Let’s put an end to the strange tabloid style rumors on the internet that have implied that Mitch Haile and yours truly are mortal enemies engaged in a complete and all-out home office war. I don’t know who first came up with that nonsense but before it gets out of hand it’s good to pull the plug on that fake gossip story. We met up for drinks the other day at BJ’s across from the Apple HQ in Cupertino. And no, nobody needs to worry about that. Non-Apple users are welcome in Cupertino and there aren’t hordes of fans that scope out unsuspecting PC users. You can blame Sallie Goetsch, practicing with her new Nikon, for the picture.
OK, this is not really a restaurant review but it’s a place worth visiting if you’re ever in El Cerrito, California. What do you do for coffee in California? Go to Peets, of course. Unless you don’t care about coffee and how it should taste, in which case, people like that go to Starbucks. However, a rather interesting coffee place in El Cerrito, called Central Perk, is definitely worth a visit. The entire shop is filled with all sorts of toys, fun stuff, decorations, everything including a kitchen sink, basically. And everything you see in the store is for sale. Care to get one of those huge Sully characters from Monsters, Inc., well, at Central Perk you can. The place has closed since we’ve been there. Maybe we’re cursed?!
Cafe Maddalena, located in Dunsmuir’s historic district, was a very pleasant surprise while we were staying in Dunsmuir. We arrived early in the evening and went hunting for a place to eat and just by sheer chance ended up in front of where one of the locals passed by us and said the place was “always very good”. Personally I consider that an understatement because it was more than good. It was GREAT! The food was excellent and the staff was extremely kind and helpful. I’m not surprised that some food critics have said that Cafe Maddalena was one of the best restaurants in Northern California. I would definitely agree with that and that’s why they get the #2 spot on my personal favorites list. The presentation of the food had a lot going for it but the deserts were real works of art that tasted even better than they looked and I can tell you, they look amazing! I’m not a big fan of fish but the way that Cafe Maddalena did their grilled swordfish almost turned me into a fish lover, instantly.
This place was a surprising discovery that turned into a very pleasant one. While driving in the city we decided to just look for a place for dinner by doing a spot-check of “hey that looks good, let’s try it”. After driving around and feeling hungry while looking for a place to park we ended up at David’s Kitchen, a hole-in-the-wall place that didn’t have any clear ambiance or characteristics… other than the menu that looked to be interesting. Well, those are famous last words because the food was simply great and the ambiance is created mostly in part by it being a small place with a small kitchen with one cook (David) who works his butt off to create very tasty fresh food. According to David a lot of the locals know of the place and those make up the bulk of his customers and that he has some help from his sister and his mother when things get busy (you will have to be patient but it will be well worth it). I started off with the Half Moon Wraps which were Enoki mushrooms wrapped in thinly sliced beef in a black pepper sauce. Very very tasty!
By now you may figure out that I like Italian food a lot. And lots of it! Tonno Rosso was this incidental find we ended up for dinner at while being at the Embarcadero because we had planned to go to the Slanted Door (which unfortunately had a 5-week waiting list for reservations!!!). The food was very good and the service was prompt and quick. The place uses waiters and runners so when you ask for a another glass of wine the runner will tell the waiter who then comes over to the table again. This process may work out well, logistically, for the restaurant but does seem a little odd when the restaurant isn’t completely full. The food was good and the service was decent and effective. Not a place I will go out of my way for but definitely a place that should be on my recommended list… and so it is. Unfortunately, it’s now closed.
Roy’s is a Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. A very innovative, surprising, and excellent place to go for food that is quite different. All food comes as a presentation of a work of art where a lot of effort is put into the balance between looks and taste. Lots of good medium priced wines and really interesting and tasty food if you want to try something you may not have had before. The ambiance lacks the romantic feel but the overall feel fits in perfectly with the food.
The Brookdale Lodge, good food but with an even better ambiance. The restaurant (Brookroom) has a real live brook running through it which is lit with colored lights at night and provides an atmosphere that is very good for both casual and romantic dining. The food, as I already said, is good. It’s not spectacular but the fruit salad I had was almost unique and really worked well for me. It may be a bit out of the way but if you ever pass through Brookdale, or come near it, going to the Brookroom would not be a mistake you’d regret.
Well, what can I say about this place that hasn’t already been said. Not much I suspect. “If you haven’t eaten at Fior d’Italia you haven’t been to San Francisco!” is what they say and I can agree with that. The place is up there with the best of all time and while it’s not inexpensive it’s definitely worth it for their authentic cuisine and their excellent wine selection. This place always pops up in the top-100’s that are published and for one I can’t disagree with that. It’s one of those places where it’s good to dress up and make sure you make it worth your time by going the whole route from appetizers to desert (so you can experience the full range).
Fresh preparations with a Californian/Mediterranean touch which you can find on 1373 Solano Ave. at Beauregard’s California Bistro. Excellent fish. Efficient, friendly service with a smile. I am not a big fan of fish unless it’s Swordfish, Salmon, or… SHARK. The shark as provided by Beauregard’s was to die for. And it was the first time I had shark so I was naturally cautious and suspicious. The selection of, mostly, Californian wines of moderate prices seem to provide a good balance with the quality of the food and the overall ambiance of the place (which can be a little noisy but has great lighting at night for that almost-perfect romantic dinner).
Dining out extensively is something I really love to do and I appreciate the better restaurants that one can find on this planet so it may come as a surprise that a BURGER place would be listed this high on my personal recommended list. However, Barney’s burgers aren’t just burgers, they are just the BEST burgers you can ever hope to get in the Bay Area. I return to Barney’s very regularly, sometimes once a week, just because they make the best burgers in town. I usually go for the Barney’s Salad and a Californian Burger of a Maui Waui Burger, or I take a half order of spicy curly fries with their home made ranch dressing instead of the salad. Don’t do the house wines, though… they’re a bit under par. Then again, with burgers like these you should go with beer anyway (unless you don’t drink alcohol in which case they have a huge list of non-alcoholic beverages as well).