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May 6, 2008 06:57 PM

Modesto, seeking good eats

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?

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    1. It's been ages since I ate anything in Modesto, so I hope *somebody* comes through with some recs...

      There's a BBQ contest in Modesto this weekend?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ricepad

        Yup, one of the bigger contests west of the Mississippi

      2. 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

        Taco Trucks
        Tacos Jessica #1 - 8th btw H & I
        Vallarta - 14th and D
        Crows Landing Road - Mariscos Sinaloa
        taco bus, Viva Taco, on 9th

        Bamboo Villa


        El Marinero
        Crows Landing Rd.

        Mariscos Sinaloa, on Crows Landing Road across from the mexican disco music shop

        Cayenne - Cajun
        McHenry Village (on McHenry)

        Thai House
        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.

        7 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            FWIW, I liked Harvest Moon. I was there about 2 years ago though. But I really want to try Thai House.

            1. re: tavmark

              I had heard good things about Thai House as well. I think it is worth checking out, Prof. Salt!

              1. re: glazebrookgirl

                If Thailand Resturant is still open-- most authentic Thai food in Modesto per my Thai Friends. There are also Vietnamese restuarant-- one was on Oakdale road, I hope it is still open...

              2. re: tavmark

                If you like well prepared Thai food-- don't bother with Thai house...

              3. re: PolarBear

                Oh yeah, I Googled the Everett & Jones location in Modesto, and it seems to have gone away.

                To be honest, I'm still burned out on barbecue from last week's contest in Indio. The meat I can get at this weekend's contest is probably gonna blow away any restaurant's anyway.

                1. re: PolarBear

                  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.

                2. 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.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    You said it was a monster taco truck derby where they're fighting "mano a mano".

                    Didn't you really mean to say that they're fighting "menu a menu"?

                    1. 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.

                      1. 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.



                        1. 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.

                          1. re: alanstotle

                            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.

                            1. re: alanstotle

                              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!

                            2. 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.

                            3. 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

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Professor Salt

                                I just tried Memphis Tip Top BBQ today and I can say it is far better that Doc's. The staff is friendly and they give you a good portion. I found a new BBQ spot in modesto.