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Feb 23, 2002 03:43 PM

Chow spots on Hesperian (San Lorenzo, Hayward)

  • r

I was avoiding rush hour traffic on 880 by cruising down Hesperian, and spotted an interesting cluster of ethnic eats.

I was wondering if anyone knew anything about Manilla Garden (stip mall on the south-east corner of Hesperian and West A St.) (sign on the window said "Seafood Buffet), or a Mexican place (I didn't catch the name but it had a "grand opening" sign so I'm assuming it's new) a couple of blocks north on the east side that was advertising menudo and birria (a sign of authenticity). There were a couple of other interesting, authentically downscale-looking places in the couple of blocks heading north from there (now escaping me -- obviously I need a note pad on the visor of the ChowCruiser).

Is anyone (Shep?) familiar with the chow on this stretch?

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  1. This is a ways off Hesperian, but it might come in handy.

    A few minutes west of Mission on Harder Rd in Hayward, there is a Taqueria Castillito that is pretty good. We stopped there once while in Hayward for some reason or another and they had a good torta al pastor. They advertise Al Pastor (and Quesadillas Suiza) on their sign, which always seems like a good omen.

    I'm not sure what the best way there from Hesperian is. I had to dig out the Thomas Guide just to remember where the place was (!)


    1 Reply
    1. re: patrick
      Shep aka 2 Cheap Hungry Guys

      Harder is off Jackson street, just east of 880. from Hesperian and A Street, you could cruise east up A, past Carmen's BBQ on the right and a good mariscos truck on the left, under 880, and take a right at the first major intersection east of the freeway, by Costco. This street traverses a residential neighborhood, crosses Winton by a nice little park and the police station, and continues to Jackson, where it runs directly into Harder. Or, if you really like traffic, just go south on Hesperian to 92, then east on 92 which turns into Jackson, and Harder is the first intersection after you cross 880.
      I've mostly thought of Harder as very fast food, but there are a couple of places further up, like around the little strip mall at Mocine, that might yield hidden treasure. Good luck to you who venture there.
      Thanks, Ruth, for the pho report. I will try this place ASAP, if not sooner.


    2. I have eaten at Manilla Garden several times. Their dinner buffet is pretty good. It has authentic filipino dishes. I think they change their menus sometimes. The seafood is just buffet quality(not gourmet) consist of crabs, clams, fish (salmon)and oyster. I like the filipino dishes such as their sour soup, noodles (similar to chowmein), kare kare (oxtail in peanut sauce) and their bbq meats.

      I also had lunch buffet on Friday and it was quite memorable although they do not offer any seafood. I thought it was better than the dinner because there are more traditional dishes. Their halo-halo is also good.

      Next door is Abacus which is also a good chinese restaurant.

      If you go the other direction toward Chabot but on the other side is another chinese restaurant called GRAND TAIPEI which has some specialty dishes (in chinese menu) that are unique such as bamboo shoot with chili, beef with chili pepper, hot sour soup.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Han Lukito

        Thanks for the info, Han!

        I had some time this afternoon, so I wandered back to that stretch of Hesperian to check out the places I had noted.

        As you said, Manila Garden offers only buffet -- quite reasonable at $5.95/person for adults and $3.95 for children for the "daily" buffet and $11 or $12 for the seafood buffet. The food did indeed look quite authentic -- were the deep-fried small whole fish the smelts other people have been talking about? I was the only non-Asian in the place when I was checking it out.

        They also have karaoke and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights when they are open until 2 a.m. Sounds like it might be fun.

        Manila Garden
        20500-E Hesperian (at West A Street)

        I decided I wasn't in the mood for Filipino buffet food (which is kind of heavy) so I headed down to the Mexican place:

        El Marinero Restaurant
        18444 Hesperian
        San Lorenzo

        It was mid-afternoon, and the place was deserted -- I stood at the cash register and perused the menu for a few minutes and no one appeared. The menu appeared to be fairly standard: combo plates, etc. They do feature "birria de chivo" and "fresh house desserts." Although the menu didn't especially entice me, even empty the place had a nice vibe to it -- if I had been in the mood for Mexican I would have hollered for service, but I just took a card and sneaked out (to the parking lot where an Italian guy who claimed to be a rep for Gianni Versace in the Bay Area for a trade show tried to sell me three Versace leather jackets for the price of one -- clearly he was not a fashion sales rep or he would have taken one look at my clothes and realized that not only had I never owned a piece of designer clothing in my life, but I had no desire to).

        I headed up Hesperian to two other places that had looked promising: Zorba's Deli and Pho Palace. Despite the fact that there's a fairly large Greek community in that part of the East Bay, Zorba's is just a standard deli -- I didn't notice anything Greek about it. So I walked a couple of doors down and finally hit chow pay dirt.

        Pho Palace is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area. Excellent pho, with all the trimmings, in both small (large) and large (huge) sizes ($4.50-$4.95 for the small and a dollar more for the large). Plus Banh Mi! A little more expensive and as transcendant as Saigon Sandwich, but still quite good and reasonably priced at $2.75 (especially since they seem to have a bit more meat in them). Plus the full complement of rice plates and bun and appetizers. Plus 20 different flavors of tapioca drinks (avocado???). Plus more kinds of drinks than I can even remember (salty plum and lemon sodas, herbal drinks, etc.). Plus American sandwiches and bagels [g]. Plus shelves with all kinds of packaged snacks. All in a plain but pleasantly spacious and clean setting.

        I had a small (still unfinishable by me) pho with rare beef and meatballs. Good broth (not too much anise, which I'm not fond of), nicely flavorful meats and noodles that retained a good texture until almost the end. I also ordered the cold shrimp rolls, which were good but not great -- large and well made with the transparent rice paper, but not much shrimp flavor. The noodles in this also had the virtue of being just right -- neither gummy nor rubbery.

        I ordered the banh mi to go, and tried to order the other item that a closer reading of the menu had turned up: deep-fried quail at $2.75 each. Unfortunately they were out of them, but maybe that just means I'll have to go back and order one when I'm not to stuffed to eat it hot out of the frier.

        Pho Palace
        17859 Hesperian
        San Lorenzo
        10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily -- delivery for orders over $20.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler
          Nathan Landau

          With this blank spot getting filled in, anybody ready to take on the city of San Pablo? I see taquerias and restaurants there along 23rd St. (that extends into Richmond), Market, and Rumrill. But I'm always there early in the morning when places aren't open yet or I'm not quite ready for them.

          1. re: Nathan Landau

            The only restaurant I know about on that stretch is Portumex (on 23rd, between MacDonald and Richmond High), which has an excellent reputation but I've never tried it.

            Gordon Wing is our resident expert on Richmond, maybe he can shed some light on this chow black hole!

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            The Manila garden sometimes are inconsistent in their buffet offerings. I remembered one lunch had a lot of choices but another time was not very enticing. Maybe it was Friday.

            The Pho place you mentioned is not one that I go for pho. I don't think they got a good pho since I tried them twice alreadyand was not impressed. But I enjoyed their rice plate. And their fried squab is very tasty for only $2.00 or cheaper.

            Also, if you search for san leandro posts, you'll find the little korean place I mentioned which has the best Kan Pong Chicken (fried chicken with spicy coatings) I think is the best chicken I have ever tasted. At that place, this is the only dish that I would recommend and well worth it for that one dish. The others are just plain joe.

            1. re: Han Lukito
              Shep aka 2 Cheap Hungry Guys

              My dentist's assistant, who lived on A street until last week, reports that Manila Garden no longer features the garlic rice & choice-of-meat with eggs breakfasts, that to me were the main attraction. They used to have really good pan-fried fish, though.

              BUT, the saving grace is the presence in this little stripmall of famous World's Faire Donuts, my personal favorite donut shop in the Bay. They're big, they're tasty, and if you get 'em fresh and warm with a carton of milk, you're doing better than the folks in about 49 and-a-half other states right about now.


              1. re: Shep aka 2 Cheap Hungry Guys

                I noticed that donut shop (although I thought it was "World's Fare") and almost tried it. Thanks for the tip, Shep!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  World's Fare was a food court decades ago further down on Hesperian (next to thrifty). when the food court shut down, the donut section ended up here with the World's Fare name attached so old patrons could find them.

            2. re: Ruth Lafler

              I did a report a while ago about Pho Palace. I thought their pho was decent, and agree with you that the shrimp roll is on the bland side. But I really enjoyed their won ton noodle soup. Good flavorful broth, with very "crunchy" egg noodle and good won tons.

              I want to try their beef stew noodle soup next time, anybody had that yet?

              1. re: Wendy Lai

                Now that I knew what to look for, I found your report.

                It seems we agree -- thanks for the tip about the wonton soup. I actually prefer egg-noodle soups to rice vermicelli.

                The banh mi I brought home grew on me -- the meat was quite flavorful. I'll bet if I asked for an extra dollop of veggies (ummm, carrots and cilantro!) it would be perfect.

                Anything else worth eating on in San Lorenzo?

          3. Twelve years later, anything new in San Lorenzo along Hesperian?

            4 Replies
              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                I'm always tempted to stop at Big Jorge's Hollow Leg, though I guess that's further south, in Hayward.

                  1. re: elainew

                    not sure when you last went there. new owners awhile ago. chicken was dry and tastleless when i went years ago.