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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Sumika Grill – Los Gatos

Sumika Grill Skewers 2Sumika Grill
236 Central Pl
Los Altos, CA 94022

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

The rave in Japan is all about yakitori (skewers). And it’s not your typical beef, mushroom and bell pepper skewers. It’s more like heart and liver skewers! Don’t be scared. If you’re less adventurous, there’s also the usual chicken, shrimp and veggie options. So, a group of friends and I got together to try Sumika Grill in Los Gatos for their… you guessed it! Yakitori!

The scene:

Sumika Grill is very traditional Japanese. They have pictures of sumo wrestlers on the wall and the master Japanese chefs are working the grills at the center of the restaurant where the kitchen is situated.

The caveat with yakitori is that portions are small, so it takes a lot to get full. The skewers start off at $3.50 each, but you’d be surprised at how much it adds up. For a table of 8, we each paid about $30.

The food:

Veggie Tempura – I didn’t get much of this, but I do remember it not having much of a crispy skin. The tempura was swimming in a light sauce, making the veggies soggy. I wouldn’t order this a 2nd time around.

Chicken Karage – I’m a huge fan of chicken karage, Japanese fried chicken. Some how, Japanese restaurants are able to make fried chicken that’s incredibly tender and juicy. The karage at Sumika Grill was exceptionally mouth-watering. The pieces are larger than your typical karage, but I won’t complain about the size.

Fried Garlic – This, on the other hand, was amazing! Fried garlic – who wouldn’t love that? The cloves were so soft, creamy and sweet. Not a hint of sharpness from the garlic in sight. The bulb also came with a creamy and tart sauce. I have no idea what’s in it other than Kewpi (Japanese mayo), but it’s good.

Yakitori – We had an array of yakitori – chicken thighs, shitake mushrooms, scallops, hearts, livers, shrimp, bacon-wrapped asparagus and bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms. All were very good, but I liked the enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon the most. The saltiness from the bacon and the juices from the mushrooms made for one tasty skewer.

Grilled Rice – I was so full at this point, but I had to try the grilled rice. These rice patties are super crispy on the outside and is packed with sticky soft rice mixed with sweet seaweed. A little sweet and a little salty. So good. I could eat these and the fried garlic all day.

I am a fan of this place and I’d definitely come back again. A well deserved 4 stars! By the way, I have not tried their famous sister restaurant, Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara, but I’ve heard it is the best ramen in the Bay Area.

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Katana-ya – San Francisco

Katana-Ya Fried Chicken RamenKatana-ya
430 Geary St
(at Mason St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Finally, a great noodle place in downtown! If you ever struggle, like I always do, to find a place to eat while shopping in Union Square. This is the place to go.

The scene:

I’ve heard about the wait. I’ve seen the wait. That’s why I’ve held off eating here for so long. K and I ended up waiting for about 10 minutes. The restaurant is small. It can’t possibly sit any more than 25 people.

The wait staff is friendly and service is quick. This is a great option for a bite before a show at the Curran Theater just across the street. Just make sure you come early to put your name on the wait list.

The food:

They have 3 options for broth – miso, soy and salt. I’ve always been a fan of rich and creamy miso broth and I’m a fan of fried chicken so, K and I both ordered the fried chicken ramen in miso broth. I asked for the “light” miso which I am sure is not very light.

Fried Chicken Ramen w/ Miso broth – The broth was thick, rich and not too salty. The toppings added are seaweed, pickled bamboo shoots and green onions. There is a TON of fresh ramen noodles in each serving. Usually, I could eat a whole bowl, but not this one. I had to give my leftovers to an eager K across the table. The fried chicken was super moist and fatty. Nothing low-fat about this dish at all.

Spicy Roll – While eating our ramen, an ad for their spicy roll was staring at us over our table. We had to try it. The Spicy Roll is made of fresh tuna and an insanely spicy chili paste. This was actually pretty painful to eat as it lived up to its name. Never again.

I’d love to come back to Katana-ya and try a different kind of ramen. The butter corn caught my attention last time. Yum!

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Himawari – San Mateo

202 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 375-1005
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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Delica – San Francisco

Delica StorefrontDelica
1 Ferry Building
Shop 45
San Francisco, CA 94111

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve always avoided this place in the Ferry Building because I once tried a sample of the carrot ginger soup and I almost gagged. I’m no fan of ginger.

So, last week L and I were having a long internal debate on where to eat and chose Delica because it had the shortest line.

The scene:

Much like every other store in the Ferry Building, Delica was fancy. They’ve got 2 lines out the door – one for salads and one for hot foods. We automatically got into the hot food line not knowing the difference. Each of the food items are on display behind a glass case that stretched throughout the entire restaurant. Items such as chicken dumplings, tonkatsu, tempura, and other fried items as well as ginger kobe beef rice bowls, bento boxes, sushi and salads.

The food:

I totally was not craving anything hot because it was such a beautiful day in the city, but I went for the veggie curry.

Veggie Mushroom Curry – Oh my GOD it was good! It was the best Japanese curry I’ve ever had. It was very hot, creamy and… crunchy? Yes! The curry was topped with thinly sliced lotus roots that were fried so they have the texture of chips. The two types of mushrooms used in the curry were button and oyter. The taste of the dish as a whole was so unusally satisfying. I’ve never had any other curry like it. It seriously beats Muracci’s and Hotei out of the water.

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