Hayward: Another vote for Val's . . . it's been there forever, and hasn't changed -- and it better not!
Carmen's on A Street has *great* barbecue; so does Everett & Jones, also on A. Carmen's is on the west side of 880; E&J is on the esat side. Carmen's is more Jamaican influenced; E&J is more American South. Depends on one's mood, but we generally opt for Carmen.
But truly "great" food means leaving Hayward and Castro Valley . . .
Pickin's are slim but:
Lime Leaf - probably the best Thai in CV, located in the Castro Village. I haven't tried the other two, but friends have said they're not as good.
Pyzanno's - home of the world champion pizza thrower. Decent thin crust pizza.
Val's in Hayward - second the recommendation. nothing fancy or foo foo.
HK BBQ - good cantonese roast duch and pig.
Willow Park Paradiso is nice, but the San Leandro location is better, IMHO.
For a cheap steak, El Ranco is pretty good.
Palomares Cafe wasn't too bad for Mediterrean, but I haven't been there is 2 years.
Castro Valley is less than enticing but there are some gems:
Burrito Loco on Redwood Road (Albertson's mall) for basic Mexican but with excellent salsas and tender chicken tacos.
Willow Park Paradiso on Redwood Road heading past Proctor Elementary School -- sister restaurant to Paradiso's in San Leandro (which has crashed and burned). While the SL location seems to be reeling, the Castro Valley restaurant keeps improving with a focus on beef and seafood.
Sunflower Cafe and Carree Outee on Castro Valley Blvd. -- both restaurants serve acceptable Chinese food of the mainstream variety. CO is a pick up and eat at home place. Sunflower has a tiny eating space.
Rudy's Donuts on CV Blvd. -- Castro Valley favorite; just good old fashioned donuts.
Molcajetes on Redwood Road near Trader Joes -- home style Mexican with homemade corn tortillas and pretty good Sopa Azteca.
Thai -- Castro Valley has recently become the home to three new Thai restaurants. I've only tried the one in Castro Valley Village, but the one on Castro Valley Blvd (Thai Hut) has received some good notice on YELP. I prefer Thai Garden in Hayward on Mission.
Speaking of Hayward: Neumanalis on B Street serves decent Cal-Med food; kinda pricey and service is spotty but worth a try.
Hope this helps,
There is a good Hong Kong BBQ accross from BART on Castro Valley Blvd IIRC. The roast duck is one of the best around. Very casual place but their roast meats are really good.
Hayward has many options that I know and by no means a wasteland if one has the knowledge. Han Yang on Mission is very good Korean. For Vietnamese, there is one on Hesperian across from Bank of the West. Check my previous review- do search on hayward. Great Taipei is another good one. The trick is to know which dishes to order- thus check past reviews. Manila Garden also on Hesperian and A st is great for Filipino lunch buffet.
For Asian buffet, go to China AA on Mission. Late afternoon, has grilled NY steak grilled on the spot. Lunch has grilled chops. Many excellent tasty dishes that any hounds will enjoy for a mere $7 at lunch.