I Left My Stomach in San Mateo… or Top Peninsula Eats

Farewell upper peninsula. I’ve taken a position in SOMA San Francisco, and will be leaving Foster City. When people ask me what I’m going to miss, I am always going to tell them the good, cheap lunch spots within driving distance. So, here’s a list of top 10 Peninsula Eateries according to Kingston in no particular order:


Jersey Joe’s Hoagies & Cheesesteaks
21 El Camino Real
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 592-7317

If you are looking for the best cheesesteak sandwich in the Bay Area, look no further than this San Carlos Cheesesteak establishment. “THE BEST CHEESESTEAK SANDWICH IN THE BAY AREA.” There I said it. For around $10 you get a delicious, mouthwatering cheesesteak, fries, and a medium drink. This establishment will be the one I miss the most. Make sure you put some Buffalo Hot Sauce on your Mushroom Cheesesteak. Oh… Man. In fact, this will definitely be on my weekend Peninsula visits. (BTW, for all you Philly freaks, they have the traditional Cheese Sauce.)


Ike’s Lair
555 Twin Dolphin Dr
Ste 115
Redwood City, CA 94065
(650) 637-8903

So, you get all the hype from the San Francisco Ike’s Place, and realize, that waiting 2 to 3 hours is really not worth it. Now for Peninsulites (Peninsulans? Peninsuli?) all we have to do is make a phone call at 9:00 am to pick up our sandwich at 12:30 pm. I mean, it takes all the guess work out of figuring out which restaurant to go to for lunch. My office did several 15-20 orders of sandwiches to bring back, since there’s no seating there. My favorite is the Not A Reuben (Paul Reuben for my SF Place homies) with Mustard around $9.50.


Old Port Lobster Shack
851 Veterans Blvd
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 366-2400
TheCultureBite Bite Back

Ah… yes. The Lobster Shack. Sigh… Where do I start. I’m actually not a lover of Lobster (I’m more of a crab type of guy), but their Lobster Roll is deeelish. I mean, come on. You walk into this establishment as if it were straight off an old port in Maine. Make sure you start off with some Creamy Clam Chowder, order a Maine Lobster Roll (if you don’t like mayo or green onions order the Naked Lobster so you can dip into a side of mayo or butter), and enjoy that side of fries. Can’t say I’ve tried anything else here, but I hear their BBQ is award winning! My meals were usually around $30 here, so take someone special.


Kabul Afghan Cuisine
135 El Camino Real
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 594-2840

I love the lamb here. We used to come here for special occasions, and then we realized we should just come here for no occasion. The Kebabs are delicious, and they remind me of the song from the Flight of the Conchords “Most Beautiful Girl” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmDTSQtK20c). Mostly because they mention kebabs and these are my favorite ones, specifically the Kabab-e-gousfand. Say that five times fast. The Lamb is seasoned just right and juicy. You get such large portions that I always have to take it home. The other dish I love here is the Challaw kadu. It’s a vegetarian dish with pumpkin in it. thdfsdf <–that was me wiping the drool off of my keyboard

Sushi Sam’s
218 E 3rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 344-0888

This is one of the more expensive lunch dining options in the San Mateo downtown area. I’ve come here for lunch a couple of times, but I’ve come here for dinner a ton of times! S loves getting the Omakase everytime we eat here, but I don’t mind trying all of their other things. The rolls are phenomenal, the Uni tastes fresh, and the service is fantastic. This has replaced my need to return to the Tsukiji Fish Market for my fresh fish. If I were an account manager with a good expense account, I would take all my clients here. My recommendation is to try the Omakase the first time, then try a few rolls. If you feel adventurous they do have some multi-course meals.

Everyday Beijing
637 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 373-7878

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for some Northern Chinese food. There are so many different variations of Northern Chinese food, that it’s always fun to try a new one. Some of them may have the XLB’s with the thin skin or the bun skin, some might have fresh soy milk, this one has Cumin Lamb. Yes, people, the lamb is excellent. Also, I love the meaty meat pancakes.

Saffron Buffet Line
Saffron Indian Bistro
1143 San Carlos Ave
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 593-4269

It was always a treat to come here. It’s a really cheap buffet ($10), and there’s such a wide variety of Indian food to choose from. You come in to the joint, and you’ll notice that there are white table cloths on each table. I kept thinking, oh no, Indian food and white table cloths don’t seem to go well together. Then you sit down, and realize, wait, I should just get my food right away. The smell of restaurant is fabulous, if you love Indian food. Once you get your plate, you are greeted by a salad bar. I usually skip this, as I’m here for the main event. I spoon a little bit of rice, then, it time. Time to pour on the different curries on each side, Butter Chicken, Palak Paneer. There are 8-9 different curries to choose from, and they all have their own tastes and textures. The last thing I pick up is the Tandoori chicken at the end and I’m ready to sit back down. Now, once you sit down, you’ll notice that buttered Naan has been magically placed on your table. Oh man, the waiters are wonderful. Sometimes, you can catch a sports game on one of the two televisions if something is on, otherwise, just sit, relax and enjoy the orchestra of Indian flavors.


Jack’s Prime
3723 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 638-1479

You want a tasty gourmet burger? Then you better come to this modern diner style establishment. They’ve got all the good stuff you could ask for at a burger joint, milk shakes fries, burgers, onion rings, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it all. I personally recommend the Angry Cowboy which is a burger with smoked bacon, onion rings, jalapeno relish, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. Yeh doesn’t sound healthy, but it’s delicious.

Cha Cha Cha Fried Plantains and Pork
Cha Cha Cha Cuba
112 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94102
(650) 347-2900
TheCultureBite Bite Back

I love this place. The food is excellent, and the service is outstanding! My usual favorites are the Fried Potatoes with Chili Aioli, Fried Plantains, Ceviche, Calamari, and Mussels. Actually, I didn’t find anything I didn’t really like. One extraordinary thing is that I would actually enjoy drinking their Sangria. If you know me, I usually don’t like drinking alcohol. It’s so good here, how could I not? This place was introduced to me by my good friend, Victor D., who introduced us to the owner, Mario. Mario is a very friendly individual who has very interesting tales of the history of his family. You should ask him about the raft that’s posted on the wall. =)

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Cha Cha Cha – San Mateo

Cha Cha Cha Fried Plantains and Pork

Cha Cha Cha Cuba
112 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94102

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post. Not because I have mixed feelings about the restaurant, but because I don’t want this place to start getting crowded. You may have already been or even heard of the famed Cuban fare at Cha Cha Cha in the Haight, but they’ve opened another location in San Mateo. And the best part is, not many have discovered it yet! Thanks to our good friend, Victor, for the tip. We ate like kings for lunch. For 4 people, we ordered fried potatoes, Jamaican jerk chicken, black mussels, Cajun shrimp, lechon asado, and a coconut flan. The fried potatoes were different than the Spanish tapas version, but it was super good. I don’t think these were battered, just fried. The best part is the creamy spicy sauce that comes with it. It’s almost like the orange sauce from La Vics in San Jose. The Cajun shrimp is served in another creamy spicy sauce that I could not stop soaking my bread in. The lechon asado was probably my favorite dish. Juicy pork that melts in your mouth with a side of rice and beans and pan fried plantains. Mmm, so good. We loved the plantains so much, we ordered another helping. Everything else we had was amazing. I just hope, for my sake, that this place doesn’t get busy!

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Old Port Lobster Shack – Redwood City

Old Port Lobster Shack
851 Veterans Blvd
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 366-2400

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Growing up, I’ve always loved having clam chowder.  The clam chowder I always had was canned New England Clam Chowder. Oops, credibility gone.  Now what if I told you, after a quarter century, I’ve tried some of the best New England style food you’ll have in the San Francisco Bay Area?  Not convincing, right?  What if it was a recommendation from someone from New England?  A good friend of mine, MFW, introduced me to the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City.  MFW knows where the good eats are, and gives and receives recommendations like a free-flowing currency.  In my office, MFW, VD, IT, and I are always comparing recommendations lists, recipes, and food photos.  Ah… I digress.

The Scene

Old Port Lobster Shack is a port-style lobster shack that’s located in a tiny complex next to a construction site that’s going to be a new In-N-Out Burger joint.  If you were driving along Veterans Blvd, it was be really easy to miss unless you catch the Old Port Lobster Shack’s delivery truck parked right outside the complex.  Once you are inside, you’ll love the wacky details to simulate a visit to the local sea port tavern complete with nets on the walls, numerous beers on tap, and picnic tables throughout.  The moment you take a whiff of the kitchen, you know anything you order is going to be good.

The Food

I decided to bring S and her folks here for lunch one day to show them my appreciation for being such generous people (also, a reason to pig out on some really good food).  The first time I visited, I ordered The Maine Lobster Roll with New England Clam “Chowdah” Special for $20.  This time, I ordered The Maine Lobster Roll with New England Clam “Chowdah”.  You got that right, I ordered the same thing.  That’s how delicious the meal was.  Instead of ordering individually, I had two orders of The Double Play Lobster Roll with four orders of the Clam “Chowdah”.  When you order the Double Play, you get two Lobster Rolls of your choice.  S and her father are not big fans of green onions, so we ordered two The Naked Lobster Rolls and two The Maine Lobster Rolls.  The meal starts with a big ceramic mug of hot Clam Chowder.  The consistency is very creamy, and the flavors are delicious.  The Maine Lobster Rolls consist of lobster mixed with Hellmann’s mayo, green onions, salt and pepper on top of a New England style hot dog bun.  The Naked Lobster Rolls have just the lobster meat and is served with mayo and drawn butter on the side.  The entire meal comes with hand-cut Kennebec fries, coleslaw and pickles.  The meal came out to be $30 a person, and well worth it.

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Himawari – San Mateo

Himawari
202 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 375-1005
Yelp
Rated: ♣♣♣♣

I was told about this ramen joint from one of my best friends.  He was raving about how this may be his new favorite ramen joint, which surprised me since, prior to this, I barely ever heard a buzz about it.   Being the curious fatso, we quickly wrangled a few of my coworkers to eat here.  There I was, waiting in front of Himawari with the usual two nincompoops I eat with and our CEO.  Not awkward at all, but I was hoping to impress the big man with my knowledge of the area.  All I had was a crack at the Bay Watch restaurant across the street and a mention of the Melting Pot (which his friend owns).  So, just a note to everyone (in case it wasn’t clear), my attempts at being impressive were failures.  Anyways, the wait took about 20 minutes before we were able to get a table for 4 at around noon.

The Food

I ordered the Deluxe Miso Ramen.  It had all the regular fixings like charsiu, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and bean sprouts, but the Deluxe meant it came with Stewed Pork and a soft-boiled egg.  I found the Stewed Pork to not be as flavorful as Santa Ramen, but it also wasn’t as fatty.  The soft-boiled egg was delightful and the middle was still runny.  The broth itself was pretty fatty.  You could see the fat floating around the top, which made for an unappetizing sight.  However, the flavor was awesome since it was so rich.

The Scene

The people that were here for lunch were mostly professionals and families.  People ranged from wearing shorts and t-shirts to full on suits.  The line can get pretty long, since there are only about 10-12 tables for 2-4 people.  I definitely would recommend calling ahead if you bring a large group.

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Tacos Peralta – San Mateo

Tacos Peralta
342 E Hillsdale Blvd
San Mateo, CA 94407
Rating: ♣♣♣♣

One thing that I love about working in the Peninsula is the great, cheap eats that are close by.  I love to eat at sit down places where I can just sit and talk to my coworkers about random things like Glee and P90X, but when we’re down for some awesome, fast mexican food we go to Tacos Peralta.  It’s not a Taqueria, it’s what people call a roach coach.  However, it’s not one of those trendy food trucks that serve Fancy Desserts or Gourmet Sandwiches.  This one has been in the same spot for the last couple of years that I’ve been coming here.  Nestled in front of a BevMo and gas station, this is probably the best place to drop a food truck, especially one that has these long lines which requires ample parking space.

The Food

When I come here I always get the Tacos.  Can you believe they are $1.25!  The best part is you get your choice of awesomely flavored and cooked meat.  I started experimenting with every type of meat they had on the list: Carnes Asada, Pastor, Cabeza, Lengua, Pollo, Tripa, Chorizo, and Carnitas.  My favorite by far is Cabeza.  Yeh, for all you non-Spanish readers, that’s head.  There’s something about the way they grill the head meat, and there’s nothing wrong with eating it if it tastes awesome. The meat is placed on top of corn tortillas, mixed with onions, and some hot sauce with pickled carrots, and a lime on the side.

I’ve given their Quesadilla a try, but I felt that my heart has fallen for the tacos.  Quesadillas are $4 and are pretty much the same, except they use a flour tortilla and add cheese.

The Scene

So, the truck is always in front of BevMo, and there’s always a line during the main dining hours, rain or shine.  There was once a time where a different truck showed up instead of Tacos Peralta, and my dining companions and I had a little tear.  Three grown men, crying on the side of a road (a little more than a tear, I guess).  Well, all in all, this is just a taco truck, and people shouldn’t go there.  I just want to keep the lines really short.

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