New Peninsula Chowhound
Well, I'm excited to get some real input! I'm new to the site (due to the big outing in the latest travel/leisure - don't hate me because i discovered you there) but have been a devoted chowhound for years. I lived in SF for the past 5 years but recently moved to San Mateo. I miss the plethora of great spots to grab a bite and am looking for some replacements down here. Anything in the Burlingame/San Mateo/Belmont area would be great. Here's what I've found so far in san mateo:
Pancho Villa (same as the one in SF) on B street for burrittos.
Kisaku on 4th avenue for donburi
Ma Pinky's on amphlett for BBQ
Kingfish on 2nd (the first couple of times i went it was marginal but since then i've been very happy. I think it is a better $100 meal for two than either lark creek inn or viogner, the 2 other nice choices in the area).
Thanks for the input.
Welcome! You can try using the search engine on the main Chowhound page for topics of interest. Linked below are the results for San Mateo. We've got lots of great contributors in that area.
Could you tell us more about Kingfish? Don't think it's been reported here before.
re: Melanie Wong
I'd love to put my 2 (or 3) cents in regarding Kingfish.
The restaurant is at the corner of B Street and 2nd Avenue in downtown San Mateo. The site has been home to a bunch, and I mean A BUNCH, of losers - but this time we've got a winner. I went the week it opened and have been at least once a month for either lunch or dinner. The chef used to be a 231 Ellsworth before it closed for remodeling and there are also some post-Postrio people on the management side of things. Each successive visit it gets better, although I didn't make it over during the holidays.
I'm terrible with describing decor and this place is really a must see to get the feel. It's got a bunch of crazy art hung on exposed brick walls, off-set with classic table settings on white table cloths. It spans 3 floors: a basement lounge/seating/bar area that we had dinner in the first time is my favorite but is usually not open (i've been told they also have small jazz shows down there occasionally). The ground floor has a bar, open kitchen, shell bar (strangely located RIGHT at the entrance) and some booth seating. Upstairs there are some private dining rooms, another bar (with fireplace and couches) and what seems like endless seating without feeling overwhelming.
they specialize in new orleans style food with a heavy accent on seafood but there are also some departures from that which are excellent. things that didn't work when i first started going have gotten better so i won't bore you with those details. my favorite choices have to be the desserts, there's not a bad selection in the bunch. if i had to suggest one for a first timer, i'd go with the beignets with warm chocolate since you won't find them anywhere else.
the wine list is better than any i've come across, hands down. the first page has a streamlined suggestion page that we always order from, and are always happy with. but if you like wine you'll be thrilled with the literal 'book' that follows this page. they are able to get a hold of some really small productions and old vintages.
the service is still the one question mark for me. it has been clueless (on our first visit, so i discount that one), efusive (to the point of being obnoxious), and quick (on an empty night dinner only took less than 45 minutes with the waitress running back and forth from our table). i have had some good nights too, and one great server, but this is always the one bad vibe at the end of the night.
BTW, a movie theatre and parking structure are currently under construction behind the restaurant which can make lunch a bit noisy and parking is therefore always a nightmare, but they do offer valet.
wow, i'm tired out - and hungry!
there are several places we go back to over and over again in San Mateo, which is the true measure of how good a restaurant is! most of these have been mentioned previously on this board, and i would love to hear some other to try by the way (i've been trying to get to Tombo for the Udon for weeks but they've been closed for the holidays):
- Pancho Villa which you mentioned
- Santa (B St and 8th or so) for amazing Ramen
- Kaimuki Grill (El Camino north of 3rd) for tuna poki, grilled items, and a great cold spinach dish (i forget the name)
- Little Sichuan (4th across from Draegers) for spicy Sichuan style food, the dry cooked green beans are out of this world, and the herbal chicken soup is even better than any Jewish grandmother could make!
- Saigon City (3rd near the train tracks) for inexpensive and very good Vietnamese, just ate there yesterday and it was better than ever (though the service is uninterested at best and the decor is nonexistent)
- Sinbad (4th near Draegers) for great hummus and other middle eastern delights. a bit pricey for their falafel, but everything i've tried has been good.
- Nawab (2nd across from Trags) for VERY good northern Indian, far better than the other places in town, and close to Amber down in Mountain View in my opinion. the spiced rack of lamb is phenomenal, the chicken vindaloo wonderful, the saag gosht so warm and satisfying. the service couldn't be nicer as well.
we've been to Kingfish twice, the first time the food was OK and the service was the absolute worst i have ever experienced - they did handle it well post-meal and sent us a generous credit, which we used later for a wonderful meal with excellent service. the decor here is fantastic, the outsider art collection is simply incredible, when they have music downstairs, its a great place to hang out for an hour or two on a weekend night and just groove to the blues or jazz and take in the wonderful art all around. that said, the food has not been WOW good, but solid and pleasing nonetheless. great spot for San Mateo's nightlife, so I hope it does well.
i haven't found a thai place that is worthy, nor sushi (yes, i've tried most of the seemingly hundreds of places in town and never been impressed), and wouldnt it be nice to have a french bistro along the lines of Le Charm or Bistro Clovis? otherwise, i think San Mateo is a great little food town. if you want fancy, Viognier is solid, but Pisces in Burlingame is better IMO (at least it was last time I was there several months ago, I heard they got a new chef and it has fallen off a bit).
re: brad kaplan
I had 30 mins for a dinner break on my dash down to Palo Alto earlier tonight, so thought I'd stop by Tombo. Boy was I disappointed to see the closed sign. So I headed over to Sinbad to check it out. Got the lamb shawerma sandwich (rolled in lavosh). It was decent for $5.50, although maybe too high a proportion of red onions that hadn't been marinated long enough. My one complaint is how long it took from order to service. Nine minutes seems excessive to slice the meat and roll up a sandwich when there are 4 people working behind the counter and hardly any customers. Definitely not a fast food mentality here.
re: Melanie Wong
thanks melanie, we haven't done much made-to-order there, and i haven't yet tried the shawarma. i guess it's not really one of my FAVORITES, but i felt obliged to include in my list since it is the best of its breed around here at least - further south, Falafel Drive In in San Jose is amazing for fresh hot falafel!