NIDO Is Pretty Neato

You can't miss finding this place.

You can’t miss finding this place.

 

Its name means “nest” in Spanish, and NIDO is very much a comforting place in every sense.

This Mexican restaurant was opened in Oakland in 2012 by husband and wife, Cory and Silvia McCollow.

It’s colorful and energetic, with a homespun air, as if a bunch of friends got together in a modern-day barn-raising to build a restaurant. Candles in mismatched glass containers give off a warm glow inside, along with a mini disco ball at the front that creates a party-like verve. The bar is built from repurposed wood pallets, giving it a “Gilligan’s Island” can-do look.

On Sunday nights, the restaurant offers a more truncated menu, dubbed “Sunday Night Tacos & Margaritas.” It’s super popular, too, as I found out, when I went a week ago, paying my own tab at the end. Even before the doors opened at 5 p.m., there were already more than half a dozen people lined up to get in.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

The short and sweet menu encompasses two starters, two large plates, two taco choices, and chips with salsa and guacamole.

The latter ($7) is a must-order, especially because the restaurant makes its own tortillas and chips. A cute little metal bucket of chips is set down at the table with a saucer containing both a medium spicy salsa and a creamy, slightly chunky guacamole.

On this night, it took a little while for the food to start coming out of the kitchen — more than half an hour — so the chips were a great way to tide us over. Well, that and a cocktail, of course. “All Black Like The Omen” ($12) is kind of purple-black in color, like a grape Jolly Rancher. A blend of Italian Ramazzotti, black vermouth, Oleo (preserved citrus made with sugar rather than salt), and bitters, it had an unusual taste — sort of medicinal, a little citrusy, a bit boozy, and very botanical.

Maitake taco (top) and steak taco (bottom).

Maitake taco (top) and steak taco (bottom).

We ordered one of each of that tacos ($5 each): grilled red chile marinated steak with Brussels sprouts, and salsa de chile de arbol; and adobo-marinated maitaki mushrooms with fresh orange segments, mild quesillo cheese, and salsa verde. The former was beefy and earthy tasting with a good dose of spiciness. The latter was sublime with tender mushrooms and melty, crusty cheese with a kiss of citrus.

Chicken mole enchiladas with rice.

Chicken mole enchiladas with rice.

A carnitas feast.

A carnitas feast.

We also ordered one of each of the large plates: the chicken mole Coloradito enchiladas drizzled with crema ($16); and the braised pork shoulder with rib confit, ear and chicharron.

The chicken enchiladas were blanketed in delicious, dark mole that tasted of nuts, chiles and chocolate. The carnitas plate was a whopper. My husband even ended up taking part of it home to enjoy as lunch the next day. The pork shoulder was pull-apart tender — all the better to wrap in the accompanying warm tortillas along with pickled jalapeno, radishes and salsa. The rib confit was deliciously rich and tender. And the ears were a treat. I’ve only had pig ears previously that were fried to a crisp. These were braised instead, leaving them tender but still wonderfully toothsome and chewy.

It’s soulful food that will fill you with warmth.

PeaSproutSalad

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