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Funky,Strange, Cheap, out-of-the way

i'm looking for diners in industrial areas, taco trucks in parking lots, places you are scared to venture, unlikely and hidden store fronts, old tiki lounges, trucker or biker spots,dive bars with a good burger, strange combinations, down-home, or out of control. Give me your strange, funky, grimey and cheap. I want to throw together a real FOOD ADVENTURE that will take me somewhere I have never been, or never thought to go. I don't care how far away it is.it can be anywhere in Nor-Cal. Thanks. Places like (the now gone) Mike's at the yard in Petaluma...

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  1. Trad'r Sam
    6150 Geary

    funky neighborhood tiki bar

    3 Replies
    1. re: sgwood415

      OMG, is that place still around? How about the "Persian Zan Zan" in the Haight --or whatever it was called -- is that still there, too? Another funky neighborhood bar with a low rent attempt at exotic ambiance.

      1. re: Sharuf

        Yes, both Trad'r Sams and Zam Zam are still around, although I'd hardly compare the two, what with the former being a cheesy noisy faux tiki place with a young college crowd (at least on the weekends) and frou-frou umbrella drinks, and the latter a pretty mellow place serving good-quality traditional cocktails. Then again I'm biased, as Zam Zam is my favorite local watering hole :)

        1. re: Sharuf

          The Persian Aub Zam Zam is still there physically but not spiritually - for me, there is no Zam Zam without Bruno who has passed away. The new owners cleaned the place up, offer a full range of beverages (vodka "martinis" - the heresy!), let the place get over crowded (the tables are open, for god's sake!!), ruined the jukebox and can't make a decent Bruno Martini to save their lives.

          That said, its cooler than any of the other bars in that neighborhood, if I hadn't been a regular during the Bruno years and experience perfection, I'd be a fan.

      2. Out of the way, somewhat hidden, strange combos (peanut butter and steak) and politically incorrect Al the Wop's in Locke.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wolfe

          My dad's been here- it sounds even stranger than you can imagine when you hear someone try to describe the place.

        2. Ah ... the story of my eating life ... where oh where to begin

          Well, this will get you started ...

          House of the Blessed Pupusa

          And since this is a Sunday only eating experience for dessert there are churros

          Stalking the Wily Richmond Hot Churro Guy

          In the area, though the torta report wasn't positive

          San Pablo: Food Barn - grocery, panaderia, carneceria ... 80 tortas 80 … with a sami-sosa torta

          And in Northern California on the if you are in Salinas there are the trucks ... links in this story will take you to the California board where Salinas info is reported.

          Outta the Back of a Truck

          There's just so much more my head spins.

          1. If you venture south...past Gilroy and take the 25 exit then get back on 101N; on the right hand side, you'll see Garlic World. In the parking lot is Lou's BBQ. Basically- some of the best BBQ ... It's real BBQ too; not the fake, lighter fluid stuff. You order at the truck and pay inside at the grocery. He makes his own sauce; good value too!

            1. Mariposa Cafeteria is a working man's favorite. The roast pork was a big hit with hounds .... haven't been there in a few years. You won't go away hungry from this place. The menu has a lot of old Chinese American faves and is open for breakfast and lunch only.


              1. For funky -Vladimir's Czechoslovakian -Eastern European cuisine in Inverness, CA.. this place is a real treasure..the bar scene during that late afternoon is something out of a movie..

                Radio Habana Social Club- on Valencia..the size of a walk in closet, good sangrias..just entertaining kinda place

                Truck- bar with good burgers SOMA on Folsom and 15th.. it's just a cool spot and has a story.

                Best Breakfast on Sat.- and some of the best Mexican food- el huarache loco stand alemany farmer market

                Serenader- on Lake Park in Oakland to get funky, live music, bar.

                Many more outdside the area just can't remember the names.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Lori SF

                  oh Hard knox cafe in Dog Patch was doing free lunch on Tuesday.. not sure if they still are but good soul food.

                  1. re: Lori SF

                    ooh ya, im always looking for live music and /or free food. Thank you!

                  2. re: Lori SF

                    I love Radio Habana! I'll add for sheer quirkiness but good food, Yucatasia, Mission between 18th and 19th, SF. A Vietnamese couple selling banh mi, running a Yucatecan restaurants which sells pizza:

                    1. re: Lori SF

                      Vladimir's is totally funky. Just don't try to bring a child or Vlad won't let you in. Seriously, I've seen him do it.

                      1. re: sgwood415

                        yes he is crusty..and I guess that is part of the charm

                        If up there just continue up Sir Frances Drake to Drakes Bay Oyster Farm - a historical farm with store and place to sit and eat oysters..

                      2. re: Lori SF

                        The atmosphere at Vladimir's is sort of fun but the food is awful. I might have a drink at the bar but I hope I never eat there again.


                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          never ate there but I was amused by the cast of characters and how he made the bloody mary..

                      3. Try the Temple Bar on University Ave in Berkeley. A funky tiki bar with Hawaiian food and music. The real deal, not a parody. Very nice people, too.

                        1. the front porch in the outer mission. carribean food, converted garage.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: potatoe

                            Converted latin tavern actually

                            1. re: sgwood415

                              Talk about a Emperor without clothes!

                              Virginia's tamales are no better than any other place in SF. The only difference is that she wanders the city's nightlife areas, selling them from her cooler. Yet for some reason, people constantly give her rave reviews. I assume its because most of her patrons are drunk, don't know what a good tamale tastes like or simply, are taken in by the "romance" of buying "underground" food.

                              Well, I know tamales and I've eaten Virginia's tamales sober. So I'll say this "They make great drunk food."

                              1. re: larochelle

                                I agree with you 1000%.
                                Alcohol and cognitive dissonance *have* to factor into any
                                explanation of her popularity (and possibly "the munchies"
                                for her Zeitgeist customers).

                                If memory serves, they are also overpriced.

                                Good Job!

                            2. If you do a search for "taco truck" you'll find dozens of posts. What you really should do it drive around a likely taco truck area and discover one yourself.

                              1. Top's Cafeteria in SF (near the old Goodman's Lumber), off Bayshore, on Dorman Avenue near Barneveld. It's totally hidden in an old industrial park. Old school lunch counter type place. Food's okay...some very good, some not.

                                If you want "real" adventure go to the Hell's Angels clubhouse in Dog Patch proper, ask them where they eat and follow them.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ML8000

                                  Or go to the San Francisco Motorcycle Club on a Thursday night which is when they let non-members in. Its really cool space and the drinks are tasty.

                                  1. re: larochelle

                                    thanks for all the information, I have got a lot to explore. The Bay area rocks

                                  2. re: ML8000

                                    perfect. I used to work near tops. I love all the little places around there

                                  3. Where is Juanita now that we need her?

                                    Ah Juanita's. I first met her in the early 70's when she was in Glen Ellen. I had the opportunity of waiting on tables because she was not there yet. I made $4 and when she got there she chewed me out bad!!! In only a way Juanita could chew someone out. I was a CHP officer and she did love cops. Her residence(?) in Aqua Caliente was on my beat and I would stop in and see her once in a while with all the ducks. She moved to Vallejo, then I want to say Fairfield (?) and then to Port Costa. PC was also on my beat and we stopped many times for coffee after our briefing but you could not walk in and just have coffee...she fed you like a king and made you take food home! As I recall from a conversation we had one starlit evening in PC, she was from Oklahoma and moved out here to Sausalito. She started feeding some fishermen in the morning before they went out. Then it got so big she opened the restaurant. I still have a pic somewhere's of her lying tummy down in a four legged bath tub full of bubbles with her tiara on and her large fanny sticking out of the water, and an autographed copy of her book. She was the Martha Stewart/Emeril of her day and if you ever had her prime rib (the size of a cow) dinner you would know. I could write a book on her! DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE SHE IS?

                                    6 Replies
                                      1. re: Lori SF

                                        I am sure that is not the same Juanita. She was an ebullient, large framed woman with
                                        a really kinky sense of humor. Her place northwest of City of Sonoma in a run down
                                        funky house. Several incarnations later she made it to Port Costa. I am afraid she is no longer in the restaurant business.

                                      2. re: wolfe

                                        There was a roast for her this year. She is 83. Pictures in links

                                        The Chowhound Trail ... last mention 2004

                                        Is Santa Cruz burning? Where is Juanita?

                                        Juanita Musson need your help!

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          any more ADVENTURES in the East Bay area? Im really trying to explore that area. BBQ? Ribs? specific taco stands? Thanks for all the help so far.

                                          1. re: Carnivore

                                            How about the New Zealander for a unique hamburger? (and HUGE) I'm sure I'm leaving something out but here's a list of ingredients: melted cheese, grilled onions, tomato, pickled beet, ham, burger, pineapple, etc.... Here's a link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/34076

                                          2. re: rworange

                                            any special things happening, or good places to go on Tuesdays?

                                        2. You probably know, but I wanted to know in case you didn't that Mike's at the Crossroads is still in Cotati. I haven't ever been to Mike's at the Yard, so I don't know how it compares, but the Cotati location still cooks up a mean burger.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

                                            Mikes in Cotati is bomb. I just tried it for the first time today. Reasonable prices, not as cool as at the yard, but definatly a mean burger. Really top notch. I mean the best i have had in Norcal. grilled onions are key

                                          2. Hogan's Diner/Bar in the Sotuh City produce terminal:


                                            Monte Carlo cafe at 3rd and Yosemite in the Bay View for Lousiana home coooking par excelence: