Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I truly believe that Diners are the only profitable food business on the island. Everyone enjoys going to a diner on the weekends and the long lines reflect that attitude. I think the casual atmosphere and affordable prices is what attracts so many people to eat out. And Alameda has its fair share of diners located all around the island.

Marti's Place is known for their Swedish pancakes and ligonberry jelly. This diner is a popular spot and before they enlarged the diner and took over the vacant space next door to them, the wait was long. Now that the diner has two seating areas, there is plenty of space to eat and enjoy the meal. The best meal deal is the Hungry Swede which consists of two Swedish pancakes, choice of two eggs and choice of two bacon strips or sausage links. If you are unfamiliar with Swedish pancakes, they are flat and thin pancakes very similar to the taste and consistency of crepes. The interiors of the place is very Grandma-esque with floral patterned cups, drapes and decorative cows all around the room. You would come to this place for the food and not the design. It is worth coming here for a meal.

If you are seeking out a diner that has a 1970s feel combined with Little House on the Prairie furnishings than you do not want to miss South Shore Cafe. The cafe is not in the Alameda Towne Centre per se, but is located on the north western portion of the parking lot (across from Office Max.) Once you go inside, it is a bit of a trip going back in time. The decorum is outdated and there are a lot of frilly hand made looking window dressings and homely knick knacks everywhere. The clientele are seniors. The energy is very low and there is not a lot of noise in the room. The food was okay, not great, but the prices were inexpensive. You would come here for the low prices and not necessarily for the ambiance or food quality.

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.

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.

Tillie's is great diner food. There is nothing elegant or fancy about this place. It looks like a real 1950s diner because it is a real American diner. Breakfasts are large portioned and tasty. The best item for breakfast if you are really hungry is the Steak Bits. You get a lot of food and the steak is tender and full of flavor. The menu for lunch and dinner are basically the same with the exception of the daily specials. The hamburgers, patty melts and omelettes are always delicious. If you are looking to eat casual, diner food with the family or by yourself, this place is recommended.

Albert's Cafe is more of a people watching place than an eating establishment. The last two times I have eaten here, there was a community of employees and customers who were either strung out or had a hang over. The food was palatable and decent, but the atmosphere around me was more exciting than the food. The menu was predictable for a diner and the cook knew how to make eggs, bacon and pancakes. The prices were reasonable and the food portions were big, but not huge. I am wondering how the business is doing since the Medicinal Pot Club is upstairs and next door?

The best kept secret for breakfast comes from La Pinata3 during the week. From Monday through Friday, an American Breakfast costs only $2.99. For that price you get two pancakes, two eggs, choice of four bacon strips or sausage links and choice of toast. What a deal! Each time I have ordered this meal, I've been full. Another good breakfast at this place is the Heuvos Rancheros for $4.99. This is a Mexican breakfast which consists of two tortillas on the bottom of two eggs with salsa on top with rice and beans on the side. The meal comes with extra tortillas on the side. Either one of these dishes is a safe choice and a good buy. I would definitely recommend this place for breakfast during the week. Tell all your friends.

Blue Dot Cafe and Coffee House is a cafe, coffee house and diner all in one. There is an open kitchen on one side of the room and small tables and chairs surrounding the space. There is no menu, but two large chalkboards cluttered with food and drink items. They serve breakfasts of eggs, toast and bacon. The bacon for some reason is an additional side item and does not come as a complete meal. Other breakfast items were oatmeal, french toast, bagels and scones. I tasted the french toast strata with a hot cocoa. The hot cocoa was not hot when I got my drink. The temperature was warm and drinkable, but cooled down quickly. I love the strong taste of chocolate and unfortunately the cocoa flavor was weak where I noticed a bottle of Hershey's Chocolate Sauce was placed on the counter. The french toast had a great presentation and looked like a giant slice of a challah loaf with powered sugar sprinkled all over the food and plate. The french toast was crunchy and dry at the top and soggy and cold in the middle at the bottom third of the loaf. I couldn't really tell if the loaf was soaked in an egg batter because the flavors were too weak to taste it. The warm maple syrup brought moisture to the dry top, but only added flavor to the wet bottom. I did not finish the plate which is rare for me. I would not order the french toast again. As I looked around the room, the panini sandwiches looked appealing. Because the owner is a baker, I would come and try the baked goods that he personally makes on the premise as safer purchases. The atmosphere is warm, calm and peaceful.

Friday, November 21, 2008


German food has slowly gained in popularity in the bay area. A long time establishment is Schroeder's in the Financial District of San Francisco. This restaurant claims to have opened its doors in 1893. About a century later in the late 1990s, Suppenkuche came onto the food scene in Hayes Valley. German food became fashionable and for quite a long time, Suppenkuche was popular and it was difficult to get a table. Their sister property, Speisekammer is in Alameda and has been in business for a few years. Zagat is now rating Speisekammer higher than Suppenkuche.

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) was a good choice, the beef was tender and the sauce was a red wine reduction. Fish dishes were delicately sauteed with subtle flavors. Desserts were 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. I would recommend this place if you are looking for meat and potatoes and not necessarily a salad.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


One type of food that Alameda has an abundance of, is Chinese food. Chinese food is quite popular and there seems to be a big demand for it. Even though some people in Alameda do not want another Chinese restaurant in the city, a new one opens for business.

The only Chinese restaurant on Bay Farm is Harbor View Chinese Restaurant. This place is clean and pleasant. It serves typical Chinese dishes known to Americans. The food is good and it's quick service. I would recommend this restaurant if you live at Bay Farm or are in the neighborhood.

Hong Kong City Restaurant on Park Street is unpredictable. I've dined here more than a few times over the years and found the food to be quite good a few years back. The food now, lacks flavor. I wonder if they changed cooks? I would pass over this place since there are many restaurants to choose from along Park.

Hong Kong East Ocean Restaurant is great for dim sum. The dim sum menus are easy to read and you select which items you want. The ladies who drive the carts around the room may not speak English clearly, but they are eager to show you what they are serving. The crepes, dumplings, fried fish, stuffed tofu and eggplant are always good dishes. The sticky rice, chicken feet and the fried sesame balls are an acquired taste. The restaurant recently remodeled the interiors, so the room looks fresh with an Asian flare of golden dragons and red velvet walls. The restaurant can accommodate parties of any size.

Chef's Wok is a Chinese restaurant that is close in proximity to Hong Kong East Ocean. They also serve dim sum during lunch and is probably in direct competition with them. The menu is long and varied. There are so many selections that at times it is overwhelming on what to choose. In order to get a wide selection of food, I have ordered their Fixed Dinner Plans. The food lacked flavor at times and appeared the chefs prepared the food to appease non-Asian palates. The portions were huge and that is where the savings come in. One could eat the leftovers in two additional meals. If you looking for predictable Chinese food with large portions than this restaurant is the place to eat at.

Kapok has a new owner and supposedly a new chef. If you are in a hurry, the food comes out quick from the kitchen. The portions are huge and the cost is low compared to Chef's Wok and Hong Kong East Ocean. The menu is varied and they do not offer dim sum. The food is good and simple. It's not high end gourmet Chinese food. Be sure to taste the fresh seafood since they have live fish tanks inside the dining area. I would recommend this place if you are on a budget and looking for decent and predictable Chinese food.

The New Bamboo Kitchen Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue had a fire. The restaurant is currently closed for business.

There are plenty of Chinese restaurants that are not listed on this blog. Some of the places that I see while driving don't appear clean or appealing and I have no desire to taste their food. The last thing I need is food poisoning. Please post your comments if you've experienced a restaurant not mentioned or had a completely different opinion on any of the restaurants listed in this posting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spanish & Cuban

Due to the lack of Spanish and Cuban food on the island, I decided to combine them as one posting. Spanish and Cuban food is very different with the sauce components and flavor profiles, but the main ingredients remain the same of fresh fish, potatoes and vegetables. The one and only Spanish restaurant in Alameda is Barceluna. Within a three minute walk you can go over to the only Cuban restaurant in town called Havana.

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 wasn't 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. The only dessert worth tasting is their deep fried dessert.

By the way, I have returned to Barceluna for the pizza. I ordered pepperoni pizza. The pizza was good, not great, but I would not order pizza again from this place. Stick to the tapas!

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 were prepared a few different ways and I had some issues with the texture. The first time I ate the deep fried plantains, the texture was fibrous and difficult to eat. When they shred it like french fries than the plantain tasted really good. The seafood dishes were wonderful and full of flavor. Their version of paella was too mushy and wet and needed more crunch from the rice. 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 since their selection is huge. I would come back for drinks and appetizers. Dining in this restaurant is comfortable and pleasant plus, the Cuban music is great because it makes you want to dance in your seat.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Donuts are a favorite of mine. I enjoying eating all types of donuts: cake, bars, old fashioned and glazed. I remember walking around New York City at 3 AM looking for fresh, hot donuts from Krispy Kreme. Most of Alameda's donut joints are located on the west side of the island, perhaps left overs from when the Navy base was in operation.

Hometown Donuts is located across the street from the former Navy base. This place was very popular when the base was in operation. Now, the donut store looks a little old and tired. Their donut production is low and the shelves are not full. The taste however, is good. The cake and bars are satisfying along with the donut holes. The frosting on the donuts are just the right amount. This is not a place you want to seat down at and have a cup of coffee, the atmosphere is too depressing. If you are feeling lucky, buy a scratch off ticket.

Lee's Donuts is more upbeat compared to Hometown Donuts. If you don't come early in the morning, the donuts are gone. I have come here a few times in the late morning and early afternoon and found the shelves to be bare. And so I had to go in the early morning just to see if the shelves were full, and they were. The local favorite here is the bagel sandwich. For me personally, bagel sandwiches are too many calories and too heavy with the cream cheese and meat. The donuts here are fluffy and light weight. I am not sure how they do it, but you can taste the difference. The frostings come in a large variety of sprinkles, coconut shavings, glaze, chocolate, maple and nuts. Maples bars and chocolate cake donuts are my favorite.

Star Light Donuts always have their regular customers on a daily basis. A bunch of old, retired men hang out in front everyday chatting and eating donuts. Noticing that I would see this same group of men in front of the place every morning before work, I became curious. I wondered what brought these men here every day. Was it the taste, coffee or companionship? I had to check it out for myself. The first time I came here, I missed the morning crowd and the shelves were somewhat bare. The selection was so little that I bought a glazed donut. Glazed donuts are simple and uncomplicated, it was light and airy. Another time, I arrived earlier in the morning and saw the usual group of men. The shelves were much more in abundance compared to my first visit. I ordered a chocolate cake donut and found them to be rich in flavor. The cake was a little more dense that what I am use to for a cake donut, but the strong flavor of chocolate was unexpected and satisfying. I see why these men come here every morning. The donut store is really quite small and holds one table and the front window area with chairs in front of it. The store is a little bland in color and dim in lighting. It's a good thing the owners can make a tasty donut, otherwise there wouldn't be a reason to be here.

Golden Pin Donuts is always closed when I want to buy donuts from them. Perhaps, I go too late in the day? However, the times I have stopped by was during business hours. I should call them to make sure they are still in operation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Even though Alameda is surrounded by water, there is not a lot of seafood establishments in the city. There are more seafood counters around the island than restaurants. However, it depends upon how one is identifying what seafood is. Some may say seafood is sushi, and others would say seafood is grilled or pan fried fish or boiled shellfish. The only traditional seafood restaurant located in Alameda is Pier 29.

Pier 29 is where all the East Bay Senior Citizens come out for an Early Bird Special. The prices are very reasonable during the Early Bird Special duration and the portions are good sized. The restaurant is known for its seafood dishes. The clam chowder soup is good and thick. The best dishes of the house are grilled or pan fried fish plates. The fish and chips are a disappointment. The stews are not appetizing and the beef dishes are also not favored. The vegetables are always plain and simply boiled in water with some butter. This is the only restaurant in Alameda that has water views in the front and back of the building. The service is always friendly. I would recommend this restaurant only for the Early Bird Specials.