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Sep 22, 2006 03:10 AM

First Visit to Gallo Giro in San Jose

After my ramen dinner on Monday, I had no hope of making much progress on 101 southbound. Instead I took King Road south to the new shopping center on Story Road anchored by Target. Gallo Giro has opened here too, the first of this SoCal chain's branches in the Bay Area. It seems much cleaner than the Santa Ana original that I used to frequent, maybe that's the newness shining through. Also, the staff are more comfortable dealing in English here.

My first reaction to the Aguas Frescas counter was let-down. Who needs limon, tamarindo or naranja?!? Bring on guayaba, papaya, mango, and other exotica! I ordered a mamey licuado and so did everyone ahead of me in line. Hopefully the management figures this out and doesn't deprive us of what's served down south. Not that I'm that crazy enamored with mamey, I was just happy that another flavor was available. Btw, you can ask for a taste before choosing.

Image of aguas frescas counter -

There are a number of tables outside, as well as seating inside. With time to kill, I took a seat to enjoy my drink. I also made a trip to the salsa bar to taste the offerings. The sight of the pico de gallo made me smile, yes, I remember that deadly concoction with more than half of its proportion made up of chopped fresh jalapeños. And, it tasted just the same with red, ripe tomatoes and head-blowing-off heat. Likewise, the picosa (hotter still!), rojo, and verde.

I also watched the guy at the torta station making humongous sandwiches. More memories came flooding back, especially when I spotted his pile of braised onions and carrots, one of the unique add-ins here. No strawberry tamales here, and the dried-out looking piña tamales under the heat lamp didn't look too appealing. But I'll hit it up for something savory the next time I pass this way at meal time.

Anyone else tried it yet?

Heads up for Gallo Giro -

P.S. This is posted here because Gallo Giro is not a national or multi-state regional chain.

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  1. Gawd I wish someone would open one of these in Tokyo, well maybe more than one, we need it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: steamer

      And, SF could use a decent ramen shop. (vbg)

    2. Maybe I'll have to take a long lunch and venture there from Santa Clara. Any chance you've tried their baked goods?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mari

        The tres leches cake had been highly recommended to me as the best in Southern California when I was visiting Santa Ana. Tried it then and thought it was awful, mostly for the fake cream topping. Looking in the case at the decorated cakes in San Jose, the same ultra-white frosting is on most of the them, so I stay away. I glanced at the pan dulce shelves but nothing called to me.

        Telera type rolls are used for the tortas. They're bigger than the average up here and so broad that they're nearly round. They have a floury top and a bit more airy texture than I'm accustomed to. They make a huge torta.

      2. I love the Santa Anna location. Wish they had one in S.F. And a good version of the Southern California Mexican/Surfer chicken stand while we're at it.

        1. Last week I stopped mid-day at Gallo Giro to get an agua fresca again. Same flavor selection with those silly lemon or orange, and the standard horchata, jamaica, and tamarindo. Since I had mamey last time, I got the fresa (strawberry). Without a mob, I had a chance to ask whether mango, papaya, or sandia listed on the flavor sign were available or had ever been offered here. The counter girl said, "no, not so far". This is getting discouraging.

          On the plus side, my mother approved of the rest room and asked me to inform my siblings of the whereabouts so that they can stop here with her when needed. Also, I took a closer look at the pan dulce, and the items looked much better to me this time. Fresher and not so dried out, don't know if it's me or the bakers have gotten better.

          1. I went on Saturday since I was in the area and made a special trek to El Gallo Giro. The atmosphere is a little chain-y, well it is a chain, but the menu looked promising. They had beef soup, fideo soup with chicken, pozole, fried tacos and an assortment of meat for tacos (buche, al pastor, carnitas, carne asada, tripitas, barbacos).

            I ordered the plate of 3 tacos each served on 2 regular size tortillas (like La Taqueria) and it came with rice and beans ($8). The rice looked bad and it was flavorless. However, the barbacoa and carnitas were delicious. They are very generous with their meat servings0 The barbacoa was slow-cooked beef and it was very good. I've never seen barbacoa in SF and I wish I could try another version of it. The carne asada was salty and I just couldn't eat it. The salsa bar was limited to one green salsa and one red chipotle salsa.

            The aguas frescas looked promising so I sampled a few. They were too sugary for my taste and mostly tasted on water + sugar + a little fruit flavor. The mamey tasted like milk + sugar. I also tried the atole de coco (interesting).

            I did buy bread and there were trays that were fresh out of the oven (maybe because it was Saturday). The conchas and another variety were above average, or at least better than the average pan dulce I find in SF. I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to visit El Gallo Giro from SF, but I'd go back for barbacoa and carnitas if I were within a 15 minute drive.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Mari

              BaraXan found some lamb barbacoa at the Alemany Farmers Market.
              Beef baracoa is on the menus of Chipotle and Tropisueno.

              1. re: wolfe

                Thanks for reminding me of Tropisueno. I went to El Gallo Giro after the SAP Open and Chipotle is offering free burritos to ticket holders this week - I'll have to check out the barbacoa!

                1. re: Mari

                  I went back again today to take my parents from SF and they both liked it. We each had the 3 taco + rice + beans plate for $7. I had 2 barbacoa (beef) tacos and a carnitas taco, although I couldn't finish the latter. I didn't know that barbacoa is typically served with a side of consome, so we asked for some on the side and I poured a bit on the tacos. The consome rather fatty, so I don't know that I would order it other than to pour over the barbacoa. The rice was better this time as well. The orange agua fresca was good and the jamaica was even better since it wasn't too sweet. Barbacoa and a Fraiche yogurt with ollaliberry topping made for a good Saturday.

                  I did notice that there's a restaurant in the mall across the street (on Story) called Barbacoa y Consome, so that might be worth checking out in the future. I still need to check out the barbacoa at Tropisueno.

                  1. re: Mari

                    "I did notice that there's a restaurant in the mall across the street (on Story) called Barbacoa y Consome"

                    > Wow I am flabbergasted no one has followed up on this... the name simply screams Chow treasure.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Yeah, I wish some SJ hounds would check out the barbacoa in the south bay. It seems there are a number of places down that way.

                      1. re: rworange

                        You know people whine that there is no serious regional Mexican in the South Bay... or even in the Bay Area... but if people don't have the chowdar tuned to swarm places with names like Barbacoa y Consome... then its never going to happen. But put up a fancy space serving up cheap faux carne asada tacos and I am sure people will show up in droves.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Ah, are you referring to the new Nopalito? Actually, I think that type of place can be good. If it introduces people to food they might not otherwise try and I applaud any Mexican restaurant of any class that strays from the very well-known dishes.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Menu looks decent as long as they execute... which has been the problem with the Bay Area "high end" Mexican places. You got to go in baby steps... and if I were starting a restaurant my menu would probably have many items in common with Nopalito.

                            I have reiterated it before... I think the Bay Area could steal some of Chicago & LA's Mex protagonism based on locally available ingredients. Long before Chez Pannisse was ever dreamed up... common Mexicans where shopping for the freshest, seasonal ingredients for the days meal at the traditional mercados... coming up with dishes based on what was cheap (and by extension.. in season, ripe & abundant).... Mexican culinary traditions are robust enough that they can absorb almost any ingredient from anywhere in the world without losing identity.

                            But the Bay Area foodies (and I mean to include the non-Chowish wannabe foodies who many nice restaurants depend on) need to drop their chauvinistic attitudes towards Mexican cuisine and not take the approach that if it uses local, organic, sustainable ingredients its now been "Cal-Mexed" and not as authentic.

                            At the same time, mediocre restaurateurs can't just put together a stylish room and cite all the local food producers that the wannabe foodies get hot & bothered over... and produce mediocre meals.. they have to deliver as well... and I think that means keeping menus trim & not including dishes like Carnitas & Guacamole which you know the wannabes will gravitate towards... rather than branching out to the interesting stuff.

                            The crappy Margarita & Carnitas Quesadilla establishments exist & flourish because local consumers enable them in a perverse co-dependence triangle.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Mexico DF in SF fits into that nice restaurant category, but I had some of the best tacos in a long time during their happy hour last week. The chicken tacos were so good that I had 2 orders. At $5 for two tacos you'll have a great dinner. Their tortillas are also some of the better ones I've encountered recently. There's a woman there dedicated to making their tortillas in-house. The tacos were filled with "Pollo en Salsa Verde – Fulton Valley Chicken with Poblano, Jalapeños and Tomatillo Sauce".

                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                            If El Tule still exists, it is a good rendition of oaxacan food in san jose.

                            El Tule
                            5440 Thornwood Dr Ste I, San Jose, CA 95123

                          3. re: rworange

                            Any suggestions on locations? I'll be down in San Jose this weekend, I could grab Mexican for one of my meals.

                  2. re: Mari

                    Thanks for reporting back. They make a big deal about the carnitas on the website. I'll give that a try if I'm in the area.

                    El Gallo Giro
                    1720 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122