This is the first post of a new section of the blog titled “Food Roundup” when a group of us travel around to a number of Bay Area locations in an attempt to find the best of a particular cuisine. In this instance there were four of us and five different burrito locations (4×5). We chose our locations based on word of mouth and high Yelp ratings. Without any further ado, here’s the list: Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria, La Costa Taqueria, Metro Balderas Taqueria, La Victoria Taqueria and Taqueria Eduardo. We didn’t leave the house until about 7:30pm so we were working against the clock, not to mention the fact that we hadn’t eaten much all day, so we were also working against our stomachs as well. We rushed out to pick up our friend and guest critic Vishal and we were off to Taqueria Chavez.
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I received this really awesome vegetarian/Indian cookbook, Yamuna’s Table by Yamuna Devi, from my neighbor, a former member of Hare Krishna movement. She told me that the Krishnas are vegetarians, but don’t cook with onions or garlic. No garlic or onions! The reason for no garlic or onions is the belief that they increase passion and to some degree ignorance. As a substitute for these flavorful vegetables, Krishnas use asofoetida, which has a flavor of sauteed onion and garlic when cooked. You would think this would be bland food, although it is absolutely not! Check out this book and some creative recipes bursting with flavor.
I looked up Yamuna’s Table on Amazon and found used copies for $1.86 a copy. Get them while they last, it is a wonderful, vast cookbook with very creative and doable recipes!
For a party this past weekend, we made flaky citrus biscuits with a bit of a tart flavor to accompany the Avocado Chutney. Friends at the party kept asking me for the recipe.
Here it is!
Cookbook: Yamuna’s Table
Avocado Pate and Pistachio Chutney
For those who don’t know, San Jose has a Japantown neighborhood. This neighborhood has many delicious restaurants of all types, and this past Saturday it hosted the Spirit of Japantown festival. This festival won points with us right away by its lack of entry fee. They closed off the streets of the neighborhood and set up tents full of food, drinks, Japanese products and social groups. Other points made by the festival were for the ample beverage tents, lack of lines, and the import tuner car show (with the required pin-up girls on location). But, this being a food blog, we were disappointed by the minimal amount of food tents. Granted, the restaurants and storefronts were open to offer up shaved ice and other ice cream type treats to all of the melting participants out on a 95 degree day, but i can go to restaurants any day of the week. There were delicious pot stickers, an interesting spamshimi, and wheat noodle udon that we failed to try because we assumed there would be more food. In conclusion, we recommend more food to make this festival rise to the level of deliciousness that was the Eat Real fest.
Zach: I’ll keep this one short. Not enough food but the food there was good. I would love to try some Japanese items that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to eat. Short lines which I love. Not over crowded and nice to visit the area. Still way better than the Gilroy Garlic Festival!
Walking into A Slice of New York (“Slice”), one is not just reminded of New York City, but in fact beaten about the head, neck and arms with NYC accoutrements. The subway signs, bus handholds, maps, sports gear, photographs, and servers looking to move the line along, tell you forcefully, “we love NYC and so should you!” But even if you don’t like New York or even the East Coast, the pizza will have you coming back time and time again. Here, the kitchen serves up classic thin crust pizza with a satisfyingly crisp crust and all your basic topping favorites. I would certainly be lying if I said there was no Bay Area influence here. At no time have I witnessed a pesto, chicken and garlic pizza offered up in a neighborhood pizza joint in NYC, but I do have a hard time finding a good slice of thin crust outside of NY. Besides the classic thin slice, Slice offers a Sicilian-style rectangular thick crust option. They serve a plain cheese version of the Sicilian, but the meatlover is the way to go if you want the thicker crust (trust me). Don’t let its name fool you either; Slice sells calzones, stromboli, desserts and something else you’ll certainly want, garlic knots. The garlic knots are bits of dough covered in Slice’s garlic, parsley, and basil olive oil blend, served with a side of marinara sauce. One could easily make a meal out of the knots themselves.
Side notes: Slice is closed on Mondays, so don’t bother showing up. Also, Slice is next to a blues bar, JJ’s Blues, which allows you to eat your pizza while enjoying a beverage and some music. Slice is open late and is a favorite post-drink stop, so keep that in mind when you’re getting a late night snack on a Friday or Saturday (i.e., Long Lines). Slice is also popular for mid-week lunches, but don’t let a line dissuade you, the service is always quick.
If you’ve always wanted to go to Brazil, but don’t have the funds to fly to South America, Café Brasil is the next best thing. With its brightly colored façade, banana tree, palm trees, and coterie of Brazilian expats cooking and serving the food, one can easily imagine one’s self south of the equator. In fact, our friends Daniel (from the state of Bahia) and Gisele (from the state of Sao Paulo) bring their mothers here for the Feijoada. The in-laws then proceed to argue over the use of Farofa, as its application varies wildly over the country. There is one thing that the mothers do agree on, which is the quality of the Feijoada. Both say it is almost as good as what they make at home.
Café Brasil is only open from 8am-3pm, so it only serves breakfast and lunch. Although, if you get the Feijoada Completa, you might only need one meal. The Feijoada is a heavy, slow-cooked stew that’s filled with black beans, beef and two types of sausage. It becomes “completa” when you get rice, greens, chopped tomatoes and plantains served on the side. You can then decide what your favorite mix of ingredients is and whether or not you’re a fan of Farofa.
Since Café Brasil is so close to UCSC, you can expect a wait if you arrive around brunch-time on weekends. Luckily, you can grab a cup of coffee to enjoy while waiting. If you’re not into waiting, you can order your meal online and take it over to the ocean for a spectacular picnic.
Toronado, like the Oldsmobile it’s named after, sports a Unitized Power Package. As GM used the UPP to fit both a transmission and engine into a conventional engine bay, Toronado fits an outstanding draught beer selection into the same space where a normal bar would serve at most five draughts. Let me tell you that this is not a selection of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors products. Toronado offers some of the finest brews from all over the world. On our most recent visit we enjoyed some Belgians (Duvel Green, Affligem Trippel), and a Californian (Russian River, Pliny the Elder). An excellent feature of Toronado is the ability (at slow times) to order a sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door. Once you’ve ordered, you can go grab a beer and wait for the signature wall-pound that signals the readiness of your food. We’ll be sure to get a proper post about Rosamunde the next time we’re in the Lower Haight, but it was too busy at Toronado to sit and eat. Next time delicious sausage, next time.
Lesley: Go to Toronado for the BEER! I love Belgian Style Ales and they seem to have them all. You can get a sausage and pickle from next door and bring it over to drink with this unbelievable selection of brews.
Biryani House will fill you up with sinfully good, unhealthy Indian comfort food, only take a couple of bucks from your wallet, and give you the perfect kick in the butt spiciness.
Berkeley has so many affordable ethnic restaurants, it is difficult to find the gems. We have had some average food at these places and realized that you have to be in the know to get a really great meal. We think Biryani House was a great find and we came upon it by accident. Boy, were we happy to have found it.
Biryani House isn’t afraid of serving spicy foods even though they feed the masses in a super large self-service dining room. After ordering at the counter, we grabbed a complimentary Chai tea, a pitcher of water, and two bottles of chutney (spicy mint & a sweet version) from the refrigerator and found a table. The Vegetable Samosas came quickly and we briefly fought over them as we poured mint chutney on each serving. When the food arrived, I realized we were about to embark upon some great Indian food with no calories spared. The dishes were deep, saturated, beautiful colors from orange to yellow and dark maroon-brown. These colors were a sign that the food would have a great rich flavor and powerful taste. One friend to my left and two to my right kept dunking their Naan in my Chicken Tikka Masala sauce. I didn’t mind because there was more sauce than chicken. The Tikka Masala sauce was decadent with a buttery, creamy, and slight cheesy taste. We also had the Chicken Biryani, a curry spiced fried rice with chicken. The Biryani was spicy with an overall good flavor. A friend had the Goat Curry and said it was initially good but he realized that it was somewhat one-dimensional, lacking the usual diverse flavors in Indian food. The Karahi Chicken was delicious with excellent spice from the fresh peppers, which had its devourer sweating in his seat.
2011 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
Lesley: Their Chicken Tikka Masala was awesome. I haven’t had this style dish, very similar to “Butter Chicken” in Australia, since I lived in Sydney. Loved it! Super cheap! This is a great place to bring large groups because you can push together tables. They aren’t afraid of heat either, in the spicy or freshly cooked temperature kind of way.
John: It was I who was sweating into my Karahi Chicken. This was one of the first restaurants to actually back up its claim of ’spicy’ when describing the food. So many times we’ve been to places that say ’spicy’ and what they really mean is that the put some ground black pepper in there; such a disappointment. The chicken was great, the garlic naan perfect, and the flavors fantastic. A delicious find.
Zach: Tasty, cheap and spicy! End of story.
These are just a few tastes of what we had over the weekend at the Ferry Building and farmers market. There are so many great places to try here on Saturday mornings that you just can’t get them all in one visit. I always tell out of town folks visiting SF to go the Ferry Building and Farmers Market because of the local foods and produce. It is hard to go wrong here!
From Lulu Petite:
This is the cafe option of Lulu located inside of the Ferry Building. They serve sandwiches and specialty take-home foods.
-Egg Salad Sandwich with tarragon, parsley, chives, and Lulu Truffle Artichoke Tapenade on Roasted Brioche. It was huge and very tasty with a sweet, challah-like bread.
-Homemade Potato Chips. These were pretty good but I thought they could benefit from some kind of creative salt (or pepper) kick.
-Crispy Chicken Sandwich. It was good but I think adding cheese would be a benefit to the overall flavor.