Friday, July 25, 2008

Park Street...AKA Downtown Alameda

Park Street had a face lift. It has transformed into a more modern version of itself in the past few years. Mom and Pop stores are still in abundance along the avenue with a few chain coffee shops. The old institutions of Ole's Waffle Shop and Jim's Place are still going strong. However, the food palates of local Alamedans are changing. Restaurants along Park Street are more upscale and diverse.

Gold Coast Grill specializes in grilled meats and mediterrean food. The eggplant parmesan is my favorite on the menu. The eggplant is tender with a tasty breading. The cheese binds the layers of eggplant together and gives the dish added texture. The flavors are pure comfort food. They also grill a decent steak too. This is a good place for a casual family outing. One issue about this place is that it lacks ambiance. The interiors of the restaurant appear tired and outdated.

Havana is the new Cuban restaurant on the block. The space is brightly colored with great, large pictures of the actual city throughout the restaurant. The food has a lot of tropical flavors in the sauces. The plantains which are prepared a few different ways has some issues with the texture. The seafood dishes are wonderful and full of flavor. Their version of paella is too mushy and wet and should have more crunch. The shredded beef was too large of a portion for just one person and the meat was a bit dry. The crab cakes were small and tasty with a mango sauce. The flan was a great dessert to end the meal. Be sure to order a mojito.

Ole's Waffle House is the anchor of Park Street. It has been around since the 1920s. The best food coming out of the kitchen are their breakfasts. One cannot go wrong in ordering waffles, french toast, pancakes or eggs. Their portion sizes are big and your stomach will be happy. Ordering food for lunch or dinner, however is questionable. Their hamburgers are good and predictable, there is nothing fancy about them. Their turkey pot pie was not a good choice. The pastry was very heavy and thick. The filling was minimal and the pie was too dry. Plus, there was not enough turkey meat. Deep fried fish dishes are over cooked. The fish was tough. The best selections are the breakfast food, meatloaf or hamburgers. Patty melts are a safe bet too.

Yume is a very small Japanese restaurant on the second floor. The sushi is fresh with a wide selection. The husband and wife owned restaurant are a tag team serving customers. The husband has awesome knife skills and the food has a great presentation. The wife is very friendly and is happy to serve the food. If you are looking for teriyaki or donburi, they do not serve those types of food. Their specialties are the sushi, sashimi and nigiri. The amount of cooked food is minimal. Their tonkatsu is delicious with a tangy, slightly sweet sauce. If you enjoy sushi than this is a wonderful place to experience.

Toomie's Thai Restaurant is a popular spot. I was surprised to see the number of customers one day when I had lunch there. Their pad thai was very good and full of flavors. Their varieties of curries were amazing with different heat, spice levels. Red is the hottest, green was second and yellow was the most mild. I had a green curry dish. The meat in the curry dish was over cooked and the chicken was tough and chewy. The sauce had coconut milk which lightened some of the heat of the dish, but the bamboo shoots were limp and did not add any value to the flavors. Their hot and sour soup had a wonderful broth of lemongrass. The soup was not too spicy with fresh vegetables, and the seafood was perfectly cooked.

La Pinata 3 is crowded morning, noon and night. Their best deal of the house only occurs Monday through Friday during late mornings and lunch hours. They have a $2.99 American Breakfast. It is served with 2 pancakes, sausage links (4) or bacon strips (4), potatoes and toast. I know this is not Mexican food, but for the price, I had to try it. The meal was good. I would order the selection again. Their huevos rancheros is also good for breakfast. The tortillas were fried and were a little difficult cutting them with a knife. The food is over all pretty good at this place. The menu is large and the portion sizes are worth sharing with another person. The deep fried fish is a safe selection along with fajitas and chimichangas. Their combination plates have a good selection and their enchiladas, tamales and tacos are predictable. The beans and rice are staples and tastes good with tortillas. If the waiting line does not stop you from going inside, it is worth the wait. Otherwise, walk over to the tequila bar and have a drink.

Barceluna is both old and new to Alameda. The previous location was at the old Alameda Theatre before the the movie house was in operation. The restaurant was forced to close and now it has relocated to Santa Clara Avenue at the old Luciano's space. The food is geared towards Spanish tapas, or small plates. Pizza was also on the menu. I really wanted to come to this restaurant for the pizzas, but when I looked over at the next table and looked at their pizza, it did not look very appealing. The ingredients were fresh, but the middle appeared soggy. Plus, the neighbor stated the tapas were better in taste than the pizza which then prompted me to order a pizza another time. The Tuna Luna tapa was fresh ahi tuna with tofu, cucumber and avocado chunks mixed in a spicy sauce. The presentation was nice in a martini glass and with a giant tortilla chip. The flavors, however were a miss. There was not enough tuna for my liking and the dish was mainly filling. The tofu did not add any flavor and at times looked like avocado to me. The ahi was over cooked and other ingredients masked the natural taste of the tuna. The mushrooms tapa was decent. The dish was cooked mushrooms with a nice smokey flavor. The skirt steak on top of a crostini tapa sounded great on the menu, but it was a bit difficult to eat. The steak was a bit chewy and slightly tough and did not tear easily once you bit into the meat. The flavor of the beef was good, but I wish the meat was more tender. The pomme frites was yummy. The garlic fries was large in portion with a good texture. They were crunchy and hot served with a mayonnaise and ketchup dipping sauce. The dessert menu is very minimal. I will have to come back to try out a pizza and their deep fried dessert.

Hong Kong City Restaurant is unpredictable. I have eaten there more than a few times over the years and found the food quite good a few years ago. The food now lacks flavor. I wonder if they changed cooks over the years? I would pass over this place since there are many restaurant places to choose from along Park.

Pappo has a more mature approach to its menu. The food is more upscale which is a blessing for the island. The flavor combinations are more sophisticated and the end result is good tasting dishes. I cannot say what my favorite dish is because they change the menu frequently. The salads are salads that I make at home, so I was not amazed when I ate them on a few different occasions. The desserts need some help. I was not impressed by their selections or after I had eaten them. The safest bet is the chocolate cake. Food prices are a bit too expensive for the portion sizes of the dishes. I have left the restaurant at least twice with having a three course meal and still be hungry. Wine selections are great considering other establishments on the island. This restaurant is a wonderful dining experience for finer dining on the island, just remember to bring your wallet.

Tomatina did not have palatable pizza when I went there. The menu made the pizza sound awesome, but I was disappointed by the flavors and texture. The pizza was soggy in the middle and the cheese slipped away from the crust. The salads are better tasting than the pizzas. Instead of the pizzas, pasta dishes are recommended.

C'era Una Volta has come around for me. When the restaurant first opened, I was not a fan. The food lacked taste. Over the years, the flavor combinations have greatly improved. One of my favorites is the pappardelle with the meat sauce. The eggplant parmesan is also good. The cannelloni is delicious for a few bites and then it becomes too rich due to the ricotta cheese. The gnocchi is a tasty dish, but it depends upon the sauce. Truffles are awesome with gnocchi. The meat sauce with gnocchi was a miss. The desserts still need help. I have not been able to have a wonderful dessert here. I will keep on waiting. This restaurant probably has the best Italian wine selection of the entire island. The staff is highly knowledgeable and know the tasting notes of each wine.

Juanita's Mexican Restaurant is definitely not as popular as La Pinata 3 down the street. The food is good and fairly predictable. I cannot say anything negative about this restaurant. The food is not memorable. It is food that one would expect at a casual, Mexican restaurant in America. There is no ambiance at this establishment.

Amarin Thai Restaurant is the usual place I go to for Thai food on the island. Their curries are very good with varied heat, spice levels to choose from. The vegetables selections in their curry dishes make sense and compliment the seafood or meats. Their pad thai was great with lots of peanuts on top. There is not a bad dish at this restaurant. I believe the chef has put a lot of thought into the menu with the ingredients and flavor combinations.

Jim's Place is another great diner for breakfast. Good food, large portions. Anything on the breakfast menu is a home run. Their hamburgers and patty melts are also a safe choice. Their milk shakes are very delicious. They are thick and tasty, made with real ice cream. One will have to wait on the weekends. Lines form out the door.

Speisekammer is the only German restaurant in Alameda. The food at times can be inconsistent, but it maybe more dependent upon what food is being ordered. I have been there a few times when the schnitzel was cooked perfectly and one time it was over done and tough. I have never been a fan of spatzle and found their version to be bland. At one occasion, the bratwurst, mash potatoes and sauerkraut dinner was disappointing. The bratwurst tasted like a grocery store bratwurst grilled at home. The mash potatoes were runny and the sauerkraut lacked flavor. The braised beef tri tip (Sauerbraten mit Preiselbeerkonfitür) is a good choice, the beef is tender and the sauce is a red wine reduction. Fish dishes are delicately sauteed with subtle flavors. Desserts are more challenging. The desserts are brought in by a third party baker and do not utilize authentic German ingredients. The strudel was made out of puff pastry which was unexpected. Unfortunately, the pastry lacked flavor due to an insufficient amount of butter. The best part of the establishment is their vast assortment of beers. If you are really thirsty, order the boot. This is best place to be at on a warm, sunny day having a drink at the outdoor bier garden.

Burgermeister opened for business around the same time as the Alameda Theatre. The restaurant is mainly known for its hamburgers, but it also serves fish and chips, chicken dishes and salads. The hamburgers are decent in taste and flavor and huge in size. Most hamburgers are 1/2 pound. There is a meal deal going on right now for a 1/4 pound burger, fries and a drink for $7.50, served Monday through Thursday. My only suggestion in choosing a hamburger is to ask the wait staff for their recommendations. One time I chose a hamburger that I thought would taste good, but it ended up lacking in flavor when I ate it. The Western Burger is a great choice since it is tangy, sweet and salty from the ingredients. The burger has lots of components comprised of fried onion rings, bacon strips, cheese and BBQ sauce. This burger is full of flavor, this meal does not disappoint. I would recommend this place for a casual burger and the great outdoor patio.


Anonymous said...

McGee's what a great bar and restaurant. The people are friendly and the staff takes care of you. The place is amazing! There are over 12 flat screen TVs in the joint. I have gone to sports heaven. The food tastes pretty good too. Everything deep fried there is awesome. There are two different kinds of french fries: shoe string or wedge cut. I prefer to eat shoe string. The burgers taste good. The chicken wings are okay, but messy to eat with your fingers. The Sampler Plate is great because it's all things deep fried: zucchini, mushrooms, french fries and chicken wings. I didn't even talk about the beers yet. There is a wide selection of beers to pick from. Pitchers are a better deal for those heavy or thirsty drinkers compared to a pint. I would definitely recommend this place to any sports fan, deep fried food fanatic, beer drinker or burger lover.

Anonymous said...

Just went to Culina, the new deli counter inside the Marketplace on Park Street. The food is from the same guy who owns Pappo Restaurant down the block. The food at the counter is fairly casual with some salads, pasta and vegetables already cooked in the glass showcases. The deep fried hot dog, Ripper Dog was good, but you really couldn't taste the deep fried part of the weiner. The garnishes on the hot dog, the dijon mustard somewhat drowned out the flavor of the meat. The sauerkraut was fresh and tasted better than it does in a jar. The bun was soft and moist, but kept firm while eating the dog. The fish and chips were pretty standard. The fish was fresh and was definitely better than the frozen fishsticks that I am use to.