Archive for the ‘Eating Out’ Category

A September preview

I’ve been debating what I should focus on for the month of September. Now that August is winding to an end, it’s that time! I briefly thought about pizza for September, but then I thought, well, chaat would be great as well, so after discussing with Kyung, chaat it is. We will likely do pizza for part of October. Why part of October? You’ll see.

Thinking about chaat in September has me excited! Some places we’re definitely going to hit up:

Chaat Paradise
Chaat House
Vik’s
Amber Cafe

If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears =)

Willow Glen Meats and Smokehouse

I love delis that make their own meat. Or, alternately, I like smokehouses that make sandwiches. The local smokehouses/delis that have been around for years and are family owned are really fun places to go to – you can sense the history and craftsmanship of the place. Today Kyung and I went to Willow Glen Meats and Smokehouse, which has long been touted as a local favorite that’s relatively unknown. And it certainly seemed so when we went. The parking lot was not full, there wasn’t anyone sitting and eating inside at lunch today, the shop was very small and housed two glass counters full of packaged meat and large coolers with even more meat like smoked sausages, but people came in and out in a slow but steady stream, and the friendly man behind the counter conversed with them and it was clear that those people were regulars who came in often. There was also a lady behind the counter who was conversing with a family and asking about their sports team, etc. It was really quaint and a nice change from the usual hustle and bustle of a sandwich shop where things seem to run like a production line – fast in and out. Here, it took them a good 10 minutes or more to make our sandwiches, and there wasn’t anyone in line ahead of us. Dedication to quality and a laid back life style!

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The sandwiches here are truly superb. I’m not a big fan of the bread they use, but the meat itself has been so clearly well cared for and prepared that the meat alone trumps any dry and crumbly sourdough roll. Kyung ordered the corned beef, and the meat was so tender, savory, and textured the way corned beef should be. I have to say it made the corned beef at Dittmers look shameful. I ordered the smoked turkey on a sourdough roll and the turkey was moist and flavorful and paired very well with the pepper jack cheese I ordered. They’re also very good about not slathering on the mustard so thick it becomes it’s own type of meat. Rather, they spread a thin layer, so you have the flavor without the dripping, soggy bread. Leafy lettuce and tomatoes, along with a side of pickle, completed my meal.

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Willow Glen in San Jose is continuing to wow me with neighborhood treasures that you don’t hear about very often, but are truly great finds when you see them. So far in the last year Kyung and I have found lots of places to like in Willow Glen – Taqueria El Abuello, Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt, Bill’s Cafe, and now Willow Glen Meats and Smokehouse. Yum! Can’t wait to come back and try more sandwiches. Too bad they’re not open on Sunday though, that means this will have to be a Saturday only run!

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Roger’s Deli

Today was a good day for sandwiches. Long day at work, endless meetings, and the urge to eat something simple but comforting. Teal and I found our way to one of our usual lunch spots, Roger’s Deli, and brought along Miss Kitty for a ride too (She’s joining our lunch club! This is exciting!). Roger’s Deli is a bit hidden. It’s on Middlefield in Mountain View, but you wouldn’t notice it unless you happen to be driving south on Middlefield towards 237. Most people drive the opposite direction. It’s on a corner, sharing a parking lot with 7-11. It’s also near a Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, so you could very easily have your path derailed towards the ultimate in unhealthiness. But, if you stay true on the course, you will end up at the nondescript corner shop with the caution tape that looks like it belongs to a crime scene.

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This local lunch spot is never overly crowded. Everytime I’ve been here, there has been ample seating and the wait for a sandwich is short. There are several large blackboards to help you figure out what you want to eat. In addition to the normal sandwiches, there is a breakfast menu that has a few egg dishes, pancakes, and french toast that is served all day. There are also many types of donuts and pastries like banana muffins and cinnamon rolls. The donuts here are supposedly ‘healthy’ but I don’t know what a healthy donut is (do you?).

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The sandwich selection here is pretty limited. It’s not one of those specialty sandwich shops that tries to wow you with 100 different combinations of interesting foods. This is a deli/cafe at its simplest, which is nice. Do something simple and do it well are not necessarily bad things. They have the usual selection of sliced bread or rolls, and the usual meat fillings – salami, mortadella, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, ham, etc. There are also simple cheeses like cheddar, pepper jack, swiss, etc. The menu declares proudly that 3.5 oz of meat and 2 slices of cheese are placed in every sandwich. My sandwich came with three slices of cheese and more than 3.5 oz of meat for sure.

I ordered turkey and pepper jack on a sour roll. The bread was very, very soft (not flaky and textured on the outside like regular sourdough though), and the cheese was great with the somewhat bland meat. There was way too much mustard though (both pieces of the bread roll were soggy from it on the inside) and the lettuce did not look or taste fresh. I didn’t end up finishing my sandwich, which was a shame. My lunchmates finished theirs though – Miss Kitty ordered a chicken salad sandwich and Teal ordered the Roger’s Special, which comes with lots of savories like mortadella and salami among other things.

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All in all, it’s a simple sandwich deli/cafe, and it’s a neighborhood favorite it seems, so I like to come here. I also like to eat the ‘healthy’ donuts here (especially the blueberry one). But if I want a fancy sandwich, I’d look elsewhere!

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Tommy’s Joynt

Sometimes you find sandwiches in unexpected places. Like at a taqueria. Or at a hofbrau. If you decide to review the same type of food for a month, at some point you really do need to become creative in where and how you get so called food item. How many delis can you go to before you start wanting to regurgitate that sandwich? Alright, life isn’t that bad, but you know what I mean.

Kyung and I recently went to the Diana Krall concert at the Davis Symphony Hall in SF. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a part of the ‘upper crust’ and sip champagne and hobnob, this is where you’d go. So many well dressed older gentlemen and ladies. Before heading to our concert, we were wondering what to eat, and Kyung thought of Tommy’s Joynt. This place is both a bar, and also a hofbrau, which promised delicious junky bar food and open faced sandwiches.
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I love hofbraus. There’s something about going through a cafeteria style line and looking at the glistening food under the glowing red lights and seeing all the vats of gravy, stuffing, corned beef, and whatever random other food item might be the special of the day (spaghetti? enchiladas?).
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Kyung ordered the open faced special of a ground chuck steak sandwich, which was large, on thick sourdough bread, and came covered in sauteed mushrooms and onions, gravy, and a side of mashed potatoes. I ate a third of his sandwich (after abandoning my half eaten giant turkey leg) and I was delighted with the greasy junky mess – there’s something very satisfying about mopping up your gravy covered plate with a piece of thick bread that is soft inside and dripping with the grease from your ground chuck meat patty. Why do hofbraus make such delicious sandwiches!?
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There’s also a giant barrel of pickle slices at the end of the food line that you can dip into and take as much as you want before you find your seat. Yum!

Alright, so this isn’t a traditional sandwich place, but I think it’s worth looking for sandwiches in unusual places…

Huong Lan Sandwich..4?

I think it’s funny when restaurants just add numbers to their names. Huong Lan Sandwich 4. Brothers 2. Etc. Really? Makes me wonder where are Huong Lan 1-3? Is there a 5 or higher? I digress.

In my continuing hunt for the ideal sandwich, Roo introduced me to a close by shop that sells Vietnamese sandwiches today. I was surprised at how delicious this banh mi was as well! I have to say though, what is up with that weird mayo like sauce that comes in Vietnamese sandwiches. I don’t like it. But I never know how to tell the person behind the counter that I don’t want that weird sauce, thank you much.

I don’t think I need to say much about where this sandwich shop is located other than it’s in Milpitas, and it’s in a strip mall.

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Roo has been coming here for years, and was happy to share her cheap find with Kyung and I. When Roo and I walked in, we met an empty shop full of random treats like egg rolls, red bean sesame balls, and dried squid. I sense a theme here.

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We really enjoyed the sandwiches – $2.50 each, with a wide variety of choices.

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We ordered three grilled pork sandwiches, and one BBQ chicken sandwich. They were fantastic! Crispy, soft baguette with savory meat (a bit on the skimpy side), lots of veggies like shredded daikon, carrots, jalapenos, and cilantro, and that weird mayo like sauce. I loved the grilled pork especially, it was slightly fatty, very very flavorful, and tasted delicious with the fresh jalapeno slices that burned my tongue so bad I had to cool the flames with the cream from the inside of a cream puff. I kid you not. The BBQ chicken was tasty too – like a lighter version of BBQ pork in small pieces that blended well into the sandwich.

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If you’re in the Milpitas/San Jose region, check them out for fast, cheap eats that are satisfying – HLSandwiches.com

Did I mention the sandwiches are $2.50? Times are tough, but your food doesn’t have to be craptastic!

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Los Altos Taqueria

Alright, so you may not think of ‘taqueria’ and ‘sandwiches’ in the same sentence most of the time, but today I was striking out. I looked up four to five different delis and sandwich shops, called all of them, and they were all closed. I should have realized that Sunday is not a good day for a sandwich. Unless I go to Subway. Or Quiznos (shudder). I hate Quiznos, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, back to my predicament. I was parked in the parking lot of Willow Glen Meats and Smokehouse, where the closed doors and dark windows mocked me as I sat in my car with the red gas light on, declaring its emptiness furiously. Kyung and I were frantically trying to think of places to eat. Finally, he asked me if I wanted a torta. Why, of course! Why not a Mexican sandwich? No one ever said sandwiches had to be only from a deli or sandwich shop. We zipped over to gas, and then to Mountain View.

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This Mexican restaurant is located on Old Middlefield, next to a Donut Basket, and the ubiquitous liquor store. It’s also across the street from a few other Mountain View Mexican favorites like Taqueria La Bamba and La Costena.

Stepping inside, you are given a dizzying array of choices of food, everything from burritos, to tacos, to tortas, and to their Saturday special of menudo. Orders are taken quickly, and the food arrives just as quickly. As soon as you’re seated you get a basket of tortilla chips, salsa, and your soda. I can’t tell if the chips are made in house but they don’t seem like it, since they don’t have that thick, oily taste that fresh tortilla chips have.

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We each ordered al pastor tortas, though I declined sour cream and guacamole on mine. This seems to be a change from a lot of other tortas I’ve eaten, which generally didn’t come with the sour cream or guac. The torta came on a soft roll and the soft bread was great for soaking up the oil from the al pastor, which came well cooked and in tiny, easy to eat pieces arranged in a single big layer, thick, melted mozarella slices, and lots of lettuce and some tomato. I greatly enjoyed my sandwich, and it was just large enough without being overwhelmingly large that I didn’t feel disgustingly full afterwards (some tortas from taco trucks are so big that I feel like I ate a 2 foot sub).

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On a side note, I want to come back here and try the huevos rancheros. I have a big soft spot for egg anything, and I love huevos rancheros.

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California Sourdough

Why is sourdough bread so good. It completes a sandwich. It completes a sandwich the way butter completes a brie and ham baguette. Or the way bacon completes everything. I rarely order any other type of bread other than sourdough when I have a choice, and I have never regretted ordering the sourdough. Except when I’m worried about my carb intake. But worrying does nothing other than to make you eat more carbs, so it’s better to just pretend you never ate carbs to begin with =)

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California Sourdough is unique – it makes its famed sourdough bread fresh every few minutes and on top of that, there are many choices for your sandwich. Everything from a #1 roast beef to a #25(?) garlic and herb turkey. There’s a sign on the door that says they BBQ the meat on premises as well. Yelpers love this place: 200+ reviews, 4.5 stars, and this is on top of the cash only, short hours, and long lines the shop has. Doors only open between 11 am to 2:30 pm on the weekdays. Not nearly enough time or chances for me to enjoy the sandwiches here! I think I’ve only been here two or three times and I live down the street! What does that tell you!

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I gleefully got away with a short line at 11:45 am today, and ordered a couple sandwiches. I drove away salivating at the smells of fresh baked bread and that familiar deli smell that sandwiches seem to waft into your car. Behold the roast beef:
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Thick fluffy sourdough with a flaky crust, warm, with lots of roast beef, swiss cheese, mustard, lettuce, and tomato. The sandwich also came with a pickle spear (though I didn’t get to eat it this time). This place oozes with wholesome freshness. They may not have the most crazy of sandwich fillings, but they do sandwiches well, and they do it consistently well, and that makes it okay in my book.

Ace of Sandwiches

While looking around for a local sandwich place many moons ago, I came across the sandwich shop called Ace of Sandwiches. It has very good reviews on Yelp, and the exhaustive menu was too much to comprehend in one sitting (example: there’s a sandwich called the King which has peanut butter and bananas grilled on white bread!).

I never quite made it to this sandwich place – Dittmer’s, another local place I will review for a future post – always managed to lure me with its siren call. Thus, instead of driving a few extra blocks down El Camino, I stuck to hanging around San Antonio in Mountain View. Today, however, offered me a great opportunity to swing by – Kyung and I were in Palo Alto with a friend picking up a recliner couch, and we decided, let’s get sandwiches!

Again, sandwich shops and liquor stores go hand in hand – this shop was located in the smallest of strip malls with just the shop and a liquor store. Why am I always hanging around liquor stores? I should tell my dad about this – he’d probably have a cow and then tell me to go home and cook some decent Chinese food. But anyway, despite the liquor store and the tiny, tiny parking lot with minimal street parking, this shop is so cute. It’s a tiny square with a little bit of outdoor seating and almost no seating inside. We luckily snagged a table as soon as we walked in but I could see how trying to eat here during the week at peak lunch hours is a nightmare.

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We stared at the menu and scratched our heads for some time. So many choices! I think there are at least four different reubens (to give you an idea of the breadth of choices) – super, classic, chicken, etc. I couldn’t make up my mind but the cucumber roast beef caught my eye so I ordered that. It came with thinly sliced light rye bread, lots and lots of thinly sliced but piled high Boar’s Head roast beef, 2 slices of muenster cheese, and slices of cucumbers. Wow. The sandwich was hearty, healthy, and refreshing – all in one! I gobbled mine pretty quickly…on top of that, like Ike’s, you get a surprise treat after your sandwich – Andes Thin Mints! Brilliant!

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Kyung ordered the super reuben on sourdough, and it tasted wonderful – 8 oz of meat (4 oz of pastrami, 4 oz of corned beef), thousand island, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese. Wow. It was massive and oh so meaty but man, if I were the world’s biggest meat lover, I’d eat that sandwich everytime. Our friend ordered the Ace of Clubs and he really liked his sandwich as well.

This place is definitely going pretty high up on the sandwich list. There are so many possibilities left what with the extensive menu and the King waiting!

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To do a quick recap of the week, I’d say the current sandwich shop ranking is:

1) Ike’s Place
2) Ace of Sandwiches
3) Amato’s Cheesesteaks
4) Cam Hung
5) La Baguette

Amato’s Cheesesteaks

Eating sandwiches is hard work! I’ve gone from eating maybe one sandwich every month to eating four sandwiches in five days. It kind of makes a person crazy. Not that I’m complaining per se. But I’m a girl of variety. So endeavoring to eat a lot of the same food in a month is crazy!

Tonight Kyung and I were debating dinner with our friends. What to eat? Indian? BBQ? Burgers? An hour later we finally concluded we should get cheesesteaks. Kyung has been to this cheesesteak place before, and he thought it would be a good addition to the blog. So off we went! The four of us piled into the car and rolled our way to the tiny stripmall on Saratoga that holds Amato’s. I guess sandwich shops really like being in strip malls with strange services – we rolled past more insurance offices, and a travel office that would lead you to the ‘outback.’

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Upon entering the shop, you find that it’s actually quite a long though thin store – long counter on one side, a few tables and chairs towards the front. There is an open area for you to watch them grill the meat and cheese before piling it high on your sandwich.

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I’d like to point out these are some serious sandwiches. You don’t come here if you’re on a diet, or if you want to eat a ‘little bit.’ No, this is the type of place where everyone is at least 100 lbs overweight and it seems normal and expected. I certainly felt like if I lived down the street I would soon be 100 lbs overweight. There are three sizes – 7″, 12″, and 24″. The 7″ ‘shorty’ is so huge that I think the 12″ and 24″ must be for at least three people to share. The 7″ is so large that I wish I had shared it with Kyung, since no one could possibly eat all that and not have a heart attack. I ordered ‘the works’ which came piled high with steak, cheese, grilled onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Did it taste authentic? I have no idea, but I know that the thick, soft bread overflowing with the goodies inside was very very satisfying. It was so hot that a piece of onion fell out of the sandwich and scorched my finger. Oddly, though this sandwich wasn’t exactly healthy, it tasted alot healthier than the cheesesteak I had at Ike’s. Probably because the one from Ike’s was dripping with mayo and dirty sauce.
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Besides cheesesteaks with beef, you can order cheesesteaks with chicken; you can also order hoagies. In addition, you can get soda, beer, and various sides like cheese fries. Piping hot crinkle cut fries slathered in thick cheese sauce – hell yeah!

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La Baguette

Ah, the French sure know their sandwiches. Okay, I know that many ‘French’ sandwiches here are not made by French people. But you get the point. There is something so appealing about a baguette covered in cheese (preferably Brie), butter, and some sort of meat. Or mustard instead of butter. One of the two.

Roo and I were doing some retail therapy today in Palo Alto and in my excitement I pointed out the tiny patisserie/sandwich shop in the mall and declared I wanted to try one of the sandwiches. She readily agreed and we proceeded to enter the corner shop.P1010490

I love pastry shops that also serve French style sandwiches and fresh bread. There’s something so appealing about being able to get something distinctly savory and distinctly sweet.P1010489

I didn’t eat something sweet today (maybe I should have) but I did get to try the pastrami baguette, which comes with thinly sliced pastrami, swiss cheese, and two layers of mustard.
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The deep crunchiness of the bread was satisfying to the palette, especially when paired with its hearty center – it may be a thin layer but don’t underestimate the depth of flavor.

I also tried Roo’s ciabatta sandwich that came with basil, tomatoes, balsamic, and mozarella. No picture, but I can still taste the garden freshness. That one tasted fresh and was probably 1000x healthier than mine =).

I must say, Ike’s Place is still owning out of the sandwiches places I’ve tried. I don’t know if I’m going to find one better!