Between Old and New is Nopa
Last weekend I had the fine pleasure of attending the Western Addition restaurant, Nopa, for a bountiful brunch. Nopa is located at Divisadero and Hayes. It’s this mysterious looking building—in fact, it barely has any signage on the outside—so be sure to personally congratulate yourself if you’ve ever accidentally happened upon it. If you get curious enough like I did, you’ll be in for a satisfying (and food-coma-nap-inducing) surprise.
Nopa’s open for weekend brunch and daily dinners, so naturally, brunch summoned me. I had a craving for butter and other artery-clogging ingredients, so I grabbed a few friends and trekked toward this magical realm. We approached the building, not unlike seeing herds of cattle scuttle in and out of a gate: hosts rewarding reservationists with a happy seat, boomeranging back to deliver waiting times to struggling, hungover last-minute-ers, and disappearing to the kitchen and back. My gaze was brought above me to beautifully crafted workings of wood on the rising ceiling and quirky illustrations of neighborhood landmarks and legends complementing the cozy vibes on the main back wall. Since we so intelligently placed our reservation ahead of time, we proudly walked over to the host and, two seconds later, sat down to glaze over the menu.
I ordered a half-plate of custard French toast, topped with blood orange sauce and syrup—and I think held a week’s worth of my Daily Values fat intake—but it was so, so worth it. For my main dish, I had a cloud-like poached egg, nestled softly atop a chicken apple sausage, and that’s when I fell into my food coma. (My Sparky Wallbanger pulled me right back to the ground, though.) My friends ordered savory pork dishes with mountains of gravy, with the oddball of the group having ordered a hamburger, of which we quickly developed jealousy for. And glorious, glorious fries appeared out of nowhere beside fresh aioli. So many good things. Note to self: sides of bacon. Many. Yes.
The neighborhood of Alamo Square / Panhandle / Divisadero as a whole has been through some rough times in recent years, after undergoing some neglect from the city government when old, Victorian-style homes and businesses were seized in the nineties and 2000s, with newer housing emerging. And major gentrification has made its way around these parts. But I’m hopeful that it will keep a steady hold of its fair share of lived-in establishments and long-running businesses, maybe with an occasional small lottery of one or two new neighbors, like Nopa. (Small enough of a new class so not to rustle locals; this is tart San Francisco, after all.) My favorite things about this city are the diversity, the history, and the charm – whether it be architecture, people, culture, or food.
I like to think this tasty restaurant knows where it stands – at the crossroads of old and new, with a responsibility to pay tribute to the past, and not erase its descendants. And I think, so far, it salutes the vibes of the neighborhood with its cozy, homey dishes and warm atmosphere.
If anything, though, it’s a delightful Sunday brunch destination to soak up any damage that Saturday night devilishly blessed.
(And that’s a fact.)