I didn’t mean to fall in love with Colita, but I did. And now, it’s my favorite restaurant.

The first time I went was on a lark.

Jake was in the mood for a quiet night, so I headed over for an early dinner.

I showed up five minutes before opening (5 pm) and was glad that I did – for customers had already formed a line outside the front door. I joined them. An employee handed out little cups of warm hot chocolate topped with whipped cream sprinkled with sea salt.

I wondered if this was a one-off, but when I returned a couple weekends later, they did the same thing.

This evening was even colder. At five p.m., the 49ers hadn’t destroyed the Vikings yet. Surely, seats would easy to come by at Colita?

I joined a few other cards in the parking lot a quarter-till. We kind of eyed each other until five-till when the parking lot was full. Once the first people broke the ice to leave their car and wait by the door, everyone quickly followed.

Bar seating is first-come-first serve. Because you don’t need a reservation, the bar seats fill quickly. People will soon be waiting behind you for your seat.

The bar is where you can watch all of the action. Cocktails at Colita are not just cocktails. They are Willy Wonka delights served in coconut bowls and spiky glasses that look like puffer fish. Garnishes might include perfect cubes of monogrammed ice or whimsical foam.

Both times I’ve visited Colita, I dined solo. To be safe, I skipped the cocktails but I enjoyed lovely glasses of wine. Colita also offers four N/A drinks.

On my second visit, the bartender offered everyone a small glass of a refreshing hibiscus drink.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to branch out at Colita. I like tempura shrimp tacos so much.

An order includes two homemade tortillas, spread with a spicy fresno mayo, filled with fried tempura shrimp and jalapeno slivers, and topped with a fluffy nest of shredded cabbage. Two little lime wedges garnish each plate.

They’re so. perfect. 

The chew of the tortillas. The balance each component provides. The detailing on the lime wedge rinds and the super light, greaseless batter on the shrimp.

Too many shrimp tacos make you pace out your bites so that each includes some shrimp. There are enough shrimp in these tacos that every bite includes a shrimp. This is a dish that I want all of the time.

I also like the smoked cauliflower tossed in red chili sauce and garnished with queso fresco and tabasco tortilla crumble. The smoking renders the cauliflower satisfying like good barbecue.

Of course the food is good – it’s also the good service and unexpected touches like the warm drinks while you wait and little chocolates that comes with your bill that make you feel like something special just happened.