One of my favorite childhood memories is waking up to the smell of eggs and chorizo at my best friend's house after a sleepover. I'd walk into the kitchen and see her grandma over the stove and a basket of warm tortillas on the table, along with leftover beans from last night's dinner. I shared this with Silvia McCollow, chef and co-owner of Nido, explaining that her food made me reminisce. "You're the third person that's said something like that to me this week. One woman broke into tears because her dinner reminded her of the meals she misses in Mexico City," she says. While my experience wasn't as dramatic, I did have considerable trouble putting down my fork.
The food at Nido is heartfelt: It's beautifully presented without pretension and the flavors are consistently good. Recipes come from McCollow's mother and grandmother, and are executed with local produce. I've been a dinner fan since the beginning and I'm not the only one: back-to-back Chronicle articles, including making the Top 100 Restaurants list, have kept the staff busier than ever over the past month.
While the brunch wait is getting longer these days, it still usually hovers below 30 minutes, and it's well worth it. There's a lot to choose from on the menu. On the sweet side of things, Cory McCollow (Silvia's husband and co-owner) goes for the requesón cheese-lemon pancakes. The chilaquiles parranderos, made with a spicy habanero-tomato sauce and grilled flank steak, is probably the most popular dish. You'll wonder about a blue pot that floats out of the kitchen, that's the ollita de pobre, a lidded pot with rice, beans, salsa, avocado, and a choice of meat or veggies with a poached egg. Look out for one or two specials, this weekend they included swordfish tacos. There's also a cocktail menu equipped with your typical Bloody Mary and mimosa, and your not so typical horchata topped with ice coffee or Las Tres Amigas-- a trio of a mimosa, Bloody Mary, and margarita for $14.
I took the bartender's recommendation and went for the sopes. Three masa boats with crunchy pinched edges are piled with a layer of pinto beans and an egg scramble of potatoes, chorizo and pico de gallo. They're topped with cotija cheese, crema and avocado, and adorned with a few cilantro blossoms. Right away I noticed the chorizo. Unlike the oily, heavy chorizo of my childhood, McCollow's is housemade with a delicate balance of fat and spice, and a hint of heat at the end. The masa tastes fresh and the beans hit just before being too salty, which is exactly how I like them.
Nido is on the southern edge of the Jack London area, and parts of shipping containers and patches of cement wall reflect the industrial nature of the neighborhood. It's decorated with string lights, bird cages, murals, and the kitchen wall is covered in blue and yellow tiles. It would seem a little precious if it didn't achieve the desired effect -- the space feels warm and inviting, and on Sunday mornings you can find families and twentysomethings alike sitting side by side.