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The greater Sacramento, CA area is blessed with may restaurants that serve outstanding breakfasts, and if you've been following the adventures of the Sacramento Breakfast Club, you're probably aware that our mission is to seek new and wonderful places to enjoy breakfast in our area.  Despite the fact that we mostly avoid chain restaurants, when it comes down to it, most of the breakfast are quite similar... good ol' American breakfast cuisine.

Photo:  Nopalitos is busy at 0800 this Friday morning, and thanks to the 43 degree temperature, and the light rain, nobody is enjoying the outside dining that the restaurant offers.  Parking is tight; I was glad that I was driving my Camry, rather than my huge F-250.

But variety is the spice of life, so on Friday, February 18, 2011, when it was Sharon's turn to choose the location of our club meeting, she choose Nopalitos Southwest Caf, which is owned by Rose and Dave Hanke, a local couple, and has been an item on the Sacramento breakfast landscape since 1992.  Rose and Dave are happy to point out that every item in the restaurant, except for the tortillas and chips, is made in-house, from scratch.

Southwestern cuisine isn't Mexican cuisine, but it shares a lot in common with Mexican cuisine, and many ingredients not commonly associated with your typical American breakfast, such as chiles, beans, nopales, which are tender cactus leaves, and tortillas; all are staples in Southwestern cuisine.  Nopalitos is open only for breakfast and lunch, and their breakfast menu is loaded with such Southwestern favorites as breakfast burritos, chile colorado, chile verde, machaca, huevos rancheros, and chorizo.  But hold your nopales! ... the breakfast menu also has "comfort food choices," such as pancakes, French toast lots of wonderful omelet choices.  We love the motto of Nopalito's which reads:  "Serving the finest Southwestern cuisine in the Sacramento Area."  

Photo:  Rose takes an order from two customers, and the walk-up counter, where you order your drinks and food, and pay for it.  The menu is posted on the blackboards on the wall, and the "compact" kitchen, and a couple of staff members can be seen behind the counter, at work in the kitchen, in the background of the photo.  If you want a soda or a beer, just ask Rose, and she'll grab you one from the cooler, to the left of the photo.

Photo:  At 0815 on this Friday morning, the dining room is packed.  Members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club can be seen at the right table, with the cactus rising just behind David.  Yeah, Nopalitos serves beer, as indicated by the Budweiser neon sign.

Nopalito's was packed on this rainy Friday morning, with nearly every table full.  When I walked in, I had my doubts that the place was going to accommodate our group, as there didn't seem to be a table large enough for us.  But Dan and Bev and already arrived, and were sitting at a table for eight, which was the number of members we expected today.

The restaurant operates on a slightly different format that most that we've had the pleasure to visit, in that you walk up to the counter, place your drink order, and co-owner Rose grabs a glass mug, fills it with coffee and hands it to you.  There are many choices of "additives" for your coffee, such as cream, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and more...  Cream is fine for me... In our case, we took, our coffee to our table - Rose called it the "big table," - and we pondered the menu.   The breakfast menu reads like a Southwestern novel... what to choose?  ... as there are so many wonderful choice.  I had been surfing their web site for the last week or so, and had made up my mind for the chile verde breakfast, but huevos rancheros was a strong contender.  At any rate, after we'd all made up our minds, we lined up at the counter, gave Rose our orders, paid for our meals at the counter, and then took our places back at the "big table" to drink coffee and chat until our food arrived.

Photo:  David's order of chile verde - he ordered the same choice as I did... I'll illustrate it later - had already been placed in front of him, and se seems to be very interested in the flour tortillas that are being placed in front of them, as he raises his mug of coffee in a toast to Nopalitos fine southwestern cuisine.  I think he's  saying "Grrrrrrrrrr..." as he's getting prepared to chow-down on his fine breakfast, as everybody else in the photo seems to be quite interested in the whole operation.

Photo:  Rose hands Sharon's plate of Huevos Ranchos to her outstretched arms, and she holds the vegetarian breakfasts of nopales, eggs, potatoes and tortillas to Sara and Dan, who are looking on and are eagerly anticipating their breakfasts.

By the way, this hybrid format, that combines elements of fast food and full-service restaurants, is quite common in Southern Arizona, New Mexico, and, of course, Mexico, as I've come in contact with it during many of my trips. But in Sacramento, it's not common at all.

There is a lot of information on the Internet about Nopalitos legendary food, and it's all true, as our breakfasts were experiences to rave about.  The food is fresh, flavorful, juicy, cooked perfectly, and attractively plated.  The service was excellent, as our breakfasts arrived at practically the same time.  We all agreed that Nopalitos Southwest Caf serves a delicious southwest-style breakfast, at a surprisingly reasonable price.

Photo:  Mikee, Sharon, David and Sara chow down on their breakfasts.  Darn, if Sharon didn't order a tall mug of beer... at 0830 on a Friday morning?  OK, it looks like beer, but it's really tea... she drinks the stuff at work, and I am always kidding her that she's drinking beer, at work, none the less.

Photo:  My breakfast, and David's were exactly the same:  Chile Verde.  Included was chile verde pork, pinto beans, topped with two fried eggs, and garnished with cilantro and fresh salsa, with flour tortillas on the side. Everything... I mean Everything about this breakfast was wonderful... as it has been a long time since I've enjoyed a better breakfast.  Just look at the fresh juices oozing out from the photo, onto your computer...

Vegetarians, take note, as you'll be pleased to know that Nopalitos serves several vegetarian dishes, including the Nopales, which is tender slices of cactus, scrambled with eggs and served with southwestern potatoes, mild salsa, and tortillas.  It's vegetarian, and Sara ordered it, as she's mostly a vegetarian, and Dan ordered the breakfast as well, as he'd never eaten nopales and wanted to give them a try.  Both Dan and Sara raved about their delicious vegetarian breakfasts.

Photo:  Today's members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club, from left to right:  Eric Rench, Bev MacLeod, Mike Casella, Sharon Angelo, David DeMario, peek-a-boo Matt Donnelly, and Dan MacLeod.  Sara Donnelly is hidden behind Dan; somehow the photographer omitted her.  Sorry, Sara.

After the meeting, outside in the parking lot, all of us raved about the great breakfast we enjoyed at Nopalitos Southwest Caf, we all agreed that we had just enjoyed one of the best breakfasts we've eaten together since our breakfast club was founded, nearly four years ago.  All of the good things we've read about them on the web, and in local publications is true... so if you're in the mood for a delicious southwestern breakfast, pay a visit to Nopalitos Southwest Caf.

Nopalitos Southwest Caf
5530 H Street
Sacramento, CA 95819
916 452-8226
www.nopalitoscafe.com


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