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Moving to San Mateo - any recs on restos & markets?

I'm moving to San Mateo from SF in a month and would love recommendations for restaurants & markets in San Mateo. We'll be living within walking distance of Downtown.

Below are what I'm looking for, so any rec for any of the inquries would be greatly appreciated!

1. Casual restaurant that won't break the bank
2. Good seafood restaurant
3. Japanese (we went to a terrible place called Ni-Mo...so not that one, please)
4. Taiwanese
5. Chinese take-out/delivery
6. Late-night
7. Brunch
8. Taqueria (other than Pancho Villa)
9. Pizza (other than North Beach)

1. Asian market (looking forward to nearby Ranch 99, but would love to find out about other nearby asian markets)
2. Fishmonger (sustainable fish)
3. Butcher (organic, free range)
4. Produce market (is there anything like Berkeley's Monterey Market?)
5. Italian grocer (for non-perishable goodies)


Pancho Villa
365 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

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  1. Casual: Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop

    Brunch: Nini's

    Japanese: There's lots of good Japanese restaurants in San Mateo - Yuzu (sushi), Hotaru (Japanese home cooking), Sushi Sam's, Kaz's for fast food style take-out e.g. teriyaki bowls. Sushi Monster also has a good sushi listing on the peninsula here if you like sushi: http://www.emeraldlake.com/sushilist....
    For Ramen: Santa Ramen, Himawari, Ramen Dojo - haven't been to this one yet but have heard good things

    Taqueria: La Pinata (Salvadorian - has good pupusas), Charlie's

    Pizza: Windy City for deep dish

    Asian Market: Nijiya, Marina

    202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

    54 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

    Sushi Sam's
    218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

    Ramen Dojo
    805 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

    3 Replies
    1. re: Mr_Happy

      There's a Nijiya in San Mateo? That's wonderful! I really missed the one in LA when I moved back up to the Bay.

      1. re: yehfromthebay

        Yeah, it's in the same shopping area as Santa Ramen (adding more links)

        Santa Ramen Japanese Restaurant
        1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA

        Hotaru Japanese Restaurant
        33 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

        Marina Food
        2992 S Norfolk St, San Mateo, CA 94403

        Windy City Pizza
        35 Bovet Rd, San Mateo, CA 94402

        La Pinata Mexicatesen
        120 N B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

        Nijiya Market
        1956 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA

        Nini's Coffee Shop
        1000 N Idaho St, San Mateo, CA 94401

        Charlie's Taqueria
        725 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

        Kaz Terriyaki Grill
        71 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

      2. re: Mr_Happy

        La Cumbre at the SM train station hands down, best taqueria!

        La Cumbre
        28 N B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

      3. Casual: B Street and Vine (on B inbetween 3rd/4th) (try the bruschetta) www.bstreetandvine.com

        Seafood: The Fish Market (on Norfolk, off Fashion Island Blvd) http://www.thefishmarket.com/location...

        Brunch: Neither of these are traditional brunch buffets:
        Nini's (on Bayswater) or
        Crepevine, (on Burlingame Ave in Burlingame) http://www.crepevine.com/
        Market: Draegar's, on 4th/B in downtown. Should fit your requirements for a butcher and produce. I also understand that there is a farmer's market starting soon in the Wells Fargo parking lot (WF is on 4th 1 block from Draegars), Sunday mornings.

        Here is a old link for downtown SM restaurants. As you can see, there is more than a month's worth to try. It's a little dated (Gators is closed) but most of these are still open.


        This is the link to the Downtown San Mateo Restaurant Guide:

        And finally, a link to the City of San Mateo website, with all the other info you'll want/need.

        DT San Mateo has changed alot since I first moved to the area 26 years ago, all for the better. Enjoy your time here.

        1. Most of my favorite eats are chinese dine-in; I'd call that the singular strength of San Mateo. Casual, won't break the bank, very good. I like Shanghai East on 25th, Szechuan Delight downtown (order anything peculiar - had a great Jellyfish), and board favorite Everyday Beijing. Causeway Bay isn't that bad. Regarding brunch, there are several dim sum specialists, two downtown, one across the freeway in ABC, but it's hard not to hop-skip up to millbrea. Of course all of these do take-out (I come up all the way from Menlo Park sometimes); delivery options will be thin.

          I have no info on brunch or Taiwanese.

          My other favorite slightly outside city limits is Tabla in Foster City. Very down-home indian. South indian. Dosas. Biryani specials. Goat. Very tasty very cheap very hard to find. If you like south indian veggie, Annapurna is worth a trip. For Thai, Manora on 25th. None of which you asked for.

          Sushi Sam's is a treasure. Formica tables and the best whiteboard anywhere. Kind of loud, kind of sassy, but you know you're paying for the fish and not the atmosphere.

          I've never found any late-night in San Mateo. I think Kingfish might serve kind of late, but generally they roll up the sidewalks early. I wouldn't call Kingfish chow-worthy.

          Everyday pizza: check out local chains Amici's and Pizza My Heart. I think Pizza My Heart is edible if you order your pizza *thin crust*. I don't know where the closest Amici's is, might be San Carlos, might or might not deliver to you.

          Remember, San Mateo is only about 15 minutes by car from the Mission district.

          Everyday Beijing
          637 South B Street, San Mateo, CA

          Shanghai East Restaurant
          105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

          Sushi Sam's
          218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

          4 Replies
            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              Redwood shores, close to the freeway - that's where my San Carlos friends go. More importantly, there's one in downtown San Mateo, so that's worth a try for delivery options.

            2. re: bbulkow

              Interesting remark about Kingfish. My friend said it's one of the best restaurants he's ever eaten at but I have no idea when he went.

              1. re: yehfromthebay

                Your friend should get out more, or had some kind of personal epiphany. It's not bad, I just detected nothing out of the usual. And such is the consensus around here.

                Regarding places to eat and drink, the gem is O'Neill's, which is very comfortable but more importantly keeps menus for 5 restaurants in the same block (indian, sushi, burgers, etc). Makes dinner with multiple people more fun - everyone can order from a different restaurant.

                Regrettably, the last time I made plans the place had been taken over by some kind of organization so wasn't condusive to dinner and a drink.

            3. There's a good farmers market at CSM on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


              College of San Mateo
              1700 W Hillsdale Blvd, San Mateo, CA

              1 Reply
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Two Japanese markets are Suruki's on 4th and Takahashi's on Claremont/3rd which is smaller and has a Hawaiian slant.

                There's an Amici's Pizza on 3rd in downtown San Mateo.

                911 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

              2. Definitely looking forward to checking out the 2 farmers markets and the Fish Market. Is Draeger's like Whole Foods? I don't particularly like to buy meat or seafood at Whole Foods because they don't seem very fresh.

                7 Replies
                1. re: yehfromthebay

                  Draegers is more gourmet. Most of the stuff is higher quality but higher prices too.

                  1. re: yehfromthebay

                    You might also try Lunardi's on the Burlingame/Millbrae border; it's not that out of your way if you're in the northern part of San Mateo. Their meat counter is all packaged to order by knowledgeable butchers and I've been happy with it. Their produce is not quite as good in general, but they often have interesting Italian veggies that you don't find everywhere. Also, the Safeway in San Mateo on El Camino just north of 92 is very nice as Safeways go.

                    1. re: Nina

                      Mollie Stone's in San Mateo is a good store, much better quality than Safeway. MS's butcher counter is the real deal, knowledgeable staff and good quality stuff but not a lot of local sourcing. Bianchini's in San Carlos carries Marin Sun Farms beef and a good selection of housemade sausages.

                        1. re: artemis

                          There is also one in San Mateo, near the Belmont border

                          1. re: Larry Stein

                            Wow, didn't know that, despite living in San Mateo for the past two years. Beg your pardon, Shane.

                          2. re: artemis

                            mollie stone's

                            Mollie Stone's Market
                            49 42nd Ave, San Mateo, CA

                    2. Burgers were not one of the OP's requests, but Rave Burger (downtown) is good....lamb, buffalo, turkey, and veggie as well as beef, and the sweet potato fries are nice. Jack's Prime on ECR towards Belmont, across from Mollie Stone's, is a charming retro atmosphere but I didn't think the burger was quite as good as Rave, although the sweet potato fries were.

                      Rave Burger
                      144 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                      Jack's Prime
                      3723 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94403

                      1. A few other downtown ideas:

                        Taiwanese/ShangHai brunch - Happy Cafe (mediocre, used to have good egg rolls).
                        Japanese - Mutsu (old place but good nigiri and excellent karaage/tempura).
                        Chinese take-out/delivery/dine-in - Pierre's Express Chang Chinese Restaurant (hole in a wall with good price for steamed live tillapia).
                        Casual Italian - Pomaroma Cafe (haven't been there in a while but pasta was good on last visit).

                        And I second Tabla east of 101 :). KingFish seems to have gone downhill (I miss Gator's Neo Soul Cafe).

                        Produce - there is a mini-mart (Asian?) with fresh produce next to Pierre's (The Produce Stand?). Not as cheap as Ranch 99.

                        Mutsu Restaurant
                        279 Baldwin Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                        Pomaroma Cafe
                        139 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                        1. IMO, the best pizza is Speederia in downtown San Carlos. You can probably get Italian grocer non-perishables at Draeger's For a fishmonger, Crystal Springs Fish & Poultry.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Larry Stein

                            Speederia is great. They are a "Ray's" style pizza by the slice place. You can buy a whole pizza too. It isn't really a restaurant, more of a counter with 4 two-top tables and a couple of places to sit right outside. If you like pizza by the slice, this is the best place to go.

                            Some people also really like San Remo in San Carlos. I personally think they are coasting on their reputation (execution is sloppy and service is weirdly gruff). But again, a lot of people like this place so you might want to check it out and judge for yourself.

                            Speederia Pizzeria
                            711 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                            San Remo Pizzeria & Ristorante
                            1152 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos, CA 94070

                          2. Piazza, 92 off Hillsdale is a Italian market that is independently owned and carries nice produce, meats, etc.

                            1. Marina Foods in the Marina Plaza off 101 / E. Hillsdale Blvd is generally superior to 99 Ranch in Foster City. They generally have cheaper select Japanese grocery items than Nijiya (which can get expensive). Marina also has a much better selection of groceries from Taiwan and items sourced to Taiwanese run companies in Southern California (e.g. frozen Taiwanese style noodles, sauces, fresh Taichung/Tainan style noodles).

                              Downtown San Mateo is flooded with Japanese restaurants run by Korean or Chinese folk, and are of the teriyaki/tempura/udon/soba/ramen/sushi mixed variety, so it is easy to pick an average to sub-par one at random. Here's a breakdown of a few half decent ones

                              Sushi Sam's - stick with cooked side dishes/appetizers on the placard specials, and of course the specials on the white board behind the sushi chefs. Sit at the sushi bar, and order a la carte nigiri sushi to try out their white board specials fish. It can get expensive very quickly. Or try their "omakase" which is fusion style nigiri, served by the piece and you tell the waiters how many pieces, most of which are white board specials fish and plastered with either some sort of sauce or condiment. Do not go for cooked items on the regular menu, while they may be ok, your mileage will vary.

                              Kisaku (on 4th) - this is a Japanese restaurant that does also a little bit of everything, but they do it the Japanese way, and the cooked special dishes off the white board can be pretty good. At least the udon here doesn't have carrots and broccoli in it.... and even something like saba nigiri and salmon skin roll are good.

                              Yakitori Kokko - Maybe nowhere near the level of Shin Sen Gumi in SoCal, but it's very decent. It's first and foremost a yakitori joint. Good minimalist kind of decor with some additional modernized interesting side dishes. Worth a try. But for even better yakitori (and more expensive perhaps), Sumika in Los Altos might just be unbeatable at this point.

                              Izakaya Mai - also file this one under "late night". Mish mash of everything, but to me only one thing stands out, the Nagasaki style champon ramen. Tasty broth, and a lot of mixed items inside. Not your typical ramen bowl, but on a cold night, it hits the spot. Really cheap nigiri sushi but flavorless sushi rice.

                              Shabuway - mini/personal sized Japanese hot pot. Not bad, and decent value meals if you like to flash cook thin slices of fatty beef in boiling water. Although I prefer Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (this is an official branch of the ISO 9002 certified worldwide chain out of Mongolia/China).

                              +1 on Yuzu Sushi and grill. Cooked food generally better than the sushi.
                              There's also Wakuriya which is closer to the 92 to 280 side, which is an excellent moden kaiseki restaurant. Make reservations and sit at the counter.

                              Hotaru is ok, and probably the best of the trio of Japanese food restaurants on that block. Another jack of all trades kind of restaurant, but they offer the best price to quality ratio, and open 365 days per year!

                              For Taiwanese, skip San Mateo and hit up 5 Joy in Foster City, even their weekend brunch fare is better than most of the Shanghainese restaurants in San Mateo (5 Joy is more Taiwanese slanted). For excellent Shanghainese, Little Shanghai closer to the railway tracks, I think is better than Shanghai East up the street.

                              Pasta Pasta on 4th offers a few Italian grocery items, but they specialize in take home / cook at home fresh pasta (limited selection but they offer the classics) plus pre-made sauces. The mushroom sauce there is excellent.

                              In the affordable casual restaurant section:

                              Silver House offers some excellent Cantonese. That newYummy World restaurant nearby seems to get decent reviews for Cantonese grub too. Sun's Chinese cuisine is also very decent.

                              Restaurant Bay Watch may offer a good family type brunch setting, but nothing fancy.

                              Shanghai East Restaurant
                              105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                              Little Sheep
                              34396 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City, CA 94587

                              236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

                              Izakaya Mai Restaurant
                              212 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                              Silver House
                              2224 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94403

                              Little Shanghai
                              17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                              54 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                              Sushi Sam's
                              218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                              115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA

                              145 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                              Restaurant Bay Watch
                              1841 El Camino Real, Burlingame, CA 94010

                              509 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: K K

                                Marina Foods sounds like it has almost everything I need and want. Thanks for the tip about the Downtown Japanese restos. To think we walked past Hotaru to go to Ni-Mo. Won't make that mistake again. Can't wait to take the folks to 5 Joy.

                                1. re: yehfromthebay

                                  There's also Sergio's Pasta Shop at 205 E 4th Ave (competitor to Pasta Pasta) for another choice of non perishable Italian groceries, but not a broad selection.

                                  There may be two other grocery options. G&G Italian Deli at 46 37th Ave which seems more like a sandwich shop, and Stangelini's Italian Deli at 501 N San Mateo Dr which does have more of what you might be looking for.

                                  ABC Bakery and Cafe (with locations in SF Noriega and Chinatown) has a location in downtown San Mateo. It's basically a very average Hong Kong style cafe with a new fancy clean decor, but it is open till 1 am on weekdays, till 3am Fridays and Saturdays. The western side of the menu may be disappointing. Won ton noodles might be ok, or beef tendon lo mein, or their fish broth based noodles. Maybe the stir fry plates.....But it could be scary venturing beyond that.

                                  Sergio's Pasta Shop
                                  205 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA

                                  Stangelini's Italian Deli
                                  501 N San Mateo Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                  1. re: yehfromthebay

                                    I live less than a block from 5 Joy and I have to tell you that I've lived all over the country and it is some of the best I've had. Their clay pots are enormous and filled with tasty morsels, fried beef in hot garlic sauce is a definite mainstay, the moo-shoo is terrific, in reality I don't think I've ever had a dish from there that I felt was sub-par. The only thing that keeps me from being unable to decide when I order is that I've at least been able to rate their meals based on how good the other dishes can be...

                                  2. re: K K

                                    Very good list.

                                    Little Shanghai is pretty danged good. There's something about the atmosphere at Shanghai East that I like better, and I think the XLB are better. I love the fact that they're both quite tasty and quite good.

                                    Shanghai East Restaurant
                                    105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                    Little Shanghai
                                    17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                    1. re: K K

                                      I second Joy in Foster City. Great place.

                                      Joy Restaurant
                                      1489 Beach Park Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                                    2. Has anyone mentioned Clear Optometry?

                                      Though specifically not on your list, it's an interesting combination of services at this shop. Not only is it an optical shop, but they also serve frozen yogurt and other dessert items (!!!). I wouldn't mention them if not for the fact that I thought it was clearly one of the better frozen yogurts that I've had, and especially their Lychee, which I must say is the best I've had. Yum!

                                      Clear Optometry
                                      138 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: cgfan

                                        I'm there probably once a week! They also have Ici ice cream, Marco Polo gelato, Satura cakes, and Blue Bottle coffee. They used to have That Takes the Cake cupcakes, but I haven't seen those in a while.

                                        I also like the Harmony frozen yogurt if I want something a bit sweeter. That's in the Whole Foods complex.

                                        Also along the dessert line is Sweet Breams, which has taiyaki and soft serve in a Japanese style. My favorite taiyaki are the matcha, which comes around every so often, and the vanilla in the standard flavors. The owner is Tara, and she's focused on local ingredients whenever possible. She also has soft serve, usually vanilla and one other. Sometimes it's matcha (delicious and not very sweet, though missing the bitter taste I enjoyed in Kyoto), but I think this week it's strawberry.

                                        My weekly dinner out is usually Sushi Sam's + Clear Optometry, or Himawari + Sweet Breams. My favorite ramen at Himawari is the clam butter. Haven't had the chance to try Ramen Dojo yet, but it's on my list.

                                        I also like Myong Dong (sp) Tofu Cabin for Korean in the Marina Market complex. And of the pho places in SM/FC, I prefer the one in the Ranch 99 complex.

                                        Mr. Pickles does have pretty good sandwiches, but I'm not keen on their bread or meat. I prefer Draeger's for sandwiches. Draeger's also has great prices on fresh bread, including the best challah and hamburger/hot dog buns. The meat, seafood, and deli counters are much nicer than at Whole Foods. Sometimes prosciutto di parma goes on weekly special. Also, Draeger's soups are delicious.

                                        Dil Khush is takeout homestyle Indian in the strip mall on the east side of 101 at 3rd ave, with the supermarket. I've only been a couple times, but it was pretty good.

                                        I usually have a package of the black pepper fettuccine from Sergio's in my fridge. The raviolis are a decent meal for a busy weeknight..

                                        In Burlingame, I like Mingalaba and Stella Alpina.

                                        202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                        Blue Bottle Cafe
                                        66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                        Sushi Sam's
                                        218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                        That Takes the Cake
                                        2271 Union St, San Francisco, CA

                                        Sweet Breams
                                        220 2nd Avenue, San Mateo, CA

                                        1213 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, CA 94010

                                        Clear Optometry
                                        138 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA

                                        Marina Market
                                        735 Escobar St, Martinez, CA

                                        Ramen Dojo
                                        805 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                        1. re: artemis

                                          Oh oh... Sweet Breams... I love the frozen yogurt/tayaki combo they have. Matcha-filling is definitely good, as is the good old traditional an-filling too (red bean paste).

                                          I've also done the Himawari + Sweet Breams outing and it is really a nice treat. The two places are only a couple doors down from each other and make a great combo.

                                          202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                          Sweet Breams
                                          220 2nd Avenue, San Mateo, CA

                                      2. Also Saturday mornings at the College of San Mateo (highway 92 / W. Hillsdale exit) is a great local farmers market. I believe they also open on Wednesdays, but Saturday is a good time to go. Further south in San Carlos is a great outdoors farmers market on Thursdays from 4 pm till 8 pm (or around that timeframe), likely you will see similar/identical vendors at both.

                                        College of San Mateo
                                        1700 W Hillsdale Blvd, San Mateo, CA

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: K K

                                          The Saturday CSM farmer's market is a weekly highlight for me.