The origin of Copita Tequileria y Comida can be traced to a magical mixture of 1 ½ ounce 100% agave tequila, ¾ ounce agave nectar, ¾ ounce water, 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime, and 1 lime slice. The simple concoction was declared by famed Bay Area restaurateur Larry Mindel to be the best margarita he ever tasted.
When he suggested to the margarita maker, celebrity chef and award-winning cookbook author Joanne Weir, that she showcase this perfect margarita on a proper stage – her own restaurant – she agreed, and the two friends together opened Copita at 739 Bridgeway in Sausalito, just steps away from Mindel’s popular Poggio Trattoria.
Copita serves fresh, seasonal Mexican dishes with ingredients grown in the restaurant’s own garden. Burritos, chimichangas and platters of rice and beans are nowhere to be found. Baskets of house made tortilla chips are the only nod to the Mexican food restaurants to which most are familiar. But a taste of the two accompanying house made salsas (habanero and jalapeno/cilantro) provides proof that one is not at El Torito anymore.
Diners are greeted at their tables with sliced jicama and cucumber with chile, arbol, lime and flake salt. Small plates include a perfect single cob of roasted sweet yellow corn with choice of chipotle crema or spicy cilantro aioli, queso cotija, cilantro, red onion, and chile de arbol powder, or a baby arugula and corn salad with cherry tomatoes, cotija cheese, green olives, roasted red pepper and tomato dressing.
A choice of three ceviches is offered: coctel mixto, classic or shrimp habanero aqua de chile. Tacos are served on in-house hand made corn tortillas and include fillings such as Neiman Ranch carne asada, seared California mahi-mahi with roasted pineapple pico de gallo, or fried polenta crusted Miyagi oysters.
A ‘Big Plate’ section features entrees including 24-hour carnitas made with Neiman Ranch pork, pickled vegetables, tomatillo and habanero salsa, cilantro, onion, and lime. The wood roasted chicken, served half or whole, and cooked center stage in the kitchen’s tile lined wood fire rotisserie oven, is served with roasted potatoes, peppers and onions, pinto beans with smoked bacon, and salsa rustica.
This is Mexican food as it’s meant to be – authentic, robust, and despite seemingly long lists of ingredients, deceptively simple. Most of the recipes are Weir’s creations, inspired by her annual vacation to Mexico, and her love of tequila, about which she wrote a book: Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails and Bites (Ten Speed Press, 2009).
Copita celebrates tequila, and offers more than 130 types by the glass, all on ornamental display at the long tiled bar. Not sure which one to choose? Select one of four flights listed on the menu: Joanne’s Faves, Mezcals, Organic Blancos or Extra Anejos. Or simply describe to Weir (or her staff) your favorite spirit or wine, and let her make the perfect selection for your taste.
Better yet, order the ‘sure thing’ Copita Margarita made with the same ingredients as Weir’s original Larry Mindel version. It is shaken at the table, and poured over a singular large ice cube, with or without salt. The menu lists a variety of additional delicious tequila based cocktails with creative ingredients, such as the ‘Some Like It Hot’ with spicy tequila, Lillet, grapefruit, lime, agave, and fresh ground pepper.
Weir is at Copita nearly five nights out of the week despite a heavy celebrity chef schedule of television show filming, radio and television guest appearances, book signings, cooking classes and culinary journeys around the world. Copita means ‘glass’ in Spanish, and judging by Weir’s exuberance and apparent joy in running her restaurant, hers is seemingly always half full – preferably with 100% blue agave tequila.