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Moraga Options

Jim Leff May 18, 2010 09:02 AM

I'm headed to Moraga for a week.

Aside from a thread about the farmer's market in early 08: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/481430

....and a thread about lunch options in 07: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/392971

....I haven't seen much discussion about Moraga.

Anything new and great? Any close-by stellarness that warrants renting a car?

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  1. Ruth Lafler May 18, 2010 09:11 AM

    I'll be interested to see if you get much response. I'm guessing there isn't much discussion about Moraga because there's not much there: it's a small, upscale suburb without much of a business district. Unless you have good access to BART, I can't imagine you won't go crazy spending a week in Moraga without a car. But I do know you have an amazing ability to find good chow in the most unlikely places, so I wish you luck.

    25 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler
      Munching Mark May 18, 2010 09:31 AM

      Amoroma in Rheem Plaza

      Thai place in same mall is good

      Terzettos decent

      Stay away from the Farm House or Ranch House or whatever, let me down

      Easy bus or bike ride to Lafayette or Orinda with more options...Lamorinda as an area is solid

      Ranch House
      1012 School St, Moraga, CA 94556

      1. re: Munching Mark
        Jim Leff May 18, 2010 10:24 AM

        Thanks! What do you have in Lamorinda?

        Maybe I will rent a car, though that sort of puts me in the opposite predicament.....so much geography, so many tips....

        1. re: Jim Leff
          Ruth Lafler May 18, 2010 10:34 AM

          Just for clarification, "Lamorinda" refers to the neighboring towns of Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda.

          1. re: Jim Leff
            Melanie Wong May 18, 2010 06:09 PM

            If you end up getting a car, may I request a special chowhound mission for the bridge and tunnel crowd? Monument Blvd in the town of Concord is target-rich but we have next to no reports. I've not been there for a few years myself. The area is Persian-Salvadoran-Polish-Afghani-Mexican and various iterations thereof and seems like it should be a chowhound's paradise in the land of chains.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              Munching Mark May 19, 2010 09:31 AM

              Meno's in Concord has excellent chile rellenos, I've heard...perhaps another adventure awaits an interpid CHound!

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                Jim Leff May 19, 2010 10:31 AM

                Yeah, bingo, Melanie, thanks. You've sort of isolated the whole thing right there. If I ever launch another food site (lord, take me now), maybe we'd confine discussion only to lesser-known stretches and people's discoveries there. I've never felt comfortable with lists of restaurants to tick off my to-eat list. This is really what I was looking for all along!

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  Robert Lauriston May 19, 2010 12:51 PM

                  If you end up in Concord:


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Melanie Wong May 21, 2010 12:02 AM

                    Seems like Afghani businesses have been inching up the 680 corridor to Dublin and north to Concord. Fremont might not be the hub it once was.

                  2. re: Jim Leff
                    Melanie Wong May 20, 2010 11:11 PM

                    Take me with you! Better yet, I'll drive my car and you can ride shotgun as the lookout.

                  3. re: Melanie Wong
                    Jim Leff Jun 20, 2010 12:25 AM

                    Concord finds:

                    Afghan Market (1500 monument bld) amazing homemade bulanee (bread stuffed with spinach and onions). Best I've ever had.

                    Chopan Kabob (2699 Monument) good minimialist Afghani - the chopan kabab wrap is really subtly complex and wonderful. Around corner in back of same shopping plaza is a tacos restaurant with pambazos, though, alas, not good ones. Also a huge hispanic supermarket including a salvadoran ice cream concession with amazing-looking corn-and-cream ice cream which I didn't get to try (just stared at it longingly).

                    Paletaria Guadalajara (1500 monument): great for melon (i.e. cantaloupe) agua fresca. Everything else is variable. Also there's a busy but unexceptional-seeming Mexican restaurant adjoining.

                    2699 Monument Blvd Ste A, Concord, CA 94520

                    Afghan Market
                    1500 Monument Blvd F12, Concord, CA

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      Robert Lauriston Jun 20, 2010 11:28 AM

                      Another great Afghan bakery in Concord:


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Ruth Lafler Jun 21, 2010 09:40 AM

                        I wonder if any of those are connected to the (insanely charming) Afghan bolani folks that are ubiquitous at Bay Area farmers markets. The address on their labels is also in Concord.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Melanie Wong Jun 22, 2010 06:01 PM

                          The farmers market folks are East & West Gourmet. The growing number of Afghani food businesses in the Concord area is the reason for my May 21 comment above to Robert.

                          East & West Gourmet
                          108 Medburn St B, Concord, CA

                      2. re: Jim Leff
                        Melanie Wong Jun 22, 2010 06:34 PM

                        I'm glad you headed to Concord, we've needed an update on the area. For the not good pambazos, would that be El Yahualica? Here's an online menu,

                        I can't figure out the supermercado, but I'm super interested in finding the ice cream concession.

                        Does Palateria La Guadalajara make its own ice creams and paletas?

                        Edited to add:

                        Found a website for:
                        Guanatos Ice Cream
                        2691 Monument Blvd.

                        And that address leads me to
                        Pacifico Foods
                        2691 Monument Boulevard
                        Concord, CA 94520-3108
                        (925) 686-5123

                        El Yahualica Tacos
                        2699 Monument Blvd Ste I, Concord, CA 94520

                        Paleteria La Guadalajara
                        1500 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA 94518

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          Jim Leff Jun 22, 2010 10:13 PM

                          Correct on all counts!

                          Skip El Yahualica. I tried a good variety of things, nothing's better than fair. The place next to the paletas place, which I undersold, above, as "unexceptional-seeming", has a lot more promise.

                          Let us all know if you ever try that corn-and-cream ice cream (like a salvadoran tamal de elote rendered in frozen dessert). I grieve for missing it.

                          1. re: Jim Leff
                            Melanie Wong Jun 22, 2010 11:24 PM

                            I wanna know too, so I started a new topic here,

                            Not too far away is Ramar, who is the US licensee for the Filipino brand, Magnolia Ice Cream, famous for mais queso flavor. Maybe we're in the corn ice cream capitol of North America and don't know it.

                            Guanatos Ice Cream
                            2691 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA

                            Pacifico Foods
                            2691 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA 94520

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              Jim Leff Jun 23, 2010 08:42 AM

                              My interest in corn ice cream launched when I was 24 or so, and my favorite (at the time) food writer invited me for dinner and proposed making ice cream after. We tried shaving a bunch of ears of corn, but the result was way too subtle. But I've been dreaming ever since.

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                Ruth Lafler Jun 23, 2010 09:15 AM

                                If you're still in the Bay Area, Nieves Cinco de Mayo usually has elote ice cream -- handmade the traditional way, too. It's easily accessible via BART (just a block from the Fruitvale BART station).

                                Nieves Cinco de Mayo
                                3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                  rworange Jul 26, 2010 12:11 AM

                                  If you are ever in ..

                                  Antigua, Guatelmala: The tantalizing and terrific Tienda de Doña Gavi - It snows supurb organic ice cream

                                  Cream often overpowers the corn flavor. I don't know how they make this, but, while it is ice cream, it has the light texture of fresh fallen snow and allows the corn flavor to star. .

                          2. re: Jim Leff
                            jmarek Jun 23, 2010 01:53 PM

                            The center at 1500 monument is interesting. I agree on the bolani. There is a regular churro vendor (maybe just on Saturdays?) outside the market that fries and stuffs fresh churros, just like DF.

                            If you go down through the breezeway, Tortilleria El Molino makes great still-warm corn tortillas (and the machinery is cool).

                            The coffee shop and internet cafe next door look promising as well. Had a empanada (I think they have a different word) stuffed with pollo in mole rojo. I thought the crust was just OK, but the filling was great. Also had a really good alfajor. The Mexican hot chocolate was fine but nothing special.

                            Tortilleria El Molino
                            1500 Monument Blvd Ste F, Concord, CA 94520

                            1. re: jmarek
                              Jim Leff Jun 24, 2010 09:49 AM

                              Lard in the alfajor, or was it "cleaned up"?

                              Great post, thanks.

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                jmarek Jun 24, 2010 09:59 AM

                                Not sure. I didn't know enough to ask (but next time I'll know better...)

                                1. re: jmarek
                                  Jim Leff Jun 24, 2010 11:51 AM

                                  Better to taste than to ask! Wait till after swallow, then examine aftertaste in mouth. Anything pork choppy going on? If so....lard. And properly so!

                            2. re: Jim Leff
                              Jim Leff Jun 24, 2010 04:08 PM

                              Woops, forgot. Exceptional Polish grocery, with really nicely selected items (including a great polish beer selection, best of which is Okocim Porter.

                              Polish & European Delikateski 1984 Monument Blvd, Concord, (925) 849-5580

                              1984 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                Melanie Wong Jun 29, 2010 09:14 PM

                                Oh, good, I'm glad you found Delikateski. I promised all those hyphenated ethnicities in that nabe, and where would we be without the Polish. Eastern European is weak in the Bay Area compared to NY, so it's nice to hear a vote of confidence.

                                We do have a first mouth report on the ice cream in the other thread. And, i found the report from 2003 on Chopan, where the chowhounds raised $200 to support this site.

                                1984 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA

                                2699 Monument Blvd Ste A, Concord, CA 94520

                    2. Melanie Wong May 18, 2010 10:55 AM

                      Lamorinda (Lafayette-Moraga-Orinda) has sort of let the town of Lafayette take the lead foodwise with markets and eating places.

                      Across the street from the Lafayette BART station is Lily's House, my favorite Shanghainese restaurant in the Bay Area. Most of the business is take-out orders for commuters on the way home from work, but there is a small, separate menu (translated into English) of the Shanghai dishes. The chef/owner came from a famous restaurant in Shanghai. His wife works the front of the house, but I've had more luck ordering directly with the chef, if you can get him to come out from the kitchen. His English is fine.

                      It amuses me that I've had the opportunity to dine with three Chinese chefs who have cooked for Margaret Thatcher. Willy Ying here at Lily's House, Chef Liu of Hunan Restaurant in Fresno, and Lawrence Chu of Chef Chu's in Los Altos.

                      Lily's House
                      3555 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Jim Leff May 19, 2010 10:32 AM

                        Willy sounds awesome. Does he do it all? Brown sauce stuff, yellowfish stuff, soup dumplings, cold stuff?

                        Also, before I totally obsess about getting past the wifely gatekeeper, what exactly does one achieve by direct contact?

                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          jmarek May 19, 2010 11:50 AM

                          I don't know about all of it, but certainly a lot of it. The xlb aren't their forte (though my 6 yr old son regularly eats 2 baskets whever we go). OTOH, the smoked fish appetizer is amazing, as are fish bellies (or tails) in master sauce. The Shanghai rice cakes are great. And the pan fried heads-on shrimp app. And the dessert rice drop soup thing (don't recall the real name). And probably more stuff i haven't tried yet.

                          We live in Lafayette, so we eat at lots of local places. But in my judgement, there are precisely two "destination worthy" restaurants in Lamorinda. One is Lily's. The other is Hanazen in Orinda for the whiteboard specials, and especially for the monthly sake dinners!

                          87 Orinda Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                          1. re: jmarek
                            Melanie Wong May 21, 2010 12:08 AM

                            Thanks, I've not been to Lily's House since last fall, good to hear a current assessment. The dessert soup is tang yuan. This has housemade mochi balls (other restaurants use frozen) in a slightly sweet soup with rice wine lees. Willy ferments the rice himself.

                            Lily's House
                            3555 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              Tripeler May 21, 2010 02:04 AM

                              What is the fermented rice used for? I don't think the sweet rice used in mochi is fermented...

                              1. re: Tripeler
                                Melanie Wong Jun 22, 2010 11:28 PM

                                The fermented rice is used to make rice wine although for dessert making purposes, the rice is the main product rather than the wine. Think of sake lees used as a flavoring.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  Tripeler Jun 22, 2010 11:33 PM

                                  Now this all makes sense. I'd misunderstood your post and thought that Willy was fermenting the rice in the mochi, not that used in the soup as flavoring!

                            2. re: jmarek
                              cwujd1 Jun 20, 2010 09:19 AM

                              I would add Postino. Really a bargain for the quality of food, wine and service.

                              3565 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                            3. re: Jim Leff
                              Melanie Wong May 20, 2010 11:22 PM

                              Sorry, not that big a difference that direct contact is a must. I only order XLB here if I speak directly to the chef and he tells me face-to-face that he made them fresh himself. I've had some bad example that were outsourced. The other problem is the tendency to crowd them such that they stick together.

                          2. j
                            JDO7 May 18, 2010 04:23 PM

                            I don't know if we can keep you gastronomically entertained for a whole week but there are choices beyond those mentioned - Asia Palace, Mondellos, Si Si for breakfast coffee, and Bianca's for a sandwich. For dinner venture into nearby Lafayette - Artisan, Chevalier, Metro, Duck Club, Chow's, Papillon for morning coffee, Yankee Pier for seafood... the local blog, EastBayDaze, has been writing about all the comings and goings on the restaurant scene for months, and there's a lot going on. New York? No. San Francisco, nyet... but there's action if you know where to look.

                            Duck Club
                            100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                            Duck Club Restaurant
                            3287 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                            1. Stephanie Wong May 18, 2010 04:57 PM

                              You might also consider going to Walnut Creek. Prima Ristorante is nice. Plus bunches of other options are available.

                              Prima Ristorante
                              1522 North Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                              1. wolfe May 18, 2010 05:06 PM

                                Hasn't there been a recent posting about Chopin? answer. yes.

                                1. m
                                  Munching Mark May 18, 2010 05:29 PM

                                  Two places in Orinda also come to mind, the CHARMING Gepetto's Cafe, and right nearby the tremendous Chinese joint Szechuan...the place people refer to as "The Good Chinese Place", down by Orinda Motors and the golf course...

                                  Orinda Village Horse Shop also there for equestrian needs, and Safeway for chicken tenders and economical sushi...I know I know, shame

                                  1. lexdevil May 19, 2010 10:57 AM

                                    BART makes all (or at least many) things possible. You are one BART station from Rockridge in Oakland with many strong options on the high end. Taking BART to Oakland 12th Street will net you excellent and cheap options in Chinatown. The Lake Merritt Bart station will get you w/in walking distance of the outstanding Chai Thai. The Fruitvale station puts you at the taco truck epicenter of the East Bay (not to mention being right across the street from Taco Grill and Nieves Cinco de Mayo).

                                    I would definitely also hop BART to Lafayette for Lily's. Beyond that, I think you'll find most of the food in the area to be pleasant and unexciting.

                                    Nieves Cinco de Mayo
                                    3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                                    Taco Grill
                                    3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: lexdevil
                                      adrienne156 May 19, 2010 11:13 AM

                                      All definitely good options, however, getting to either Lafayette BART or Orinda BART from Moraga is kind of a bummer. I grew up out that way, I should know.

                                      Hope this helps.

                                      1. re: adrienne156
                                        Robert Lauriston May 19, 2010 12:55 PM

                                        Orinda and its BART station are a reasonable walk from some parts of Moraga.

                                        1. re: adrienne156
                                          lexdevil May 19, 2010 10:09 PM

                                          I was assuming, if he is staying in Moraga, that he is staying at someone's home (there are, so far as I know, no hotels in Moraga). Given that, perhaps his host could pick him up at BART. Personally, I wouldn't spend more than 24 hours in that neck of the woods without a car.

                                          1. re: lexdevil
                                            macadam May 19, 2010 10:37 PM

                                            Okay, that made me laugh out loud! My mom and brother live in Moraga, but oh so sleepy. Asia Palace is good but an even better experience. The owner's flying out produce,etc as giveaways. We made it home with organic lettuce and oranges. Last time we were there, he insisted on giving my brother and my husband a beer each, but "it's on the house". Hey, what about more wine for me? Just kidding, but the food is good and it's a lot of fun. Good for a try.

                                            1. re: lexdevil
                                              rworange May 20, 2010 08:57 PM

                                              I imagine there are cabs that will take someone from Moraga to BART which would cut the n eed for a rental car.

                                              Anyway, Has anyone tried Bonehead's Texas BBQ?

                                              While I realize they are a caterer, they seem to indicate they have a full schedule. Are they worth trying to sweet talk into putting aside an extra plate from some event they are catering?

                                              Someone I don't know very well food-wise had a business lunch catered and liked it a lot. I totally forgot about it since I don't get involved in catered events too muchh. But the mention of Moraga called it up. We were talking BBQ and I mentioned Bo's he didn't think much of it and talked up Bonehead's. What caught my attention was they don't sauce the meat, but put it on the side.

                                              Looking at the website, it seems like one of those places that could go either way ... greatness or schlock.

                                              Anyone think it is worthwile enough to bother with?

                                              In another part of the Bay, Pinole, there is a BBQ caterer, but you can call them up and request a single order. It was on my to try list. Just never got around to it. Maybe a similar arrangement can be made with Bonehead.

                                        2. s
                                          slipson May 19, 2010 11:21 AM

                                          Moraga really has no destination worthy restaurants. There are a few passable Chinese places, Chef Chau in the Rheem center, and Asia Palace in Moraga. Terzettos and Amoroma are okay, but uninspired.
                                          In Orinda I suggest Serika for Japanese and Petra's cafe for a Greek lunch. Avoid Casa Orinda and Amoroma Pizzaria.
                                          Your best bet is to get to Lafayette. Lily's House already mentioned. Also second Pizza Antica, Chow and Metro. Also worthy of a special trip is Bo's BBQ. Get the brisket there, its great.

                                          Casa Orinda
                                          20 Bryant Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                                          Lily's House
                                          3555 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                                          Serika Restaurant
                                          2 Theatre Sq Ste 118, Orinda, CA 94563

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: slipson
                                            liamettocs May 19, 2010 02:05 PM

                                            Bo's has a great reputation, but I think they've been relying on that reputation without earning it for quite a while now.

                                            1. re: liamettocs
                                              slipson May 19, 2010 02:20 PM

                                              I would generally agree for everything except the Brisket. I had it recently a few weeks ago and it was still great.

                                            2. re: slipson
                                              vulber May 19, 2010 02:11 PM

                                              It's a (very small) chain, but I had had a delicious, affordable pizza from Pizza Antica in Lafayette just a few weeks ago.

                                              It gets mixed reviews (and I'm on the negative side), but another mini-chain that people love is Chow.

                                              1. re: slipson
                                                Stephanie Wong May 19, 2010 05:20 PM

                                                Bo's is too hit/miss to warrant a special stop.

                                                1. re: slipson
                                                  cwujd1 Jun 20, 2010 09:24 AM

                                                  The venerable Casa Orinda is most well known for fried chicken but the best thing to get there (and worth a special trip) is a "hunk o' beef," especially the prime rib. I imagine nothing has changed in 50 years.

                                                  Casa Orinda
                                                  20 Bryant Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                                                2. l
                                                  liamettocs May 19, 2010 02:03 PM

                                                  In Moraga, I also recommend Kirin Sushi, a very good Japanese restaurant in the Rheem center next to the theater. The broiled mackeral and hamachi belly are particularly good.

                                                  1. DiveFan May 19, 2010 03:47 PM

                                                    My three year old posts still ring pretty true. Above posters are correct about the lack of 'destination' restaurants. Lamorinda is a very 'fussy yuppie' demographic these days.
                                                    - I disagree about Amoroma Pizzeria - they serve thin crust pizza with tasty toppings, not your usual chain carb/fat overload.
                                                    - Turquoise is a good new hole-in-the-wall place with a limited menu, better for lunch. The other 'greek' take out place, Alekos, morphed into Alex and now Petra under new owners and has seen better days.
                                                    - If you crave Indian, Monsoon Masala sticks out from the rest east of the Caldecott.
                                                    - Food at Chow isn't adventurous but is competently prepared. Most importantly, they are one of the Very few places open after 9pm in Lamorinda. Great for prewrapped 'to go' food.
                                                    - I can never resist the drive to Concord for Afghan food at Amoo. Very nice people.
                                                    - IMO a German/Czech destination is DJ's Bistro in Concord. Don't miss the rotkuhl (red cabbage)! http://www.djsbistro.net/
                                                    - If you are stuck near 'downtown' Moraga, Terzetto is reliable for pasta, seafood and the Indian specials by the Indian chef/owner.
                                                    - I'm a long way from Thai food expert, but I'm addicted to the soups at Royal Siam in Rheem.
                                                    - Oakland is known for some good Ethiopian restaurants, I'll let someone else elaborate.

                                                    Yes, you will need a car. Moraga and Rheem center are over four miles from Orinda and Lafayette BART, Not a reasonable walk. Bus transit is a joke in this area. Sidewalks, hah! This is Serious suburbia. OTOH riding a Bike on the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail will get you an appetite ...

                                                    My CH Lamorinda list: http://www.chow.com/lists/59

                                                    Monsoon Masala
                                                    2375 Contra Costa Blvd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

                                                    53 Lafayette Cir, Lafayette, CA 94549

                                                    1909 Salvio St, Concord, CA 94520

                                                    Turquoise Mediterranean Grill
                                                    70 Moraga Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                                                    Pizzeria Amoroma
                                                    65 Moraga Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: DiveFan
                                                      jmarek May 20, 2010 08:35 AM

                                                      Haven't been to Turquoise, but now I'm cuirious. What's good there? Do they specialize in one kind of food? I'm not sure what "Mediterranean" means!

                                                      1. re: jmarek
                                                        wolfe May 20, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                        Falafel and kabobs, hardly worth the 4+ mile walk for JL.

                                                        1. re: jmarek
                                                          Melanie Wong May 20, 2010 11:28 PM

                                                          "Mediterranean" has become a euphemism for "Middle Eastern" with its usage growing since 9/11.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            Jim Leff Jul 1, 2010 12:36 PM

                                                            It's very true that it's accelerated since 9/11 for the reasons one could imagine, but, just fwiw, the term predates that.

                                                            "Mediterranean", in restaurant-talk, has generally meant Middle Eastern for some time. Just as "European" always seems to mean Russian. And "Jordanian" means Palestinian. And "Spanish" means Dominican or Puerto Rican. And Japanese/Korean means Korean (well, Korean-run, anyway). And Indian-Chinese means Nepali. I could go on....

                                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                                              wolfe Jul 1, 2010 03:48 PM

                                                              If you had gone on Persian for Iranian.

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