This time the waiter is even more defensive about the espresso. Better yet, the MANAGER then comes out and tells my date, "Funny, people are always saying what great espresso we have." Funny, people are always saying what a great tipper I am.

                    This put a damper on the meal. Even if the customer's wrong - and, I hate to say it but as one former barista and one current coffee addict can attest, the espresso was battery acid - don't argue. Just take it off the bill and offer something else. That, to me, was inexcusable.

                    So if I ever go back - or if anyone asks me what I thought of the place - I'll just say, sit at the bar and order the lamb riblets and a cocktail. Those things worked. And whatever you do? Don't order the espresso.

                    1. re: getsnarky

                      I'm also very particular about my pork and my chop was juicy and delicious. Although the peaches were great, the pork stood on its own merit. Sounds to me like you hit an off night at NOPA. At least the riblets were solid.

                      I really liked the radishes, though it's not the first time I've seen them presented like that. It was such a welcome change from the standard Acme bread and butter.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        Radishes served French style with sweet butter and salt is one of the signature apps at The Girl & The Fig in Glen Ellen.

                      2. re: getsnarky

                        I have to try those lamb riblets!

                        FWIW, and I know it is a minor point, but I don't think radishes with butter and salt is odd at all; actually, I think it is a great combination! (and one I've been served before, so perhaps not that unusual?)

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Butter and salt are the standard accompaniments to radishes in France.

                  2. No, I get the Blue Bottle coffee - in every sense. People, I am a coffee junkie! I am your sister in caffeine, trust me. I LOVE coffee, and I know coffee. The french press coffee I was served WAS perfect, but I have to tell you - the espresso was execrable. Twice. The crema looked fine (a little dark) but the espresso itself was undrinkable. Note that this may not have been the fault of the coffee quality, but a user error (even if that includes proper cleaning/maintenance of the machine). And btw, they never tried it themselves. (That would have gone a long way, if they'd at least pulled themselves a shot to test the machine.)

                    Yeah, I hope it was an off night but given the response to the espresso issue - seriously, what's the point of arguing with us? - I'm not enthusiastic. That's an example of how a service misstep (this one later involving the manager) can affect the experience, outside of the food.

                    I don't think I could recommend the pork chop either, though I'm curious as to how others have had it. Mine was just so flat and dry that I can't believe this is THE chop they rave about.

                    The lamb riblets though... I'd eat those again. Happily.

                    1. Wow, I went last Friday and had a great meal there.
                      My date and I ordered 1 entree and 3 apps - the Pork Chop, the Flatbread with arugula, eggplant and duck sausage, the Roasted Sardine, and the Riblets.

                      They brought out the roasted sardine with romesco and the riblets first. The sardine tasted like sardine, but the romesco was a perfect match for the "fishiness." My date loved this dish. I also liked this dish very much.

                      The riblets were a huge portion. After everyone else here raved about them, I had to try it. I was not disappointed. The texture was perfect crisp on the outside, soft and tender inside. It made no qualms about tasting like lamb either, which I loved. My date, who hates lamb, said she could still taste the gamey-ness thought.

                      The Flatbread came out next and was fantastic. Arugula, eggplant, and duck sausage is a great match with the pepperiness from the arugula, and the sweetness of the eggplant, and the savory mouthfeel of the duck. Just the right balance of salt, sweet, and pepper. Needless to say, we both loved this.

                      Finally, the pork chop I had was possibly the best pork chop I have ever eaten - nice fat distribution, juicy, not dry at all. The chop was placed over a small salad and the juice from the pork was pure heaven on the greens. Peaches were a very nice addition to the pork.

                      We were both full at this point, so we decided to share a dessert. We got the fig cake with a red wine ice cream (i believe) with mixed feelings. The ice cream was great, but the cake left a lot to be desired. The figs were not anywhere near what I expected in terms of sweetness. They could have put a cottonball there and it would have tasted the same.

                      I would definately return, although the service can be a little off at times. I thought our server was feeling rushed and when we needed the check, she was not to be found. Also, the timing of our food was not good, the flatbread coming out while we were only half way through our first set of apps, and really not having enough tablespace to accomodate the large flatbread platter. There was also a substantial wait for the pork chop. The food lived up to the hype though.

                      1. after a long night of drinking we decided to hit NOPA late night last night at just past midnight. i love that this place serves food until 1am. we split a burger and fries, a beer and the dougnut holes. the burger tasted really lovely. much improved from the last time i had it. the first time i had the burger it was too char flavored for me. and i'm not one to shy away from char or smokey flavoring. last night's was nice and juicey, medium rare, with a wonderful grassy flavor. fries were solid. and love those doughnut holes with the rum-caramel dipping sauce.

                        1. I had dinner last night with a large group, so we decided to split into 2 tables of 4. Lemme first throw in my own experience with the reservation system. Even though it took a while to get through to the restaurant, I like the system because we didn't really decide where to eat until a day before but were able to get 2 tables anyway. It's a convenient alternative to those places that book up 2 weeks in advance. Now if every restaurant did reservations this way, we'd have a real problem.

                          Unfortunately, the reservations we made were not reservations so much as they were just placeholders in a long wait list. Our 9pm party was not seated until 9:30, and our 9:30pm party was not seated until 10:30! A hostess graciously brought us some fries and goat cheese w/ crostini to munch on, and we could see many parties after us also waiting and receiving fries, etc. This place really needs to work out its seating issues. Food while you wait is nice, but I'd rather just not wait.

                          By the time we were seated, we were told that they were already out of 2 entrees: pork chop and London broil. My friends at the other table were also told before they ordered that they were out of the pork chop, meaning that at 9:30, or around halfway through their dinner service, they were already out of an entree. From all the great reviews of the pork chop here, I was really hankerin' for it! London broil would've been my backup b/c I was in the mood for some red meatiness, but alas, it too was gone.

                          I ended up ordering lamb riblets to fill this red meat void, and they were tasty, hearty and surprisingly filling for an appetizer portion. This was the best dish at the table. Friends got flatbread and soup. I forget what the soup was, but it was orange/red and said to be "ok". Flatbread was pretty good. A couple of us also ordered the black cod for our entree. This dish was decently cooked, but it had a fishiness that just killed it for me. A couple other people ordered it and complained about the same fishiness. I've had black cod many times before (both w/ skin and w/o - Nopa's came w/ skin on) and haven't really had this problem, but it's also hard for me to believe they had that many bad pieces of fish. Dessert was donuts holes and chocolate ice cream. Donuts were very fluffy w/ a rich but subtly flavored sauce, and chocolate ice cream was really dark and creamy, very nice.

                          To sum up, by itself the food was pretty good for the price, especially the lamb riblets, BUT the excessive wait and the fact that they were out of 2 entrees so early in their service means none of us will be going back.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mikeop34

                            I was part of this large group. I agree that their handling of reservations was just chaos, and I've read similar complaints. I wouldn't say I won't go back, but I'll definitely avoid going on a weekend!

                            As they were out of the entrees I had my eyes on (also the pork or beef), I just ordered 3 appetizers. I started with the flatbread, which was topped with lamb sausage, peppers, and onions. Delicious. Next, I had the salmon carpaccio, which was very good. Didn't wow me with the first bite, but kept getting better, and I looked down 30 seconds later and I had already finished it. Finally, I got the lamb riblets. Everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy these, but I'm just not particularly huge on lamb. They were good, but didn't really stand out for me. Perhaps I was just too full. (With the wait, I had also had some of their fries, which were very good, the crostini/goat cheese, also good, and a salad (something called little gems - not sure what gems are), a bit heavy on dressing, but tasty.)

                            Full as I was, I couldn't resist dessert. Got the doughnut holes with rum caramel sauce. Nice and light, but had me jonesing for some old-school Winchell's, haha. What took me over the top was my decision to also order the Valrhona hot chocolate. Very good, very rich, but at that point, I had just eaten too much, and was at the point of bursting!

                          2. Our first visit to NOPA was this past Sun. (about two years after Morton's post) after seeing Chihuly at the de Young, and we had a great experience also! Husband and I walked in around 6:15pm w/o a reservation and asked if anything was available. The hostess welcomed us and said, "how about the chef's table?" Uhh, that was a no-brainer for me because I always have a good time sitting near an open kitchen and watching the performance.

                            The bar seats were all filled, but the "chef's table" facing the kitchen had four seats, all empty. I chose to sit nearest to the pass table where all the food comes out before being inspected by the chef, anointed w/ finishing touches, and then whisked away. It was great to observe all the dishes being ordered, and nothing sat there for too long. At 6:15pm it was still relatively calm and quiet, but by 7pm things had really picked up and the kitchen was slammed. I get a kick out of seeing the increased intensity, and the kitchen crew appeared to work very well under pressure.

                            As we started to peruse the food and drink menus, chef-owner Laurence struck up a conversation w/ us and gave me some recs upon my solicitation. He told us that the pork chop is super popular (as evidenced here), as well as the chicken and burger. We started talking about some of his suppliers and since I belong to Mariquita's CSA and also know their restaurant product list, I could see them all over the menu (even though they aren't explicitly named). Other players: Marin Sun Farms, Marshall honey, Blue Bottle coffee, etc. He is clearly passionate about sourcing quality, seasonal ingredients and was very unpretentious in his tone.

                            After eyeing their burger and fries plate, we knew that was a must-order. I tend to prefer small plates/appetizers over entrees when eating out, so we also ordered three appetizers: fried smelt w/ lemon & romesco; wood-baked lima beans w/ tomatoes, feta, oregano & breadcrumbs; and olive oil poached albacore, potatoes, peppers & aioli. It was a tough decision, as many other dishes sounded and looked tantalizing. For drinks, I started w/ the wash house cocktail of organic Square One vodka (from Idaho said the chef), basil, lime & thyme. Y went w/ their featured 18 year aged rum, flor de cana, from Nicaragua.

                            I wasn't sure if my drink would taste too herbacious, but the heady notes of basil and thyme were perfectly balanced by the lime juice and simple syrup. A nice, clean way to wake up the palate. Y liked his rum so much that he ordered a second one later in the evening, and he never orders the same drink twice in a sitting.

                            Our waitress then brought out the fried smelt w/ romesco. The coating was light, greaseless, and perfectly crispy. It was nicely seasoned, but allowed the delicate flavor of the creamy smelt to come through. The freshest smelt I've ever had, and IIRC the chef mentioned it came from Bolinas. The romesco had a nice smokiness and acidity to play off of the fried fish. The only thing that could have improved this was to add some battered and fried meyer lemon rounds. :-)

                            Ok, so we don't often order lima beans when dining out, but Y was the one who insisted on these. I was so excited to see him advocate for a non-meat item that I jumped at the chance, and boy, I'm glad I did. The dried beans are baked in an oblong cazuela in the wood-fired oven stationed right in front of us. When I asked the source, the chef first said Rancho Gordo but then corrected himself and said Phipps. The beans were evenly cooked and creamy, and the tomatoes, feta, and oregano pesto worked with them beautifully. Too much oregano can be off-putting, but it was used w/ restraint here.

                            As I requested, the albacore and burger came out simultaneously. The olive oil poached albacore was essentially a deconstructed salade nicoise w/ little piles of accompaniments surrounding three good-sized pieces of albacore. The fish was firm and unctuous from its olive oil bath. When eaten w/ the excellent garlicky aioli and other accompaniments, it came to life. I don't think this is very popular there since I never saw it on the pass.

                            I admit, once the burger arrived, it sort of stole the spotlight. We opted to add on gruyere. When the chef saw our order ticket, he said, "what, no bacon?" We weren't given that option by our waitress, so he said he'd be happy to add their house-smoked bacon free of charge. Uhhh, sure, bacon is a no-brainer. I know you hounds love your medium-rare burgers, but Y requested medium since that is his comfort zone for ground beef (even at a place like NOPA). The grassfed beef burger was fantastic. The meat wasn't super juicy or fatty, but the flavor was nicely beefy and minerally. It sorta reminded me of a buffalo patty but w/ much better texture and flavor. The pickled onions, gruyere, and house-smoked bacon were all tasty, and kudos to them for making their own buns! The fresh-cut fries w/ basil aioli were tasty, but we were so full that we couldn't finish them. The chef told me they sell anywhere from 50-75 burger plates per night.

                            During this procession of food, I ordered a glass of their cava. The cava was too light and wimpy and served basically as a thirst quencher. After our plates were cleared and we sat back all full and happy, we knew we had to order one dessert since the desserts on the pass looked good. I was very intrigued by the roasted corn ice cream, skillet bread & bacon brittle, but Y didn't want bacon again and wanted something lighter. Realizing it now, I bet if I had asked the chef for a taste of the bacon brittle, he would have happily obliged. For chocoholics, the malted milk & chocolate ice cream w/ warm brownie looked inviting.

                            We chose the housemade farmer's cheese, honeycomb & bronx grapes. Having to drive back to Santa Cruz, Y ordered their Blue Bottle coffee. The farmer's cheese was fine but unremarkable in flavor; the chef told me how they make it from buttermilk. The Marshall Farms honeycomb was wonderful; I only wish there had been more. The bronx grapes were ripe, sweet and complex...reminiscent of ice wine. The almonds come from the same supplier (I forget the name), and were perfectly toasted and tender like marconas. The big pile of crostini were completely superfluous since it didn't really complement the other items and were so heavy for a meal closure, so we left the pile practically intact. This particular dessert was the weakest dish of the night, but I don't think that's true of all their desserts. The Blue Bottle coffee that came in a cute little french press was just right.

                            By the time we finished up, the chef had a moment to breathe from the dinner rush. I told him how we desperately need him to open another branch in Santa Cruz since we would be regulars, and he chuckled and said that his new place, Nopalito, would be opening soon nearby. I didn't push him for an exact date, but I assume it will happen in the next couple of months and all the bloggers and media will jump on it. With a new baby and two restaurants (with NOPA open 7 days a week), I have no idea when he finds time to sleep or relax...but the guy seemed very down to earth and relaxed.

                            I told him that we had come up to the city to view the Chihuly exhibit and we chatted some about that; I even showed him some photos from my camera. Incidentally, he saw me taking photos of the food and jokingly teased me about my "obsession" and "sickness" and Y was all too happy to chime in. Ok, I may be obsessed and sick and a chef/farm groupie, but at least Chowhound is a place where I can channel my illness and feel somewhat normal. :-)

                            Enjoy my photos:

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              Forgot to add that the total cost came to about $96 w/ tax before tip. Very reasonable for the quality, portions, and "entertainment" factor. Service from our waitress was great, and the chef was so hospitable and nice. It was noisy but I like that kind of happy noise.

                              Click on the link below for a video of the chef and space by Chow:

                              560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Great photos of the food and exhibit - thank you for the report!

                                1. re: Annie S.

                                  You're welcome. The juxtaposition of the two experinces--Chihuly being over the top, flamboyant, highly manipulated while NOPA being down to earth, simple, natural--made for a stimulating and fulfilling outing. We're seeing Frida this weekend, so I hope we have another great meal in the city!

                              2. Was there this weekend. It's still great, and at this point, it probably deserves to be called a San Francisco institution. I do wish they'd change up the menu a little more from time to time (the menu hasn't changed much at all in the last few years), but considering how busy it still is, why change what ain't broke.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: dunstable

                                  Each time they try to change the menu, they are besieged with complaints.
                                  I still like the pork chop... and, the Sherry Shrub cocktail.

                                  1. re: Cynsa

                                    Someone mentioned the Nopa burger on a best burger thread recently. Would it be silly to waste a meal on one as a visitor from a place where good burgers are not to be had for love or money?

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      I've said for years that the Nopa burger is my favorite in SF.
                                      Plus, excellent cocktails and a great wine list.
                                      I don't think it would be a waste at all.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Normally I would say not to bother with the burger in a restaurant, but the one at Nopa is so outstanding that I might even go as far as saying that it is a must-order... except that the pork chop is also a must-order. Can't order everything at once, unfortunately...

                                        The dessert sopaipillas are also killer; I'd make sure someone in your party orders those too.

                                        1. re: dunstable

                                          I also think the wood baked butter beans are a must order. I'm always happiest when I go with a group and can share.

                                  2. I agree. Not only does it live up to the hype, it's consistent. I've heard the culinary staff are tired of the burger BUT they know people love the burger, so they keep it. That's a good kitchen. The pork chop? To die for. The cocktails (and the bar) are fabulous and the restaurant itself attracts such a diverse group of San Franciscans and touristy-foodies alike in one space. Hard to find in SF. NOPA is hands down one of the best spots.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: MeredithR

                                      Thanks, y'all! I'm always faced with this dilemma (a wonderful problem indeed) when I go to a well-recommended resto and they have a worthy burger on the bill of fare, along with many other highly thought of dishes.

                                      We've passed by Nopa several times in our travels and it is always slammed. I hope to be organized enough to get a reso for our November trip.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        My wife and I try to go as often as possible, not as much lately since we used to live closer to the Nopa neighborhood. Our standard order is whatever roasted vegetable side is on the menu, a flatbread (always great and toppings change seasonally), and a burger; all to share. As already stated cocktails are great and they do a wine feature on a particular producer/varietal/region that are always fun to try. Enjoy!

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          The best bet for a table is to get thereby 5:30 and put your name on list or grab a spot at the bar or Communal table. There are usually a few tables for walk-ins and you can eat the full meal at the bar. Just don't over do the Bar snacks which are small and tasty and can be filling. Love the place!!

                                          1. re: budnball

                                            Hmm, we're either going to need to attempt a chowdown, or go more than once, to try all the tempting items on offer. 5:30 is happy hour for us, so will go with trying to get resos for now. Wish me luck!

                                            1. re: budnball

                                              This thread inspired me to be spontaneous. Walked in at 5:30, got two seats at 6 at the chef's counter, right in front of the wood-burning oven (fascinating to watch). Shared a salad of roasted corn, figs, hazelnuts, and little gems; Monterey sardines over gypsy peppers and crème fraîche; and the pork chop (with broccoli di ciccio, grilled nectarines, and a smashed potato). That was enough to stuff us beyond thought of dessert (which for us takes some doing), and with one cocktail, the bill was $60 before tip. Lovely meal; thank you for the impetus.

                                              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                                Glad you enjoyed it. I have not been as often as before because I ate there 7-8 times a year or more for awhile and kinda drained the menu. One of the perils of a great place is the expectation of the "favorite item" be always on the menu. At Nopa it's the Pork Chop Burger and Flatbread. But I have eaten almost everything on the menu a few times and it is almost all great.

                                            2. re: grayelf

                                              Oooh count me in! If it's not date night with the Aux Stom. I've still never been!

                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                I have commenced making sacrifice to the Reso Gods for November :-).

                                                Note above that the menu doesn't change often. It occurs to me that that prolly means this thread will continue to be a good resource for reccs.

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  i'm counting on splitting a burger with you, and that pork chop with someone - and everything else is icing on the cake!

                                          2. Nopa
                                            560 Divisadero St,
                                            San Francisco, CA 94117
                                            Phone:(415) 864-8643

                                            1. figured id jump in...

                                              coming in from nyc. if you had a reservation for nopa and aq on the same night...which would you go to...

                                              ive never been to either.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: sam1

                                                AQ, then NOPA for late night (open till 1am)—get the flatbread, split a burger etc.

                                                1. re: W42

                                                  ended up at nopa and had a rather fantastic small meal consisting of 4 small plates including a burger to split.

                                                  everything was absolutely spot on...service, food, vibe. loved it very much.

                                              2. And Jeff is the nicest owner!

                                                1. Going tonight for the first time. Looking at the menu, i don't see the lamb riblets - sad! i was really hoping to try those.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                    I'm shocked i didn't love this place more. I really wanted to! i've been dying to go for years.

                                                    Three of us shared the Roasted Sardines, Grilled Bread, Tomato Vinaigrette and Horseradish Cream; the Roasted Chanterelle Mushrooms, Poached Egg and Frisée; the Seared Duck Breast, Creamy Corn, Hazelnuts, Radish and Broccoli di Ciccio; and the Pork Chop, Farro, Grilled Mutsu Apples, Green Beans and Mustard.

                                                    Everything was good to very good, but the only real wow item, for all three of us, was the duck. everything was cooked just fine, but some things were just a little... ok. I personally loved the sardines; my friends did not, but i think they were just not sardine lovers. the dish reminded me of the Spanish pan tomate. the mushrooms with egg were good, but a little bland. speaking of bland, their bread is not very good at all. i actually asked them where it was made, trying to see if they make their own. they don't. we did ask for bread to sop up the duck egg, but as my friend put it, it was like Italian bread - flavorless. needed salt.

                                                    the duck was fantastic - beautifully rosy red slices, juicy meat, crispy fat, tender and really flavorful, and it went perfectly with the sweet corn and hazelnuts. a great dish.

                                                    the famed pork chop was really good - super thick, juicy (but not SUPER juicy), tender, good flavor. it just wasn't as spectacular as i expected from all the reviews. i've had just as good a pork chop at Foreign Cinema, for one. if someone asked me if they should order it, i'd say yes, absolutely. but i'd get the duck.

                                                    on recommendation of our server, we ordered the browned butter crepes with creme fraiche ice cream, pears, and candied almonds. if i, a non-dessert-person, were to order dessert, that would have been the one i would have picked. however, it too was not particularly spectular. really couldn't taste any browned butter flavor - the crepes were more lemony than anything else - and the ice cream was a bit bland and watery, instead of creamy.

                                                    service was fine - not super friendly, but efficient and pleasant.

                                                    overall, if others wanted to go here, i'd go again, or if i was in the neighborhood and wanted a bite (however, that corridor is quickly becoming another foodie central - there's a recent NYT article calling NoPa the new Mission), i'd stop in.

                                                    i did have a killer cocktail - the Aristorcrat - a very balanced, slightly less bitter Negroni-type drink. so, if i were to go back, i'd maybe try the burger and a cocktail..

                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                      Thanks for the detailed writeup, mc. The duck does sound worthy, and a good cocktail is a fine thing but given the hassle of getting reservations, I may be swayed for Nov.

                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                        i knooooooww.... i feel bad... what if it was just an off night?

                                                        let's think about it. we still have time.

                                                        there's always the burger....

                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                          here's a pic of the duck. and others. look at the duck egg pic - that dish should have been killer!