So, you’ve just spent an afternoon, evening or late night at Terroir (or your other SF wine bar/haunt of choice) and you’re looking for some good grub to fill that nagging void in the pit of your belly?
Even with well over 4,000 restaurants in San Francisco (Yelp lists 4,373 and I’m guessing they’re missing at least a few), I can’t think of any reason not to head to NOPA. So what if it’s half way across town? Granted, I’ve hardly put a dent in the SF restaurant scene, and I’ve only been to NOPA once. Sometimes, though, you walk into a place, feel the energy, peruse the menu and wine list… and you just know. When the food arrives and solidifies those first impressions, and when you’re already trying to suss out when you’ll next be able to visit before your meal comes to an end, then everything, at least in the moment, is right with the world. NOPA is that kind of place.
Shortly after being seated we were welcomed by NOPA’s Wine Director, Chris Deegan. It turned out that Chris was the very accommodating soul with whom I’d spoken when I called to change our reservations after our planned quick afternoon break at Terroir turned into a four-hour mini-marathon session. He was keen to get the lowdown on what we’d tasted at Terroir and was equally keen to guide us through the finer points of both NOPA’s menu and wine list.
I settled in with a glass of 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Natural Process Alliance, perhaps the greenest orange wine out there. Kind of had to try it after reading about The NPA on just about every Bay Area wine blog at one point or another over the last year or so. It didn’t disappoint; not as tannic or oxidative in style as Paolo Bea’s 2007 "Rusticum," with which I’d started the day at Terroir, but more gently drinkable for it and really quite delicious.
Meanwhile, we all settled in with some apps for the table: warm marinated olives, wood grilled sardines, the flatbread of the day…. As inviting as some of the more creative main courses sounded, I’d already been told by Cory, among others, that I had to – not should, but had to – order the burger. No disappointments there, either. This was not the coarse ground, loosely packed burger so typical back home in Philly but a fine ground, firm, very geometrically correct yet not overworked patty. Perfectly juicy and tender, its real standout characteristic was its high yet perfectly distributed seasoning, as if a little elf in the kitchen had caringly placed a single grain of sea salt on each individual ground morsel of beef. Top it off with melted cheese, pickled onions and a grilled brioche roll… oh yeah.
What to drink with the NOPA burger? The choices were many – Mr. Deegan has put together a very cool wine program – but having chosen comfort food, I kind of wanted to drink something that was a little outside my usual range. Chris steered us toward Spain, into Galicia, and directly to Guimaro’s 2007 Ribeira Sacra “B1P.” Crunchy, juicy and fresh; medium bodied, red-fruited and just a tad on the herby/spicy side. It’s something I really must explore again, just as NOPA is a place that I really must visit again. And again. And again. Problem is it’s 3,000 miles away. Hmmm….
560 Divisadero (at Hayes)
San Francisco, CA 94117