Palm Springs

5 01 2014

Happy New Year!

You might think, oh, she hasn’t blogged in a few weeks, she is probably just being typically neglectful of her beloved blog. Wrong! I was on vacation, nerds.

good morning

good morning

Since I often speak in math: I wanted to go somewhere warm for the holiday break + I booked to late = Hawaii and Mexico were outrageously expensive + Florida is kinda far away + I’ve never been to Palm Springs. If you carry the one, it works out. Trust me, I’m an engineer.

So, Palm Springs it was! Four days at a resort outside of town and three days at an cutesy boutique in town just off the strip. Pools and hot tubs. Desert hikes. Food. And lots and lots of sleeping. It was awesome. I read a book. A whole one. And wore bathing suits — plural (not at the same time). I wore a dress on New Year’s Eve (covered entirely by a coat, of course). Vacation: achieved.

Summaries of food in both places: La Quinta Resort and Spa (outside Palm Springs) and Palm Springs:

La Quinta Resort and Spa (a Waldorf Astoria resort in the town of La Quinta)

One thing I was worried about going to a proper “resort” (this was my first time) was the food. The resort wasn’t all-inclusive, so we could have gone “off-campus” for food if necessary. But it would have put a damper on our sit-around-and-do-absolutely-nothing vacation, so we were hoping the seven on-site restaurants were suitable. When we arrived, we found that only three of the restaurants were open for dinner. We subsequently tried all three, returning to one of them twice.

The food was great. Like, unexpectedly above average. Like, “I’m a snooty foodie from San Francisco and I approve of this food” good. I was impressed and relieved. And I ate this food and was happy. Quick summary:

Twenty 6: Casual American food in an upscale pub-ish atmosphere. I enjoyed: house made veggie burger, flat breads, crab cake, and (my fav) the pickled purple cauliflower. I wanted to try more. It was all surprisingly good considering they have hundreds of people trapped on site who will eat this food no matter what.

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

Adobe Grill: Mexican food, just upstairs from Twenty 6. We had some tamales one night that were pretty good, but the appetizer patio dining is what got me hooked. We had the best nachos ever. Fine, maybe not the absolute best, but they were really, really good. And nachos are so easy to mess up that I was immensely impressed. Also, the grande margarita was GRANDE indeed.

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

margaritas may be larger than they appear

margaritas may be larger than they appear

Morgan’s in the Desert: Fancy American food with a James Beard Award-winning chef. Lots of seafood, salads, and great appetizers. I didn’t take any photos because I was feeling classy*, but the lightly fried artichoke hearts and accompanying dip were amazing. The Caesar salad was perfect, and both the salmon and black cod were tender and delicious. I wanted to try every single one of the sides (but restrained). Their take on a s’mores dessert was fab.

*Actually, I was more feeling self-conscious since I was in a dress. Same thing, right?

Palm Springs

We stayed at Korakia Pensione, an adorable Mediterranean/Moroccan boutique hotel in the heart of Palm Springs. The rooms are luxurious, the atmosphere is mellow and relaxing, the two pools are literally over 90 degrees in temperature (AMAZING), and the breakfast is included. And whole dang place is so picturesque it kinda hurts. So. Relaxing.

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of our room

panoramic view of our room

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

For NYE, we booked late but snagged a spot at Zin American Bistro. It was a fixed menu, three courses, and I would say the food was mediocre. My leek soup was yummy, but my friend’s trio of tartars was not good. The mains (fish and steaks) were good, but nothing super special. Dessert was meh. I’m not sure if it was just the pressure of putting on a holiday dinner, or if it’s always like that, and I’m sure I’ll never know. Either way the company was good.

(terrible picture of) the company

(poorly lit picture of) the company

Our last night in town we went to Copley’s. This place was good. And we finally found a place where the size of the dishes was inversely proportional to the cost. We had ordered too much time and again in La Quinta because we thought the dishes would be smaller for the price. Fortunately, we weren’t starving, the bites of food were delicious, and we were happy. I would definitely recommend this place for a nice dinner (or lunch) in PS.

Oh yeah… I will mention our first lunch in Palm Springs. We arrived at about 1pm starving. We tried to go to one place we found on Yelp, but it was a 30 minute wait. We went across the street to a seemingly popular place called Trio. After being seated (or, rather, before), we realized we were one of the only straight couples in the entire restaurant. We were woefully out of place, but with nothing else to do but order from our flamboyant waiter (who was very sweet), we ate. I didn’t love my grilled fish sandwich, but my companion’s sandwich was yummy and the rest of the food at other tables looked quite good. And, if you’re going to Palm Springs, there’s no escaping the prominent gay culture. So, why not get immersed for one lunch?





La Urbana

2 10 2013

La Urbana is the newest schmancy Mexican joint to open up in SF — it’s on Divis and Grove, right next to Bar Crudo and a skip away from Nopa. A friend of mine heard the buzz and made a reservation, and I was happy to check it out.

Quesadillas "Tijuana" - Smoked Goat Cheddar, Summer Vegetables - $8

Quesadillas “Tijuana” – Smoked Goat Cheddar, Summer Vegetables – $8

The space is really cool. It’s open and bright and sufficiently posh for upscale SF dining. It’s pretty loud, however, and toward the end of our meal, we were struggling to hear each other. Now, regarding everything else, apparently Eater SF has already got it covered. Though their article really does just quote Yelp reviews… so I’m going to one-up them and do my own drawn-out Yelp review on something called a blog. Read on!

The bottom line: the food was very good, but the portions were hopelessly tiny. If the price of each dish were half of what it was, then it might be ok (you would just order a bajillion items, which would be weird, but at least you’d be full). But, the prices were normal for far larger quantities of food at comparable restaurants. If they sort this out, which I hope they will since it seems to be a mantra on Yelp right now, then they’ll be GtG*. Until then, look at my pictures and eat a quesadilla or two beforehand if you go.

For starters, their margaritas were good. The La Urbana Margarita comes in a silly glass, but it packs a punch and is very tasty.

Violet Flower Margarita - $11

Violet Flower Margarita – $11

La Urbana Margarita - $9

La Urbana Margarita – $9

The rest of the food comes in tiny, beautiful portions. I could have eaten all of these dishes myself and been content. We were sharing between four people. We were all hungry when we left. And the bill was not under $200 (with tax and tip).

Huevos con Chorizo - $6

Huevos con Chorizo – Potato Puree, Lime Crema, Nasturtium Leaf – $6

Ceviche de Pescado - $11

Ceviche de Pescado – $11

Ensalada Verde - $12

Ensalada Verde – $12

Coctel de Callos de Hacha - Diver Scallop, Tomato Gelée, Avocado, Cilantro - $6

Coctel de Callos de Hacha – Diver Scallop, Tomato Gelée, Avocado, Cilantro – $6

This brings up another point — there were MANY things on this menu that none of us could decipher. The titles of each dish are in Spanish. This is fine for your standard pollo, ceviche, chorizo, and I even know what cebolla means. But we literally had to have the waiter stand there and translate a good handful of dishes so that we even knew what they were. Not a great choice, in my opinion. Continuing:

Betabeles y Chayote – Roasted Beets, Smoked Almonds, Habanero - $11

Betabeles y Chayote – Roasted Beets, Smoked Almonds, Habanero – $11

The mains were particularly overpriced for the quantity; they were more like appetizers.

Calabacitas - Baby Summer Squash, Wheat Berries, Poached Egg - $19

Calabacitas – Baby Summer Squash, Wheat Berries, Poached Egg – $19

Huachinango al Huitlacoche - Red Snapper, Cauliflower, Radish - $26

Huachinango al Huitlacoche – Red Snapper, Cauliflower, Radish – $26

We tried a dessert, though we had no idea that this description meant “chocolate pudding”. It was very good. The worm-looking things were crunchy and surprisingly delicious. I could have eaten seven of these tiny bowls.

Chocolate Crémeux Oaxacan Chocolate, Canela Tuile,  Mezcal Gelée - $9

Chocolate Crémeux Oaxacan Chocolate, Canela Tuile,
Mezcal Gelée – $9

*GtG = good to go.

La Urbana on Urbanspoon





Don Pisto’s

27 07 2013

Don Pisto’s, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 

Yes, this is brunch. You want to eat it.

Yes, this is brunch. You want to eat it.

Don Pisto’s is quite literally the closest restaurant to my house. It’s a block away. It’s hard to ask for a better restaurant to be so close to, honestly. Indeed, let me count the ways:

  1. First and foremost, the food. It’s good. No. It’s really good. It’s schmancy Mexican, which I like far more than standard Mexican fare. Regular Mexican food is heavy, greasy, and usually cheap. All of which can be great in the right mood. But what DP’s offers is upper class Mexican — a minuscule menu of gourmet tacos, creative appetizers, and a few mains. Plus sangria, wine, and margaritas. Everything I’ve had has been extremely tasty.
  2. The service is always great. The entire staff is very courteous. When I make an order to be picked up — even my standard order that costs under $10* — they treat me like I’m a valued patron, like they know me. Which, though I’ve been there many times, I’m pretty sure they don’t. And one time, they kept me waiting for 15 minutes or so after they called me to tell me my table was ready, and they gave my friends and I a pitcher of sangria to apologize for the (additional) wait. It was awesome.
  3. Brunch. They have brunch on the weekends. At said brunch, they have all-you-can-drink margaritas/sangria/mimosas for $17. You can switch between the drinks at will. I haven’t actually done it yet, but it seems soooo amazing. Also, brunch is amazing.
  4. They have no sign. I once passed a guy on the street trying to give a friend directions to DP’s over the phone: “It’s on Union, and there’s a sign (looking around)… wait, there is no sign.” Nope, no sign outside. Which I originally took to be pompous San Francisco ridiculousness, but now I just find kind of endearing. Oh goodness, San Francisco has changed me…
  5. Flour tortillas. They make THE BEST ONES EVER. I’m not even a huge flour tortilla fan in general — I usually go for corn. But here, I literally order flour tortillas to go because they are THAT GOOD.

Whew, sorry about that. I’ve been coming here for over a year and for some reason never managed to actually post about it, which bothers me surprisingly often. Now it’s out of my system. Only downside of DP’s: it’s loud. Like, can’t really hear your friends loud. It’s annoying, but totally worth it. Did I mention the flour tortillas?

Vegetarian platter is not on the menu. Vegetarian platter is beans, cheese, rice, and guac. Vegetarian platter is amazing.

Vegetarian platter is not on the menu. Vegetarian platter is beans, cheese, rice, and guac. Vegetarian platter is amazing.

Mexican salmon sashimi! Creative appetizer win, for sure. SOOOO GOOD. With capitals.

Mexican salmon sashimi! Creative appetizer win, for sure. SOOOO GOOD. With capitals.

Oh, and sadly, I’ve apparently been entirely remiss in my documentation of the amazingness that is Don Pisto’s and only have a few sad pics to share. I’ve got a couple good ones at brunch, but I’ve never photographed the consistently delicious fish tacos, or anything else. I will try harder, dearest blog.

More brunch -- Huevos Rancheros!

More brunch — Huevos Rancheros!

*My standard to-be-picked-up order: Three flour tacos, chips, and guacamole.





Nick’s Crispy Tacos

24 10 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: One  ♦   Will I Return?:  Si, Por Favor!

I’m thinking I should shorten my food reviews. Sometimes I take notes after I go to a place since I don’t review it for a while after. My notes on this place were as follows*:

Russian Hill, corner of Broadway and Polk. Totally radical space looks like a 70′s swinger’s club or something. Red velvet everywhere, round booths in the wall, dozens of crystal chandeliers from the ceiling, large bar. Apparently a club at night. Apparently an attendant in the men’s room who will hold the water faucet on for you. Ladies room normal, no attendant. Taco selection good. We ordered fish, fried fish, and veggie. Get it “Nick’s Style” with guac and a crispy taco. Which apparently means they just fry it up a bit.

Inside Nick's (during the day).

Good food. $4 or so for a taco. Aguas frescas too, and drink specials at the bar. Friendly staff. Tacos tasty but really hard to eat. Taco filled up and falls apart/drips immensely. Can eat with a fork, but that’s a commitment too. Honestly may have had a 2nd taco if I wasn’t so exhausted by the first. Tasty though.

Tacos!

*I realize this is a cop out review, but I found it funny to re-read my old notes. Additionally, it’s new and different, so that’s exciting, right?





Roosevelt Tamale Parlor

15 01 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: Two  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes please!
___________

Wow. For so many reasons. Let’s quickly explore the wows about Roosevelt’s:

  1. It’s been around since 1919 (per their menu). Wow.
  2. Their tamales are really, really good. Wow.
  3. They do not have a website. Triple wow.

Maybe they’re the type of place that quote/unquote “doesn’t need” a website? Because they’re, like, an Establishment in San Francisco? Either way, I’m amazed. I understand that the taqueria down the street doesn’t have a website; they’re small, interchangeable with the next taqueria and most of their business is from people who are walking or working nearby. Fine. But this place is nice, well known and de-licious. Why not use the interwebs to market? I digress, I will need to stop being so surprised at some point.

Roosevelt has been firmly planted at 2817 24th Street in the Mission district of SF for, well, nearly 100 years according to their menu. It’s a small place on a strip of questionable shops and restaurants, but it’s worth the trip.

Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor

Inside Roosevelt's

Nicely decorated, kind service, great menu, and on weekends, a beautiful woman singing softly as she strums an acoustic guitar. What more could you ask? Well, you could ask for it to be closer to home and have a full liquor license, I suppose, but let’s not nitpick.

While they don’t have a full bar, they do beer, wine and they make a killer wine-based margarita that is surprisingly delicious, strong, and doesn’t really taste like wine. They have a huge food menu, but I didn’t get a good inventory to report; my bad.

Ceviche

Fish ceviche appetizer, also good.

What I do know is this: I have never really liked tamales very much. They’re covered in that corn husk, right? What’s that about? And then it’s just mush inside, usually with some sort of pork or something. No thanks. But since it’s a tamale parlor, you gotta try one, right? Yes, definitely. And you won’t be disappointed.

Tamale

Roosevelt's Famous "Round" Tamale, cheese inside, rice and beans.

These tamales are rich and delicious: the tender corn paste — called masa — (already removed from the husk they use to cook it in) is wrapped around chicken, beef, pork, cheese, beans, or squash. Yeay for choices! They actually have a few different kinds of tamale, though I’m not sure what the difference is between their “Famous Round Tamale” and the rest of them. Some appear to be served in the husk (I didn’t have one of those) and they may have different sauces on top.

Tamale

Squash tamale with tomatillo sauce and cheese.

The cheese tamale is fabulous. I don’t know what kind of cheese they use, but it’s the best. Ever. The squash tamale was good too, but the cheesey guy was top dog in my book. Rice, beans, chips, salsa — good. They know what they’re doing and they apparently don’t even need a website to prove it.





La Imperial

1 01 2011
Atmosphere: 1/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 2/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One  ♦   Will I Return?:  No, Thank You
___________

La Imperial* in Hayward has been around since the ’70s as per the dot matrix printing on the front of their menus. This is a difficult review for me because, like some other Hayward favorites (case #1, case #2), I don’t really like it. But some people are wholly devoted to this place, per their Yelp reviews. And since there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, I’m going to tell you my side of the story.

La Imperial is on C Street in Hayward between Mission and Main. It is directly adjacent to another Mexican restaurant, Los Compadres, which is a bit odd. I have only been to the latter once, but I recall it being very diner-esque and nothing particularly special regarding food or service. But that was a long time ago. And it doesn’t matter because, given the choice now, I’d go pretty much anywhere besides La Imperial. Let’s discuss the pros and cons:

Pros of La Imperial:

  • It’s downtown and centrally located
  • Parking in front is easy to come by
  • The food is pretty cheap and/or the portions are huge compared to how much they cost
  • The waitress (at least the one when we were there) is extremely nice, friendly, talkative and good at her job.

Cons of La Imperial:

  • It’s on C Street which isn’t the nicer part of downtown
  • It’s a diner: leather booths; fake wood paneling on the back wall; old, hideous linoleum floors
  • The layout of the furniture is atrocious
  • The menus are from circa 1980
  • The patrons (at least when we were there) were… low caliber (is there a nice way to say white trash?)
  • The food was not great
  • The nachos had nacho cheese on them (this will be discussed further below)

Entering La Imperial felt, to me, like being magically transported to a diner in Nevada. It’s like they took a small, crappy roadside steakhouse outside Carson City and put up a few pinatas and a south-of-the-border-esque murals and called it a Mexican restaurant. It was the first time I’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant and not heard one single word of Spanish spoken (Australia included!). It was extremely eerie and not terribly faith-inspiring.

La Imperial

Inside La Imperial, Hayward

La Imperial

Looking toward the front door inside La Imperial, Hayward

So, the people who like this place DO NOT CARE about atmosphere. And some people don’t, that’s fair enough. I do care and I didn’t like it. So there. The people who Yelp up a storm are lovers of their food, however, and the service.

We ordered nachos, a bean/rice/cheese burrito and an enchilada combo. The entire meal cost $19.76 with tax (add $3 for tip). The nachos were just tortilla chips and nacho cheese like at a goddamn baseball game. This is so wrong in my opinion. At the very least, nachos should have regular shredded cheese melted over chips. I also submit they should have any combination of beans, salsa, sour cream, guac or olives. Jalapenos are also an acceptable nachos ingredient., though I always pick them off. Velveeta or whatever is not ok at a sit-down restaurant. Having said that, I do love movie theater nachos, so I partook. But not without judging harshly beforehand.

nachos

Nachos from La Imperial, Hayward

The burrito was ok, though the tortilla wasn’t yummy for some reason. The concoction was a bit plain and since boyfriend didn’t like the salsa (which he usually uses to drown a burrito), he didn’t enjoy it terribly. As a side note, I thought the salsa was tasty though a bit too spicy.

burrito

Burrito from La Imperial... should have gotten a pic of the inside...

I ordered a cheese enchilada meal (2 cheese enchiladas, rice, beans and a salad) for $10.50. It was an amazing amount of food and probably the best thing on the table. I liked that they gave me a bowl of salad with home made Thousand Island dressing as opposed to the tiny scattering of lettuce most Mexican places call salad. The enchiladas were fine but they had the most cheese I’ve ever seen in an enchilada. It was like eating a melted block of cheese with a thin covering of tortilla around it — a bit overwhelming. The rice and beans were solid, kudos to them on that.

salad

Salad with chips and salsa from La Imperial, Hayward

enchiladas

Enchiladas, rice and beans from La Imperial, Hayward. Look at the fork for scale -- so much food!

As for the service, the waitress was totally sweet, seemed to know everyone and was on top of her orders. She seemed neither lazy nor incompetent and was probably the very best thing that La Imperial had going for it in my opinion. If she had been a crotchety crone I would have been grasping at straws to compliment much of anything about this place.

Overall, La Imperial is not my kind of place. The atmosphere is grungy and the food isn’t the premium Mexican that I’ve grown to know and love being a native Californian. To those who love it, I’m glad you do. As for me, I’ll try someplace else next time.

*Yet another restaurant for which I could not find a website… come on people!

La Imperial on Urbanspoon





Pepe’s Taqueria

31 10 2010
Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Possibly
___________

Pepe'sYou may have noticed Pepe’s Taqueria on one of your millions of trips down Mission Boulevard (if you’re a Hayward frequent-driver, that is); it’s on the west side of the street between Harder and Tennyson (across and down a few blocks from Moreau). It’s a smaller place, but it’s got its own parking lot and it’s painted bright yellow so that it blends in a bit less with the flooring stores, consignment furniture lots and appliance outlets.

The interior has a dated, fast-food feel to it; nothing special there for sure. But what did you expect from a taqueria in the bowels of Hayward? I was just excited that there was no bullet-proof glass between me and the cashier. The menu is posted above the counter and offers all the taqueria-style favorites (burritos, tacos and the like) for pretty cheap prices.

Pepe's

Inside Pepe's: the front counter.

Pepe's

Inside Pepe's: The seating (and a yawning man).

A duo of signs at the front door boasts the “best fish tacos” and “best Mexican food”. I beg to differ and suggest they re-think this strategy as I in fact ordered a fish taco. It was ok, but it was a bit dry and is nothing in comparison to Tacos Uruapan. Having said that, however, the wet burritos are something quite special indeed.

taco

Fish taco, rice, beans from Pepe's

Boyfriend ordered an “El Cheapo Burrito” which is essentially a veggie burrito with rice, beans, guac and sour cream. The zinger was that he ordered it “wet” meaning that they slather the burrito in enchilada sauce and cover it in melted cheese. This makes all the difference and their enchilada sauce was absolutely heavenly. I have no idea what was in there that would be so much better than other enchilada sauce, but it was indeed far superior.

burrito

Glorious "El Cheapo" wet burrito from Pepe's.

And the El Cheapo held true to it’s name at only $4.50. And it could have fed a horse* so this option was indeed a good value.

The rice, beans, salsa and chips were all pretty good; these are other items I use to gauge the quality of Mexican restaurants. As nothing was terribly amiss and that wet burrito was cheap and delicious, I would have to say that I may return to further investigate the wonders of the wet burrito.

robot

Plus, gotta love robot man inside Pepe's.

*If said horse enjoyed Mexican food, of course.

Pepes on Urbanspoon





Los Dos Hermanos

18 07 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Wouldn’t be opposed but not likely.
___________

Los Dos HermanosEver drive down Mission Boulevard (in Hayward) and see the the droves of Mexican restaurants that line the street? There are a great many of them, it’s true. Los Dos Hermanos is one of the many choices on this lonesome, long strip of road and resides on the west side of the street between Tennyson and Harder.

While it fits in with the surrounding single-story, run-down buildings, everyone seems to know this place. The sign is big and the building isn’t really in bad shape, especially compared to the neighbors. But have you gone in? Doubtful. I couldn’t find anyone I knew who had actually eaten here, though rumors floated around that it wasn’t great. I decided to try it out for myself.

Los Dos Hermanos

Interior of Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

Inside the restaurant, the decor was meager but acceptable while the low ceiling and poorly lit foyer were a bit off-putting. Seats by the window allow in plentiful light during the day and the hostess/waitress was a nice woman. The menu was well done (I have a thing about poorly organized/presented/constructed menus) and includes plentiful choices of Mexican fare. It wasn’t the fresh-mex that I hoped for—creative (and often healthier) fusion dishes aren’t the specialty here. Not that I had expected this, but it would have been a nice surprise.

menu

Menu cover at Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

I ordered the ensalada camaron (shrimp salad), which was well-made (see the care taken in organizing the extras on the salad) but wasn’t really anything special. The shrimp were ok, the salad was fresh enough, but the dressing was bottled and the toppings were unimaginative. Boyfriend ordered the veggie burrito with cheese enchilada, rice and beans. All was well with this dish—they are certainly qualified to cook traditional Mexican fare.

shrimp salad

Ensalada Camaron (shrimp salad) at Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

mexican food

Veggie burrito, cheese enchilada, rice, beans from Los Dos Hermanos.

Overall, like I say about many Mexican restaurants and taquerias in the area, there are so many different places to try around here that there’s no reason to return to a mediocre restaurant. If LDH were the only place in town, I’d have no problem returning since the food was decent, the price was reasonable, and the service was adequate. It’s the abundance of fabulous Mexican places in this area that will probably keep me from making any more trips to Los Dos Hermanos.

If I do go back—or if you decide to try it—note that they are listed on Restaurant.com where you can buy a $25 gift certificate for $10 (with a $35 minimum purchase) so you can save a few bucks! Also, this is a rad picture of chips and salsa, both of which were good at Los Dos Hermanos:

chips and salsa

Chips and salsa from Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

Los Dos Hermanos on Urbanspoon





Pancho Villa

7 07 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
___________

Pancho VillaPancho Villa is a Taqueria on B Street in San Mateo that I reviewed for my Examiner.com webpage. I’m not sure if any of my b&c readers have been following my Examiner page, but Pancho’s was so good that I think it should cross over.

Plus, then I can just point you to something I’ve already written instead of write something new.  Lazy?  Maybe.  It’s been a busy week, what do you want from me?

Anyway, PV is a magical place with an immense menu, extraordinary service, and yummy food.  If you’re in the area, check it out.  And, make me a few pennies by reading my two-part review with individual slide shows here:

Pancho Villa Taqueria review Part 1 of 2: The immense menu and juice bar

Pancho Villa Taqueria review Part 2 of 2: The food, the service and everything else

Pancho Villa Taqueria on Urbanspoon





El Rancho Taqueria

7 05 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Probably not
___________

El Rancho SupermercadoEl Rancho Taqueria is a countertop-conveyorbelt-style setup along one edge of the El Rancho Supermercado across from Trader Joe’s on Redwood Road in Castro Valley.  What I mean is that it’s a Subway Sandwiches sort of deal with one long glass-protected counter where you order and watch as the cooks assemble your order in front of you.  You then make your way down the length of the counter and pay at the end.  When we went the other day, there was a line of a few people in front of us and the service was sloooow.

El Rancho Taqueria

Counter at El Rancho Taqueria

We visited El Rancho on a recommendation from friends, but we sadly did not have as pleasant of an experience as they did.  I thought at first that the service was taking so long because one of the cooks must be new.  But after watching both of the men scurrying around behind the counter handle some of the food, I realized otherwise.  I think it was actually a large to-go order that was holding up the line, though I feel like they could have dealt with it a bit better than they did (for example, have one cook work on the to-go and the other help the patrons in line).  Regardless, we paid at the counter and decided to eat in, which appears to be less common that to go orders.

El Rancho Taqueria

Tables and chairs at El Rancho Taqueria.

There is a little section of chairs and tables–nice ones, actually–just near the food counter and we sat down at one of the clean, tidy tables.  Since this place is in a supermarket, we were surrounded by the non-refrigerated beverages on one side, and the refrigerated drinks behind us.  It did make for a colorful scenery, and we had a variety of refreshments to choose from–I bought a Snapple.

The menu at this place is standard Taqueria: burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and soups, but also has tortas, tostadas, breakfast, dinner packs, dinner combos, and seafood meals.  I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the standard choices also listed with a vegetarian option on the menu.  All Mexican food can be made veggie–just take out the meat–but not all places list the items on their menu as vegetarian.  This always makes me feel more comfortable ordering meat-less dishes, I can be confident that they already know what they’re doing.  Veggie choices include burrito, quesadilla, torta, and tostada.

Veggie Torta

Veggie torta at El Rancho Taqueria.

Veggie burrito

Veggie burrito at El Rancho Taqueria.

I ordered a veggie torta, which is like a Mexican sandwich, and Boyfriend got a veggie burrito. At the recommendation of our friends, we also tried an a la carte chile relleno.  The torta included melted cheese, freshly sliced tomato and avocado, lettuce, mayo, and onions.  It was pretty good, I enjoyed it.  Boyfriend’s veggie burrito had the standard beans, rice, cheese, and also included tomatoes, lettuce, and guacamole.  It was pretty good as well, though we’re somewhat of veggie burrito elitists, so we’re a bit hard to please on this item.

Chile relleno

Our sad chile relleno from El Rancho Taqueria.

The chile relleno was a different matter.  The one described to us by our friends was delicious.  Lightly battered, fried but not greasy, and smothered in a delicious tomato sauce.  Ours was not similar to this.  It was large but flat and floppy, filled with an inordinate amount of cheese, and resting in a pool of grease – no sauce.  I’m not sure what went wrong with it, but I deemed it not worth eating and only had a few bites.  My friend showed me another chile relleno he bought at a later date that was again what he experienced the first time.  Maybe we just hit them on an off day.

Overall, I didn’t find this place particularly special, though Yelp reviewers seem to disagree.  The store itself is actually awesome; it’s phenomenally clean and organized and offers a large variety of Mexican food stuffs.  Plus, their take away menu is extremely pro.  They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you’re driving by it might not be a bad option.  I may not be returning just because there are literally hundreds of other taquerias to try in the area, but it seems like other people really like this place, so I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it again someday.

Also, where else are you going to fill all your tomato and shrimp juice needs?

Tomato and shrimp juice

Tomato and shrimp juice was offered in the non-refrigerated drink aisle of El Rancho Supermercado. How can you resist?








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