The Cultural Corridor: NOPA

By / Photography By Stacy Ventura | October 25, 2014
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For almost two years, Laurence Jossel and his partners searched the city for their latest culinary landing. And in between real estate searches, they found respite at a coffee shop on Divisadero, which stared directly at a defunct Laundromat across the street. “It had broken windows and was not a good looking place,” Jossel says. “Still, we kept saying this would make a great restaurant. But we figured the space couldn’t be used for anything other than a Laundromat or a bank.”

Eventually, one of them asked the landlord about the building, which was purchased for mere pennies in the seventies. “We found out that we could open a restaurant there,” Jossel says, “and with a handshake, we made a deal and we began to bring light to this corner that had been dark for a long time.”

Like the team at Show Dogs, NOPA’s success also brought accusations of gentrification. But Jossel’s respect for the community is hard to miss—the faces that define the district having been tatooed on the restaurant walls. “We created the mural to show we were going to celebrate what was here, not change it,” Jossel says. “And to create it, we brought in the Divisadero Historical Society and even some of the old guys that had lived here for decades.”

From jazz greats like John Coltrain to the old butcher across the street, Jossel respects the cultural architects that came before him. “NOPA is definitely not just about Laurence or this restaurant,” he says. “There’s a lot of soul on these streets and we are just a small part of it.”

Neighborhood Picks:

“I am a stickler for clean food,” Jossel says. So for a bite around the block, he sticks to Bar Crudo and Nopalito (which, he reminds, is not his food). And he’s thrilled that BiRite will be joining them soon. “We’ve been begging Sammy to come in for the last five years,” he says. “I like that guy a lot.”

Neighborhood Needs:

Jossel says that the neighborhood still does not have good ice cream or a great bakery. “And while there’s a lot of night business,” he adds, “there isn’t a lot of great day business yet.”

“I love Sebo, Bar Jules, Zuni of course, and now NoJo,” Jossel says. “It just opened and is a really smart concept with food made from good ingredients.” 

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