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Road Trip for Middle Eastern/Persian/Afghan - where should we go?

Tomorrow some friends and I are planning to take a short food road trip, possibly to East or South Bay (but potentially anywhere within a 70 mile radius of SF).

We're hoping to eat things that we normally can't eat in San Francisco - or at least at a place that is the best of its type in the Bay Area. We're intrigued by Afghan or Persian food, since it seems like options in San Jose/Fremont areas might be really good, but we'd potentially be open to any kind of food (or even make multiple stops)

I found this thread on Persian places in Peninsula - any updates on any of these?

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/380345

And also references to Kabul Restaurant in Sunnyvale and Salang Pass in Fremont.

We'll probably be leaving SF around 10 AM and want to return by 3 or 4 PM....so the meal will be lunch.

We probably would not want to spend more than $30 per person.

We'd be open to other things too if they were really worth the trip - South Indian, Taiwanese, Croatian, Other Middle Eastern, etc. etc.

Any ideas? I want to come away from the lunch feeling like it was worth the drive, since I don't get to drive to places like Fremont or San Jose very often.

Thanks a lot!
Dave MP

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  1. To me, Kabul seems on par (or less) then Helmand in SF. I can't speak to any of the Persian places but it does sound more interesting because you hear less about it in NorCal, compared to Afghan.

    Also, there's, Falafel Drive in in San Jose that I've never been to but is on my list. Seems a bit casual for what you're looking for.

    A friend mentioned a place, Armenian Gourmet in Sunnyvale. I have no idea if it's good but I've had excellent Armenian food in SoCal and I've always wondered about NorCal.

    1. Helmand Palace is better than Kabul, although I like both. The best thing at Kabul is the kebabs.

      Worth the trip: Shalizaar in Belmont is like visiting another country, in part because it's filled with elegant expat Persians. Not exactly a stop on a crawl, since it's extremely gracious service and somewhat upscale. Still in your budget though. Also pretty close to the city, and you could hit Harmony in San Carlos while you're in the area for frozen yogurt.

      Salang Pass in Fremont is good and authentic, as is DeAfghanan, the tiny place across the street with the bread and kabobs. But more if you had some reason to drive that way than really worth an hour each way. I kept hoping for a more distinct looking Afghan neighborhood, but the community has been here 30+ years and is better assimilated than that.

      I love the falafel and banana shakes at Falafel Drive in but not the pita, and would detour there on your way somewhere else.

      Taiwainese is worthy of its own separate excursion.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        Shalizaar looks good. Thanks for the tip.

        Should we do a Taiwanese excursion instead? Is there anything else I'm not thinking of?

        1. re: Dave MP

          You could do a Taiwanese excursion another time. Iran and Afghanistan both deserve their own days.

          (sfbing: deer jerky!)

          1. re: Windy

            Deer jerky: Some people don't like it, but I love all forms of jerky. It is a little sweet, covered in sesame seeds and chile flakes. Kind of woody in texture, so your jaw gets a good work out without talking.

            There has to be something in that store that would suit your fancy, though. She said they pickle their own mangos and guava and other weird fruity things.

          2. re: Dave MP

            I've never had Korean in SF that matched Oakland or San Jose - I've only really been to brother's - but that's probably a different trip, and you should likely do oakland.

          3. re: Windy

            My one meal at Salang Pass last year was much better than anytime I ate at the old Helmand (many times before they closed). I haven't been to the Helmand Palace. The kadoo was not as sugary sweet, the aushak was much superior. The lamb shank with eggplant was really flavorful, and there was another dish with some kind of greens which also had more vibrant flavor and spicing. I left there feeling like it was the first time I had ever eaten real Afghan food.

          4. Salang Pass is a nice sit down restaurant. Their lamb, borani kadoo (spicy pumpkin), aushak (dumplings--they keep telling me they're derived from Chinese food for some reason), faloodeh (rice noodles in a rose water dessert) are particularly good. No matter how much we eat at Salang Pass, no one can resist going to De Afghanan for bolani and more kebabs to go. I think the bolani is much better at De Afghanan. There is also an Afghan grocery store next door to Salang Pass with fresh bread in the back. Fremont's kind of a dead town, though. We usually plan around a hike or fruit picking, but tomorrow is going to be ugly weatherwise, I think.

            If you head off to San Jose, no matter what you decide for your main meal, you can stop off in Grand Century Mall for snacks and stuff to take home--the food court has a lot of different random Vietnamese dishes. Sugarcane drinks, shakes, banh xeo with a huge plate of herbs and mustard greens on the side, coconut shrimp cakes (I can't remember the name, but they're pretty popular) are my favorites. The snack place on the end of the mall has better deer jerky, pickled guava, pickled mango, etc than the one closer to the middle, although they are kind of pushy about overloading your orders sometimes. Way, way better than the stuff at Lee's in SF. Also, I think the bakery at the front is cranking out fresh pandan waffles.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sfbing

              I love the Korma Challow at Salang Pass, a complex tomato sauce based dish with chicken or lamb, served over rice.

              I like the chicken kebab at De Afghanan most, I find it the most moist of all their offerings. Their bolani is huge!

              1. re: DezzerSF

                link

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                Salang Pass
                37462 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94536

                De Afghanan Kabob House
                37405 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94536

            2. If you head down the Peninsula you'll pass Kabul Afghan Restaurant in San Carlos, which in my opinion is superior to the (unrelated) Kabul Afghan in Sunnyvale on El Camino.

              1. NOTE: DaveMP has reposted his Vietnamese Snack Food Crawl in San Jose report, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/597001

                -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM

                4 Replies
                1. re: Dave MP

                  Thanks for the report back! I'm glad to hear that you went with Vietnamese - a much better bet for something different than San Francisco than the Afghan places, I think. Do consider South Indian for cuisines in the future. It's another cuisine where the South Bay gives you a whole different set of options than does San Francisco.

                  Michael

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    Glad you had a good time at Century, even if the stands were a bit hit and miss. if I had known that you were going to eat mostly in San Jose, I would've also suggested nearby Bun Bo Hue An Nam, for their Bun Bo Hue with or without penis. It is really good--spicy with chunks of blood, pigs feet, beef leg, tendon, but not too offally. Comes with the traditional shaved banana blossom and without the inch thick layer of red grease. But if you had gone there, there probably would've been limited stomach room for the food court, so never mind.

                    You should definitely try Salang Pass and De Afghanan on your next road trip. I wonder if one's stomach could take combining them with a side trip to San Jose?

                    Thanks for the tip on Harmony-the SF yogurt places don't sound nearly as good.

                    1. re: sfbing

                      link 2

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                      Bun Bo Hue An Nam
                      740 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

                      1. re: sfbing

                        I have to second Bun Bo Hue An Nam, best BBH I've had, and probably one of the best Vietnamese soups even.