Since it opened in 2006, Nopa restaurant has received stellar reviews for food, service, cocktails and late night hours—a rarity in San Francisco. The restaurant is run and owned by Jeff Hanak, Allyson Jossel and chef Laurence Jossel. They met while working for the Chow Restaurant group, which is known for affordable food that satisfies both gourmet and comfort leanings. This piece came about because scores of hospitality professionals have told me something along the lines of “Nopa get’s it right” in the interviews I’ve done for Bay Area Bites. I asked Jeff Hanak to share with Bay Area Bites the way Nopa works, as well as his holiday and Bay Area food and cocktail favorites. Hanak’s answers have been edited for clarity and content.
Bay Area Bites: What are you favorite holiday foods and how do you celebrate the holidays?
Hanak: My three favorite holiday things are Champagne, latkes and Dungeness crab. The latkes are for the Jewish side of my family. I just made latkes the other night and used parsnips. They were pretty tasty. We go to Perbacco every Christmas Eve for dinner.
Bay Area Bites: Industry folks often name Nopa as the restaurant that is the best in all categories: food, service and drinks. How do you set and maintain standards?
Hanak: I don’t know if there’s a secret to our success. We always try to hire people who want to be there. We don’t always hire on experience; I hire when I sit and have a conversation with the person. If they can talk to me, they can also do that at the table. If they need training on service, I can teach them that. If they have passion, then the job to train them is a lot easier.
We rarely hire servers; we usually hire runners and hosts and see how that works. Then it’s, let’s see if they want to bartend, manage, serve, or cook. We ask, “What’s next?” if they do a great job. That’s how we build the restaurant.
We treat people respectfully and don’t scream a lot. Were hiring adults and professionals. I tend to set expectations. If they make the best of it, the rest is up to them.