San Francisco Chronicle

already a classic

by Michael Bauer

I can't think of another restaurant, other than Zuni Cafe, that has such an egalitarian mix of patrons. You'll find socialites, politicos, artists and plain folks from the neighborhood who come together under the impressive beamed, trussed roof. The place has already become a classic.

NOPA was opened in April by Laurence Jossel and Jeff Hanak, who met at Chow, and Jossel's fiancee, Allyson Woodman. The large space, at one time a bank, features polished concrete floors and a large bar with a communal table, open kitchen and mezzanine.

The place is always abuzz, even late at night, when many workers from other restaurants stop by for a bite on their way home. Jossel offers the type of food that keep people coming back: roasted London broil with cauliflower gratin, juicy grass-fed hamburger, fish stew and flatbread topped with bacon and caramelized onions.

The kitchen is outfitted with a fryer, wood-burning oven and wood grill, so the staff can do just about anything. The rotisserie produces a stellar chicken, the grill a great pork chop, and the wood-burning oven an earthy casserole of giant white beans with tomato, feta and oregano. From the fryer comes some of the best fries around and crunchy little fried fish served with paper-thin slices of fennel and a romesco sauce.

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