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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Shalimar – San Francisco

Shalimar Palak PaneerShalimar
532 Jones St
(between Ofarrell St & Geary St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin

Rated: ♣♣♣

For some odd reason, I’ve been craving a lot of Indian/Pakistani food lately. I’ve been wanting to eat it once a week and I’m hating myself for that since it’s never a light meal. In this tiny hole in the wall in the Tenderloin, I wondered if my hands were cleaner than the food I was about to eat. But in any case, K and I tried the Palak Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese) and our usual Chicken Tikka Masala (tandoori chicken in a creamy tomato sauce) with a side of basmati rice and naan. The Palak Paneer is one of the better one’s I’ve had. It’s thick, creamy, and packs a little heat. The cheese (or tofu rather) is a little firmer than what I’m used to. The Chicken Tikka Masala was very aromatic and flavorful. The only problem was that the chicken was a little overcooked. Overall, the fare is pretty good here. Best part of the meal was the hot and fluffy naan. I’d say it has the best naan in the city.

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Udupi Palace – San Francisco

Udupi Palace Paneer UthappamUdupi Palace
1007 Valencia St
(between 21st St & Hill St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission

Rated: ♣♣♣

K, T and I ventured to the Mission to try the famed Dosa. It was going to take forever and a day to get a table, so we walked one block over to Udupi Palace which served the same kind of food. I had remembered this place from my coworker who was teaching me the difference between northern and southern Indian cuisine. He said this was the place to go if I wanted to try authentic southern Indian food. So, here I came.

The scene:

The restaurant was completely foreign for me. I couldn’t understand most of what was on the menu, but I was excited to shock my taste buds. Each item on every other surrounding table was pretty impressive. One looked like a 3 foot cornucopia of some sort, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was on the menu.

Prices are very reasonable too. I spent about $7-$8 per dish.

The food:

We each had the Udupi special which comes with a dosa or a uthaappam with an idly, a white spongy rice cake, and Medhu Vada, a fried lentil donut. It’s kind of nice having the idly as a side because it acts as a neutralizer for the very fragrant uthappam. The idly is paired with a bowl of brothy vegetable soup called samber. It’s pretty much a minestrone minus the pasta. I was not a fan of the Medhu Vada though. It looks like a plain donut, the kind you dip in your coffee, but its looks are deceiving. The donut is filled with spices, lentils and onions. It definitely confused my taste buds because I was initially expecting something sweet.

Gobi Uthappam – I really wanted to try a dosa, kind of like a huge Indian crepe, but the uthappam caught my attention. The gobi uthappam is a dense lentil pancake filled with spicy cauliflower. My favorite part of the dish was the 3 sauces that went with the pancake. One spicy, one creamy, one mild. Naturally, I loved the spicy sauce the best.

I fairly enjoyed my meal at Udupi. It’s not a place I’ll crave several times a month, but they do serve interesting food. If you’re used to the type of Indian food with curries and stews (like I am), this is not your place. But if you’re sick of that, then this is the place for you. It’s different and it doesn’t disappoint.

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Kasa – San Francisco

Kasa StorefrontKasa
Neighborhood: Castro
4001 18th St
(between Hartford St & Noe St)
San Francisco, CA 94114

Rated: ♣♣

So, over the weekend, K and I decided to try a new place for the blog. We found Kasa in the Castro and read it’s the best authentic Indian food under $15.

The scene:

What was off-putting about Kasa was the Panda Express style food bins. Who knows how long food has been sitting there.

To order, you first choose if you want a Thali (plate) or a Kati roll (think Indian burrito). If you get the Thali, you get a choice of 2 different curries. The Kati roll contains one kind of curry but is wrapped in a buttery roti (thin bread) with marinated onions and chutney. I have never seen anything like that before and at $4.50 each, you can’t go wrong.

The food:

I got the Thali ($10.95) with the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Ghobi Aloo. K got 2 Kati rolls – one with Chicken Tikka Masala, one with Karahi Paneer (Indian cheese). The total came to $22.

Thali – I actually wasn’t too impressed with this. The plate was huge, but there really wasn’t much of the Chicken Tikka Masala or the Ghobi Aloo on it. The server was carefully assembling the curries in the small divider portion of the 24″ plate. I felt kind of ripped off since I was paying $10.95 for this. There wasn’t even enough rice for the small amount of curry. A majority of the plate was covered with different kinds of salads that I didn’t even touch. There was chutney, red onion salad, a mix of raw veggies, and lentils. The lentils were great, but I was still hungry after my meal.

Kati Rolls – I took a bite of K’s and it was pretty good. I don’t eat onions or whatever’s in the chutney, but it tasted pretty good to me. At Kasa, it seems like the kati rolls are the way to go. The Karahi Paneer tasted very similar to fresh mozzarella. I’ve never had Indian cheese before, so it was an interesting experience. For the big eaters out there, you can definitely get full on 2 Kati Rolls for $9 total rather than the $11 plate.

Mango Lassi – I’ve never had Mango Lassi before and decided that night to try it. Wow, it is definitely not my cup of tea. It’ s like drinking a heavy yogurt with a hint of mango flavor and a strong taste of spices that seem like they shouldn’t even be mixed with a sweet delicious fruit.

Despite the rave reviews on 7×7 and Yelp, I don’t think I’ll be coming back to Kasa. I might just be too picky of an eater to really enjoy what they serve.

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