Aah Vacaville, land of the lamented and vacant Nut Tree and more chains than should be legal in one city. Admittedly at the farthest edge of the SF Bay Area region, if not even just beyond. As I drove to Vacaville I pondered whether Vacaville didnt have any non-chain chowish restaurants or if no one ever had any reason to eat there making suggestions scarce. I assumed the latter and took it as a pleasurable challenge to explore, or at least drive around till I starved. Unfortunately, I last checked my post late Thursday afternoon, and didn't see any of the suggestions that appeared after that time.
The task that drove me to Vacaville was a to host a tasting at the Nugget Market. Normally I dont do tastings at grocery stores, but if you have never been to this Nugget, it is truly the most beautiful elegant grocery store, complete with a wine tasting bar. Once the tasting was done, I asked the department manager if she had any suggestions for dinner. She mentioned La Reine, a Vietnamese place, gave me vague directions and off I went, away from the freeway and chains.
Driving south on Nut Tree Road, past the Factory Outlets, I turned left at Elmira and right into a small strip mall. La Reine advertising Euro Vietnamese dining was located to the right of the Rite Aid. I am no expert on Vietnamese cuisine, in fact Ive only eaten it a few other times and usually cant get any farther than chicken pho aka pho ga. La Reine was almost empty, except for two other diners. The menu mentioned their World Famous Dungeness Roasted Crab, but noting the season, the inland location and my small appetite, I passed.
To start I ordered the Gio Bo, a salad of shredded cabbage, onion, peanuts, and mint leaves, draped with thin slices of pale beef and dressed in a sweet rice vinegar based dressing. It was simple and refreshing, good but not amazing.
The Thai Iced Tea was very good, the tannin of the tea balancing the exotic milky sweetness.
Next I had Pho Dac Biet, described as Special Ha Noi style Noodle Soup. Since Ive never had beef pho before, I have no comparison. This was flavorful, full of the thin slices of pale beef, beef balls, tendon and the ubiquitous noodles. However the broth tasted vaguely of dehydrated onion. Soon my weak appetite gave out, so I had both the salad and the pho wrapped to go.
As I left the parking lot, I decided to continue south on Nut Tree Rd. to see if there was anything of note further down. Exiting the La Reine shopping center, I realized that right around the corner in the same shopping center was a Chinese place with lighted sign advertising Mongolian BBQ. I used to eat this frequently in college and have a nostalgic taste for it, and lamented not having seen it in time to check out.
After a few minutes I came to the intersection of Nut Tree Rd. and Alamo, with a sizeable strip mall on the right. As I turned into the parking lot, I saw a Thai place and Mexican place. This is hope that Vacaville is not as chow-desolate as feared. I decided this was enough exploring for one evening, and headed home on the delightfully traffic-free 80 West.
2046A Nut Tree Rd., Vacaville
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