Nopalito isn’t one of San Francisco’s most famous restaurants, but it’s one of the city’s most beloved. The smell of freshly cooked tortillas and the sound of heavy glasses clinking fill the casual space, which celebrates regional Mexican cuisine through a distinctly Californian lens thanks to co-owner and head chef Gonzalo Guzmán. A Mexican immigrant from Puebla, Guzmán crossed the border when he was just 15; after working his way up the ranks in various Bay Area kitchens, he helped open Nopalito in 2013. Guzmán is a cook’s cook, widely respected among his peers: There was no time for culinary school when he was a teenager trying to convince restaurants to pay him to wash dishes.
His first book bursts with color, offering a fresh and instructive approach to the cookbook genre that celebrates regional Mexican cuisine and presents the culture’s embrace of chiles, corn, and beans in an approachable way. The restaurant’s fans will be pleased to find recipes for their favorite dishes, from red quesadillas with braised pork to tamales with red sunflower seed mole, and agua fresas, cocktails, and desserts like churros and flan round out the book. You don’t need to have been to Nopalito to want to read this: Recipes aside, it’s a vivid testament to the struggle and triumph of the American immigrant.
Toasted Corn with Crema, Ground Chile, and Queso Fresco
Tostadas de Picadillo
Refried Black Beans
Hibiscus Orange Agua Fresca
Guests may BYOB
Music: Traditional Music from Mexico