i've got some good news and some bad news. since i like to end things on a happy note, i'll start with the bad news.
after not having gone for a while, i decided to revisit ole espana in san mateo twice over the span of a month. i was sadly disappointed, the second time more than the first. most of the food has gone way downhill, sorely lacking in character and soul that once was its trademark. the tortilla was flat (not just its shape), the buffalo mozzarella with cilantro and tomato uninspired, even the signature piquillo peppers were shadows of their former selves. it's almost as if the kitchen doesn't care anymore, which to me is so depressing since that's what initially made this place great. the only possible explanation i can think of is that i no longer saw the original owner/manager around the last two times i went. perhaps she left and took the chef with her.
but enough of that, i've got some great news as well. a closet chowhound told me about this soul food place in palo alto called a and b's, which he said was on california ave. i looked but didn't find one, but as i was walking down california ave. one day, i noticed a new southern bbq joint called lois' bar-b-que and other fine southern foods. i figured maybe the ghosts of a and b's had come back to life and decided to check it out.
the place is a pit, a real hole in the wall, so like any true chowhound, i immediately became excited and my pavlovian salivary glands started to kick in. if it's any indication, the place is next to antonio's nut house, and i'm pretty sure they had the same decorator, some guy named bubba.
but the bbq is fantastic, especially the baby back ribs. the sauce is tangy, effortlessly balanced, but not overpowering. the meat is perfectly tender and the smoky flavor reveals itself with every bite. the bbq brisket and bbq chicken have the same sauce, but i'm partial to the ribs. i've only been for lunch, so i haven't been able to try all the sides, but the homemade potato salad is great. i can't wait to try the collard/mustard greens and the hot water corn bread patties, though.
lois' is a real mom and pop joint, run by the nicest couple. they told me they ran a restaurant in louisiana twenty or so years ago, and opened this place up just this past august. before that they were at hewlett packard. i don't know what they did there, but in my book, we've got plenty of people in tech shops here, but not enough authentic southern bbq joints, so i for one am glad they took the plunge back into the restaurant biz.
this place is no frills but the real deal. i'm worried they'll suffer being hidden in a doorway on california ave, so i'm spreading the chowhound gospel. check it out. i'm sure you'll enjoy it.