I realize this is late but maybe someone else might find it helpful. We just moved from Hollister and miss these places.
-Mexican at La Villa De Jerez Restaurant, the one on Hawkins St is better than the one on San Benito St.
-Japanese at AJ Sushi Restaurant on San Benito St or Miyako Japanese Restaurant on San Felipe Rd (aka N. San Benito St) our favorite is sushi & miso at AJ's and Katsu-don at Miyako's.
San Juan Bautista Dinners:
-JJ's Homemade Burgers
-Joan & Peter's German Restaurant
Hope you like!
re: Kendra Kinnan
Welcome to the board, Kendra, and thanks for putting a couple of places out there that until now have flown under the radar. Could you give us some more details, e.g. what dishes does La Villa de Jerez put out that are impressive?
Also very interested in anything thing you can tell us about Joan and Peter's German place, since this cuisine seems to be one of the most difficult to find, at least where it's authentic and done well. TIA
Oh sure, I'll add more details, sorry I didn't add more info earlier. Thanks PolarBear for pointing that out, I actually missed one more place we absolutely love, Running Rooster in Hollister. I'll also start another thread with my recommendations for breakfast and lunches, I'll have to wait till hubby gets home so I can get his input so it's more comprehensive.
OK here's my opinions on dinner in Hollister, everything is casual but there are varying degrees of casual, you need to go to San Juan Bautista for finer dining.
Running Rooster - Our family's favorite for fresh casual American foods since it opened. They have the best burgers, chocolate chip cookies, soups, sandwiches and rotisserie chicken, everything is fresh...nothing from a can and very seldom Costco products. They make a real effort to buy produce from local farmers such as Swanks and smaller area farms. This is one of the newest places in town, so the owners are very hands on and are often are behind the counter. Very busy at lunch and dinner but the wonderful service and food makes up for the crowd and long line, parking is tight too but street parking is plentiful!
You can see their menu online at and can order for carry out. http://www.runningrooster.com/
Fast Authentic Tacos & Burritos - Tacos El Grullense Jal and La Villa De Jerez on San Benito or Hawkins are the best. Skip the fish tacos and stick to the beef, pork and chicken items. The Burritos are great too, our favorite is the asada Burritos from El Grullense, it's big so be prepared for left overs or you can share. My hubby can never finish the super in one sitting and I can usually eat 1/2.
The best Mexican sit down restaurant is La Villa De Jerez as I mentioned above. What makes this place special is the very friendly staff and the fresh food. All the locals love it better than Progresso. Everything is great there but what makes the biggest impression is the fresh home made salsa (with chunks of avocado, yum), fresh homemade guacamole and juicy chicken enchiladas (my favorite is without cheese). If you love rice and refried beans, they have the best here too.
AJ Sushi - IMHO has the best sushi in town a real gem. AJ is newer than Miyako's so they are trying real hard to make a great impression and they are doing a great job. Our neighbors loved the Tempura there, I never tried it so I cannot vouch for it.
Miyako's - IMHO has the best rice dishes.
Progresso Tamale - I really liked Progressos until I found Jerez, the only dish I NEED from Progresso's is the Tortilla Soup, it's outstanding. Call ahead to see what the soup of the day is, there doesn't seem to be a schedule so I started calling and getting it for take out. The large dining area has a funk, like a sewer smell near the bathrooms, so make sure you sit in the smaller dining area away from the smell. If you love Hispanic Market's with a real meat counter, Hollister Super is across the street they have great produce, great meats and great prices.
Street Vendor Mangos w/chili - This has to be my favorite dinner of all, yes I'm a weirdo. Hollister has lots of street vendors on bicycle and they are out full force in the Spring, summer and sometimes into the fall. The vendors who ring bells (ding-a-ling) is the icecream and the bicycle/clown horn (honka-honka) is the mango, cucumber and snacks cart, sometimes you'll see a beverage cart too (never tried the drinks cause I don't speak Spanish and they don't speak much English). We love the chips and mangos, if you hear them out, don't be shy, flag them down and get a snack, you will not regret it, the best $1-2 snacks in town. I really miss these guys, they are always cheerful and super sweet.
The Vault - is a standby but nothing to get excited about, the salads and burgers are alright, never got a good feeling about this place. It's OK, a bit expensive and tries to be fancier than they really are. It's not a place we frequented and you can find better if your only in town for a couple days or one night, lots of bar flies and wanna-be bar flies after 9pm. The 2 sports bars and Johnny's are better if you want the bar scene.
Cedar House - Two thumbs down...I don't like to bad mouth or give bad reports but since a PP mentioned it, I thought I should speak up. I've been there 3 times, 2x for breakfast and once for dinner, every time we all were very disappointed and shocked how expensive it was. Nothing on the menu is note worthy. If given the choice, I'd rather drive to Tres Pinos, San Juan Bautista, Gilroy or Morgan Hill. I will say it's pretty but that's it, just pretty.
El Michoacano - never been there, so I cannot comment.
Los Cuates - We went when they first opened and were disappointed so didn't return. We didn't try the chilaquiles so maybe we were missing out on something great.
A quick note about the Hells Angels and Mongols, they have a large presence in Hollister & San Juan Bautista at night particularly at Johnnys Bar & Grill, Cheap Seats Pub and Grub and others...don't worry, if you'd like to avoid them, it's easy...you'll see there bikes out front or parked in the back lots, they don't hide and certainly are not shy. I never felt comfortable with the bikers so I avoided them.
San Juan Bautista opinions:
-JJ's Burgers - Not as good as the original owners but darn close and they are trying hard. It's one of the best places if you have kids or a dog in tow since they have outdoor seating with shade.
-Joan and Peter's German Restaurant - It's really quiet and not as casual as most places in the area, it's business and dress casual friendly. Don't take young kids, you will get self-conscious...we took our toddler and regretted it, there are lots of breakable decorations and it's not really kid friendly. Now the food was remarkable, it was so good I wanted to lick my plate. To my knowledge it's authentic but I've never been to Germany so I'm not a great judge of authencicity but my taste buds loved it and I'd love to go back. A great friend said the Sunday brunch was great and her new favorite. They have a strange schedule (Thurs-Sunday) so make sure you check the website or call for the hours. Also brush up on german foods if you are not familiar with real spaetzle, stollen, wienerschnitzel or hot German potato salad.
-Orient Express - Great for large parties with a huge dining room and attentive staff. There are other Chinese places in Hollister but they pale in comparison with Orient Express. We love everything on the menu but our favorites are sizzling rice soup, hot and sour soup, chicken chow mein, mu shu pork, fried rice, spring rolls, cashew chicken, broccoli beef and mongolian beef. They don't have a website so I'll just add the Yahoo link so you can call for hours and specials.
Jardine's - is really casual and family oriented, but can be reserved for events and cleans up real nice. If you like plants or know anything about botany, you'll love the patio, there is nothing like it. We loved taking our daughter there since there are chickens running about and she loved walking around looking at the plants. It is not a place to let your kids run wild so make sure one parent is on duty at all times as the trees are inviting to climb for teens and toddlers get hurt on the plants, so please don't let your kids go wild. The food is OK, I love the fresh hot flour tortillas so I tend to get the fajitas, the atmosphere is more memorable and why we returned.
Cutting Horse Steak House - I never went and I've never heard raving reviews but it was a local option for a special evening dining experience.
The Faultline - Fine Dining and a local favorite for special occasions. It's a very unique location with a view of the valley near the mission. My SIL's parent's loved it and they are great cooks, so the food must be good.
Tres Pinos, I totally forgot about Tres Pinos...oops. It's just a short little drive South on Hwy 25 from Hollister.
Tres Pinos Inn - Cute, romantic, good food and quiet. I went once but I'm not a fine dining gal so I didn't go back since the food didn't WOW me and for that price it better WOW me if they want me to return. This is the best alternative to The Cedar House or Paines. Check out their menu and reviews here http://www.trespinosinn.com/
Cantina Grill - New addition to Tres Pinos and is making a huge impression with the 21-35yr old crowd. This place is hoping at night and is very loud and cheerful. During lunch it's more pleasant but kinda boring. I liked it better with lots of loud music (mostly live bands), great drinks and munchies. Not authentic hispanic foods, in fact I'd say it's more Cal-mex or Tex-mex as they seem to deep fry everthing but the salads. The Chimichanga was my favorite dinner :) A good place if you want to avoid Hells Angels who frequent bars in Hollister.
If you'd like more, let me know but I think I covered all the good stuff. Enjoy!
re: Kendra Kinnan
Great information, thanks Kendra. Have two dear friends that will be delighted to try Joan and Peters in SJB. Also, hadn't heard about the Faultline, will have to check it out. We also liked Jardines and have had a Basque place on our to try list there called Matxain Etxea, especially looking fwd to trying their sweetbreads. http://www.matxainetxea.com [Edit to add: link doesn't appear to be working, perhaps this place is no more?]
Have also had Cantina Grill on the to try since we occasionally travel through Panoche Pass. Not so interested now that you say it's Americanized. Don't suppose there's anything in Paicines?
Excellent sushi. Fast and friendly service.
Progresso Tamale Parlor (Mexican)
This is a family owned business that has been operating in Hollister for over 60 years! That alone has got to tell you something.
I love the enchiladas, chile verde, tamales, and nachos supreme.
The tamales are made with real stone ground corn. Not that yucky, fake "masarina" you find at the grocery store. The enchilada sauce is also made from fresh ground red chiles. Nothing is very hot but you can ask for jalapenos and the "hot", "hot" sauce from the back if you need the heat. Be sure to try the flour chips. They are yummy!
Despite the name, this place is pretty fancy for a "cafe". They have a great selection of pasta, seafood and steak. I love their calamari.
Matxain Etxea is still open, that is, I know it was open as of Aug 08, and they have no plans to close that I know of, but with the restaurant business being as crazy as it is, who knows for sure. (Figure they're just having computer trouble). They are open Wed thru Sun. Their food is authentically Basque, and of course there is plenty of it.
re: Kendra Kinnan
Just to update this post a little. We dined on Saturday night for the first time at The Inn at Tres Pinos and were quite impressed. Food was excellent and service much better than you get in fine restaurants where we live in Half Moon Bay. Instead of tea bags they serve their tea French-pressed in individual tea pots, a nice touch. The building was built in 1880 and the interior is romantic with a lovely wine room and plenty of space between tables. A complimentary wine tasting was going on, which we participated in before dinner from McManis Winery in Ripon (near Lodi). All bottles were on special for dinner and we had the merlot, which was quite nice. The dinner for the two of us included one crab cakes appetizer, two cups of broccolini soup, the aforementioned merlot, the prime rib special entree, a NY steak entree, two teas, and a shared dessert of apple crisp with ice cream and came to a very reasonable 144.25 before tip. We will definitely return when we are in the area. The next day visited two wineries (Calera and DeRose) on the San Benio Wine Trail. We were impressed with the wine and scenery there, a wine appellation we've never been to. As big wine fans we thought we'd been to every region in California, but somehow missed this charming area.
Also wanted to say that we had lunch at Jardine de San Juan in San Juan Bautista, which has also been mentioned in this post. We've been there several times over the years and always thought it was okay, but this time it seemed the food and service has improved. It's always fun to sit in the garden on a sunny day and this was no exception.
Thanks to your recommendations we have now eaten at La Villa De Jerez three times. It's wonderful! We're stuck on the chicken fajitas and the camarones el mojo de ajo. (Spanish for lots of garlic.) We did find out that you have to request the extra-garlicky version, but it's worth it. The tortillas are wonderful, too. We have managed to eat well, and take enough leftovers home for another meal. We eat a LOT of Mexican food, and this restaurant has moved near the top of the list.
We've only eaten at the restaurant on East. We keep forgetting to try the one on San Benito. (There's a flyer in the menu on East promoting the taqueria downtown, which is what has reminded us, but by then we're already seated.) We will try it soon. I'm a big fish taco fan, and although someone on the board said to stick to the meat tacos, I do want to try the fish ones anyway.
I don't know if this is heresy (is that the right word?) for this board, but we often eat at Super Taqueria on Tres Pinos. It's pretty much only for burritos, though, which is why we've enjoyed La Villa De Jerez so much, as it's more of a sit down place.
I work in Salinas, and probably eat at the El Charrito Market on West Market Street twice a week. It's a deli within a market, so I usually take my food and eat at my office or at a nearby park. No one can beat their Chili Verde burritos - no one! I also enjoy their chicken burritos, and their chili relleno burritos. I stay away from their beef options - usually a little chewy for my tastes. Their regular burritos are under 3 dollars - the chili relleno ones a little more.
Chiquita on San Miguel in South Salinas is another good spot. They have a few tables and a counter but it's also mostly a take out place. They specialize in healthy Mex - great veggie burritos made with a squash/zuccini filling.
Salinas is a bit of a drive from Hollister, but they're still great places!
Thanks for the tips on El Charrito and Chiquita in the south end. Both East and West Market street are a treasure for Mexican food. In case you haven't seen it here's Melanie Wong's collection of the street food:
The places link is also a good resource:
Be sure and report back if you try the fish tacos.
update: stopped in Jardin de San Juan in SJB last night for a quick dinner enroute home to Merced from Monterey. I can see where the garden would be beautiful on a nice day or evening. Last night we ate inside, but it was still pretty, and they had a harpist who wasn't bad and set a romantic tone.
Place was fairly hopping on New Year's Day night, but we were seated promptly, and the service was great: our server was covering a lot of the room, but very efficiently and with a smile. Now if someone would just teach her not to speak in the plural tense("Are we enjoying our food?") she'd be up there at the top of servers I've had lately, anywhere.
As for the food: chips to start the meal were just ok, but the salsa (which they sell in jars, stacked by the front entry) was rich and almost addictive. Hubby's chile colorado was also rich, but too heavy on the cinnamon for my taste. My flautas (one chicken, one shredded beef) tasted like the oil they'd been tried in was old, though the guacamole on top was simple and well-done. However, they redeamed themselves with the albondigas soup: lots of zuchinni in a nice broth, and tasty, herby meatballs. Not the best version ever but worth a stop if in the area. Prices are very reasonable given the ambiance and location right across from the mission.
We were in a hurry to beat the worst of the Central Valley fog home this trip, so didn't do much searching out of spots. Since the albondigas were good, I was happy. However, now that this great area is on our way home from Monterey to Merced (more or less) I intend to do more exploring, and will check out some of these other recs also.
Appreciate the update, susan. I think the last place we tried there was Dona Ester, but it's been so long can't recall anything about it.
We have Joan and Peter's German Restaurant and the Basque place, Matxain Etxea for sweetbreads, lamb shank, and tongue at the top of our list to try next visit. Looking forward to your future finds.
Thanks for the reply's. There was so much traffic and heat at 5:15 pm that I did what I had to do and got out. Hollister has a ton of road work going on right now, We went to San Juan Batista and hit a little Italian restaurant next to where the street chickens live.
No air conditioner made it hotter inside than outside.
Don't know too much about Hollister, usually just pass through or by. When the highway went right through town, we used to stop at a good Mexican restaurant/taqueria in a small strip mall just a few blocks west of downtown. http://local.yahoo.com/details?id=21554908. El Michoacano. Good flavors, clean, more of a casual place. Righteous hot green tomatillo salsa. They have sister restaurants in Chico, Grover Beach, and King City, if it is still the same owners. Also a good panaderia next door.
There is also a slightly more formal Mexican restaurant in San Juan Batista, owned by the same family that runs the venrerable Manuel's in Aptos. Jardine's. Have heard from a friend that they enjoyed their meals there.
Searching *yelp*, a couple of good reviews came up for the Cedar House, which used to be the Sugar Plum, located out on Highway 156 just before it meets 152 (and Casa De Fruta). So this would be about 8-10 minutes out of town, going north on 156. Sounds like it is NOT the typical Denny's type roadside cafe, although it might look it from the outside. You might ask some locals about this one. Sounds worth investigating.
Please post back and let us know what you found. This area is under-reported here, and for such a busily-traveled route, it deserves more investigation.
See Melanie Wong's post about breaskfast fare: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382478
re: toodie jane
Here's three on my to try list:
El Lugarcito - shrimp tostadas, whole fried fish, green salsa
east end of Broadway, here's a post:
Los Cuates - chilaquiles
220 San Felipe Rd.
230 Third Street
and the one that TJ mentioned:
1296 San Juan Rd