Tag Archives: San Francisco Mexican restaurant

Gabriela Cámara’s Fabulous Tinga De Pollo

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.


It may be less than 30 minutes long, but “A Tale of Two Kitchens,” the Netflix documentary about Chef Gabriela Cámara, will stay with you far longer.

Of course, it will make you very, very hungry, too.

The film recounts how Cámara opened her first restaurant Contramar in Mexico City in 1998, just after graduating from college and with no professional restaurant experience, herself. She just wanted to create a beach cafe with food that would make people happy. It was such a smashing success that 17 years later, she came to San Francisco to open her second restaurant, Cala, along with its sidekick, Tacos Cala, to great acclaim.

“A Tale of Two Kitchens” is a look at both restaurants, one in the United States, the other in Mexico, and the culture they share. Cámara doesn’t shy away from talking about the dichotomy that now exists, as Mexican immigrants are being vilified in the United States  yet the popularity of Mexican food in this country has never been higher.

Cámara has notably taken the chance to hire convicts to work at Cala, giving them not only new skills, but a second chance. At Contramar, her staff is so loyal that many have worked for her for more than a decade, and a few are even second-generation, as a son is shown in the film excited to work alongside his father as a server.

My Mexico City Kitchen

She has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, either. She’s currently working on a new restaurant, Onda in Santa Monica, with Chef Jessica Koslow of the wildly popular Sqirl in Los Angeles. And she was recently named a cultural advisor to the Mexican president.

This year, Cámara also debuted her first cookbook, “My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions” (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

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Give It Up For Nopalito’s Tacos De Pescado Al Pastor

Fish tacos with a rich adobo marinade -- from Nopalito's new cookbook.

Fish tacos with a rich adobo marinade — from Nopalito’s new cookbook.


Not to interject too much politics here, but I had to laugh last year when a political supporter tried to inflame anti-immigrant fervor by decrying that if this country didn’t take measures, we’d end up with a taco truck on every corner.

We should be so lucky.

In fact, if we had a Nopalito in every neighborhood, we’d be quite fortunate, indeed.

The beloved San Francisco restaurant is headed by Executive Chef-Partner Gonzalo Guzman. Born in Veracruz, Mexico, he came to the United States as a child. His first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at Kokkari in San Francisco. He soon rose through the culinary ranks there, as well as at San Francisco’s Boulevard, Chez Nous, and Nopa.

In 2009, he partnered with Nopa owners Laurence and Allyson Jossel and Jeff Hanak to open Nopalito on Broderick Street. It was so successful, it led to a second Nopalito location on Ninth Avenue, near Golden Gate Park.

Just one taste, and you know why the restaurant has such a devoted following. This is food that is vivacious, with flavors that are punchy and complex, yet also clear and true.


Even if you don’t live near Nopalito, you can now enjoy a taste of its craveable dishes in the new cookbook, “Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press) by Guzman with food journalist Stacy Adimando.

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