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Feb 26, 2001 09:28 PM

Anything but fast food in Richmond/Pinole (East Bay)?

  • w

Save us from fast food hell! My fiance and I moved to the Richmond/Pinole boarder (East Bay) on rt. 80 several months ago, and are tired of running down to Albany or Berkeley for decent food. We tried a Thai place and a Chinese place in Pinole, and are 0-2.

We'd just like a decent place to eat. We've found an OK taqueria (Taqueria Maria on Blume Drive near rt. 80), and would like to round out the selection a little with a good Chinese restaurant, or Thai, Sushi, Italian... really, we're desperate!

Thanks in advance!


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  1. I know the feelings. I live out there as well. There are NO good restaurants out there. I can suggest one semi-decent American restaurant - The dead fish in Crockett. There is supposed to be a good italian restaurant in Martinez but I forgot the name. Maybe someone else knows.

    18 Replies
    1. re: ll

      Better than Deadfish is Nantucket's under the bridge in Crockette. Vallejo has potential worth checking. Take advantage of the awesome ethnic markets in that area & cook at home!

      1. re: Lucy Gore

        I have been cooking a lot... since we have a patio now, we've got a grill and have been making some great meals! I had forgotten about the dead fish, and haven't heard about Nantucket. Thanks for the leads!

        1. re: wendy

          I wish I had more specific names of places I've recently heard of in the Vallejo area. One place was Japanese that suppositely had great noodle bowls. What I really wanted to tell you about, Wendy, is the Farmers Market in downtown Vallejo on Saturday's starting around 9:00. It's of the best around . . .very mulit-cultural. You can purchase a whole fresh salmon at $5 a pound,and the Phillopino influence is awesome in small vendor foods. Artisan breads, flowers, music . . .is a must-go. I am not sure but I think it starts in May. You can call the city & check.

          1. re: Lucy Gore

            Hooray! So glad to see posts by Lucy! I'll be watching for them because she has REAL CREDIBILITY. If she thinks it's worth trying, I'll be there.

            Thanks Lucy, for taking the time to do this!

            1. re: Lucy Gore

              Lucy, have you checked out the Filipino grocery store just south of Goldilocks bakery/restaurant in Vallejo? It's been late when I've driven by and I haven't had a chance to check it out. Good size.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                hey melanie. I have been told of this market by friends who live there but not been there as of yet. Thanks for the reminder, & also the correction on "Filipino" spelling. There is a great market in this strip mall right near Costco on the other side of the freeway from Vallejo (near the amusement park.) I don't know the name, though we stop there for lots of ethnic food staples. I love that about the area there.

                1. re: Lucy

                  There are lots of spellings for "Filipino" - I pick the easiest one.

                  Pls. help me get my bearings here. Haven't been to Costco in Vallejo yet and would like to check out this market. Is it on the east side of Hwy 80, near Marine World Pkway?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong


                    I will get back to you as to the exact location. I am down in that area often. It would be hard to locate without alittle more info., like "it's right next too. . ." I just happened upon this market and sure found myself getting one of those "how did she end up in here" looks from the man & woman behind the counter. There are actually 2 really killer markets off of 80, one near costco, the other north/east of 80 directly across from Vallejo. I'll let you know where that one is, as well.
                    Question for you, Melanie. Have you been to the Vallejo Saturday Farmer's Market ever? Just curious.

                    1. re: Lucy

                      I'd appreciate that, Lucy, as it's on my route a couple times a week. Haven't been to the Saturday Vallejo farmers market. From what you've said about it, I imagine that it has some similarities to the ones in downtown Oakland or even Salinas, with lots of farmers from the Central Valley with Asian type greens and veggies. Very different from the Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Petaluma markets which are mostly local farmers and Euro-centric, although the Thursday night market in Santa Rosa does draw from a wider circle.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        o.k. Melanie. I located one of the markets. It's on the east side of #80. Take the Marine World Pkwy off ramp & head east towards all that shopping area mess to the right side. That is where Costco is.The main Rd. is called Admiral Callaghan Lane? Sorry but I did not write it down but it's something like that. You follow this down past 2 lights until you hit the first left into the parking lot . . . strip mall heaven. Follow the lot around to the far N/E corner & you'll see a sign that says "Pincess Market". Mind you, I don't remember this sign before even. Kiddy corner from this market is a great Noodle Bowl Shop; "Lang Nam". It's usually packed but worth the effort, in my experience. Another place we tried recently & I think this may be a chain but am not sure is the "Chaam Thai Restaurant" back up the road abit from the market. You can't miss it. . . it's across from a Chevy's Mex. place. We went on a Sunday for lunch, my having worked a 75+ hour week & just woke shortly before hand. I wasn't in the mood for serious "heat" & this place was perfect. Lots to offer on the menu + lots of fresh, interesting specials. We had a fresh Lemon Grass Salad with Grilled Prawns & Chicken Breast that was perfect. Lots of peanuts, fresh coconut, Thai mint & Thai Basil.We also tried a couple curries, one red curry with lots of eggplant & tofu. It was a delightful meal. Plus their wine list blew me away. A glass of Domine Chandon for $5.50, '98 William Hill Reserve Chardonnay for $6.50 and much more. Let me know if you get by there. I did not have time to go anywhere else but I will surely post when do. I have a mission to find that Japanese place.

                        You gotta' love this Napa Spring, huh? See ya'

                        1. re: Lucy Gore
                          Melanie Wong

                          Gosh, for as busy as you've been, an extra special thanks for filling me in. These sound very interesting, will check 'em out soon.

                          This was a most gorgeous day despite the peacock/hen pests. Poppier and lupines are in full glory.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I really think this is a good avenue for discovery for both of us. And, I hope I didn't sound too complaining with my work hours. It is totally due to the beautiful Napa weather. Each time I see what you have encountered in great meal experiences, Melanie,it makes me happy to be up here in the northern most gasps of reality / dream inspiring regions for dining. And yes, I am being seriously sarcastic. I feel food could be so much more in tune with this area than what represents itself sometimes. Another thread.

                            1. re: Lucy Gore
                              Melanie Wong

                              Lucy, I hope you'll expand on your ideas in another thread. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

                              Had a little extra time this morning and took a drive over by Costco without the benefit of your directions in hand. I did manage to find Cha Am, which wasn't open at 10am (thought I might have some early soup noodles), but didn't go far enough to find the other one.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I took your advice and started a new topic. I may be asking for it! Too much "food-on-the-brain". Thanks for the suggestion. Definitely get by the Cha am later. I think you'll like it!

                          2. re: Lucy Gore

                            Lucy, I've finally had a chance to check out all three recommendations. Walked through Oriental Market (next door to Princess Garden restaurant) last week - smells and looks Southeast Asian with fishy aromas, 6 kinds of fresh bananas, and 3 kinds of asian eggplants including the small cute ones the size and shape of a goose egg. I thought they might have some prepared food to pick up for lunch, but not so.

                            I then headed over to Cha Am, and even though it was a half hour before opening, the cook agreed to make lunch to go for me. The pork with peanut curry and eggplant along with jasmine rice for only $5.95 was very nice. Warmish spice, not that hot, but nuanced and subtle with good quality ingredients. I noticed the wine bottles lined up on the bar. The Callaway Viognier from Temecula can be very good for the price, and I'd love to try the tropical flavors with this cuisine some time.

                            This is indeed part of a "chain" with the original Cha Am in Berkeley (a couple doors from Chez Panisse) and there's one in SF. Let me state that my friends are publishers of the Cha Am cookbooks and good friends with the owners. We used to eat at the Berkeley location quite a bit when they first hit the scene. However, I've felt they'd slipped a notch, and I've never found the SF restaurant (caters to the business lunch crowd) to be that good. But I have high hopes that the Vallejo location might return to the original sparkle and not water down the dishes, judging by the Southeast Asian clientele who were patiently waiting in the parking lot for the doors to open. The specials on the board from the previous night's dinner looked fantastic - lots of whole fresh fish preparations. A link to the website below.

                            Earlier I tried Ling-Nam Noodle House, which I recognized as the sister of the place on Gellert in Daly City. These are franchises of the fast food chain based in Manilla. I'm going to come back to explore the Filipino breakfast specials. The Chinese dishes show Filipino influence, e.g., a touch sweet and the cuts of pork are much fattier, and I had to ask for chopsticks to eat my soup noodles. I decided the order the #1 noodle soup which was a combo on beef brisket, prawns, fish balls, and won tons. The broth was intense, a touch sweet with lots of carmelized shallot/onion/garlic flavor. The very fine cut noodles are very good quality, the gan sui type that are treated with lye to stay firm almost crisp in soup. The couple of won ton dumplings were disappointing - doughy wrappers and crude filling. The fish balls were too strongly flavored and over the top fishy for my tastes. However, the anise-scented brisket was very good with the right amount of fat and chewy fascia (I seem to be on a brisket tear), and the prawns were a little on the small side but clean-tasting. Chopped scallions and some Napa cabbage added in the bowl added the vegetable course for this one-dish meal.


              2. re: wendy

                When I moved to the East Bay, I had mixed reactions as well. I also eventually moved to Richmond. It has it's good points and bad. However, after living here for a few years, I’ve found some of the secret spots of longtime locals and natives that I’d love to share with you. There are many, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in and read:

                You all were talking about Nantucket in Crockett. A short drive from Crockett is Port Costa, one of the East Bay's best kept secrets. The drive down the windy, country backroads makes you feel like you’re really going on an adventure! Once in Port Costa, go to the Warehouse--ask for the beer menu--for some of the most refined and international beer selection on the West Coast at reasonable prices, with the oddest atmosphere you'll find. Don’t know gourmet beer? Try Lindeman’s Framboise on a lark. It’s like a small bottle of raspberry champagne, only it is fermented with real raspberries in the secondary fermentation, a very rare, traditional Belgian style ale called Lambic (“Lam-beek”). Smell it from the glass—you can’t get that fresh raspberry smell if you’re using extracts and chemicals, like most flavored beers and champagnes do! The Warehouse is an unusual and intriguing place. Lots of old memorabilia and junk all over the walls and stuff, a pool table, and the drinks are oddly served in mason jars--but crowd there is usually very friendly. They serve only basic seafood there for dinner, and that's only when they decide to serve dinner (I guess Fri-Sat only?).

                A better bet for dinner is to go across the street to the old hotel and eat there. Can’t remember the name, but the place is obvious. It used to be a bordello! Good and fancy, but with less pretentious snobs around--what I like to call comfortable dining--where you don't feel like you're on stage. I had a seafood phyllo wrap of some kind with wild mushrooms. Very tasty, but of course, not cheap. Stay and have a drink or two outside, as they have netting up and around that gives you some fresh air, but less bugs. At the beautiful and ancient bar inside, ask what the green bottle of liquor is at the top shelf is and take a swig if you dare, and then you get the honor of putting your name on the bottle (under mine, that is). Very friendly locals, friendly staff and good service.

                As far as Richmond goes, you may dismiss it too fast, because there is a range of food to be had. I’ll start out with the ones with only a basic atmosphere. A poster recommended Saw Wa Dee already, I second that. Across the street in the strip mall (next to the Wendy's on San Pablo near Barrett) is the Vietnameese place they were talking about. Make sure you don't mistake it for the Chineese place next door, one of those greasy steam table places. At the Vietnamese place, try any of the soups, they are all very good, as is the Chow Fun. They have beef appetizers that may be called "beef salad" on the menu. Marinated and served hot, very tasty. If you want a little vegetables, ginger, garlic, or anything else in your dish, they will accommodate you, rare these days. They may charge you fifty cents, they may not. Either way, for a giant bowl of soup fit for a meal, you’ll be around five dollars, a steal by Bay Area standards. They also have rice paper shrimp rolls, served cold, and you can see the shrimp beautifully displayed through the rice wrapper. I bought a bunch of these for takeout for some guests and cut them into halves and put the sweet peanut sauce into my little china sauce cups and didn't tell anyone how ridiculously cheap they were!

                The Indian place in the same strip mall, Indian Palace Cuisine, is decent if only for dinner. I wasn't too impressed with the lunch buffet. The dinner combo I got was a tandori chicken in a cream sauce, with all of the accompaniments, nan, rice, a rice pudding dessert, and raita on the side. The raita was spicy in addition to being creamy, adventuresome, but too far out there for my taste. The chicken came in a pot with a little candle underneath to keep it hot, a nice touch. The rest of the meal was on a stainless steel tray that I associated with prison, but I don't think my Indian hosts made that association. They were friendly and joked with us, and so I forgot the tray. My companions bought items ala carte, and missed out on the stainless steel wonder. They just expanded the restaurant, so they must be doing something right.

                On 23rd street near Garvin is "Portumex." Oddly closed on Mondays, try a hard Chili Colorado hard taco. Lots of beef steak chunks, marinated until tender in a guaillo pepper sauce that isn't too spicy, kind of like a mole. I also figured out how to make it at home! Portumex isn't in the best section of town, but it's worth checking out during the daytime, and the prices are good. Besides, some of the best ethnic restaurants are in the less expensive neighborhoods. Plus, all of the restaurants mentioned are family owned and operated, so when you are spending your money, you are keeping it local, which I feel is truly important. I avoid places like Chilis in favor of Portumex any day.

                OK, what else. Have you discovered the "hidden city?" Take 580 towards Marin and get off at Point Richmond. Get out and marvel at $500,000 houses which are only an oil tanker's length away from North Richmond--where the houses start at $50,000. There you'll find the Hidden City Cafe, only open for lunch, I believe, but well worth the stop. Reasonable prices, and great food. I have a habit of getting the Neiman Ranch Burger, sometimes topped with caramelized onions, Roquefort cheese sauce, organic lettuce and tomato, with a side of Yukon Gold fries with sea salt. Pinch yourself to remind you that this is *Richmond?! Heck, let San Franciscans, Berzerkleyans and Marin County folks pay 14.50 for an entree, I'm happy with $8.00! I’d avoid the pizza/Italian place down the street, it was pricey and just not good enough IMHO.

                Round the corner and check out the bakery on the corner. Across the street from that is the Hotel Mac. I walked in there once, looked at the stuffy folks, looked at the prices, and turned around and walked right back out. Then I went down the street to Edibles Catering, who has an unfortunately misnamed storefront, as she also runs a wonderful ethnic cafe. On certain days of the week, you can get very homey specials like Chicken and Dumplings, or a really unhealthy German favorite, Wienerschnitzel. If you've never had real Wienerschnitzel, I'll give you a hint, it isn't a hot dog, it's veal, breaded and fried, covered with homemade gravy and served with real mashed potatoes and what could be homemade sauerkraut. If it isn't homemade sauerkraut, she doctors it up well. If you forget to take some bread and butter at the counter, don't worry, the bold, bubbly, and friendly proprietor will remind you!

                If that isn’t enough, I have more. How about a Brazillian Pizza in Richmond? Or a place to eat in Richmond with ambiance and a view? I’ll check back in and if you’re interested, I’ll keep going. I'd also like BBQ suggestions, something I have seen lots of in town, but haven't tried yet.


                1. re: Deadeand

                  If you're in a talkative mood, I'd love to hear more about your Richmond/East Bay finds. Portumex is a good neighborhood find...surprisingly pleasant on Sunday mornings-you can sit outside when the weather is good.
                  It's been a few years but I remember having a pretty good machaca(shredded beef) with eggs.

                  1. re: gordon wing

                    That place I mentioned with the view is in the Marina Bay development of Richmond. Take 23rd street across 580 and it becomes Marina Bay Parkway. Straight through the lights by 580, across the railroad tracks, make a right at the next light and follow the signs. Marina Bay is a beautiful spot, and right dab in the middle of that pretty marina is Salute's, a nice dining spot with a great view. I've been there a few times, but only ate there twice, the other times for a drink after work. Once we shared some appetizers, simple things, some olive oil, bread, olives, and then followed that up with some calamari and pizzas. I usually don't like calamari, but theirs was pretty good. I did stay for dinner once and had a pork loin with winter fruit, which was a combination of dried fruits and others covered with a real, high quality pork (and maybe some other base) reduction. To round it out there was nice, crisp fall vegetables. All too often the fall veggie assortment with the baby squash and zucchini is too soft, sitting on a steam table for hours, but definitely not the case. The fall veggie assortment is also usually too predictable. But in this case, they also added some fresh, crisp string beans. The coffee was also top notch, something that I try to limit myself to enjoy only every so often, so when I do get it, it better be good. All in all, I’d say definitely above board. I have to add that too often restaurants that are the only cornerstone in a resort or fancy area just rest on their laurels and the quality of food slips while the prices stay high. Not only does that happen when one fancy restaurant is isolated, it also happens when it becomes a landmark. A good example of that is Spenger’s in Berkeley. It’s OK, and what you may expect for a medium priced seafood fare, but not what you’d expect from that kind of a price range.

                    I do have to say, though, that Salute’s is a once in a while treat for me. When the weather is nice, I am more apt to stop by the taco truck on the way down there (one of the best is on 23rd street, just after the light on Cutting, right before 580—not the one on Cutting in the parking lot of that corner store!). Then I sit in the park on the benches by Salute’s and eat my carne asada torta with fried onions and jalapenos. Hard to beat with a tamarindo jarritos on the side!

          2. It is a bit bleak out here in Richmond/Pinole. Here's a few places I've found. Generally not destinations but OK/good local places. Sawadee Thai on San Pablo Ave & Nevin in Richmond. It's a good neighborhood can sit Thai style or at a western table. Pretty comfortable surroundings...not fancy, though. The food is generally tasty and well prepared. I've enjoyed the duck curry and some of the soups. It's worth a visit. I also like Taqueria & Restaurant Familiar on 12469 San Pablo Ave. Richmond - they are seemingly connected to Taqueria La Bamba just a few blocks away. Both menus are very similar but there is more space and it's a bit more pleasant to sit & dine at Taqueria & Restaurant Familiar. I usually get the soft tacos al pastor....very good. They offer chips and salsa on the house - not the case at La Bamba. And I highly recommend the pork tamales-only $1.50. The owners are Salvadorean (?) and their tamales are more moist than most Mexican ones...I enjoy both kinds but these are very good. There is lots else on the menu but I haven't gotten very far. Vietnamese food - there is a little place in the mini mall on San Pablo Ave in Richmond between McDonald Ave & Barrett Ave. Can't remember the name - maybe Huong Tra or something like that. You can get a decent bowl of pho and a sandwich, plus other savory's a good value. Also right in this area - Tsing Tao Restaurant is OK but only if you stick with certain items...I've found that their Shanghai/Szechwan offerings to be their strong point....
            they do a good job with the eggplant in Szechwan sauce, the dry braised string beans are good and I like the Shanghai Lion's Head meatballs. the Ma Pou Tofu was bland and disappointing. There are other Szechwan offerings that I haven't tried. The other Cantonese items we've tried have been only OK. In El Sobrante on San Pablo Dam Rd. Tandoori USA has a following of sorts....I know some folks that really like it. I enjoyed my meal there but wasn't knocked out...maybe I'll try it again someday. And lastly, Daimo in the Ranch 99 Mall has very good chinese food but horrendous service....I'm sad to say. Haven't tried the dim sum restaurant in the seems to have developed a pretty good crowd. I'm looking forward to hearing about some places worth trying ....

            1 Reply
            1. re: gordon wing

              Thank you so much! We'll have a lot to check out now! I'll write back and let you know how they are.


            2. Great food is were you find it. I have fond memories of Antlers Bar in Pinole. They served fresh crab or shrimp cocktails,hot sauce,sauterne wine with pourer,and crackers. That, and a cold draft, was something to stop off for. This is probably not relevant.

              1. b
                Brandon Nelson

                Hi Wendy

                I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to offer specifics, but it seems to me there are a ton of BBQ joints in Richmond. I wish I could remember the name of the road I was on that day. Much luck to ya!


                2 Replies
                1. re: Brandon Nelson

                  One BBQ place I've tried is Bobby's Backdoor BBQ on San Pablo Ave at McBryde. I had high hopes...have some friends who like it and they got a pretty good review in the paper plus they have some down home music there .... it smelled great and looked bery authentic but I was ultimately disappointed. We tried a 3 way...pork ribs, sausage, chicken and sampled the boudin. The ribs were our favorite - the sauce was pretty good but I prefer the sauce at Everett & Jones and/or Doug's. The sausage was on the dry side and the chicken was OK. I might try the ribs again someday. The boudin at Taylor's sausage in the Housewives Market in Oakland is my favorite and it's very reasonably priced.Sad to say, I've never been to Louisiana so I don't know how their's compares to the real thing. They may have moved across the street to the new development - is it called Swan's?

                  1. re: gordon wing

                    You're right--the vendors from Housewive's Market that are still in business are now in Swan's Market kitty corner (?) from Housewive's.

                2. yesterday we tried the dim sum at Pacific East Seafood in the Ranch 99 Mall. (it's not really called that but that's how I think of it) anyways, the dim sum is very good and a friend just mentioned that they had a good dinner there as well. Definitely worth a try. Also, I just remembered about Majestique (Vietnamese Cuisine) on Appian Way in Pinole - it's pretty good.