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quiet dinner in San Mateo?

A request from my Mom: "Good, interesting food and an atmosphere in which we can relax and talk for a couple of hours" (meeting up with a cousin we haven't seen in decades). Oh, and probably not Asian, since said cousin is stopping off in the Bay Area on the way home from a long trip to Indonesia, where she spends a lot of time.

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  1. Viognier atop the Draegers market (222 E 4th).

    Ate there a few months ago and food was quite good. No a la carte, though, only set menu of 3 or 4 (?) courses with choices up to you.

    1. 231 Ellsworth would be my first choice, without hesitation

      2 Replies
      1. re: chuckl

        Those are on the right track, but maybe a bit more formal and/or food-focused for this occasion. Something a bit more casual, with food that's good but won't be commanding your attention.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          we had dinner at ceviche tacqueria a few months ago with a restaurant.com coupon. it might suit your purposes, though i'm not sure of the decor. we sat at the bar because there was a birthday party upstairs in the main dining area. there's also a couple of booths on the first floor.

          the grilled fish dinners were lovely. very fresh fish (orange roughy, i think), and astonishingly delicious squash, all simply and correctly grilled. dinners were around $20 each and seemed on the small side, though because of the massive birthday party upstairs, they had run out of rice that would normally be part of the dinner (how is this possible??). i liked the lobster burrito and ceviche too, but the grilled fish dinner was really good. nice selection of beers, friendly staff albeit at times a bit gruff (tired from the huge party?). i don't know that i'd go back there without a restaurant.com coupon - it seemed expensive for the food/service/decor, but then again the fish and veggies were very high quality. with a restaurant.com coupon, i would go back.

      2. Crossing off asian in san mateo certainly removes a lot of choices.

        Central Park Bistro. Decent food, loungy atmosphere, medium casual. Not quiet-quiet - I would call it medium. Only was there once, but I remember sitting at a really nice circular booth in the back and enjoying the food.

        Kingfish. Food's a little subpar, but the atmosphere is certainly relaxed enough. Tables are fairly far apart and the chairs are comfortable. More of a relaxed beer situation.

        Haven't tried Spiedo. There's two non-asian places on 25th - the one on the north side of the street looked OK.

        Oh, and I wouldn't go to Viognier on a bet against 231 Ellsworth. I understand both are too formal for you, Ruth.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Ah, Central Park Bistro was more what I had in mind. To clarify, when I say "too formal" I meant I didn't want a place where you had to commit to having a full multicourse dinner. A place where someone can have have an appetizer and entree and someone else can have a pizza and a salad is more appropriate for this occasion, I think.

          I'll forward this thread to Mom, and I'll let you know what she decides and how it works out. Thanks!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Central Park Bistro: make sure you check and find out they won't have live jazz that night. It has been awhile since I was there, but the last time, the jazz was so loud, audible conversation was impossible.

            Otherwise, I second the rec.

        2. How about Dollie Marie's. Since it's fine Southern cuisine, it should be different but accessible. I haven't been but the reviews are good and I've been told it's low key and quiet, don't know about the formal factor.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ML8000

            I believe it's closed now that Gator's has moved onto expanding his BBQ joint into weeknights and weekend hours.

            I'd suggest either Astaria in downtown San Mateo for classic American bistro fare, or Tannourine off 25th Ave for Lebanese (not the best you can find, but decent and a nice classy environment).

          2. I haven't been to Lure since mid-2009, but it sounds like it would be a good fit for you. Pity it doesn't spring to mind--or to more minds--more often, but I think the location on 2nd Avenue doesn't give it the visibility the food deserves.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pilinut

              lure is closed. given the terrible meal we had there, i'm not surprised.

            2. I still haven't been, but would love your take on Divino in Belmont (about 4 miles away from San Mateo)...I suspect it would fit the bill. I keep hoping for more reports, but somehow never made it myself. The owner is or was also a co-owner of Bacco in San Francisco (not sure of the Bacco affiliation since the death of his business partner, but there definitely was a connection when Divino was founded, which speaks well for it, IMO.)


              3 Replies
              1. re: susancinsf

                it's been 2 years since I ate there, but at the time it was a quiet jewel on the Peninsula.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    we are big fans of bacco and have been probably a half dozen times at least, once we moved to the penninsula, we tried divino last fall. i believe the connection is that the divino chef is a former bacco chef, but they are not presently affiliated.

                    divino's food is not comparable to bacco. service was very poor, which i think is one of the many strong points at bacco. after several rounds of issues with getting a glass of wine (waiter had no idea about the wine list, nor did his manager) even getting our order taken was a challenge. it didn't help that there was a large party seated near us making loud and offensive racial jokes, which is of course not divino's fault. afraid of the writing on the wall, we downgraded to ordering just one app and one entree. neither were very good. i think the app was the stuffed squid, which is so great at bacco, but it was dull, boring, and largely tasteless at divino, where they used a different stuffing. we split the gnocchi, which is probably my favorite thing at bacco (though possibly second to the seafood fregola), and they were heavy, dull, and dense.

                    we had such a poor time that we went straight to sushi sam's and ordered a couple nigiri for a palate/attitude cleanse. we haven't been back to divino since. i'd be very interested to know about other experiences.

                  2. Does it have to be San Mateo or just nearby? You might enjoy Shalizaar, elegant but not fancy Persian food in Belmont.

                    1. I don't know if I'd put the food in the "interesting" category but i really liked my visit to Stella Alpina in Burlingame a year ago. It's off the main drag in downtown Burlingame and had a really warm ambiance. Food was solid Italian cuisine and service was great.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: vis

                        i agree. my pastas there have been consistently excellent, though the osso bucco was only ok. it can get very busy on the weekends, so a reservation is prudent.

                      2. I don't know if this is too casual, but I've always had good meals at Sinbad's in San Mateo -- solid Middle Eastern food, good friendly service, and you could easily sit at a table in the corner and chat for a few hours. http://www.sinbadgrill.com/ Right on 3rd St. in downtown San Mateo. I've only been there for lunch, so I don't know what dinnertime is like there, but I'd assume that it's pretty similar.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JasmineG

                          Don't they have belly dancing in the evening? I think I've seen that advertised. FYI, they also have a stand at the CSM farmers market on Saturdays.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            I recently found Taste In in Burlingame on Broadway. A friendly family run place that "Mediterranean - Italian" food that I find better than Sinbads. Kefta ground lamb is especially good.


                            1199 Broadway Ave, Burlingame Ca 650.348.3097

                            2 Pier, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          2. Comments from Mom: " We took a Chowhound suggestion to eat at Sinbad's on 4th St.-- a.k.a. restaurant row-- in San Mateo. Laura was delighted to have Lebanese food, which she would obviously not have for the next three weeks, and Daddy and I enjoyed our choices. The place was certainly quiet! For the first hour, we were the only customers at tables (a few people came in for take-out). Then, ONE couple came in to occupy a table near us. So I hope the curse of the Laflers (the last two restaurants we had my birthday dinner are now closed) was not in force. Check to see that Sinbad's is still in business next week!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I am very glad you didn't eat at Central Park Bistro. I look forward to eating there again, and don't want it to close.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Yay, glad that my suggestion worked. That place was always very busy at lunchtime, so I hope that they're still doing well, and I'm glad that everyone enjoyed their food.