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One Week in San Carlos (sort of long)

I came to San Carlos from Dallas one week ago for a three day business trip and ended up being stuck there for a week due to DFW airport being closed and my flight being cancelled.

While I was there, I got to experience a bit of the culinary offerings and was pleased on a number of occasions.

Monday afternoon, we rolled in and ate lunch at Baja Fresh. Not bad for "fast food" tacos, and much better than Taco Hell, in my opinion. I've had BF before, in Pennsylvania, and it was about the same. Dinner was at TGIFridays (we didn't have any control over where we ate, as someone with zero adventurous appetite was in charge, so please forgive me).

Tuesday evening, a group of us ate at The Vans, in Belmont. Beautiful views and stellar service. I started off with a very flavorful french onion soup. That was followed by rack of lamb, cooked rare...exactly how I ordered it. Dessert was a rich and tasty chocolate mousse.

Wednesday was spent in semi-panic, as flights were cancelled and I scrambled for a rental car and hotel room until the flight I was rebooked on (Saturday...yes, the first seat available was on Saturday) left. I ended up back in San Carlos again, as all the rooms near the airport were booked solid by other stranded passengers. Dinner was unmentionable...I was starving.

Thing started looking up on the food front on Thursday. The non-adventurous eater had left, so there were way more options to choose from. We ate lunch at Kaya BBQ & Tofu in San Carlos. The kimchi was slightly spicy and very garlicky. Tasty for sure. I had the short rib box lunch, which came with 5-6 hunks of tasty marinated and grilled shortrib, a bowl of white rice, cabbage salad with some sort of mustardy dressing, bean sprouts, broccoli with sesame and fish cake. All was pretty tasty and filling, but nothing that made me go "wow!".
We chose sushi for dinner and went to Ozuma (sp?) on the corner of Arroyo and Laurel. It's a small, corner place and they jam a lot of people in there. The sushi was fantastic, best I've ever had in my life and very reasonably priced. The service was very slow. Two waitresses took care of the entire place, plus a ton of takeout orders. We ordered salmon, hamachi, amaebi (with fried head), uni, hirame, hotate and unagi nigiri. The fish was extremely fresh, although the pieces were pretty large and difficult to eat in one bite. For dessert, we stopped down the street at a frozen yogurt place (I cannot for the life of me remember the name...something like Heaven, or Honest). The yogurt was tart and refreshing.

Friday, we hit Kabul in SC for Afghani kebabs. I chose the combo lamb and and chicken kebab which was a huge amount of food, served with spiced basmati rice, salad and Afghani bread, which was light and wonderful. We drove down to Monterey to see some sights, walked around Carmel and hit Roundtable Pizza in Belmont for dinner. The pizza was hot, but was just ok. I'm used to the style of pizza they serve in the NorthEast, which is completely different.

Saturday, before leaving for the airport, we checked out Santorini for Greek wraps. Again, it was a tasty meal. I had the felafel wrap, which included felafel, lettuce, tomato and tahini. Extremely flavorful and a bit messy. It was served with potato chips that had been drizzled with either vinegar or lemon...not sure which.

I finally caught a delayed flight out of San Jose on Saturday night. I left with a full belly and a smile on my face, due to how much good food I had experienced. It definitely made up for being stranded for three extra days!

I'll be back out in San Carlos at the end of this month. Any other recommendations for local places to eat?

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  1. Here are a few of my favorite San Carlos spots:
    Sirayvah Organic Thai. It is on El Camino (on the way to Kabul). The food here is a little formal (as in expensive) but the quality is fantastic. The dishes are beautifully prepared and use the freshest, organic ingredients around. Plus the dining room is gorgeous. I also like the very informal Depot (at the train station) for breakfast.
    Nothing too fancy here, just good basics, all prepared well. The owner's name is Mary and she is a delightful person who will make you feel very much at home.
    I also like pizza by the slice at Speedaria. Oh yeah, don't forget about Sneakers for a decent burger and several delicious beers on tap.

    4 Replies
    1. re: paternite

      We drove by Sirayvah several times, and I was definitely intrigued. Hopefully, we'll get the chance to go there.
      Where is Speedaria?
      I went to Sneakers when I was in San Carlos in the beginning of June. The burger was very good, but was huge. I couldn't finish it all! Thought their garlic fries were really good too.

      1. re: QueenB

        Welcome to San Carlos!

        Speederia is on Laurel, the "main drag" of San Carlos. The best pizza on the peninsula.

        Also worth trying in San Carlos:

        Azure - a new high-end place on El Camino @ San Carlos Ave.
        Yan's Garden has the most consistently reliable Chinese food (Laurel)
        Aya Sushi (Holly) is also one of the better sushi places in town.
        Giuliana's is a big hearty Italian kind of place, family-owned (Laurel)
        Laurel St Cafe - run by a small French family, features crepes, sandwiches, salads, and on weekend evenings they have sturdy classics like boeuf bourguignon.
        Mi Ranchito (Laurel) and Charrito (Holly) are the best taquerias in town, in my opinion. Metate has a huge lard load and Tere's serves old meats.
        Marvin Gardens (Old County Rd, Belmont) is a nice beer garden.
        "Harmony" is the name of the organic yogurt shop you enjoyed. It's great.

        1. re: orezscu

          I highly recommend Aya sushi as well. Its one of my favorites.This is the same Owner as Kaya (peter is really cool).
          Dont forget PUDLEYS for a great burger on El Camino.
          Some recommendations for Town have been around but I have never eaten ther.

          1. re: GreenLightJerky

            I had visited Aya on a previous trip and found it very fresh and tasty, but definitely more expensive than Ozuma. I had the chirashi at Aya and it was delicious.

            Oh, we also went to Sneakers for huge burgers one night, that was pretty good too, but noisy.

    2. Hi, QueenB! Thanks for the report. I live in the area and haven't tried all of the places you visited.

      I'd second Sirayvah for good Thai food. And I'd suggest Rihab's on El Camino in Belmont for a simple lunch (they close at 4 p.m. and on Mondays) of excellent bread, and cooked-to-order shawarma and kebab. For salads and crepes, Laurel Street Cafe. For a very nice retro-Continental dinner and excellent souffles, Iron Gate in Belmont. If you can get a car, drive to downtown San Mateo for Chinese food: Joy Luck for dimsum or dinner, Chef Wai, Happy Cafe, or Everyday Beijing--all authentic stuff. Excellent ramen, too, at Himawari or Santa. If you search on this board, you'll find posts on all of these .

      I hope you enjoy at least one of these places as much as I enjoyed the barbecue in Texas. (Is there anything better than City Market in Luling? Hard to imagine.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: pilinut

        Thank you for all of the suggestions. I'll hopefully have the time to check some of them out!
        I haven't been down to Luling yet, but I've heard great things!

      2. La Creola on El Camino (a couple blocks north of San Carlos Ave) is good for Cajun-Creole.

        3 Replies
        1. re: brokergal

          creola is great... tastes pretty darn close to what I have had in new orleans

          1. re: brokergal

            What are the prices like there? For some reason, my boss thought they were a pricey place, so we didn't go there.

            1. re: QueenB

              i know they do a 3 couse lunch special for about $16 ... but it is fairly reasonably priced

          2. Don't forget the farmers market on Thursday nights!! right on Laurel St. can't miss it! For pizza, try Village Host in Belmont...too bad bell market closed, I really liked their sandwiches!! I hear that San Remo's is excellent for pizza...and there's always Trader Joe's!

            san carlos is a small town, but we got some good stuff!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: calisummer

              Isnt Village Host an old school mini chain? I ate at one in Burlingame once and it was....not good...

              1. re: tomritza

                yep... belmont, burlingame, san luis obisbo and aptos

            2. Laurel Street Cafe and Speederia - both in downtow SC.

              1. You have to, just have to try Speederia Pizza on Laurel!!

                14 Replies
                1. re: ceekskat

                  Speederia Pizza gets 3 mentions here. Can someone describe it? What style et al.
                  With 3 mentions, I am intrigued but sooooooo gunshy about Bay Area pizza based on numerous bad experiences.

                  1. re: tomritza

                    Here's my post on Speederia. It's thin crust, NY style. Grab a slice and let us know what you think.

                    Speederia Pizzeria
                    711 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                    1. re: tomritza

                      The closest thing to a NY pizza by the slice place you'll find in the Bay Area. Very good.

                      1. re: tomritza

                        Speederia is a thin crust pizza really similar to what folks would label as NY style. They're big enough that you can fold the slices. I would strongly recommend the 2 slices+soda for $6 deal and eating there (as opposed to getting the whole pie and taking it home). Every time I've gotten the whole pie and brought it home, the pizza's cooled down enough that it's just not as good as when it's piping hot (even though I only live 5 minutes away in the Hills).

                        For folks that are into pizzas with thicker crusts, I would strongly recommend Rainbow Pizza. It's on the border of San Mateo and Belmont in the Crystal Springs complex. Their italian and greek food are really good as well. It's definitely not a diet place as their portions are on the huge side.

                        1. re: frellis

                          I had winced at the idea of Roundtable Pizza when there are so many much better alternatives around. Don't forget Toto's Pizza just up the road in Belmont too, though I've not been to that location before. Be sure to order the extra garlic.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            At least it wasn't Mountain Mike's. I've been to the Belmont location of Toto (for pickup) and it's a lot cleaner and much less crowded than the San Bruno location. I agree the extra garlic is almost a necessity. My only problem with Toto's is for the thick crust version, they don't automatically up the amount of cheese and toppings. So with the thick crust, it just feels like you're eating more dough.

                            Comparing Toto's thick crust pizza versus Rainbow Pizza, I prefer Rainbow Pizza. Rainbow's *much* more liberal with their toppings and cheese. I highly recommend #2 (Greek Pizza).

                            1. re: frellis

                              Thanks for the advice, will try to get over to Rainbow to try it. Glad to have you posting again!

                              EDITED: does this look like the right address for Rainbow?

                              Rainbow Pizza
                              112 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402

                              Toto's Pizzeria
                              1250 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Rainbow pizzas are a world apart from Speederia - they're great, don't get me wrong. Mountains of toppings are applied with two fists, a single slice is a full meal. Each slice probably weighs a pound if you do it up right with sausage and peppers. Great crust - big fat puffy rim, holds up well on bottom.

                                I, too, was saddened to hear about the Round Table thing. Definitely go to Speederia or Rainbow over the chains...the Village Host is so-so, pretty standard California beer-and-little-league fare. Would love to hear anything about the Belmont Toto's.

                                1. re: orezscu

                                  I'm also amazed there's no talk of Beli Deli -- are we hoping to keep it a secret, since the lines are already out the door every lunchtime?

                                  1. re: orezscu

                                    Ok, spill please. Tell us about Beli Deli.

                                    And, here's a link for Gracie's Delectables while we're at it. Haven't tried it but the turkey san sounds wonderful, and I don't even like turkey!

                                    Beli Deli
                                    1301 6th Ave, Belmont, CA 94002

                                    Gracie's Delectables
                                    902 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Beli's only the best place in the tri-city area for a deli sandwich! It's not that they're doing radical or inventive stuff, but once you go there you realize how bland most sandwiches you get truly are. Go early at lunchtime. Take the O'Neil exit west off of El Camino (it's a light, one south of Ralston). Get the garlic mayonnaise (standard).

                            2. re: Melanie Wong

                              Oh yes, Speederia it will be. I can walk there from the hotel if I have to. It sounds like pizza perfection to me.
                              I was not impressed with Roundtable at all, but it was one of those situations where I was really hungry, and it was 10PM.
                              Don't wince too much, Melanie! :-)

                              1. re: QueenB

                                And for Iraqi style flatbreads and savory snacks, try Rihab's as others have recommended. Especially good to tote on the plane for an inflight meal.

                                Laurel Street Cafe for crepes.

                                Good Bites Cafe
                                1504 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002

                                laurel street cafe
                                741 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Thanks Melanie! Great advice on the plane food. I'm always looking for something to take on the plane, since I always seem to be stuck on the last flight out of SJC to DFW, which doesn't get me home until 11pm. I always end up with an extremely expensive sandwich from the airport, but a kebab sounds much, much better.

                      2. i have gone to speederia, and as stated, it is much better to eat it there... also, further up on El Camino (near Longs) there is jersey joes... pretty close to what you might get in Philly

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Mel

                          Here's my report on Jersey Joe's, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/355976 . What do you usually order?

                          Jersey Joe's Hoagies
                          21 El Camino Real, San Carlos, CA 94070

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I'll have to check it out. I did look at it, while we were in that shopping center, but passed it up for Korean and Afghani.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              usually my hubby (native philly guy) orders for me... it is the cheesesteak with onions and provolone cheese

                          2. Has anyone tried Amanecer on San Carlos Ave.? We don't go there for the Mexican food though many others are having that when we've been there. We like the Caribbean--like the fish in the banana leaf and the tapas. Any feedback please?