Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to All! 2010 is just around the corner and there is good news to cheer about. Optimism is in the air and restaurants are on the rise in Alameda Towne Center.

Pearl's Hamburgers will open soon! They claim they will serve gourmet burgers which will be awesome. I love a great tasting hamburger with good quality meat.

A new dessert place will open soon called Fruits and Chocolates. I think their name pretty much sums up what they will be serving. I am ecstatic because Alameda desperately needs a dessert place that is not yogurt.

If someone would open a gourmet dessert place that stays open late just like La Pinata, the owner would make a fortune. Obviously, the dessert must look scrumptious and taste incredible. I wonder if someone is ready for that challenge.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Wish everyone a healthy and safe New Year.

As I was strolling along Park Street checking out the festive Christmas decorations, I noticed Amarin Thai Restaurant next to C'era Una Volta was closed. The space is up for rent and there is no trace of Amarin whatsoever. What a surprise! The food in the restaurant was tasty. I did remember last year that the restaurant's beer and wine license was revoked due to serving minors. I wonder if this incident started the momentum of the downfall of the establishment. It is a shame Alameda has lost a good restaurant.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Had a wonderful dinner at Yume on a Thursday evening. There was no waiting line for the sushi bar. The assortment of fresh fish was amazing and the sushi was awesome! The fish was so fresh that it tasted like butter and was extremely tender. Definitely ask Sushi Chef Hideki for the daily specials. Unfortunately, the waiting line could be long because the owners are no longer serving at the two small tables away from the sushi bar. They decided to stop service at these two tables because Chef Hideki could not guarantee the wait time of the food orders. Wait times were over twenty minutes and the chef felt that time duration was too long. The wait for the sushi bar is worth it because the fresh fish is great. Do not get surprised by the price tag when you get the bill. Fresh fish coming in from Japan, New Zealand and other exotic locations around the globe is expensive.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December Dining

Last Saturday night I was calling a few restaurants to get a reservation for a party of two. I called about seven places and they were all booked from 6 to 9 PM. I could not get a table. I was shocked. I thought it would be easy reserving a table in this weak economy. I was proved wrong. Who said that we are in a recession?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

In the little town of Alameda, few restaurants offer Thanksgiving Dinner. Most of the eating establishments prefer to be closed for the holiday to spend time with their own families. In addition, in this weak economy, families may opt to eat at home instead of going out. Of course the large hotels in San Francisco like the St. Regis, Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton create a prix fix menu with with the works for a hefty price.

A few of the places in Alameda that are offering food for the holiday is Pappo and Pier 29. One has a fifty/fifty chance of eating out. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chipotle Mexican Grill

I went to the Mall on a Sunday afternoon and wanted lunch. I was at the eastern side of the Mall where Borders is located. I dabbled between Daphne's, Panera and Chipotle. I quickly eliminated Panera because it was too crowded and the line was out the front door. The decision then became a taco or a gyro. I chose the tacos. For $7.00 I received three crunchy shelled tacos. I ordered one chicken, one shredded beef called barbacoa, and one carne asade (grilled beef) taco. In the tacos, you have a choice of rice and beans or plain meat. I opted for one taco to have the rice, beans and meat and the other two tacos with only the meat.

I watched the staff assemble the tacos that I ordered. The first person inserted the meat in the taco shells. The second person added the salsa, cheese, sour cream and lettuce. By the time I received my food, the plate was a hot mess...and not in a good way. There was sour cream over the side of the plate, sprinkled cheese all over the plate and not necessarily inside the taco. The food was poorly prepared. Presentation wise, it was a sad looking meal.

I ate my meal at the restaurant. The first taco was the barbacoa. The meat was tender and tasty. The salsa was medium spicy and it had a kick, but it did not overwhelm the mouth. The second taco I consumed was the carne asada. The grilled beef was cut into little cubes. Unfortunately, the carne asada was overcooked. The beef ended up as hard, chewy, little meat cubes. The meat was dry and it made the taco less desirable. The last taco I ate was the chicken. The chicken was a little tough to eat. The chicken taco had the rice and beans inside; the two ingredients did not add a lot of value. All three tacos were messy to eat and salsa dripped out the sides. The saving grace of the tacos was the sour cream. The sour cream cooled the heat from the salsa and added moisture to the overcooked meat.

Chipotle seems to specialize in cooked meats and not fish. I did not see any fish tacos or fish plates on the menu board. The barbacoa was the best of the bunch, since it sits in its own sauce. The chicken and carne asada are kept hot in a heated tray which dries out the meat. My recommendation is to eat barbacoa.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Vegetarians out there always complain that I don't comment about any vegetarian restaurants in Alameda. Well, one important factor is that there is only one vegetarian restaurant in Alameda, Central Vegetarian Cuisine on Park Street. Of course a majority of all restaurants in town have vegetarian dishes, but Central Vegetarian Cuisine is strictly vegetarian.

Recently, I walked along Park Street one Friday evening. I passed by Central Vegetarian Cuisine, and noticed the place was closed. The night was early and definitely during normal business hours for a food establishment. There was no sign on the door. I wonder if this is an indication of the economy or that Alamedans are not into vegetarian cuisine. I have not walked back to the restaurant since then to see if the owner is still in operation.

Other food that is popular in the vegetarian realm is Indian food. Most Indians are vegetarians, but Indian restaurants in the US serve meat. India Palace serves great vegetarian dishes that are not side plates. I definitely enjoy the cauliflower entree in curry sauce with peas and potatoes. The rice at India Palace is really tasty with the slight hint of saffron. Yummy!

Chinese restaurants also serve vegetarian dishes, but it is mostly stir fry. I find stir fry to be one-dimensional at times; I guess it depends upon what type of sauce is served with it. What I do love in Chinese vegetarian dishes is the tofu. Love tofu! Hong Kong East Ocean on Webster Street prepares a great deep fried tofu dish with stuffed shrimp. Unfortunately the stuffed tofu is really a side dish and not an entree. I will not even go there with the imitation (soy product) of pork, chicken and beef served in some Chinese restaurants. I ate a few of those meals in a vegan, Buddhist Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and found the few experiences to be odd. It tastes like meat, has a slightly different texture than meat, but it suppose to be meat. I don't get it since it is a vegan restaurant?

The other option is pasta at Italian restaurants. Cera Una Volta has a few decent pasta dishes sans meat. The eggplant parmesan is entree worthy.

Alamedans may have find it difficult to support a truly vegan restaurant (no egg or milk product, or no seafood) on the island. I don't think there are enough vegans or vegetarians on the island to be able to financially support a restaurant.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuck on Philly Cheesesteaks

For some reason, I am stuck on Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. I don't know why since the sandwich is unhealthy for me. Perhaps, I enjoy bouts of gluttony, but in all honesty, I am driven to find a great Philly Cheesesteak.

I ate at Burgermeister on Sunday and of course ordered a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. I was curious about their version of the sandwich because I tasted all of the other places around the island and I am still not content with what is available. Call me a masochist.

The first bite of the Philly Cheesesteak was pretty good. My first impression was that the sandwich was better than the sandwich I had at Yo! Philly Cheesesteak. The cheesesteak from Burgermeister had better flavors of beef, onions, grilled peppers and melted cheese. The sandwich was amply filled with meat and vegetables in a regular roll. In terms of price, Burgermeister is more expensive, however, the atmosphere is much more pleasant and you can sit down and enjoy your food.

Recommendations for a satisfying Philly Cheesesteak in Alameda...not the Cheesesteak Shop in Nob Hill, and definitely not McGee's Bar & Grill. I suppose it is a toss-up between Yo! Philly Cheesesteak and Burgermeister.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Have a Ghoulish Night!

Call out to demons and witches for a party tonight. I am certain there will be hundreds of children running around the Gold Coast area trick or treating. Be on the lookout for ghosts and goblins and be careful while driving.

I definitely love Halloween for the dark humor of the festivities. I also enjoy eating pounds of candy, chocolate and sugar and not feel guilty. What a fabulous event.

Have a ghoulish and safe night.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Steak is just a Steak

When Pappo first opened, it brought an edge to the Alameda restaurant scene. The place was cool, hip and the food was better than other places around town. Now, the place is empty and lacks character. I ate dinner here last week after work. The restaurant was sparse. Not many patrons were dining.

The menu list also lacked luster. There was no spark that would capture one's attention on the food. Even though the dining room is still the same, something is missing. I can't pinpoint what it is, but there is no life in the room. The place now seems like a regular joint and no longer stands out. The bright star that once shined, is now dim. The edge in the food is gone; a steak is just a steak.

The aesthetics of the dining room is great, but the food needs to express itself. The owner needs to come back to the kitchen and bring the magic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kamakura...Unexpectedly Busy

I was around town for lunch one day and had a client with me. The client had never been to Alameda before and it was lunch time, so I decided to take him to Kamakura. I didn't think much about it since it was a business day and did not think the restaurant would be busy. I went there for the first time during lunch and the place was packed. I was in total shock. We had to wait for a while and then we were seated. We didn't have a lot of time since we had meetings to attend. We ordered our food and the service was fairly quick. I ordered the Oyaku Donburi and the client ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. My chicken bowl was palatable. The sauce was slightly bland, but I still ploughed through it since I was hungry and had a long day ahead of me.

A second time, I called the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon to see if the place was open. The owner, Faith, answered the phone and she said they were open for business. During the call, I could not hear any noise in the background and thought it would be a good opportunity to bring a group of six people. I came approximately 45 minutes after I initially called. I took my gang with me and again, unexpectedly, the restaurant was completely packed. Ugh! I put my name on the list and the hostess could not tell me how long the wait was. Who would have thought the place would be crowded on a late Sunday afternoon. And with a group of six, tables were not going my way since four other groups were ahead of me. We waited and waited. We could not wait any longer and decided to walk away.

Kamakura may not be affected by the recession. Kudos to them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yo! Philly's Cheesesteak Fails to Please

I am a big meat eater. I love beef. I love the taste of beef. When I noticed the new cheesesteak place on Park Street, I became curious. The first time I went over to the restaurant, it was a Sunday. Yo! Philly's Cheesesteak is closed on Sundays. I then looked over the menu and decided to come back another day.

I ordered a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich with the works which consisted of mushrooms, onions and bell pepper. The bun was a submarine sandwich bun, almost one foot long. The cook grilled the beef after I placed my order. The place is basically a counter and no room to eat the sandwich on the premise. I took my cheesesteak sandwich home and was excited to taste the beef treat. The look of the sandwich looked great, the owner was not skimpy on the amount of beef. There wasn't a lot of grease oozing out of the bun and it looked like it was worth the $7.50 that I paid for it.

I was perplexed on my first bite into the sandwich. I could taste the beef, mushrooms and peppers, but all of the flavors combined was not impressive. There wasn't a strong beef flavor from the meat. I felt that all of the ingredients resulted in a bland product. I also noticed in the sandwich that the mushrooms were canned and not fresh, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but more of an observation. Usually there is a special sauce the meat is grilled with that brings out the flavors, but I am not certain if the cook has a "sauce".

I will say that Yo! Philly Cheesesteak turns out a much better product than other competitors in Alameda. The amount of meat inside the sandwiches far exceed others. In addition, Yo! Philly Cheesesteak is the only place where you can purchase Tastycake products for dessert.

I will check back on this place and report to you later. For right now, I am sticking to my original blog entry on April 24, 2009; there is no decent Philly Cheesesteak in Alameda.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Fall of Gourmet Magazine

I was saddened and disappointed to read that Gourmet Magazine will stop production and shut operations. Conde Nast who owns Gourmet Magazine claims the reason for the closure was due to weak ad sales. Gourmet was the premiere food magazine where critics were highly honored and respected.

Not only do humans require food as a means of survival, but food is also utilized as a peacekeeper to bridge people of different backgrounds. Food is neutral, non-political and non-denominational.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Hob Nob

After reading some of the comments on this blog, many people consistently wrote about The Hob Nob. I had gone there a few times for drinks, but never for food when it first opened two years ago. In the few times I had gone there, I was not a huge fan of board games in a dim lit room on a Friday and Saturday night. I then decided to go there for food and see what all the fuss was about.

The restaurant is popular for their brunch menu and light fare food items. The prices on the menu are very reasonable with a good selection of food. The Fish and Chips for $9.00 consisted of three slim pieces of fish and a mountain of french fries. The fish was nicely cooked and the batter was just right of not being too thick. The french fries were tasty and crunchy and not soggy. The malt vinegar for the fish complimented the fish, but the tartar sauce was too sour from an over abundance of lemon.

The Cuban Sandwich is basic and not really satisfying. The sandwich has thin slices of Serrano Ham with pickles and condiments between two slices of egg bread. The sandwich came warm to the table since it was on the grill, but this was not a wow item.

The spicy Chicken Wings were good and the sauce definitely had a kick. The wings were cooked perfectly without biting into red or bloody chicken bones. The sauce was a bit oily, but it gave the wings tons of flavor. The ranch dressing that came with the celery and carrot sticks was too sweet and the viscosity too thin. The dressing had the same problem as with the tartar sauce; the chef is heavy handed with lemon.

The Truffle French Fries were slightly more expensive than their regular fries, but the taste is worth it. The truffle oil on the fries were subtle and the melted Parmesan on top was pure heaven. The fries had a great texture and crunch, which is extremely important for a tasty french fry. The sauce that accompanied the fries had a much stronger flavor of truffles and it complimented the potatoes just perfect.

The space has not changed much when it was called Kelly's. The space was a mixture of modern, pub and country kitsch interiors. The one aspect I did not enjoy in the dining room was the wood chairs with the little cut out hearts. The chairs brought a dowdy feeling to the room.

The Hob Nob is a friendly, neighborhood hangout that serves good food. You don't want to miss out on the fun and comfortable atmosphere.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grand Opening! The Churchward

The old Pop Inn on Park Street had a makeover and a new owner! The new bar is now called The Churchward. The grand opening date is the last weekend of September. I looked inside the renovated space and it is so much better in every way. The room is now open and not closed in as it was before. The bar looks clean and refreshed. I now feel safe in having a drink here, before I always wondered if I was current on my tetanus shot and hoped to not get a disease.

The new owner claimed that drug dealers and drug addicts were no longer allowed at the bar. The seedy element of the Pop Inn has been exterminated. Hooray!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Planet Crepes is Removed from the Galaxy

Planet Crepes closed its doors. I am not shocked to find out about this when I drove around the neighborhood the other day. The times I have come to the establishment, high school kids were cooking in the kitchen and I am not sure if there was sufficient adult supervision present. The food was palatable, but definitely not gourmet crepes by any means. The owner should have realized that its neighbors had better quality food items and competition is high. Families have less disposable dollars to spend outside the home during these uncertain economic times, and when they choose to dine out, the food has to be decent.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peanut Butter & Jam Festival

If one had a chance to attend the Peanut Butter and Jam Festival on Webster Street in between the rain spurts, one major factor was missing, the Skippy Peanut Butter. What happened to the peanut butter, where did it go? The entire intent of the festival was to pay tribute to the first homogenized peanut butter that was created in Alameda AKA Skippy. The Peanut Butter and Jam Festival years ago, had wonderful Skippy company history and use to give away free peanut butter by the jarfuls. This year's event had no trace of Alameda's history and its significance in the American diet. It is a sad and disappointing moment where the moniker of a street festival had no connection with the visitors of the event. I am sure that most attendees did not even know that there is a plaque in front of Walgreens on Webster Street that signifies the original Skippy Peanut Butter plant.

This was a missed opportunity of informing children on local Alameda history.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Night Picks

With Monday Night Football coming upon us, where does one go to get food and enjoy the game? Does one buy food and bring it home, or should one have a beer and watch the game at a bar?

There are a few places around the island that you can watch the game and have a decent meal at the same time. McGee's Bar and Grill is a happening place to be at for a popular team. Of course this is not a good place if you are vegetarian, but nonetheless the atmosphere is exciting. Another popular spot is Scobies on game night. They don't have HDTVs, but they have large screened televisions. This is a great place for a wide selection of beer on tap.

If you are watching the game in the comfort of your own home, sushi is an easy take-home choice. The only Japanese restaurant that is open on Mondays is Kamakura. The food is fresh and tasty, however slightly expensive. The restaurant does have a flat screen television behind the sushi bar, but the atmosphere lacks camaraderie. BBQ is also a good option for football food. Ribs and football are almost parallel in the action of the game. While one watches 300 pound men beat each other to a pulp on the field, the rib eater is attacking a piece of meat with the same ferocity and with delicious sides dishes. Everett and Jones on Webster is a decent take-out joint and so is Great American BBQ. Eating BBQ is truly Americana food, just like football.

The low-brow NFL night is watching the game with a bucket of KFC and rooting for the Tennessee Titans.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Still Cruising for Desserts

While cruising up and down Park Street a few hundred times, Alameda still lacks a great place for desserts. Even though there are several yogurt places, yogurt sometimes just does not hit the spot. Moreover, dessert places around Alameda close early with the exception of Tucker's and the yogurt joints, if you think 11 PM is late. What happened to options? Most restaurants in town serve desserts, but they don't specialize in them. That is one reason why the dessert options are lacking. There has got to be someone in Alameda that serves a great dessert that is not ice-cream! I wish Alameda had a local pie shop that was not Nation's Hamburgers. This is peak season for fruit pies. Oh by the way, I am still waiting for a souffle in this town.

By surprise, I recently came across a great dessert at an unexpected spot. I went to C'era Una Volta on a weekday night. The room was empty. After dinner, the server came to the table and inquired about dessert. This restaurant is usually off my radar for desserts because of the several times I have been disappointed on previous encounters. The server then said they have a warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. I love chocolate and so I had to order the warm chocolate cake. The cake was really good and had great flavors. The gelato was also delicious. I would come to this restaurant for the dessert and a glass of wine to accompany it.

Feel Good Bakery does not stay open late, plus you can't really enjoy a good dessert since there is no atmosphere inside the Marketplace. Having dessert here would be an afternoon snack. This bakery has good desserts, but it's not a date kind of place.

The same situation occurs for Boniere Bakery, the interiors does not invite customers to sit down and have a dessert. You pay and leave. However, the desserts at Boniere are palatable, but not fabulous. The fruit tarts are decent.

The Alameda Wine Company sells desserts, but they have a very limited selection. Karen, the owner of the shop, envisioned a pleasant little retail store, but much to her chagrin, the business turned into a bar. She is basically a bartender. Nonetheless, the desserts she buys for the store, are items that accompany wine like truffles, cheese and fruit platter and at times a chocolate pie or brownies.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Where does one go on a Friday or Saturday night?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Ah, the glorious pig. Pork is so versatile and can be prepared in several different ways. Pulled pork sandwiches are a great example of pig satisfaction. Pulled pork sandwiches are tender, tasty, full of flavor with a tangy BBQ sauce. A few places around Alameda make a Pulled Pork Sandwich.

A restaurant that should be able to knock out a pulled pork sandwich and does not deliver is Everett and Jones. Everett and Jones has been around the block a few times and has many years of experience of preparing smoked, cooked meat. Unfortunately their pulled pork sandwich is a miss. The meat is poorly sliced and not pulled away from the bone as it should be. The pieces of pork are chunky, and the meat is not that tender when you bite into the sandwich. The only part of the sandwich that makes up for some of the deficiencies is the sauce. The BBQ sauce comes in different varieties of mild, medium and spicy. The sauces taste complex, have depth and have a pleasant, smokey flavor. I would pass on this sandwich at this establishment.

Great American BBQ has better quality BBQ food compared to Everett and Jones. The only problem is the difficulty in getting to the restaurant. With the High Street Bridge closed and the parking lot minimal, it's not easy access to pick up food. The positive aspect of the food is that the meat of the pulled pork sandwich is tender and cooked well. The meat was in long strips and may not be from the rib area, but another part of the pig. The sauce is tangy and slightly sweet. I would recommend in coming to Great American BBQ and having a sandwich.

Rooster's the rock and roll hang out joint makes a surprisingly tasty pulled pork sandwich. The meat was tender, smokey and full of flavor. The sauce was delicious, but there wasn't enough of it on the meat. I guess they were conservative on the sauce so the bun would not get soggy. I also had the opportunity to eat my sandwich when a rock band was performing. A memorable time while listening to a song that was titled Devil. Rooster's was the least expensive sandwich out of the three restaurants at $4.95. The meal came with french fries. If you don't enjoy loud, rock music, go to Rooster's before the party starts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best Food

People always ask me what is the best restaurant in Alameda. To be perfectly honest, I don't believe there is one specific place on the Island that holds that title. Alameda is not home to haute cuisine, there are no five-star establishments or Michelin Star chefs. Instead of searching for the best food in the City, your hunger should lead the way. Here are some of my picks around town:

Best Ambiance - Pappo
Best Bakery - Feel Good Bakery
Best Bar - Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
Best BBQ - Roosters
Best Cafe - Julie's or Wescafe
Best Chinese - Hong Kong East Ocean
Best Deli - Culina
Best Dessert - C'era Una Volta
Best Diner - Marti's Place
Best Fusion - Zen
Best Hamburger - McGee's Bar and Grill
Best Italian - C'era Una Volta
Best Japanese - Angelfish
Best Mediterranean - Asena Restaurant
Best Mexican - Calafia Tacqueria
Best Sushi - Yume
Best Thai - Amarin Restaurant
Best Vietnamese - Dragon Rouge

What are your favorite places?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Legend is No More

For those of you who visit bars in Alameda on a regular basis, the legendary Pop Inn on Park Street is no more. The bar is closed and is under renovation for a new bar to hit the scene. The owner of the Pop Inn also owned Lincoln's Address on Lincoln, which he sold a few years ago and is now the Tiki Lounge. If you have never been to Lincoln's Address, you are lucky to not have experienced the abundance of camaraderie of true alcoholics. I was never a fan of dark, dirty and sad places, but all those factors encompassed Lincoln's Address. Unfortunately, the same issues plagued the Pop Inn as well. On more than a few occasions I have passed the Pop Inn during the breakfast hours and noticed people drinking hard alcohol. If you are having a hard drink for breakfast, it is not a positive sign.

I hope the new bar brings a freshness and lightness to Park Street.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are awesome! They are one of mankind's greatest accomplishments. Hot dogs are pre-cooked, easy to travel with and does not require a fork and knife. Hot dogs in large quantities can be unhealthy for you, but not all hot dogs are made the same. There are plenty of hot dog manufacturers on the market and most of them make inferior products. Hot dogs are the made from leftovers of the fatty parts of a cow or other organs that are not wasted.

Hot dogs in Alameda came, gone, and never go away. The Pampered Pup on Park Street has been around for a long time, it's the only food joint in Alameda specialized in hot dogs. If you ever tasted a hot dog from the Pampered Pup, one has to wonder how it stays in business. The texture of the wiener is tough and when you bite into it, the skin has resistance. You can even hear the snapping of the wiener skin when you bite into it. Unfortunately, there is no flavor of the wiener, all you taste are the condiments on the dog. This indicates to me that the wieners they purchase are poor quality even though the least expensive dog is over $3.

There was a place in Marina Village called Top Dog that sold gourmet hot dogs for a while and eventually went out of business. The gourmet hot dog business plan did not work in Alameda. Gourmet dogs work in other major cities, but for some reason Alamedans do not support it.

Der Wienerschnitzel on Webster and Park are fast food places that sell a lot of hot dogs. The Chili Cheese Dogs are popular items since the chili smothers the taste of the wiener with melted cheese on top. The Corn Dogs are chicken wieners and not beef. I guess they are trying to serve a more healthy food product, but the taste is not the same. The Corn Dog tastes good with the outer corn meal batter, but most people would not be able to tell the difference between a chicken or beef hot dog. This also supports the idea that anything deep fried tastes good. The little mini corn dogs they sell are also chicken wieners.

Culina sells a gourmet deep fried hot dog called the Ripper Dog. The idea of eating a deep fried hot dog is indulgent. Eating hot dogs in general bring on the guilt factor, and then when you add the deep fried aspect to it, it becomes over the top. However, when you bite into the Ripper Dog, it calms all of your guilt sensors and you happily taste the hot dog and the condiments. The dog tastes good and has a satisfying, spiced meat flavor to it. The bun is also a great feature of the hot dog experience. The bun is not wimpy and kept the condiments in place without the bun getting soggy. The Ripper Dog is a bit more expensive compared to the fast food establishments, but it is worth the cost since the product is a higher quality of meat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Park Street Art & Wine Faire

Today was the first day of the Park Street Art and Wine Street Faire. The weather was cooperative and turned out to be a warm and sunny day. This year celebrates 25 years of the Art and Wine Faire which is a great accomplishment for the small town of Alameda. I've been attending the event for close to a decade and enjoy attending every year.

The food vendors are basically the same players who participate in the street faires in San Francisco every weekend. As I walked around today from Lincoln to Encinal along Park, the food choices available were pretty much bad for you. A majority of the food was deep fried or there were plates of food being served with a lot of grease. Nonetheless, gallons of wine and beer were flowing like a river. People loved the idea of walking around with a beer in hand, shopping, eating and talking.

Even though the street faire is about the wine and art, I believe the live music was by far the best part of the event. The musicians showed real talent and skill. The bands performed cover songs, but they were good and sounded very similar to the original recordings. Whereas the art vendors who showcased their work was mediocre. The end products did not reflect real talent or creative ingenuity. I think someone forgot to tell the artists that we are in a recession and that customers don't want flattened wine bottles hanged on their walls. The level of art was disappointing. I guess after a few beers, any art looks awesome.

Overall, it was a good day had by all. I even think the dogs appreciated going out and meeting other furry friends.

Cafe Envy

A new cafe on Webster Street has opened for business. The name of the establishment is Wescafe. I believe the space was a former television repair shop where it appeared worn and tattered. Thank goodness a new owner has come in and made the space inviting and comfortable. Wescafe offers hot breakfasts, coffee, hot chocolate, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, tea and sandwiches. Another great feature of the new spot is the outdoor patio in the back. On a warm day, the patio is a great place to eat, relax and enjoy the surroundings. The patio has beautiful flowers and it's a great, clean environment. Wescafe is definitely welcomed to the West End since Tillie's is closed for business.

Another pleasant cafe across town on Encinal Avenue is Shay's Cafe. Shay's has a completely different vibe inside the space. The food counter is light and bright and showcases the open kitchen. The dining side of the room is dark blue in color and a bit somber if you ask me. The space is large and seats plenty of customers, but the color brings down the lightness of enjoying food. There is a kid's corner in the far right side of the room which is a great idea so Mom and Dad can sit and read the paper. The owners (husband and wife team) are pro-active business people and participated in the 4th of July Alameda Parade with a cool banner, kids and parents. The signature dishes are the East Coast inspired sandwiches. The weak points are the desserts. I am very happy that Shay's Cafe moved in since the previous business, Muffins, Muffins and More lost complete control of quality assurance of the food products.

Dependent upon what side of town you are at, you can't go wrong with either one of these cafes. If you are ambitious, you can ride your bike and go to both and check it out yourself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frozen Yogurt Phenonmenon

For some reason there is an explosion of frozen yogurt joints all around Park Street. Frozen yogurt has been around for a few decades and I don't understand the sudden supply of yogurt stores. This reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where a particular yogurt joint suddenly becomes popular because the owner proclaims the frozen yogurt is fat-free. Customers can't get enough and wait long lines for the dessert. Jerry gains weight from the yogurt and smuggles the yogurt to a food laboratory where it tests positive for fat. The yogurt shop is then forced to hang a sign that states the yogurt is not fat-free, and the business goes bust.

The places around Park Street are Tuttimelon, a new place under construction on Santa Clara, and Yogofina recently opened at Park and Encinal. Yogofina is a cute and colorful space with friendly interiors. It's a small and cozy room, but does not hold a lot of customers, especially on warm days.

I wonder how long the frozen yogurt trend will last? The yogurt joints may have a chance just as long Tucker's doesn't get into the yogurt business.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another Victim of the Economy

The Dock Cafe and Tiny's Candy Store is no longer in business on Webster Street. Tiny's lasted for a few good years before the husband and wife team decided to expand into the space next door. Who would have known that a tiny, hole in the wall candy store would create enough business for expansion? Unfortunately when the couple thought they had enough regular clientele to expand, the Dock Cafe did not work.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ghost Town Alameda

A few hours after the Fourth of July Parade was over, Downtown Alameda was a ghost town. I brought out-of-towners to Park Street after the parade and a majority of the retail stores were closed. A few bars and restaurants were open, but the town appeared to be shut down. I was surprised to see many closed stores and businesses on a Saturday, where hundreds of people were walking around at one time. The Downtown, Park Street tour lasted less than thirty-minutes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fourth of July

Fourth of July is a great time to relax, hang out with friends and family and watch the Alameda Fourth of July Parade go by. What is really special about Alameda is the community spirit and hometown feel. My favorite parade moments were the Mexican Cowboys riding horses down the parade route and watching the horses perform tricks. The horses were graceful dancers and it's wonderful to watch them prance with regal flair. It's also great to see the various local high school marching bands, organizations and companies participating in a city event.

When you think of Fourth of July, hot dogs, potato salad, and hamburgers come to mind. After the parade is over, the City hosts a party in one of the parks with jumpers for kids and food booths. The food booths tend to be the same players who participate in the Earth Day event meaning Croll's Pizza and a non-profit organization selling hot dogs and drinks to raise money. The food is nothing special and it's mobile food to walk around with ease.

If you don't pack your own food basket, The New Zealander is a good place to eat at after the parade and get a pie and a pint. A hamburger from Nation's is a decent choice for hungry eaters on a budget. Havana is a cool place to hang out and look good at the same time. Linguini's is the only front patio restaurant along the parade route. A great pizza or pasta dish at this place would satisfy an empty stomach. Higher end restaurants are not open for business during lunch times on holidays so Acquacotta or Yume is not an option. Too bad. However Cera Una Volta is open on the weekends for lunch, so this a great choice on Saturday. If the fourth is a beautiful, sunny day than Julie's on Park Street is a wonderful and quiet outdoor setting for a sandwich or a beverage and a baked good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Angela's Bistro

The long awaited Angela's Bistro on Central Avenue is finally in operation. It took the contractor a lot longer than expected to get the restaurant built, but every aspect of the restaurant is bigger and better.

I was a regular at Angela's when it was located in the Marina Village. The prices were fair, not expensive and the food quality was good. When the new location first opened, I went there a few times without a reservation and could not get a table. I walked around the dining room to get a feel of the new space. The front area of the restaurant was very pleasant with a relaxing color scheme of greens and browns. The mood then slightly changed the further you walked back towards the restrooms. The tables were so close together that it was quite easy to bump into a table with one's rear end. Luckily, the last time I actually ate a meal at the restaurant, the staff had moved the table and chair configuration that was a much better layout than feeling like cattle.

The first noticeable difference in the new location is the green spread for the bread. The spread is much lighter in flavors of garlic and cilantro. The old version was strong and pungent where the flavors exploded in your mouth. The new version is a watered down version of the old with similar flavor profiles, but with less intensity.

The menu hasn't really changed much, but there are a few more choices to select from in appetizers and entrees. I ordered the Duck confit with wild rice in a puff pastry as an appetizer. The dish was very nice and light. The Duck confit was tender and flavorful. The tangy sauce brought the flavors together of the duck and wild rice. The wild rice alone without the duck was a bit lackluster. The dish overall was a good pick since Duck confit does not appear on the menu with high frequency and it's not easy to make at home.

My main course was a medium rare Hangar Steak with potatoes and vegetables. The steak was thinly sliced when it arrived at the table with a red wine sauce reduction. The sauce was nice and added a more complex dimension to the steak. The potatoes were awkward at first because they were flattened, small potatoes with skins on. The potatoes were tender and had a great flavor to them, but you had to cut them with fork and knife. The vegetables were carrots and green beans. The vegetables had problems. The carrots were overcooked and thinly sliced where it was tough to chew. All of the moisture of the carrot was gone and it was like chewing on a piece of leather. The green beans lacked flavor and it wasn't an issue of being overcooked, but something tells me it has to do with freshness. Food portions were not large and the prices were somewhere in the medium to high range. The steak was over $20, but I got five to seven slices of meat at approximately four to five ounces in weight.

The dessert menu looked a little weak. There were six items to choose from, but none of seemed appetizing and so I opted to skip dessert.

Another time I ate a meal at Angela's, I ordered the Lobster Ravioli. The sauce was creamy and delicate with hints of tomatoes, herbs and butter. The lobster inside the ravioli was perfectly executed, it was thinly shredded lobster meat. The strong lobster flavor of the pasta balanced the subtle creme sauce where the two components complimented one another. One slight flaw of the meal was the texture of the ravioli. The pasta was a bit chewy and it was a tad too thick for my liking. I wondered if the pasta was purchased from a wholesaler and then boiled in the kitchen, but the waitress claimed the pasta is made in the kitchen on the premise. I should have further investigated to ask if the pasta was ever frozen which would explain the chewiness of the texture, but I did not. Oh well, another time, another opportunity. The Lobster Ravioli was a pleasant meal, the food portion was appropriate with six pieces of ravioli.

I would definitely come back to Angela's Bistro for another meal. The ambiance is nice if you sit in the middle of the room or closer to the front door. I suggest choosing menu items that are more complex because steak or salmon is an easy food item to grill. The chef is playing it safe in cooking food that he knows how to make, instead of taking chances on flavors and ingredients. However, you can't blame the guy because the costs of building a new restaurant is expensive, and you have fill the space with paying customers to pay the bills.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Farmer's Market

If you haven't recently shopped at the Farmer's Market in Alameda, the location has changed to Haight and Webster Street. Market days are Tuesdays and Saturdays. The only positive aspect of the move is the Saturday venue; and hopefully more people can attend since the 9 to 5 working stiff get the day off. The move unfortunately has made the Market to be placed in a strange location that doesn't really work. The street is sectioned off on Haight Avenue, east of Webster where the Market is a L formation. The vegetable stands are on the street and the other food stands wrap around into the parking lot of the Chosen Vessel and Lucky Ju Ju Pinball lot.

The reason why the Farmer's Market had to move to a new location is that Gallagher and Lindsey is selling the parking lot where the Market was originally located on Webster. Forcing the move of the Farmer's Market is bad for community spirit. I know Gallagher and Lindsey are in the business of making money, however, they are also in the business of promoting and creating community amenities.

Just as long the fresh produce, fair prices and La Farine Bakery do not go away, I will be content.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jay's Coffee House

Jay's Coffee House on Encinal has great ambiance and atmosphere. I enjoy the interiors of both rooms of the Cafe and it feels like a homey, neighborhood hangout. Friends of mine who have been customers at Jay's for decades had mentioned the comfortable surroundings and great cinnamon rolls once upon a time. I was told that somewhere down the line, the original owner sold the business and the cafe was never the same thereafter. For the time that I have lived in Alameda, which has been over a decade I don't believe the cafe ever changed hands.

Since the time I moved to the Island, I've been a regular customer of Jay's. I mostly go there in the mornings for breakfast pastries and in the late afternoon for baked goods. Each time I go there I am always wondering about the so-called infamous cinnamon rolls that old timers keep on talking about. A few times I did inquire about the rolls, but I was told that they didn't have them. I am still waiting. A friend of mine informed me the cinnamon rolls were a specialty of the original owner and not the forte of the current owner. Too bad because the rolls sounds delicious.
So while I am keeping my fingers crossed for the resurrection of the cinnamon rolls, I buy croissants and scones in the meantime. I have to say the plain or the chocolate croissants are better tasting compared to the meat and cheese croissants. For some reason, the meat and cheese croissants are not flaky enough for me. The croissant is too mushy for my liking and it ends up being flat as a pancake and it doesn't keep its shape. A good croissant is firm on the outer layers of the pastry while the center is soft.

The scones are decent and moist. The texture is soft, but with the right firmness. The icing adds a slightly sweet taste which is a quality I really enjoy. Some scones at other bakeries are dry and not sweet enough for me. The orange and pecan scone is a good choice because the flavors of the nuts are supreme.

As for baked goods, the cookies are okay and palatable, but the real prize are the brownies. The cookies taste like something that anyone could bake at home. My preference for the brownies over the cookies is that the brownies are intense in flavor and a better product than something homemade from a box.

My personal opinion on cupcakes are that cupcakes are for suckers. Bakeries charge too much money for a small cake with cheap frosting on top. Even though the mini cakes seem tempting and cute, the retail cost of a cupcake is not worth the $2 to $4 price. That is why I never buy cupcakes at Jay's or anywhere else on that matter.

The hot cocoa at Jay's is also a bust. The drink is warmed milk with a squirt of chocolate sauce. Nothing special.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fish & Chips

I wish there was a British Pub on the Island that was cool and genuine, serving fish and chips, bangers and mash and shepard's pie. Oh well, I guess I can't have everything. So in the mean time, the closest restaurant to a pub on the Island is the New Zealander on Webster. Fish and Chips is a casual, inexpensive and simple dish. However, it does make a difference on the type of fish, oil and batter.

McGrath's Irish Pub on Lincoln Avenue is a poor attempt of a British Pub in Alameda. Unfortunately, the bar doesn't serve hot food and what type of pub is it, if it doesn't serve fish and chips or bangers and mash. What a disgrace!

Pier 29 has a Fish and Chips dish that I have consumed more than a few times. For some reason I keep on leaning towards the dish even though I have been disappointed on more than a few occasions when I ate it at the restaurant. I guess I keep on forgetting about the previous times and keep on wishing that each time would be better. Well thus far, the Fish and Chips dish has not gotten better. The fish on a consistent basis is deep fried too long and the moisture of the fish is lost. The batter is also really dark and very crunchy on the edges. Another reason why I am writing this entry is to remind myself not to order the Fish and Chips just in case I happen to be in the area and feeling a hunger pain.

The New Zealander on Webster has an expensive Fish and Chips dish at the high price of $17.95. The food portion was decent with four medium sized pieces of fish, with a hearty serving of french fries and cole slaw. The batter on the fish was thin, light and fluffy. The tartar sauce was nice and smooth tasting. The fish and chips tasted pretty good, but I wished I had vinegar. The wait staff did not even offer the condiment or ketchup for that matter. I had to beg for the ketchup that arrived to the table after a while from a bus boy who was in close proximity. The waiter was clueless that I wanted vinegar on the fries and fish. I was happy with the food despite the lack of service. However, the price is a bit steep considering it is only fish and chips.

Culina in the Marketplace on Park Street serves up a gourmet version of Fish and Chips. The dish is best eaten immediately even if that means chowing down inside the building or in front on the curb. The fish is light and tasty with a special sauce. The dish came with two large pieces of fish. The french fries were awesome, very delicious, hot fries with great herbs. For less than half the price of New Zealander, you can't pass up on the Fish and Chips at the counter. This is probably the best deal in town if you are a fish and chips fan.

Even though Quinn's Lighthouse is technically not in Alameda, it is a short sail away from Coast Guard Island and the City's limits. What I love about Quinn's is the outdoor deck on a warm, sunny day. Another favorite past time is throwing peanut shells on the ground on the deck. The Fish and Chips dish, however, was a sad disappointment. The fish was dry and over cooked. I couldn't even finish my plate since the food was so terrible. I will not make the same mistake twice at this place. At least the deck is still a great place to hang out and have a drink.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Has Pappo Lost Its Swagger?

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Pappo Restaurant on Central Avenue was a very popular spot. Customers came in and dressed quite chic and filled the brick room with coolness. For some reason, the atmosphere is now gone and the restaurant is an empty room. Even before Angela's moved into their new space on Central Avenue, Pappo was no longer on the radar. I'm not exactly sure what happened?

One of my belief's of why Pappo is empty in that the prices are slightly more expensive compared to other restaurants in the neighborhood. The prices of wines by the glass or by the bottle are more than their competitors, however their selection is different. The quality of food could also be challenged since their food and flavor profiles are more sophisticated than Burgermeister or Havana down the street. I'm not sure if Alamedans appreciate complex food with flavor subtleties that don't immediately hit your palate.

I wonder if another reason why Pappo is not popular is that the Executive Chef devotes more time to his deli, Culina in the Marketplace than the restaurant? During recessions, people are looking for lower priced foods, which the deli can offer. And luckily for customers, Culina offers high quality simple foods for a small price.

I have to say the food I had at the restaurant on a dead Thursday night was better in taste compared to a handful of times I've previously been there when it was a hot spot. I had a Curry, Tomato Soup with Cilantro creme fresh and it was delicious. The soup was creamy and smooth, with the perfect amount of heat. My second course was a generous sized Caesar Salad. The dressing tasted flavorful with a slight hint of anchovy. The romaine lettuce was fresh and had a good crunch to it. My last course was the gnocchi with bacon bits. I am fussy when it comes to gnocchi because it is difficult to make and a majority of the time, it comes out bland. Well their gnocchi was quite delightful, very flavorful with a creamy cheese sauce. The gnocchi were light, fluffy potato pockets which was a welcomed surprise. And of course, everything tastes better with bacon. The saltiness of the bacon brought out the flavors of the cheese in the sauce.

The million dollar question is when are the patrons coming back?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hot Cocoa

Regardless of what time of year it is, hot cocoa is a wonderful treat. There are different viewpoints on what a good cup of cocoa is. Milk is an important ingredient and chocolate powder or sauce is what makes the magic. Various coffee shops, donut joints and restaurants all over Alameda make their version of hot chocolate.

Starbucks has two versions of hot cocoa. There is regular hot cocoa with choice of milk and whipped cream, or with a shot of espresso in the hot cocoa. I much prefer the traditional cocoa than the espresso shot. I found the espresso to be overwhelming in flavor that brought a bitterness to the hot cocoa. Hot cocoa from Starbucks was not memorable.

Peet's Coffee had a stronger chocolate flavor in their hot cocoa, but their version was not exciting. There was a large mound of whipped cream on top which tasted pleasant when the cocoa was hot, but turned bad when the cocoa got cold.

La Pinata3 had a very interesting version of Mexican hot cocoa. It comes in a large cup with a generous portion of whipped cream and sprinkled cinnamon on top. The chocolate and cinnamon were a great combination with a spicy twist. It was a good drink, but it got a little awkward towards the bottom of the cup because there was so much cinnamon.

Blue Dot Cafe used Hershey's Chocolate sauce for their hot cocoa. I think it depends upon who makes the hot cocoa on certain days since staff is different from weekdays versus weekends. I'm not a huge fan of Hershey's Chocolate sauce because it doesn't have an intense chocolate flavor. The hot cocoa needs to be hot to taste good, but the cup I got was warm. The cocoa didn't have enough chocolate sauce to have a rich flavor. It was disappointing.

Spritzers to date has the best hot cocoa that I have tasted so far on the Island. The flavors were strong, you have a choice of what type of milk you want and whipped cream. I chose regular milk since I wanted to go full tilt and have the fat in the drink for the flavor. It was a good decision because the drink was quite satisfying. The portion sizes were also too generous. I ordered a small which was a 12 oz. drink. One drink was a full meal, I was full after I drank it.

Vines Coffee House was the least expensive hot cocoa I've had on the Island for $2. When I tasted the cocoa, it was basically warm milk with very little chocolate taste. There was more flavor in the cocoa powder sprinkled on top of the whipped cream than the drink itself. If you are seeking a strong cup of cocoa, than don't come to this cafe. This place offers great atmosphere, but bad cocoa.

Little House Cafe serves hot cocoa two ways, traditional and Mexican Hot Cocoa. I ordered the traditional version and watched the person make my order. I found out their hot cocoa was warmed Clover Chocolate Milk. That was it, nothing more and nothing less. I expected a little more from this cafe since they are usually detail oriented about their food items. The taste of the cocoa was bland, it needed a boost of stronger chocolate flavor. The price was also a bit high considering I got warm chocolate milk for $3. I could have bought a gallon of milk and warmed it myself for the same price.

Jay's Coffee House is a great place to hangout with your dog and grab a scone. The friendly service and atmosphere is quite pleasant. The hot cocoa, however is a weak link. The hot cocoa was basically warmed milk and Hershey's Chocolate sauce. Jay's and Blue Dot should not be copying each other on the hot cocoa since the sauce is disappointing and lacks flavor. I would pass on the cocoa at both places.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What Happened to Tillie's?

Does anyone know why Tillie's on Webster Street is still closed? My first thought was that something happened to the owner? The diner shut down prior to Christmas, where the festive decorations were everywhere inside and on each table. Later on, when I was driving around Webster and Santa Clara right around Valentine's Day and saw the owner of Tillie's walking outside the restaurant to his car. The man did not appear to have health problems and he was strong enough to carry a large box outside to the car. So now when you pass by the diner, it is still closed, but the Christmas decorations are gone. I thought the diner was making money since it was always packed for breakfasts and on the weekends.

I will be sad if Tillie's does not re-open. Webster Street is in dire need of a good diner with a family atmosphere.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pasta Pelican

Pasta Pelican is difficult to find and not a lot of activity going on around the restaurant. Since Chevy's is gone and that other Cajun/Creole restaurant was burned down, this area of the Marina Village along the Oakland Estuary is scenic, but lacking in personality. The views across the Estuary from Pasta Pelican reminds me of Newport Beach without the snooty attitude and much less property values.

The food of Pasta Pelican sounds delicious from the menu, but once it comes to the table, the flavors lacked in many dimensions. The flavor profiles were simple with little appeal. I ordered a portobello mushroom as a starter where it was topped with tomatoes, basil and cheese. It looked awesome when the server brought it to the table. I was excited to taste it since portobello mushrooms can be substituted for beef and has a distinctive, meaty flavor and texture. The mushroom appetizer was palatable, but there was no wow factor to it. The mushroom had some taste to it, but there was too much melted cheese on top where is buried all the other ingredients. The green salad the mushroom sat on top of, tasted better than the mushroom. I then moved on to a ravioli dish with a creamy, red sauce. The sauce was alright, you really had to work your taste buds to enjoy the sauce. The pasta, however, was a step above Chef Boyardee from a can. It was sad. A decent dish that tasted better than the ravioli, is no longer on the menu. Only people in the know, or if the wait staff is nice enough to inform you, is the curry chicken and pasta dish. The noodles were fettuccine noodles with a creamy, curry sauce with chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. At least the sauce had some depth to it and made you want to eat another bite. The fettuccine alfredo dish was also a bad choice. The sauce was not traditional style and had some spice to it, but not in a good way. The execution was poor and I barely touched the dish even though there was a huge portion that came out of the kitchen. I was intrigued by their pizzas, but I will make another visit to check it out. One positive item about this restaurant is their fresh garlic sauce for the bread. It is fresh, aromatic and flavorful. This is the only flavorful and free item on the menu.

This is a family friendly establishment. The water views were amazing and it's pretty to see the lights across the Estuary from Oakland. The food portions are large, but the flavors are absent.
This restaurant would make a great place for drinks and light finger foods.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kai's Restaurant

One Friday night I had a craving for sushi and Japanese food. I knew Yume was a long waiting list and Kamakura was the same. I was too lazy to drive over to Angelfish on Bay Farm and so I decided to eat at Kai's Restaurant on Park Street. I heard several positive opinions of Kai's food, so I wasn't worried about going in.

The interiors were pleasant inside with colorful kimonos and mounted Japanese paper in frames. The floor was a nice tile or stone floor with various colors of gold, black and browns. Once you get over the cafeteria style seating, the dining room is a casual and comfortable area. It was interesting staring at the black tile wall at the back, since it was checkered with gloss and matte tiles.

The drinks ordered for the table was hot green tea and cold sake. The woman who served us was the owner of the restaurant. Unfortunately, she was not knowledgeable about the sake selection and asked if we wanted hot or cold sake. She failed to ask if we wanted sweet or dry, and milky or clear. The group didn't know what sake to order and left it to the owner where she brought out a milky white, cold, unfiltered sake. It was a sweet sake and did not sit well with me. I am not a fan of milky sake to begin with, but did not want to spoil other people's enjoyment of the beverage.

Food wise, my group wanted to order sushi, but there was none to be found on the menu. The food selection was varied, but the menu didn't have sushi or sashimi. It appeared the kitchen specialized in making rolls and teriyaki. In the end, the food that was ordered for the table was age dashi, karaage, deep fried soft shell crab and two rolls. The first dish that came out from the kitchen was age dashi with the sauce. The sauce was very light and slight in flavor. The age dashi didn't have the traditional bonito flakes on the tofu and was not served in the sauce, the sauce was on the side. The age dashi was fine, the tofu cubes were fluffy and light, unusual for this dish, but a welcomed surprise. The deep fried crab soft shell crab was brought to the table as whole pieces. It was a bit difficult to eat because the first bite was the legs which somewhat freaks me out. The taste of the crab was good and the sauce was mayonnaise, sesame oil and soy sauce. The karaage and the two rolls came out to the table last. Everyone was shocked to see the amount of sauce on the rolls. One of the rolls was unagi on top with fake crab in the middle with avocado. The roll was difficult to manage because the unagi kept on falling off when you picked up a slice. The sauce on the unagi was too sweet and thick in viscosity. The chicken karaage tasted good at first when the meat was hot, but after it cooled down, there was a strong taste of oil and not so much of chicken. The chicken was palatable to eat, but it was a boring dish. This was the only dish that did not have a sauce. The other roll was full of raw fish of hamachi, salmon and maguro that sat in a heavy mayonnaise and soy sauce mixture. The smell of the roll of the raw fish did not smell fresh. I first questioned the smell because it was a strong odor which isn't a good sign for fresh fish. Each bite I took from the roll, I could smell the fish. I then thought to myself and hoped that I was not going to get sick from poorly handled uncooked seafood. After two pieces, I stopped. I could not eat any more food even though I was still hungry. Just looking at the table and the food, it was not appetizing and so I put my chopsticks down and was done for the night.

If you are seeking fresh, raw seafood and sashimi, do not come to Kai's. If you are hungry for teriyaki and rolls, than the food is mediocre. I would not recommend this restaurant, but the owners are very nice and genuine, their personalities make up the deficiencies in the food.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Feel Good Bakery...Not So Good for Wallet

It was a warm and sunny Saturday around Alameda. I felt festive and excited since Spring is here and the long days are coming. While driving around town, I decided to make a quick detour to the Marketplace on Park Street. Inside, I noticed the fresh seafood counter, Pucci was gone and asked where they relocated. I was informed by the owner of Pappo and owner of Culina that Pucci moved inside the Encinal Market.

I then walked around the different food counters and glazed over the tempting desserts at Feel Good Bakery. I am extremely familiar with their products and have been a customer over the years since they first opened. Out of hunger or a need for a decadent dessert for that evening, I decided to buy two strawberry tarts, one plain croissant and one chocolate croissant. When the cashier gave me the grand total for my four items, I was in total shock. I first thought the cashier made a mistake and then inquired about the breakdown of the food items. The cute, adorable little strawberry tart which was a two-bite dessert at most, was $5. For $5, I could have purchased one container of strawberries and the ready to make custard for four for the same price. The plain croissant was $2.50 and the chocolate one was $3. Paying $15.50 before taxes for two tarts and two croissants I thought was a bit steep considering the quantity and size of the goods. Nonetheless, I still paid for the desserts, took them home and ate them.

The croissants were tasty and flaky. I slightly warmed them in the toaster oven before serving. I am a believer that croissants should be consumed fresh and warm. When I took my first bite of the strawberry tart, I savored the flavors in my mouth. The custard was creamy with a consistent texture and the berries were sweet and flavorful. The tart was overall a very tasty treat. I would buy the tart again in a heart beat if the size of the tart is larger or less in price.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Within the last decade, Vietnamese food has certainly increased in popularity in the Bay Area. One great example of the explosive demand for Vietnamese food is the Slanted Door in San Francisco. The restaurant was originally located in the Mission District. The food was delicious, fresh and creative. The restaurant then became a huge success and the owners decided to move out of the Mission and eventually settled at the Embarcadero, Ferry Building. Even though the restaurant has been located in the Ferry Terminal for a few years now, there is still a long waiting list to get a table.

Alameda has three Vietnamese Restaurants: The Mint Leaf, Dragon Rouge and the new restaurant that took over Cafe Le's space. The three restaurants all have different vibes about them. The Mint Leaf is clean, simple and organic. Dragon Rouge is colorful, sophisticated and edgy. And lastly, Tu Tai 2 is the new kid on the block.

I've had only pleasant experiences at The Mint Leaf. The room is zen-like with the etched glass of bamboo shoots and leaves. The colors of green and brown are relaxing and reminds me of a "green" space or a spa. This is the only nice space in the Marina Village that feels relaxing. The other restaurants in the shopping center feel more like a cafeteria. The food is delicious and comes with varying degrees of hot sauces. The red, hot sauce was much too spicy for me to enjoy. I was perspiring from tasting the heat of the sauce. Pho soups were large in size and had plenty of noodles, bean sprouts and fresh basil to consume. The broth of the soup was tasty and had great flavor components. The meat dishes were also delicious. I was happy to see that the meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Plus, the vinegar sauce for the meats and rice adds extra flavor and dimension to the dish. Overall, I would recommend this establishment. The prices are not expensive and the service is knowledgeable about the menu. The food portions are generous and you get your money's worth.

Dragon Rouge serves good food and the prices reflect it. I love Bo Luc Lac which is tender cubes of beef quickly stir fryed with vegetables. The meat was flavorful and juicy. The onions and other vegetables were cooked perfectly, al dente. I was amazed how fast the food was prepared, it was less than five minutes to cook one entree. Wow! The interiors of the space is modern with Asian themes, however, someone could mistake it for a bordello type of restaurant with all of the red interiors. I am content with the food, but the prices are a tad high for what you get. I ordered one entree and one side order of steamed rice with no alcohol or drinks. The bill was over $18 which did not include tip. The prices for lunch items seem less expensive and appears to be better deals than the dinner menu. I recommend this restaurant, however, keep tabs on the spending.

A new Vietnamese restaurant in town has taken over Cafe Le's old space. I wonder what the new owner has in store since the previous owner could not make the restaurant profitable. I guess time will tell. I see a grand opening sign in front of the building. The last time I commented on this space was when the painters were changing the color in front of the building. Tu Tai 2 is the new restaurant. The interiors are lighter and brighter to improve the darkness of the room. There are no windows in the space. The new owner has decored the dining room with lots of large fountains of Asian styled Buddha statues and bonsai trees. I noticed the prices of their dishes were less expensive than Dragon Rouge. The menu is quite large with lots of options. I hope they can make a success with the restaurant. The time I tasted their food, it was simple and basic. The food was fine and nothing sexy to report. It was tame, watered down Vietnamese food. I will try other dishes to check out their cooking style.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Croll's Pizza

Saturday was Earth Day in Alameda. The City hosted a nice event at Washington Park that was full of families, older folks and people interested in preserving our planet. I was happy to see a decent attendance at the event and I am hoping everyone walked away with helpful information about recycling, mulching and recognizing our planet's limited resources.

At the event, there was only one food stand. It was a typical carnival food menu with hot dogs, sodas, nachos, grilled sausages and pizza. The pizza came from Croll's Pizza. The sign did not designate who cooked the other food items, I guess those items were heated via microwave behind the counter. I ordered a slice of Pepperoni pizza. The slice was extremely hot when I got my food. I always look at the pepperoni when I order pizza because I prefer my pizza to be well done and see the edges of the pepperoni to be slightly curled and a darker color around the edges. I think pepperoni has more flavor if baked well done. The slice I bought had the curled edges of the pepperoni and the meat was flavorful which was a positive sign that Croll's didn't cheap out on the meat. The slice however, did not have enough cheese on the pizza for me. Instead, a greasy layer of red and orange oil came off of the slice. The pizza was palatable, but I am not sure I would pay for a whole pizza.

Friday, April 24, 2009

No More Philly Cheesesteaks

From time to time, I crave a hot beef sandwich with grilled onions, peppers and cheese. When I hear the words Philly Cheesesteak, my ears perk up. I envision a beautiful sandwich full of thinly sliced juicy beef with lots of melted cheese on top inside of a fresh bun. I would be drooling like Homer Simpson over a masterpiece.

Alameda has two places that make Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, Philly's Cheesesteak and More at Fernside Shopping Mall and McGee's Bar and Grill on Park Street. After consuming cheesesteak sandwiches at both establishments, I will not order them again. This town doesn't serve a proper cheesesteak sandwich.

Philly's Cheesesteak and More specialize in making cheesesteak sandwiches, it's in the title of their business name. Unfortunately, the end result lacks flavor and quantity of meat. When I ordered my meal deal of a cheesesteak sandwich with grilled onions, sweet peppers and grilled bell peppers, with curly fries and a soda, I was looking forward to eating it. When the plate came to my table, the bun glistened with grease and took away from the presentation of the melted cheese and grilled peppers. Of course at this moment, I thought to myself that consuming this sandwich was unhealthy, but my hunger was stronger than my common sense. The meal deal was a disappointment, both the sandwich and the curly fries lacked flavor. I had more flavor from the root beer soda I was drinking. The reason why the sandwich lacked flavor because there wasn't enough meat in the sandwich. The cook put more grilled vegetables in the sandwich and drowned out the meat flavor. The fries also did not have enough spices on them to add any dimension to the meal. The fries were boring and the ketchup didn't help. I chose the curly fries because the cashier told me the curly fries tasted better than the steak fries. I will make it easier on myself and my heart, to not eat at this establishment anymore.

At McGee's Bar and Grill, when I tried the Philly Cheese steak sandwich, the meat was supposed to be thinly sliced beef, it turned out to be loose ground beef. The meat combined with the cheese, grilled onions and green bell peppers tasted good, but the meat should have been sliced beef. I should have returned the sandwich, but I didn't. When it's game day at McGee's, the atmosphere at the bar is contagious where you want to cheer with the crowd and be a part of the camaraderie. Food sometimes takes second fiddle while you hang out with the buddies, eat deep fried foods and drink beers. I would recommend eating the hamburgers and stay away from the Philly Cheesesteak. McGee's knows how to do hamburgers.

I will have to travel to Philly to eat a decent cheesesteak sandwich because it won't be coming from Alameda.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I am happy that I returned to the Burmese Super Star Restaurant on Park Street. The first time I went there, the food was palatable, but not memorable. A short time later, a new owner than purchased the restaurant and luckily he already owned the first Burmese Super Star in San Francisco.

The interiors of the restaurant was basically the same when the current owner purchased the establishment. The food now is much better in flavors and sauces. The service is quick and the food comes out of the kitchen like a bullet, perhaps too quick for me. The menu is extensive and there are plenty of delicious dishes to pick from. I chose three dishes of chicken basil, garlic noodles and eggplant and garlic. The chicken basil was good and the vegetables were fresh, but it was a dish I had eaten in a Thai or Chinese restaurant. There wasn't any distinction in the flavor profiles that screamed Burmese. The garlic noodles was alright, not great. I had better at The House Restaurant in San Francisco. The problem with the noodles was that is lacked moisture. The sauce was on the side and had some heat to it, so I spooned it sparingly. I felt the sauce was too hot for me to pour generously over the noodles, and that is why I ate them dry. The garlic smell of the noodles was strong when the dish arrived at the table, but it subsided after you began eating the dish. The eggplant was the best dish out of the three. The eggplant was fresh and the chili sauce was delicious. The texture of the eggplant was tender where one could easily cut it with a fork.

I have been here a few times on the weekends. The place is completely packed and the waiting line is long, so I recommend having a reservation or come early for dinner. Alternatively, weekday nights will have open tables, but don't come here on a Monday, the restaurant is closed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Extra Helpings of BBQ

One night I was too tired to heat the grill and cook dinner. I opened the refrigerator about six times trying to decide what to make or how to concoct a meal that was quick. With all of the fuss wasted on making a decision, it was easier to buy food instead. The choice was barbecue from from Everett and Jones on Webster Street. I ordered three small plates to get a wide variety of food without over eating. The food selections were barbecue chicken, ribs and pulled pork with medium heat sauce. The sides were corn bread, brown beans and macaroni and cheese.

The barbecue sauce was the same for all of the meats. It was tasty with a little bit of heat and a smokey essence to it. As for the main entrees, the barbecue chicken was moist and tender, it was the best meat out of the three. The ribs were also good, but a bit overcooked. The edges of the meat were dry and crunchy in texture. The flavor of the ribs were tasty and satisfying and easy to release from the bone. The pulled pork meat had problems. The meat was extremely overcooked and dry. Secondly, pulled pork is either pulled away from the bone by manual labor or by using a fork. The meat in this case was cut away from the rib with a knife and roughly sliced. I do not recommend the pulled pork due to the dryness of the meat. The sauce helped in giving moisture to the meat, but the meat was tough. Hands down, Chef Edwards in Oakland doesn't have anything to be concerned with his Piggly Wiggly Sandwich; there is no competition here. His pulled pork sandwiches are what dreams are made of.

The sides can compliment a meal if you choose them wisely. The brown beans were delicious, smokey in flavor with a slight sweetness to them without being too thick or runny. The corn bread was dry and crumbled easily. There wasn't a lot of moisture in the corn bread which was probably why it crumbled into thousands of little crumbs. The macaroni and cheese was sad. The cheese flavor was bland, the look of the dish was uninspiring and it was a weak side. It would have been a safer bet to choose corn on the cob instead.

The Webster Street location is better than their small kitchen inside Scobies Bar and Grill. I know I will come here again, but choose different sides and taste other meat options. I do like my extra helpings of barbecue.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Closed Doors

As I casually drove back to Alameda one day, I noticed a construction crew was working at the Le Cafe Restaurant on Webster Street. What puzzled me about the renovation was that all of the restaurant signage was removed. The front door sign that listed the hours was gone. There wasn't a "Temporary Closure Due to Renovation" sign. The exterior of only the restaurant, not the entire building, was being worked on. It was not a promising indication that the restaurant was able to survive the recession. I will have to closely monitor this location to see if a new owner has taken over the space. Stay tuned for more details.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Tapas are great because the dishes are served in small portions and a table is able to consume a wide variety of food. Tapas were a smashing hit in the mid to late 1990s and have kept their panache in the bay area. Alameda has two tapas restaurants: Barceluna and Zen. Interestingly enough, Barceluna and Zen are just steps from each other. Both are located on Santa Clara Avenue, west of Park Street.

If you read my blog entry dated on March 8, 2009, Zen was definitely off on my radar. I then decided to give Zen another try and went there on a weekday night. This time, the atmosphere and service was a complete 180 compared to the previous encounter. I believe the owner was working that evening and greeted my party as soon as we entered the door. A major relief when I saw someone take care of us in front of the house. The menu was a long list of Asian fusion tapas, entrees and desserts. My table ordered about six different small plates. We ordered gyoza which is basically the Japanese term for potsticker. The won ton skin was crisp, not chewy, and the filing was pork and vegetable. The sauce for the gyoza was a light soy sauce with a slight hint of daikon. Gyoza was a great start to begin a meal. Agedashi with bonito flakes was another delicious dish. I am a huge fan of tofu, I believe everyone should eat tofu on a daily basis. The tofu was dry and firm which means the oil in the pan was really hot. The bonito flakes added another fish dimension to the dish while the sauce was slightly sweet. It was overall a tasty and healthy plate. One of the signature dishes of the restaurant is the sweet potato and taro chips. We had to definitely try it since it was recommended by the wait staff. The chips came with a chipoltle and mayonnaise sauce. When the fish and chips dish came out, I was really excited. I love fish and chips. The fish was cooked well, not overdone and not limp. The chips appeared amazing, but ended up being a disappointment. There was not a lot of flavor coming from the sweet potato or taro root. The chips were deep fried, battered and cut into wedges, and the sauce helped bring some flavor and moisture. The fries overall, were a miss for me. An interesting dish that was selected that evening was the kim chee fried rice. Kim chee is fermented cabbage and can be spicy. The rice dish was great in flavor and had some heat to it, but not scorching hot. The beef slices in the rice made the dish, it brought depth and texture in a fantastic way. In summary, I am glad that I did not completely write off Zen since the meal was great and the service was much improved. I would recommend coming to this restaurant with a reservation and knowing the manager or owner is working.

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. The tapas menu changes on a monthly basis, so it always a welcoming surprise to read what is on the menu. 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 were yummy and a good sized dish. The fries were crunchy and hot, served with a mayonnaise and ketchup dipping sauce. Another time I had their pulled pork mini sandwiches. The meat was tasty and tender with smoky flavors, moistened in a rich BBQ sauce. As for dessert, the menu is very minimal. The only dessert worth tasting is their deep fried dessert.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Walked Out

It was a busy Friday night in the small town of Alameda. The rained finally stopped after two weeks of wet weather. People were out and about in downtown Alameda. I walked into Zen Restaurant on Santa Clara Avenue hoping for a great dinner. The restaurant was full of customers. The interiors were Asian inspired with paper lantern lights hanging down from the ceiling. The Buddha statue in the front as you walk into the establishment sets the zen like tone of the room. I also thought the wall separator was modern with an Asian twist. It was a great piece to distinguish the waiting area and the dining area.

As I entered the restaurant, no one greeted our party. I waited for a good fifteen minutes and still no one on the floor acknowledged us. I noticed two open tables which took ten minutes to clean, one was a table for two and the other was a table for four. I thought after waiting for twenty minutes that at least a host or hostess would approach the people waiting at the front of the house. Finally, the party of three ahead of me flagged a waiter inquiring about the open table for four. Unfortunately, the waiter had no indication on how long the wait would be. Another staff person then gave the table of four to a party of two who were sitting at the bar. I am not sure why this rookie mistake was made since a table for two was still available. The party ahead of me of course was upset when they noticed the table mix up.

A party of two then came in after our group. No one of the restaurant greeted them. These two people finally got fed up and left. Minutes later a group of six entered the restaurant who claimed they had a reservation. There was not a table available for their group.

A member of my party then yelled out loud again to the waiter on how long it would take for a party of two. The wait staff didn't know. After twenty five minutes of waiting and not being noticed, acknowledged or greeted, my friend and I decided to walk out. The restaurant had poor communications skills and lacked front of the house management. When staff do not make a connection with their customers, the restaurant will lose money regardless how good the food tastes. This experience was a big disappointment since the food smelled amazing and looked delicious.

Zen needs to focus on customer attention and follow through with the details of great service. My other recommendation would be to eat at this restaurant when it is less busy. If management doesn't get it in the near future, I know I won't be the only customer walking away.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Everett & Jones

Everett and Jones recently had their grand opening on Webster Street. The space is pleasant and has a comfy feeling to it. The light fixtures matched the BBQ themed food and restaurant; the light fixtures were miniaturized Weber grills hanging down from the ceiling. Very adorable.

Due to the new location on the West End, they closed down their Main Street store, right across the street from the Navy Point entrance. Their other location on the island is inside Scobies Restaurant on Central Avenue off of Park Street. The Scobies location needs to be careful with their food quality since I wasn't too impressed with the food the last time I had a meal there. The problem with the food was that it lacked flavor and soul. The food had no personality.

I am hoping the Webster Street location will be closely looked after by the one of the daughter's of the original owner. The food at Everett and Jones is great tasting, quality food. When one of the daughter's watches over the kitchen, the food quality is unbeatable. I would recommend this restaurant since it is difficult to find good BBQ on this island and more importantly on the West End.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I am fond of crepes. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know certain people have reservations of eating crepes for dinner, but they are light and versatile. Crepes can be savory and sweet.

Alameda has two restaurants that serve crepes. Planet Crepes on Encinal Avenue only serves crepes. Marti's Place, also on Encinal Avenue serves Swedish pancakes that are similar in taste and consistency of crepes.

Planet Crepes is a hang out for young, high school kids on the weekends. The interiors of the restaurant are bright, bold and youthful which could explain the young customers. The menu lists savory crepes of meats, cheeses and vegetables. While the sweet crepes have fruits, ice cream, nutella and melted chocolate options. If you don't like any of their fixed combinations, than one can create a new crepe with any ingredients. The savory crepes are decent in flavor and size. I was surprised that I was able to taste all of the flavor combinations of the ingredients of the Florentine Crepe. The feta cheese was not over powering, the grilled red onions gave a slightly sweet taste, and the spinach was fresh. The crepe was overall a healthy meal. The dessert crepes had a lot more pizazz and appeal in the presentation compared to the savory ones. The dessert crepes had the whipped cream and melted chocolate to garnish the beautiful creation. Planet Crepes is the only crepe place I know of that scoops ice cream right inside of the crepe. The heat of the crepe with the cold ice cream is a good combination. Prices are affordable for both the savory and sweet crepes. You could get a savory and sweet crepe for under $10 total. That is a decent price considering it is a meal and dessert. I would recommend this place because it is casual, inexpensive and interesting. This place stays open at night.

Marti's Place serves up their Swedish Pancakes with nothing inside. The lingonberry jam that comes with the pancakes is spread on top of the pancakes. The pancakes are slightly sweet and taste very similar to a crepe. These pancakes are very plain compared to the crepes served at Planet Crepes. The pancakes are served as a side dish since the meal comes with eggs and bacon or sausage. If you are looking for simple crepes that don't have all of the fancy options than Marti's Place is a good choice. This place is open for breakfast and lunch, no dinner.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine's Day Dining

When one thinks of romance, Alameda may not come to mind for dining options. San Francisco is usually the first choice in wanting to capture a special moment or a romantic evening. I don't think Alameda Diners are screaming "Love Me!" on Valentine's Day.

February can bring unpredictable weather since it is winter. If the weather comes around and brings warm, sunny days around Valentine's Day, a romantic picnic on Crown Beach would be the perfect venue. The skyline view of San Francisco is awesome, you are able to see the entire city. The beach is clean and it's not heavily populated in winter. A gourmet picnic basket would be fantastic with a great bottle of wine (that you will have to hide from the Parks Department personnel). Sunsets on clear days are breathtaking. The beautiful colors of pinks, purples and mauves are gorgeous that light up the sky. I think a picnic would be more romantic than dining out in Alameda.

If an outdoor picnic is not your style, than a dinner reservation is a great second choice. Reservations need to be called in advance since there are a limited number of restaurants in Alameda. A few places come to mind for Valentine's Day dining: Pappo, Cera Una Volta, Acquacotta, Yume, and Havana. I selected these establishments based on food quality, ambiance, uniqueness and customer service. Pappo has the cool, loft, industrial chic vibe to it. The food is delicious and the wine selection is good. The dim lighting in Pappo also inspires a romantic setting. I recommend a table in mid section of the room, or a table on the bench side. Cera Una Volta has a rustic, Italian feel to it. The food is authentic Italian cuisine in which the Italian chef (from Italy) has put his heart and soul into his creations. There is one table that is slightly inside an alcove which is somewhat romantic for two. Dining should be commenced on the first floor and do not recommend the second floor. The sushi bar at Yume is a great spot for fresh seafood. The customer service is impeccable due to the diligent attention of the Sushi Chef. Sitting at the sushi bar is lively and interactive since the chef and the other sushi bar patrons are all talking with each other. The food is unique and fresh. Havana has a great Latin vibe to the room. The colors and the music connect and inspire a laid back energy to the dining experience. The lighting and mojitos also promotes customers to sway with the music and have a good time. The food is tropical and it's the type of food that most Americans do not prepare at home. I would recommend a table mid section or closer towards the back wall of the dining room. Acquacotta is a dim light restaurant with warm, rustic colors. The food is fresh with unique Italian flavor components. The quality of the food is amazing and the wait staff can recommend dishes. The dining room has great acoustics, so the noise level remains low even when the room is packed. The ambiance is romantic in a simplistic way. Seating is best when dining at a window or on the right side of the entrance door.

The Fireside Lounge is hosting a Valentine's Day event. The bar will have a DJ, dancing, chocolates and beverages for guests. I believe the event is focused towards singles and goes from 6 PM to 2 AM. Good luck to all you singles out there! There is no cover charge.

The USS Hornet is hosting a Valentine's Day Dance Party on board the carrier. Music, food and dancing is scheduled for the party. Anyone is invited to attend. There will be a cover charge of $45, $55 and $75. $75 allows guests the best view of the entertainment stage and access to the dance floor. $55 is a limited view of the stage, and $45 is the general admittance to the event. Dinner will be served that evening, but at an additional cost of $15 per person. The party will be held from 8 PM to 12 AM.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bar Scene

Alameda is home to many bars. The Island City was a plethora of watering holes during the boom times of the naval base. Even though the navy base is now closed, bars are in still in business. I guess the Coast Guard and the Ready Merchant Marines are keeping some of the old haunts alive.

Many of the old timer bars got face lifts and name changes. The old Lincoln Address is now the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, and the Fireside got a complete makeover with a modern and slick lounge area. Z's use to be an Irish bar and pub with an outdoor patio in the back. When Z's renovated the space, the outdoor garden was no longer available to the public due to the neighborhood noise. Z's is now a clean and comfortable setting with flat screen TVs on the walls.

There are a few Irish Pubs around the island. McGraths is a low key Irish Pub on Lincoln Avenue. You can play darts and hang out with the locals. Some nights they host an open mike night and another night is karaoke singing. The Shamrock Pub on Webster Street is an interesting spot. At times it is a college atmosphere where young adults come and drink for cheaper beers and other times, it is where the old and worn come to congregate. The only concern to look out for is an angry patron who is constantly there drinking until he can no longer remember his name and he becomes difficult to deal with. McGees Bar and Grill on Park Street is probably the most frequented Irish Pub on the island. I think a lot of patrons enjoy the friendly atmosphere as well as the 12 flat screen TVs within the two rooms. Another positive point about McGees is that they serve a decent full menu of hamburgers, fish and chips and appetizers. The food is tasty and adds to the pleasant experience.

The trendy places around town all have different vibes, but all of them are cool in their own special way. The Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge on Lincoln Avenue is a throwback to the South Pacific. The decorum is Polynesian with a nautical flavor added. The drinks are all blended with tropical components and mixed with your favorite alcohol. The drinks are very good and they arrive to your table in a tiki warrior glass that is even more festive. The only drawback is the cost of the drinks, the prices are $10 and up. Z's on Encinal Avenue caters to the locals in the neighborhood. The space is nice and clean with a great bar made to look antique. They don't serve fancy, fruity cocktails compared to the Tiki Lounge, but make your standard drinks along with beer. It is a friendly and comfortable atmosphere where anyone would be content. The Fireside Lounge on Webster Street has gone through a major renovation. The old interiors was a sports bar with a pool table and air hockey. Now the new space has a sophisticated, modern lounge inside with cool furniture and slick colors. They got rid of the air hockey game, but kept the pool table. The type of drinks they serve are the same, beers, blended and mixed drinks. Lucky 13 on Park Street is a college hangout as well as a younger crowd. It is usually crowded on the weekends with a huge following of tattooed patrons. You will see a lot of smokers hanging out on Park Street. The Lost Weekend on Santa Clara Avenue is where a lot of bicycle riders go. The space is a long, skinny bar with a jukebox for tunes. It's more of an eclectic crowd, leaning towards a bohemian edge. Some people claim it's a dive, but I don't think so. It's just a bar with a mixed group of people all having drinks.

The oldies but goodies bars are becoming extinct. Wally's Corner on Webster Street use to cater to navy personnel, but now serve the neighborhood regulars. The bar has seen better times, but they added some curb appeal recently and repainted the front with new signage. This is a beer joint, no fancy drinks are served here. The Pop Inn on Park Street is a popular place for reasons that perplex me. The space is very dark inside, you can't see a lot around in the room. The place is quite old along with the fixtures. I have seen people in the bar very early in the morning having drinks during breakfast. Perhaps it's the lesser priced drinks that attract patrons to the place, since it is not the ambiance. The Lemon Tree on Santa Clara Avenue is an interesting place. It is sort of a cool dive. The interiors are very old and odd. This was the bar that served the hotel's guests once upon a time. The hotel is no longer in operation, and it is now an apartment complex. Standard drinks are served here, nothing fancy or hip.

Restaurant bars are becoming more popular since the ambiance and the atmosphere tends to be more exciting to people watch. Barceluna did a great job in creating a bar scene within the restaurant. The bar is elegant to look at and it's huge in size, very impressive. The feel of the room is modern and people tend to dress up a little more compared to its previous restaurant of Luciano's. Burgermeister on Park Street is fairly new, so the bar side is cool and comfortable. They have TVs on the bar side to watch sport events. It's a burger joint in new and clean surroundings. Scobies on Central Avenue is a collegiate hang out and sports bar. The interiors are not fancy or impressive, but it is casual and friendly. The drinks are on the cheaper side compared to the food. The bar is quite large so there is plenty of places to sit and eat or drink. The Hob Nob on Park Street has not changed much when it bought out Kelly's. The live music is no more, which is a shame since the talent that played there was incredible. Now, the focus is a more comfortable atmosphere to play board games, hang out with friends and eat a meal. I have not heard any noise about the food. The space however, is nice and pleasant. The New Zealander on Webster Street is located inside an old building. The bar is impressive with old wood and great craftsmanship. During Summer, lots of baseball and softball players hang out here after the games. It is also a popular spot for watching rugby games. The establishment is extremely casual, so you can come in shorts and t-shirts if you wanted. The food is casual specializing in meat pies. They also have a wide selection of foreign beers and that is another reason why people come. Aroma on the foot of Park Street has a bar which is popular for quite a few Alamedans. Patrons enjoy the bartenders and friendly atmosphere. The crowd is a bit older and the drinks are standard, not a lot of fancy drinks are made here. The bier garden at Speiskehammer is an outdoor space. Great on a warm, sunny day. The foreign beer selection is long and offers all types of beers. The ambiance is a mixed group of families eating, to younger adults having beers and everyone else in between. Great place if you are hungry for schnitzel.