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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.