The nopal cactus, often called the prickly pear, produces two important food crops. One is the "nopalitos," the elongated pad, and the other is the prickly "pear" fruit of the cactus. So central was nopal to the indigenous culture of Mexico that its name forms the root of Mexico City 's Aztec name, Tenochtitlan, meaning "place of the cactus.” The nopal cactus is also the basis for the name of the Nopalitos Southwestern Café….a popular, cozy neighborhood café located on the corner of 56th and H Street in "East Sacramento," California.
Dave and Rose Hanke, both trained chefs, opened Nopalitos in April of 1992. Dave, viewed by his fans as an outstanding chef, developed his own recipes. Rose focused on managing the counter and keeping all those important records. Between the two of them, and helped by two assistants, Nopalitos soon became one of the most popular cafés in Sacramento. When the couple opened Nopalitos in 1992, they decided to close on the weekends because Dave wanted to coach his son, Aaron, then 7, in baseball. Aaron grew up and eventually played a couple of years in the big leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dave and Rose decided they actually enjoyed having a life beyond the cafe, so they never opened on the weekends or evenings.
In Nopalitos Southwestern Café, every menu item is the product of creativity and culinary craftsmanship. And, some items have become legendary. Dave's muffins are outstanding, the pancakes are amazing (they were featured on the cover of the February 2009 Sactown Magazine), and every other item on the menu is equally excellent in its own way. The café has become a landmark in the East Sacramento area and continues to grow in popularity.