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Friday night traffic on peninsula - will I make it to Salinas for tacos?

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I am driving to Santa Barbara tomorrow evening from San Francisco. I'm hoping to leave at about 5:15 from San Francisco, probably taking 280 to 85 to 101 (though open to better routes if there are any).

I am hoping to make it to Salinas by dinner time so I can get food there (see link to post on California board)....but I want to know if you think traffic will allow me to actually get to Salinas in time. Or should I plan to get dinner in the peninsula instead to avoid congestion in the San Jose/Peninsula area? If so, where would be a good, cheap, fast place?

Any advice would be appreciated, or any favorite food stops for this drive.....

Here's link on CA board: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512828

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  1. It's quite a long drive just to Salinas without traffic. Depending on where you are starting in San Francisco, and depending on the unpredictable Friday evening traffic, you might make it at a decent hour, but then again you might not. Your chosen route is your best bet in terms of traffic and distance.

    However, you might enjoy getting Chinese food in Millbrae (a handful of choices) near 101 and let traffic thin out before you hit the road. Or Vietnamese food in MIllbrae: Le Petite Camille on El Camino Real. Or Hong Kong style food at Blue Sky Cafe in Belmont.

    -----
    Broadway Bistro
    349 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

    Cafe Salina
    235 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

    Blue Sky Cafe
    1625 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA

    La Petite Camille
    170 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

    5 Replies
    1. re: Benny Choi

      I definitely want to make it farther than Millbrae before eating, since it'd be nice to sort of split up the drive a bit more. If there is a lot of traffic, I guess some suggestions further south would be good, maybe closer to San Jose.

      I am pretty serious about getting onto 280 at about 5:15 (or perhaps even earlier, like 5 PM) so without traffic, it shouldn't be more than 2 hours to Salinas, right?

      Thanks for these Millbrae suggestions though, I may give them a try in the future when picking up/dropping off at SFO!

      1. re: Dave MP

        SF to Monterey is 2.5 hours without any traffic and lots of luck. In commute traffic I wouldn't even guess. You save some time if you're not going into Monterey but 101 south through South SJ and Morgan Hill at that time can get very hairy.

        6:15 would be prime time exit commute...add in Friday evening and it's a push if you ask me. I'd figure on 3 hours at the minimum...and you still might need some luck. I've been stuck in much, much worse jams on a Friday going to Monterey...even leaving at 3 p.m. and getting in at 7:30.

        Leaving 1 hour earlier or later could do wonders. Any way, are you coming back through? Why not hit Salinas then?

        1. re: Dave MP

          yes, if there is no traffic you should be able to get from 280 to Salinas in two hours or just a bit more....but don't know about that no traffic part at 5:15 on a Friday afternoon. Hubby swears by the route you are taking, I swear just taking 101 is faster the whole way is faster. We have this argument everytime we go. But as for the important question, the chow, wish I could give you more tips on the way...I always feel a bit lost food wise on that trip even though I know the good chow must be out there. Hope to see those tips myself!

          1. re: susancinsf

            You're both right. (g) 101 the whole way is a shorter distance, so if there's not traffic, it's faster. For example, leaving the City at 9:30pm, I can get to Salinas in 1 hour and 45 minutes covering the 108 miles on 101. But during peak times, 280 to 85 moves faster, and is pretty reliably a 2-hour to 2.5-hour drive. Another thing to consider is that 85 and 101 have carpool lanes. In the South Bay, 2 people is a carpool, so if Dave has a passenger, it will be smooth sailing either way.

            Dave, try to leave a little before 5pm. Even 10 minutes head start on the freeway will make a big difference in leaving the City. On 280, you'll hit some traffic at the Hwy 380 merge, then few slow-downs until you're south of Palo Alto. Before 6:30pm, 85 in the non-carpool lanes is pretty congested from Mountain View until you get past the merge with Hwy 17. At that point traffic usually thins out a bit and you could make it to Salinas in less than an hour from there, so you can decide then if you want to stop in San Jose to eat or push on. You can call 511 on your cell phone for traffic conditions along the route ahead of you while you're in transit. It covers the Bay Area all the way down to Gilroy.

            If you need a stretch break, you can stop at Sogo Tofu, on DeAnza just off 85. One spot south of San Jose that I'd love to get an update on is El Rincon Mexicano in Morgan Hill. I never manage to pass by there at meal time.

            -----
            El Rincon Mexicano
            17400 Monterey St Ste 1F, Morgan Hill, CA 95037

            Sogo Tofu
            1610 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

          2. re: Dave MP

            85 to 101 & beyond will be a bear unfortunately on Friday evening. A friend of mine told me sometime last year that she happened to come across a Mediterranean restaurant on Cottle Ave. right off 85 whose falafel was actually better than Falafel Drive-In. All I could muster was "Nooo waay!!!!" My friend was visiting Kaiser nearby for work & went with colleagues. She also had a salad which she enjoyed.

            Unfortunately, I've never tried it out as I live in the Peninsula and just can't muster up the motivation to drive all the way down there when Falafel Drive-In is closer:-)

            http://www.fusionmedgrill.com/

        2. Ramen Halu is just off 280 before you get to central San Jose. That's my favorite stopping place en route to points south of San Jose.

          1. As one who lives in the south bay, I have to agree with the idea that you are pushing your luck to get to salinas at that hour from san francisco. I Iive in south san jose and it will take you an hour at least on good days and fri. night is not a good day for commuting. i'd really try to leave the city by 4pm!

            1. I agree with an earlier poster that if you can leave the city by 4:30 then you can get to Salinas in 11/2 hours. You will be fighting both San Francisco and San Jose traffic.

              I agree you have the best route.

              If you leave at at 5:15 maybe think about a stop in Redwood City's Middlefield Road Mexican food heaven. Maybe not as good as Salinas but IMO better then the City.

              Check the board, lot of eateries on Middlefield.

              1. Thanks everyone for your suggestions last week. I ended up leaving San Francisco at 4:50 PM and was on 280 and out of the city by 5. My aim was to make it to Salinas, but I had some of these other suggestions written down as back ups :) I had no traffic at all on 280, and it wasn't until 85 that there were any slow spots. Carpool lane was clear the whole way, but I was by myself, so I had to deal w/ the traffic, which overall wasn't too bad. I wasn't too hungry and knew I had a long drive ahead, so I continued to Salinas - 101 south of Gilroy was free of traffic too, so I was in Salinas just before 7 PM. I stopped at Sr. Valdez's hot dog stand, see post here:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51282...

                Last night, on my way back from Santa Barbara, I stopped at Ramen Halu for dinner. I hadn't really had traditional ramen before, so I didn't know what to expect, but this place was fun! I ordered the Halu Ramen w/ extra spinach. The broth was very rich - I think I might order it with less fat next time since at times the liquid was overly rich for me. I liked the chewy noodles, pork and spinach though, and the prices were very reasonable.

                I briefly went inside the Indian Grocery Store next door to take a look at their Indian mangoes. They didn't look too good to me, and they cost $2.45 each, but for anyone looking to try Indian mangoes, this would be a spot to get them! I haven't seen this anywhere yet in San Francisco proper.

                Thanks again to everyone for the recommendations, I'll have to plan more trips south soon so I can eat more in San Jose!

                Dave MP

                2 Replies
                1. re: Dave MP

                  Thanks for reporting back.

                  1. re: ceekskat

                    No problem. Thanks for the Mediterranean suggestion..falafel was very tempting and I almost stopped there instead of going to Salinas...next time!