American Canyon (or as the locals call it, AmCan) is one of the fastest growing cities in the Bay Area (12,000 population at last count and growing) and bills itself as the "Gateway To The Napa Valley." I suspect most people with food on their mind speed through here to get to the culinary treasures of the Napa Valley proper, or they venture to Vallejo to the south with its wider variety of cuisine selections (though you may have to dig a bit to find the food gems.)
Still, you figure one of the fastest growing cities in the Bay Area would have something chow-worthy...or would it? Here's what I've found so far on my quest to figure out the answer to this "burning" question.
K T Noodle - this place seems to be an anomaly. It's hampered by being in a location that's still trying to find its groove as a retail location (Canyon Plaza). Also, while they do have a few familiar-sounding dishes like Kung Pao Chicken, their menu isn't typical to those who are used to the regular Americanized-Chinese items you'd find at town competitor Peking Express (more on them later.)
It doesn't help that the owners (who are pleasant from what I've seen) struggle with the English language and that the menu is confusing (their take-home menu doesn't have all their available items, and the photo menu of items they show customers is spotty, as it doesn't name and/or describe all the menu offerings available.) I've seen many a potential customer take a look at their photo menu and walk out with only a take-home menu in their hand. Finally, I've never seen it brimming with customers (I can't say what happens during lunchtime during weekdays since I work in SF.) With all that said, it's still plugging along after about two years in business.
The items I've tried so far are good and solid, though not drop-dead delicious. Like their name suggests, you're better served choosing their noodle dishes; I personally like their dishes that feature their 5-spice beef shank. Just this week I had a bowl of their rice noodle soup with 5-spice beef shank and wontons for $7 - the broth was flavorful and just salty enough, the beef was tender and tasty, and, despite a ragged look, the wontons were very good.
The interior is wood-lined and nice, typical of all the buildings in this mini-complex.
Parry's Market/Pizzeria - This restored barnhouse used to house The Fruit Tree Market, a place where you'd see a lot of casino and tour buses would stop I presume to buy the goods inside, up until a couple months ago when the new owners took over.
Now this place is home to your standard super-convenience store market that happens to have a pizzeria attached to it. A sign on the window says "New York Pizza Kitchen" - I did a little research after my visit and discovered businesses in Fairfield and Napa with the exact same name; I'm unsure if they're related or not.
I personally have never had a New York style pizza slice; for me, pizza was just pizza to me until I went to Chicago to visit friends and had a slice of delicious deep-dish at Geno's East. It goes without saying now that I want to try to the best in the pizza world, no matter what the style (without trying to ruin the diet too much heh.)
So does Parry's rank with the best? I ordered what was described as a New York Style Slice for $4.75 - salami, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions - and ended up a bit worried when he took out what looked to be a previously baked cheese slice and started to add the meat. While it was being rebaked in the oven, the owner pulled out a baked ziti pie covered with two huge meatballs and tomato sauce out of another oven for a waiting customer. It certainly smelled and looked good. (Besides the pizza and pasta offerings like the baked ziti, the menu had listings for grinders (more on that below.))
The result? First off, the slice was HUGE. The onions and mushrooms were put on after it was in the oven, which was a nice touch (don't know if that's typical, though.) It was foldable like NY pizza is supposed to be, though you needed two hands to handle this monster. The crust was still nicely crispy and airy, despite the rebaking.
I'm sure this doesn't rank with what you can get at Arinell's, Gioia's, or a few other Bay Area NY-style pizza joints, but it's pretty good IMO, especially if you want to stuff yourself silly (it certainly outranks anything you can get at the nearby Papa Murphy's take-n-bake outlet.)
At least the owner should know what NY pizza should be - he's a transplant from the Bronx via Connecticut (which explains the "Grinders" heading on his sandwich menu; he confided to me that had to add the word "Sandwiches" in parentheses next to it because so many locals were confused.) He also mentioned he owned a restaurant in Fairfield, CA area for 10 years, sold it to go back to NYC to start anew, but he and his wife had grown too fond of the weather here and moved back a year later.
Final note: if you're ever in need of a 33" monster pizza to feed a ton of people, this would be a place to get it.
Zacatecas - this place is actually in Vallejo in the Rancho Square strip mall, but if you walk roughly 30 feet to the north, you'll find yourself in AmCan.
I read on the internet that Zacatecan cuisine is largely meat based, with menudos and birrias typical of that region, and sure enough, this place serves them, though only on weekends. Otherwise, it seems to have your typical taqueria selections (tacos, burritos, etc.) plus some seafood offerings.
I also read that enchiladas are a speciality of the region, though there's no one set recipe that's typical. I hadn't had an enchilada in awhile, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to try one. You can order an enchilada as a side order or as a combo plate (two enchiladas, rice, beans, and a completely disposable small side salad for $6.99). The enchiladas can be chosen either cheese or chicken, and green or red (with red being the more spicier.)
The chips they brought out were nothing special, while the red salsa was more like a sauce, though it did have a nice kick to it. My order came quickly, and as I as sampling my first bite, I realized something - I've had an awful lot of mediocre to bad enchiladas in my lifetime. This was GOOD - a wonderful, spicy chicken filling that left a nice burning sensation well after I was finished eating, accentuated by the red sauce and slight smattering of cheese on top. Even the beans and rice were a notch above the usual. My only quibble is that the chicken was just a tad bit overdone; other than that, I can't complain at all.
The interior is kinda' sparse, with smatterings of artwork, hanging pepper decorations and a map of Zacatecas. The hardwood tables and chairs reminded me of what you'd find at home in a small kitchen, right down to actual napkin holders and grocery-store style napkins.
They also bake all sorts of Mexican pastries and goodies every morning, so there's a selection of those available for your culinary enjoyment.
Other Quickie Reviews:
3-J's Oriental Store - This tiny store, in the same complex as Zacatecas, has a small steam table with a variety of Filipino menu items for sale for lunch. Today, I noticed dinuguan, menudo, pork adobo, and various fried fishes (tilapia and bangus, amongst others) for sale. Their pancit is good; you can order trays of that and the other various items in advance.
Peking Express - Your typical Americanized-Chinese takeout type place, like I had mentioned above in the K T Noodle review. With that said, the owners are pretty personable, the price ($4.75 for three items; it was $4.25 for the longest time) is budget-friendly, and the food quality is decent.
There are a few more places in the area that I want to explore, so this report isn't complete. However, I can say that so far, while there's nothing completely earth-shattering around this growing town, you don't have to resort to the local Safeway or Jack In The Box if you have the need to feed in AmCan.
(All businesses located in American Canyon except where noted)
K T Noodle
3419 Broadway St. (Hwy 29)
643 American Canyon Rd
Panaderia Y Taqueria Zacatecas
(Rancho Square Complex)
5201 Sonoma Blvd, Ste. 3
3-J's Oriental Store
(Rancho Square Complex)
5201 Sonoma Blvd, Ste. 17
American Canyon Marketplace
101 American Canyon Rd