This is a big thank you to all those that chimed in on my friend's visit. We didn't eat as much as we wanted but we hit a bunch of recommended spots, and just wanted to add our take on the eats.
Friday: picked up pal at the Oakland Airport late. Hit In and Out on the way back. While almost everyone knows about In and Out, I have discovered that some don't. This is really a SoCal tradition, I will only add a thought on what I love about In and Out burgers- the perfectly toasted bun. The burger is cooked to order, vegetables are cold, the tomato tends to be decent (shockingly so), and the last bite is the perfect combination of sauce, beefiness, and the crunch of a soft bun that has been nicely toasted but not dried out. A note: fries must be eaten instantaneously.
Saturday: jaunted over to Half Moon Bay to take the dogs to the beach. Hit our fave sandwhich place- the Garden Deli at the San Benito House.
356 Main Street
Half Moon Bay
What makes this a place to crave is really the fresh baked and sliced bread with which the sandwiches are made. Thick slices of very soft, nice and chewy, not to fluffy, not too dense bread. I usually get the pastrami, which while not classic pastrami is also not bad grocery store deli pastrami, it is actually brisket and can be fatty, but is not too salty. While not to be recommended to New Yorkers that are used to the best, I certainly have a taste for it from this place. Sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato, onion, big slice o' pickle, generous mayo, not too much mustard.
Sunday: Sushi place to remain nameless. This board is tough on sushi, and this place was not one to recommend. I just like to get interesting rolls, but ones that are nicely balanced and well composed. This place was overkill and there was no harmony to the rolls.
Monday: A's game. Game food. Soggy garlic fries. I know they can be to die for, whenever I get them they are soggy and meh. A plug for the not good barbecue at the coliseum. The meat is never that tender, the sauce cannot even be described as great, but it is absolutely addictive. Lower level concessions, at the end on the third base side. A's won a sloppy game that they should not have.
Tuesday: Lunch at Totoro (Korean)in Mountain View (thanks Melanie Wong)(off Castro on villa). We had beef short ribs, spicy pork in house sauce and some beef skewers as an app. Very very solid korean, meats were tender, not overly marinated, still had beef flavor with garlic and sesame and not too much sweetness on the beef ribs, the pork dish was very flavorful, not too spicy, I love spice, but this dish was nice because there seemed to be some subtlety to the flavor. Much to be said about not smelling like the kitchen. Good service and they had a decent lunch crowd, while many other places had thinner crowds.
Watched the A's game at home, but had a Palo Alto special: Fred's steak from Schaub's (meat market at Stanford Shopping Center). Fred's steak is a marinated tri-tip roast that can be grilled or put in the oven. The color of the meat on the outside is absolutely black from the "secret" marinade. Going out on a limb, I might guess there could actually be black bean paste or something like that in the marinade. Fred's steak is overrated in that it can be VERY salty (although this time it was less so). It is actually more like roast beef than steak, and the best way to have it (to ameliorate the saltiness) I think is to slice it thin for sandwiches. Therefore we grabbed some french baguettes (bahn mi size), buttered, toasted, threw on the sliced meat, grilled onions, horseradish. Voila. Sox won.
Before the game, Cam Huong (location between 9th and 10th I believe on Webster, downtown Oakland). Bahn Mi (vietnamese sandwich). Has been mentioned before but they have a special, grilled beef wrapped around some sweet onion. Very tasty. Also had the grilled pork bahn mi, more savory than the beef, excellent. Very fast service, but not pushy. They put just enough hot pepper on that my lips were still tingling by the time we got to the game and I unwrapped the second sandwich. This is so far my favorite bahn mi place.
A's destroyed the Sox in an atrocious game.
After the game, cruised up to El Novillo taco truck (Fruitvale Ave and E. 12th in Oakland)(thank you Ruth Lafler). Homemade corn tortilla, nice corn flavor, not overpowering, slightly greasy, not crumbly, excellent. I had the carnitas (flavorful, not too salty, very tender) and the al Pastor (spicy pork). I have had al pastor pork many places and the dominant flavor is usually MSG (MSG doesn't really have flavor per se, but a certain savoriness, that in too great a quantity leads to what I would describe as a processed taste). Not so at El Novillo. The pork was spicy and sophisticated, not too salty, and I could detect what I thought was allspice. Absolutely excellent. My friend had the carnitas and beef tongue, which he said was wonderful.
Dinner- to round out a day full of pork we headed to La Bodeguita del Medio (Cuban place on California off El Camino in Palo Alto). This place was mentioned by Robert Lauriston, and he has not tried it. I will give a brief report here.
La Bodeguita del Medio:
We didn't have reservations and they seem pretty popular, it was a hour to 1.5 hour wait, they do have first come first serve tables on the bar side and outside, and there were tables available both places. They could probably use more chairs for the outside tables (only three or four tables) as they averaged around three per table. If you are a party of three or four, it will be tough to eat outside. The hostess could not accomadate us with another chair so we ate inside. Full menu available at the bar. We started off with croquetas (Potato, jack cheese, etc. blended and then fried in little balls). Nice and crisp on the outside, smooth on the inside, not too greasy, served with tamarind chipolte sauce. Two of us had Cubano sandwiches. As I cannot tell if I have ever had an authentic Cubano, I can only describe this one. Long sandwich on crusty bread, sliced on a long diagonal, heated and squashed on a sandwich press or under a griddle (very slight grill marks noticeable on outside of bread, sandwich flattened as with all the Cubanos I have had). Flavorful sliced ham and sliced pork loin, cheese (I ordered mine without, but it came with the first time, one of two mistakes by the kitchen, albeit cheerfully corrected), and pickles. The bread was noticelceably buttered. I would say the pork loin was a little dry (probably more noticeable to me as I had not cheese to moisten things) and could not really discern any pork flavor (the ham could have been too strong). Served with a nice pile of field greens with a cumin-citrus vinaigrette (nicely subtle). Not a bust though, I really like having a Cubano at the bar with a couple of refreshing cocktails. This brings up another point, I had a Cuba Libre (rum and coke) and thought it was excellent at first (smooth), then I saw the bartender making them- very little rum in the drinks, which explained the smoothness. The mojitos were similar, no punch of rum, generous mint, but actually sour from the lime. Not balanced at all. My friend had a nice grilledshrimp entree served with roasted corn, a mashed vegetable of some sort (boniato). He enjoyed it. The prevailing feel of this restaurant is one of vague corporateness, as if it is a concept restaurant awaiting investors or franchisees. This is not a pan by any means, just some thoughts for the chow community.
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to help us out- we had a great weekend (even though we have to admit that we are ALL Sox fans, and the A's took it to us).