Modesto, seeking good eats
- Professor Salt May 6, 2008 06:57 PM
I'm spending the week in Modesto, CA in advance of the bbq contest this weekend. I'm looking for any suggestions for good local chow, for whatever time of day. Cuisine doesn't matter, I'm open to any ideas.
Saw the thread about Dynasty for dim sum. I'll check that out. What else is good in town?
Here's my CH Driving 99 list for Modesto, keep in mind I haven't tried any of these and some of them from posts back to circa 2001. Maybe some local hounds will chime in on any RIPs or downhill alerts. Personally, I would start with Dynasty that dimsumgirl has posted about, Scenic Drive-In for the Knockout Burger, and any of the taco truck recos.
Noah's Chinese Hof Brau - barbequed pork and fried rice--order a #1
1311 J St (exit 132 E)
Big Ben burger at Web's Drive-in on 7th Street
Tacos Jessica #1 - 8th btw H & I
Vallarta - 14th and D
Crows Landing Road - Mariscos Sinaloa
taco bus, Viva Taco, on 9th
Crows Landing Rd.
Mariscos Sinaloa, on Crows Landing Road across from the mexican disco music shop
Cayenne - Cajun
McHenry Village (on McHenry)
Standiford and Tully
Dynasty - dim sum daily, chinese seafood
3500 Coffee Road and Standiford. Standiford exit off Hwy 99
Scenic Drive-in - Knockout Burger
1151 SCENIC DR FRNT (Kansas/Downey Ave or 132 E? N of Yosemite Blvd)
132 exit veer L on 6th, R on G, str onto Burney, R on Scenic
Hazels on 12th St.
Chao Bella on H street
Oceana on 13th St. (seafood)
1505 on J Street
Gallettos on J Street
Porto Fino (Italian)
on McHenry Ave.
Dewz Restaurant on I St.
Tresetti's If Tom Putler is still the chef
927 11th St
Concetta - small plates
1205 J St
Farmers Catfish House at 4937 Beckwith Rd
El Rosal - carnitas
3430 Tulley Rd (S of Standiford)
Mimi's (eggs benedict)
VintageFaire Mall - Modesto
Concetta - (dinner only) oxtails w/polenta, seafood chowder
1205 J St.
Dinner hours are Thursday- Saturday 5:30-9:30
Harvest Moon has some Cajun dishes
"Barking Dog" downtown is good for burgers
J and 11th
burger at the Harvest Moon with cheddar and BBQ sauce, no bacon, and a side of garlic fries
Everett & Jones Barbeque
1029 9th St
Please report back on whatever you find.
So what about the eggs benedict at Mimi's Cafe? Have you sampled it PB? I am looking for a mid-morning cafe for a business meeting where we will be reviewing some paperwork and talking about policy. Neither my colleague nor I am familair with Modesto-- it happens to be a midway meeting point for both of us. Susancinsf responded to my post requesting a cafe but Harvest Moon isn't open early enough and I would need to investigate further to see if the mexican resto she mentioned would tolerate our being there for quite some time. If anyone knows if the eggs benny are good, it might meet my needs for a quiet spot that would not rush us out while allowing some decent chow in the exchange.
Report #1: 8th Street Taco Truck Motherlode (between H and I Streets)
PolarBear, did you say you didn't try those picks yourself? Guy, you hit it right on the head with the taco truck recs.
I started with your pick for Tacos Jessica. Thing is, along 8th Street between H and I, there's two Taco Jessica trucks. And another four competitors too. It's a monster taco truck derby, fighting mano a mano with tortillas hechan a mano.
I sampled the wares from three of the trucks along this street, literally on the wrong side of the tracks. It's in a run down neighborhood where I got panhandled on four separate occasions at lunch. While that doesn't bother me too much, YMMV. On the plus side, I've never seen this many taco trucks lined up in one spot; not in Los Angeles or anywhere else. If you like the idea of a one stop taco truck crawl, this is your spot.
A little more later, will post photos and whatnot when I have a little more time.
re: Professor Salt
I heart taco trucks. Given the choice between sitting down at a fine dining restaurant and eating dollar tacos on my feet while my skinny glass bottle of Jarritos soda balances precariously on a fire hydrant, I'll take the taco option every time.
So I found the motherlode of all taco trucks. Six different operators set up their trucks and bang elbows with their neighbors selling similar offerings Their menus don't reflect a wide range of Mexican regions. No Oaxacan clayudas or memelas, for example.
Most all the trucks have as similar menu asada, al pastor, carnitas, pollo, cabeza, lengua, and tripas thrown in for good measure. Most vendors are selling their tacos for a buck. The more expensive meats or the more time consuming ones to make cost more. For example, tripas are skinny bits of pork chittlins fried crisp to order, and most of the trucks sold them for a buck fitty.
I went to three trucks and took a random sampling. Bottom line is they all made good, but not life altering tacos. What can you expect for a dollar?
At Tacos Jessica, I tried the tripas and al pastor. The salsa here had a smoky flavor that might have come from chipotle, or perhaps from charred bits of fire roasted dried chili. The pastor was the type that was grilled then kept warm in a chili spiked sauce. It's not the crispy type of al pastor sliced directly from a spit.
At Los Portalitos, I tried the adobado - marinated bits of pork. Not quite sure the difference between their adobado and their al pastor because I didn't try the latter. Will remember to compare if I go back there again.
El Mexicano touts "Tortillas Hecho a Mano" on their window: handmade tortillas. So I finished with the carne asada here. You can tell their their taco in my photos because it's stacked on a double layer of slightly out of round tortillas. Solid flavor of well seasoned beef and freshly made corn tortillas are very worthwhile.
re: Professor Salt
That's the beauty of CH, the picks came over time from hounds that I've learned to trust and therefore tend to read anything they post. Just wish I'd added their names to my notes to give due credit, although a search using Modesto + taco truck would most likely ID them.
Thanks much for reporting back and sharing the photos. We're only a little over an hour away from Mo'town so aren't usually ready for a food stop when passing through, might have to make some excuses in the future.
re: Professor Salt
A few weeks ago, while some Fresno & Bay Area chowhounds were feasting on Chinese food at Hunan (in Fresno), my wife & I were running an errand to the northern reaches of the San Joaquin Valley & we got to sample the 8th Street taco trucks in Modesto. Of the six taco trucks present we tried three.
Adriana’s Super Taco (third from the left). Pastor taco: I remember the meat & sauce being a little soupy rather than saucy. I ordered my taco without onion; came with no onion & no cilantro, too. Are the onion & cilantro mixed together (like I’ve seen at some other taco trucks) so that you can’t separate them? Nice blob of green sauce on top, though I didn’t expect this with a pastor taco. A good taco but not a fabulous taco.
Los Portalitos (second from the right). Chicken enchilada ($1.50): shredded chicken, handmade corn tortilla cooked in red sauce, topped with more red sauce, crema, lettuce, & cojita. Instead of being rolled, the enchilada was folded around the filling, like a taco laid on its side. A good enchilada, a little different than what we’re used to (which we liked) & a lot of food for a buck & a half.
El Mexicano (third from the right). Handmade tortillas. Pastor taco: good, though I don’t remember whether the meat was very firm or crunchy. Pollo taco: meat was cubed & crunchy on the outside (instead of shredded). I liked the texture of the chicken because it reminded me of a good carnitas. Wife (whose taco it actually was) said that she’d prefer shredded chicken. Wanted a taco camarones but they were out.
Overall, good tacos but nothing that blew up away. We definitely appreciated the handmade tortillas & we look forward to trying more items from more of the trucks.
BTW, Professor Salt's reports have been a great read.
I tried Mexicano because I liked the look of the truck (looked clean). I had at first a carne asada and a carnitas taco. They were good I thought though not the best ever.
I am a quesadilla fan so I decided that I would try the quesadilla at Mexicano. I had one with carnitas. It was very good! Not as good as I recently had in Salinas (the best ever) but I would recommend Mexicano among the 8th street taco trucks.
Thanks for your report, alanstotle. I stopped in Modesto for a break on my way to Visalia. I ate at El Mexicano. I had a carnitas taco and an asada taco. The carnitas meat was disappointing-- not much flavor and no crunchiness as I would expect from carnitas. I probably should have ordered the pollo instead. I found the asada to have more flavor and was happy with that. Next time, I'll give the pollo a try. I have another trip coming up tomorrow!
re: Professor Salt
Their is also a Jessica's Taco on Crowslanding right next to the 3 hermanos carniceria. At this location they sell their tacos for 50 cents each. I only get asada from Taco trucks, and so far Jessica's Tacos has the best. But the 8th street jessicas sells burritos for 3.50, and Crowslanding their 4.50....So depends on if I want a burrito or tacos, to chose which one.
Web's for burgers, and the Sandwich Shop off the freeway on Kansas makes some of the best subs.
I work on 7th street btw, have for 10 years. Not a big sit down type of guy, so I haven't tried the more upscale restaraunts.
Just drove past an obscure sign for Memphis Tip Top Barbecue just off of McHenry St. Anyone tried it?
I'm not sure that I'm gonna make it here, because I'll be eating barbecue all weekend at the contest. But if someone has feedback on it, I'm curious to hear
Memphis Tip Top Barbeque
111 Drake Ave, Modesto, CA 95350
As an ex-Modestan, I really miss the taco trucks. We can't touch that here on the North Coast.
Definitely try Concetta on J st. Its the one place I go every time I'm in town.
Report #2 Harvest Moon
Grabbed a quick lunch here with two friends. Harvest Moon is downtown, near the courthouse, and seems to draw its lunch crowd from the professionals that work in the neighborhood. This is to say that the food is a bit more sophisticated than the taco trucks across town for example, yet still very reasonable, price-wise. The most expensive thing on the menu is a USDA Prime grade flatiron steak sandwich at $16, if that's any indication.
I had a light soup and salad combo. Creamy corn and red pepper chowder and salad with orange cumin dressing. Chose the dressing because it sounded the most unlikely one that would taste good, but it worked.
Ray got the $9 Hot ham and cheese. Ray's a meat and potato kind of guy, and the sandwich of just bread, ham and cheese, no extraneous sauce or veggies, was exactly what he was wanting.
John had the Blue Moon burger, with fresh garlic, blue cheese, bacon, and jalapeno. Garlic fries on the side. I think I could smell John sight unseen for the next couple of days. I didn't try any of his lunch, but could tell it was totally worth reeking for.
Harvest Moon Restaurant
1213 I St, Modesto, CA 95354
re: Professor Salt
Ok I'm here in the Modesto area... these are my picks. For lunch I'd do Picasso's Deli downtown one day. Stan Brewery for beer, Gallettos for dinner. Blue Moon has a great burger. Dynasty is across town but has good DimSum (but they guy who takes your order is a jerk). Doc Q'in for BBQ is good. If you're up for a drive to Turlock (where I live- 10 to 15 minutes) there is Bistro 123 which I give 4 stars (it's yummy and then some). Here in Turlock we also have a great hot dog joint called Main Street Footers I can recommend. Mexican food would be La Morenita (the one on Floyd. Thai... I like Tasty Thai better than Thai House. And for experience and ambiance I'd go with P. Wexfords Pub on McHenry for the best Irish Fish and Chips and a nice selection of ale and ciders on tap. If you're in the area and need any more foodie advice just drop me an email message and I'll help you out. I'll also be at the meet this weekend.
There are also two food festivals with in 20 minutes here this weekend. The Chocolate Festival in Oakdale which isn't that great and the Hughson Fruit and Nut Festival which is reportedly tiny but I've never been.
Other Modesto advise... It's hot here and it's direct sun... bring sun screen and drink lots of water with your BBQ.
Thanks for the recs. Chose not to go to Dynasty because I have very good Chinese in my backyard, and wanted something I couldn't get at home. Thai looked promising, but it was shot down by the others I was with.
I drove past Docs Q'in on the way out of town and was wondering about that place. The sign on the building touted bbq, soul food and something else that didn't sound too promising as a combination for a restaurant kitchen to pull off well. I know I'm being judgmental, but it's like a place that "specializes" in pizza, burgers and roasted chicken; seldom do they pull off any of them exceedingly well, much less all of them. What do you like to get at Doc's Q'in?
There was also a Mexican place a couple buildings down from Doc's
Q'n with a sign for birria de chivo, stewed goat. Is that place any good?
Lastly, have you tried that Memphis Tip Top Barbecue place?
Doc's Q'In Pit Shop
421 Maze Blvd, Modesto, CA 95351
re: Professor Salt
I haven't tried Memphis Tip Top because I was told it was average, but I'll swing it in the next time I have to go to Babies R Us and let you know.
Doc's Q'in has a good BBQ chicken and the BBQ sauce was good. I want to try the ribs, the person I was with threatened to stab me with her fork if I took a rib... and to me that's an invitation to go back later.
I like the taquerias here in Turlock so I haven't tried any in Modesto. I'll ask my foodie friends and get back to you on the goat stew.
I grew up just across the river from Memphis, and LOOOOOVE good b-b-q, so I had high hopes for Tip Top. I was really, really disappointed - it wasn't awful, but it wasn't very good, either.
P. Wexfords has a Carolina pulled pork sandwich on their menu that quenches my bbq jones quite nicely. Slightly sweet with a little bit, coleslaw and shoestring fried onions on the sandwich. So so tasty!
Report # 3 El Faro Cocina y Cantina
El Faro would probably work for someone who likes old school gringo-Mex. Myself, my tastes lean toward hole in the wall taquerias where I am the only non native Spanish speaker. That said, El Faro is what it is, and my dining mates liked it.
The place has been in business since dirt was new in Modesto. That's to say, it hasn't survived by putting out unpopular food. Nor is it swayed by the more authentic wave of Mexican foods that are becoming more common across the country. The restaurant was recently sold by the son of the original owner. The son is well into his eighties, but still cooks on Saturdays. His dad created the Tex-Mex influenced menu which includes items like Texas style queso. That's not typically found in Cal Mex restaurants.
The first sign of the kitchen's tendency to water down flavors: the salsa that came with the chips. No heat whatsoever in the thin, tomato puree of a salsa. Meh.
My dinner mates each had the cheese soup, and loved it. It's based on a chicken stock and had the thick body of a canned cheddar soup. I didn't try it, but their feedback was enthusiastically positive.
I had the special chili verde burrito flagged as the mouth scorchingest, spicefest available. I forget its name, but you'll recognize it when you see it on the menu. It had cayenne and black pepper added to chicken stock and salsa verde from-a-can. The flavors tasted about as flat as I've described it. Every entree came with an extremely sugared up vinegar slaw that just didn't work for me at all. Not sure why they serve this slaw with everything, because nobody at my table liked it one bit.
I finished the burrito, so it wasn't horrible, but my mind kept drifting to the taco trucks across town, which serve Mexican food that's much more my speed. To its credit, at El Faro, I can sit at a clean table, indoors, with a cold beer, in a decent room, and not get panhandled by tweekers during my meal. They got that going for them.
El Faro Restaurant
1345 McHenry Ave, Modesto, CA 95350
Despite the good advice dispensed by everyone here, circumstances dictated that I had to appease my friends for a few meals and not drag them to the places I wanted to hit.
I also sniffed my way around town solo and discovered a couple clunkers. But that's the whole point of chowhounding, ain't it? To suffer some bad to discover one good?
Report # 4: Taqueria Guadalajara, or When Restaurant Rules Collide
Driving around town looking for a late breakfast, I got good chow juju from the nondescript strip mall on the SE corner of Coffee and Floyd. I pulled in, drawn by the banner for a new waffle joint. But once in the strip mall, I see a Mexican place, an Indian grocer, a Korean restaurant and a Middle Eastern market. I'm liking the feel of this mall, and decide I'd rather chorizo and eggs than waffles.
Once inside Taqueria Guadalajara, I'm immediately faced with one of my restaurant rules: beware the photo menu. If I see a wall menu egregiously illustrated with photos, I'm generally in for mediocre meal.
On the other hand, a taqueria that cooks their al pastor on a spit, right where customer can see it, usually takes some pride in what they're doing. I ask for a breakfast combo plate with scrambled eggs and al pastor.
Me: "Do you slice the meat off the spit, or is it soaking in some chili juice?"
Counter girl: "It's sitting in juice. Makes it taste good, like chorizo."
The al pastor I get is dry, like it's been sitting in that juice for an overly long time. Perhaps if I came at a time when the restaurant was busy, I would have gotten fresher product. Or maybe if I ordered tacos, it wouldn't have been cooked further, with the scrambled eggs. It might be worth a second visit. But maybe not. I noticed another taqueria on the other side of Coffee Road I'd probably explore first.
The rule of the photo menu won. Overall, a C+ grade for Taqueria Guadalajara.
2400 Coffee Rd, Suite C Modesto, CA 95355
re: Professor Salt
Hi there, I just found this site looking for recommendations on getting a good fish taco in Modesto. As a native to this town, i've yet to locate my favorite coastal treat here. But, I can definitely make other recommendations for this town, like the best Mexican food IMHO is Taqueria San Jose on Coffee Rd. or Prescott Rd. The freshest tasting mexican food in this town (I've been to hundreds, maybe thousands of these places in town too). It's got a website with pictures, but they truly don't do it the justice it deserves. http://www.taqueriassanjose.com
Another strong recommendation is The Farmers Catfish House on Beckwith Rd. Great Cajun and southern style seafood, chicken, & steak. Wonderful blackened catfish, halibut, shrimp & crawdads. But just a warning, be very hungry when you go because this is seriously a lot of food! (It's just like being in the south.) They're only opened for dinner. I've never met anyone in this town that didn't rave about the food there. Possibly the best food in town, although the atmosphere is quaint & down home (you'd never guess driving by this little country place what a gem it truly is).
Well that's my two cents for now. I've got many more rec's for modesto, but i'll have to reserve that for later.
One place I haven't seen mentioned is Modesto Sukiyaki, at Standiford and Tully (NW corner in the "western" stripmall). Same family has run the place for years, very small and relaxing, with really good Japanese food. The only meal I've had there that was not exemplary was the curry, and really, we have a couple good Indian places in town for that. I've talked to people from three towns away who know and love Modesto Sukiyaki, and I've never heard a bad review.
Modesto is literally crawling with Chinese restaurants as well. Most sadly, nearly all of them evade the reputation for excellent dining that Modesto has. Only four have earned my repeat business. Dynasty (Sylvan and Coffee, NE corner) has already been mentioned, and is the one in town that has Lamb on the menu. Imperial Garden (Sisk and Carpenter/Briggsmore, NW corner) is also very good. Great Wall (Orangeburg and Coffee, NW corner) used to be better, but is still quite good; they had the *best* hot and sour soup I've ever had, bar none, until the staff turned over a few years ago. Last is the unlikely appearing Tokyo Express (I Street between 10th and 11th) which has a hybrid Chinese & Japanese menu.
Hubby and I had an early dinner at Modesto Sukiyaki tonight after running a few 'big city' errands in Modesto. I hope to post a full report soon, but bottom line: I'd go back in a heartbeat. Yes, I'd even consider driving up from Merced to dine there (well, probably I'd arrange it as part of a trip to places like Borders and BevMo and dive shops and such that we don't have in Merced, but still: very good Japanese comfort food, and wonderful, friendly family service. The owner did a quite nice sake tasting for me (hubby was driving).
On our way there, we spotted (and smelled) a smoker going strong in front of a strip mall on Standiford, somewhere between Sisk and Tully, on the north side of the street. Wanted to check it out on our way back after dinner, but it seemed to have vanished, or else somehow we missed it. Anyone know what place that would be?
3507 Tully Rd, Modesto, CA 95356
Check out Sushi Garden on Coffee I luuuuv this place. Excellent Sushi and bentos.
I've never had bad sushi there. The chicken teriyaki is awesome, and comes with a bunch of yummy sides and the best tempura I've ever had.
For sushi I always get the tempura roll, makeral, and ebi.
Eveything taste fresh, and the place is always packed.
Also, they have a more casual location in Turlock now across from the stan state, same great food.
If sushi is what you want, then Sushi Garden is the Modesto winner. If you are looking for other parts of Japanese cuisine and/or a quiet dinner in more traditional surroundings, Modesto Sukiyaki comes first on my list.
3507 Tully Rd, Modesto, CA 95356
3500 Coffee Rd Ste 25, Modesto, CA 95355
>On our way there, we spotted (and smelled) a smoker going strong in front of a strip mall on Standiford, somewhere between Sisk and Tully, on the north side of the street. Wanted to check it out on our way back after dinner, but it seemed to have vanished, or else somehow we missed it. Anyone know what place that would be?
That was probably Jonathan's http://www.johnathans.com/retail_mark...
Quite a good spread of meats, but a mediocre on-the-spot eatery. Think of them as a butcher, not a deli counter.
This has become the best thread for modesto.
For coffee a new place opened up, Serrano Social Club.
Bottom line, try this place, see my review in another thread.
Pho 7, best Vietnamese!! My Vietnamese friends vouch for this place, the Pho is awesome, and the vermicelli 'salad' bowls are addicting!!!!
Dewz, excellent prime rib, best caesar salad ever (prepared tableside during dinner)
Appetez, Cal-ital menu, always fresh, had an awesome lasagna here.
I usually go to one of the several branches of El Rosal for "sit down" Mexican food. There is one on Carpenter, one at Pelandale & Sisk (tucked back in the corner behind the Taco Bell and In 'n Out), and another at Tully and Standiford.
For a lower key "taqueria" flavor, I go to the Taqueria El Rincon, sandwiched in between George's Steakhouse and the Donut shop at Emerald and Kansas. Love their Chili Verde.
A more recent, and quite tasty, TexMex alternative with some sit-down but mostly aimed at take-out is "The Tasty Taco" on Oakdale just north of Brigsmore, in the OSH parking lot.
Note that we also have both Chipotle and Qdoba in town, for the more mass-market-minded.
3900 Pelandale Ave Ste 155, Modesto, CA 95356
Has anyone here tried Taqueria Modesto yet? If so, YOU NEED TO!
It's the BEST burrito in town. Better than El Rosal, miles better and cheaper than Chipotle, and it has since replaced Taqueria Mis Compadres as my favorite Modesto Mexican Joint.
Their carne asada is just delicious. My mouth waters thinking of it. Fresh lettuce, lots of spiciness, good guacamole, a fluffy tortilla. Mmmm!
3501 McHenry Ave Ste A2, Modesto, CA 95356