Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 24, 2010 09:01 PM

South Bay suburbs: Help this family out of an eating rut!

I think this is a particularly chowhound type topic. Anyone with plenty of disposable income can eat at famous Manresa and know it is good, but only a chowhound will sniff out the right 1.25$ taco! We eat out as a family a lot. We seem to frequent the same places over and over again for price (around $45 for 4) and relative quality. But we need new places

These are our basic routes and places

Mountain View: Maru Ichi ramen, Happy Bowl for bibimbap, A Good Morning (brkfst), Taqueria La Bamba for papusas

Cupertino: Aqui's, Red Mango, Rio Adobe, Yiasoo for gyros, Whole Foods cafe for burgers, Pizza My Heart for the pizza and salad combo, Beard Papa and Lee's Sandwiches (under duress)

Saratoga: Rose Int'l Market for kebabs, Yola Tea (froyo, boba)

Los Gatos: Sweet Peas, Andale (the smaller one), Dolce Spazio (cake, gelato)

Campbell: Chicken Coop, Green Cup Yogurt

San Jose West and Almaden: Burrito Factory (soft tacos, enchiladas, sopa de res, grilled chicken super burrito) Slight preference for the Almaden location

What are your favorite everyday places? What do you order at each place? Let your ruts become my new find!

Dolce Spazio
221 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos, CA 95030

A Good Morning
4546 El Camino Real Ste A13, Los Altos, CA 94022

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You have some nice places there, but you seem to be missing out on all the spectacular Indian food that provides great taste for not a lot of money. My two favorite everyday places now are Taste Buds and Madura Indian Cuisine, both in Sunnyvale. Taste Buds is a tiny storefront with great food, both meat and vegetarian; most of their business is take-out so tables are usually free. Madura Indian Cuisine is a vegetarian place specializing in Tamil Nadu food with consistently excellent results.


    Taste Buds
    673 Grape Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

    Madura Indian Cuisine
    1635 Hollenbeck Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

    7 Replies
    1. re: mdg

      I love Indian food! I will try these two.

      1. re: Tumkers

        If you love Indian food, there's lots more where those came from!

        Other favorites are Madras Cafe in Sunnvale - the best dosas I've ever had - and Zafran in Santa Clara for their Pakistani-style biryani. Zafran's kind of far from me so I don't get there that often, but Madras is another everyday place for me.

        Taste Buds now has their seasonal gongura specials in. These are a little pricier than the rest of the menu, but they're wonderful - gongura chicken, goat, and dal are often available.


        Madras Cafe
        1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

        Zafran Restaurant
        1855 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

        1. re: mdg

          One of these days, I will make it to Zafran...of course in the meantime, I have to recommend Kabab & Curry's in Santa Clara : ) Haven't been in a while but had their biryani recently at friend's home & it was as delicious as ever.

          OP: My first thought too upon reading your post was that you were missing Indian! I also recommend Shan...had dinner there once (we mostly do take-out) & noticed quite a few families (non-Indian) dining with young kids. Surprised only because I think the food can be quite spicy...of course we love it! At Kabab 'n Curry's, we enjoy their tandoori dishes too.

          Another S.Indian restaurant to try is Saravana Bhavan in Sunnyvale. We enjoy their dosas very much & kids *love* their parottas...flaky, layered bread.

          Kabab & Curry's
          1498 Isabella St, Santa Clara, CA 95050

          1. re: ceekskat

            I like Zafran but it has been replaced by Mehran. Tried Kabab&Curry recently and liked the tandoori and naan but the curry seemed a bit sweet. I like Shan and Taste Buds as well but prefer the naan at Shan although Taste Buds is spicier and a good value. Peacock in the vicinity has good biryani but higher prices.

            Local spots we enjoy:
            Chinese - Chef Xiu, Kirin, Hong Kong Restaurant(Mtn View), Asia Village (Sunnyvale), Chilli Garden, China Palace (Milpitas).
            The Korean restaurants in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara (Jang Su Jang etc).
            Vietnamese sandwich places in Milpitas and San Jose.

            Still looking for that elusive good Italian restaurant to fill a yearning this part of the bay.

            1. re: rotiprata

              For italian I really like Il Postale in sunnyvale.

              Il Postale
              127 W Washington Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

              1. re: rotiprata

                Have you tried the Pastaria in Los Gatos on Main Street (inexpensive)? Or Fontana's in Cupertino on Steven's Creek (somewhat expensive)?

              2. re: ceekskat

                Kebab N Curry's my fave, as well as Dosa Place.

                Don't forget Chavez Market (Fair Oaks) - their burritos and tacos are terrific and cheap.

                Dosa Place
                525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035

        2. And there are many prospects besides the good Indian restaurants listed so far. What an excellent query: many good restaurants locally are just too pricey for frequent family dining. To start you out, from extensive lists of notes I keep for this region, I went through the complete downtown Mountain View restaurant list and found 17 places there that, in my experience, are at or near your budget range. Alphabetically:

          Café Yulong, 743 W. Dana. Chinese (Shandong family), unusual specialties emphasizing fresh ingredients, stir-fries without the common but needless gooey sauces, freshly cooked filled dumplings. Routinely voted best Chinese restaurant in MV.

          Chef Liu, 236 Castro. Chinese, homey Cantonese specialties incl. fresh noodles and soups made from them.

          Clarke's, 615 W El Camino Real. Independent hamburger-sausage grill with many hamburger specialties. Polish, Louisiana Hot, and other sausages split and grilled flat, served on French rolls. Condiment bar. Weekend breakfasts.

          Frankie Johnnie & Luigi, 939 W El Camino Real. Longtime hearty Italian place, regionally known, possibly a little pricey for this range.

          Gyros House, 212 Castro. Compact; display counter, few tables, Greek and Turkish specialties, excellent Iskendar platters.

          Hunan Chili, 102 Castro. Chinese, Sichuan chef, unusual specialties, best Ma Po tofu I've found locally (which is vegetarian, but no one notices because so flavorful).

          Kapp's, 191 Castro. Pizza and fresh hamburgers, rather good if kitchen is "on," and family-friendly.

          Mediterranean Grill House, 650 Castro. Kebabs, wraps, etc. Excellent unusual seasonings and marinades, some of the best kebabs in the region.

          Any of the three current Pho houses (Pho Hoa, 220 Castro, a chain; Pho To Chau, 853 Villa, more distinctive; Pho Garden, 246 Castro, recent, authentic broth) serves meal-sized rice noodle soups with beef broth, garnishes, and your choice of ingredient additions for around $9 or less.

          Queen House, 273 Castro. Friendly hole-in-wall family-run Chinese, also does brisk business with separate menu of ready-to-cook filled dumplings.

          Rose Market, 1060 Castro off El Camino. Persian-oriented grocery market with good grilled specialties for take-out or dining there at a few tables.

          Ryowa, 859 Villa. The "other" Ramen house locally. Surpasses Maru Ichi for fresh potstickers and house-made condiment of pepper paste and Chinese chives; wide range of specialty noodle dishes. Superb spicy "dipping noodles."

          Taqueria Los Charros, 854 W Dana. Compact inexpensive Mexican place, also breakfasts. Popular locally, cheaper than some better known Mexican restaurants.

          Totoro, 841 Villa St. Hole-in-wall Korean, near Ryowa and Pho To Chau. Excellent grilled meats, bubbling pots. Abundant house-made kimchee vegetables served as garnish.

          Vaso Azzurro, 108 Castro. The "in-the-know" quality Italian place locally, maybe a little pricey for this range but still great value. More Northern style, less of a spaghetti and pizza joint than Frankie Johhny et al.

          Cafe Yulong
          743 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Hunan Chili Restaurant
          102 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Chef Liu
          236 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          841 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Taqueria Los Charros
          854 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          To Chau
          853 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Vaso Azzurro Ristorante
          108 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Gyros House
          212 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          3 Replies
          1. re: eatzalot

            How could I have forgotten to mention this, for inexpensive downtown-MV options? Cantankerous Fish, 420 Castro, is an upscale seafood restaurant that happens to have outstanding "happy-hour" deals in the bar-lounge area, very popular among locals including families, if you can make it during those hours (which have changed frequently in the last 2-3 years but sometimes included extensive weekend hours). The restaurant's unfortunate user-unfriendly flash-trash Web site (they should be banned from restaurant use, in my opinion) prevented my quickly checking current HH-deal hours, but the idea is, a menu of $7 to $9 "small plates," many of them not so small, are $5 at designated times -- only in the bar, which includes tables. This menu changes over time but has included trios of beef, lamb, or salmon "slider" burgers; zucchini cakes; steak quesadillas; and several seafood specialties like the generous firecracker tuna roll that I photographed last year. One or two of these plates will fill many adults. A few people can share some of them, even get drinks, and total around $10 per person.

            The Cantankerous Fish
            420 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            1. re: eatzalot

              Wow, thanks eatzalot! We'll be seeing you on Castro!

              1. re: Tumkers

                I noticed no mention of dim sum in the original posting. Though it's offered more for lunch and on weekends than for weekday dinner, dim sum can be economical too if you're interested. 20 years ago I observed an "$8 law:" no matter how much a good sized group of people stuffed themselves, at any dim sum restaurant I experienced in the US, they rarely seemed to exceed $8 per person. Prices have risen, but a tantalizing array of 10 assorted dishes -- enough to feed four if they don't try to stuff themselves -- can be had for $40 -- confirmed today at Fu Lam Mum in downtown MV.

                Since the late 1990s, the South Bay has some respected "destination" dim sum houses discussed regularly on this board -- abundant information available by searching. These include FLM already cited (relatively young in its current location at 155 Castro) and the big Milpitas places near the 880 / 237 junction (ABC, Mayflower).

                Fu Lam Mum
                155 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            2. There's a Korean food court at Lawrence x El Camino that has lots of good Korean and Japanese fast food for under $10. My favorite is the BBQ one to the far right of the big room. The spicy glass noodle side dish is worth its own mention.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Claudette

                We tried this the other night. Big portions and low prices-- good value. We tried the restaurants in either corner, but looking around everyone had something that looked pretty tasty.

              2. Regarding ruts: today GF and I finished a 2 year voyage to eat at every restaurant along University Ave in PA. We finished today with a new Thai place on the corner of Hamilton and Cowper (which is pretty good, slightly expensive). That included the dreaded cheesecake factory and PF chang's (the our limit of our range included the PF chang at the corner of the stanford shopping center). It included the restaurant in the Westin, the quesidillas in Melt Lounge, burritos at Sanchez, everything in between.

                Y*lp, for all its flaws, has a comprehensive list of restaurants. Make a list, keep it in your car or home, and just try a new place every now and then. Don't worry about Y*lp's star ratings, as they lie like dogs, but you can maybe nix out the high priced places. You'll start digging up new favorites (and maybe have a bum meal or two, but it'll be worth it)

                The entire point was to kick us out of our rut. We'd just say "Restaurant Roulette!", call up Random.Org and go. Few people are willing to put a meal entirely in the hands of fate, but that's our style.

                The fact that you're not eating indian or korean down there is criminal! My favorite indian not mentioned is Mayuri.

                2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                3 Replies
                1. re: bbulkow

                  How funny! Didn't any of the restaurants change over the two year period, requiring you to eat at them again? I am pathetic when I hit downtown Palo Alto. I look around and am stumped about where to eat. There are too many choices! Were there any standouts for you?

                  1. re: Tumkers

                    A change of name was required for a revisit, and some changes required a judgment call. Han's Hibachi's move to University Ave and name change to Han's did not require a re-visit. Rossi & Blanco -> Loui Loui Steak -> Renzo required three visits.

                    Peninsula Creamery continued to fare well after all the other visits, and retains status in "I don't know where else to go". Coupa Cafe still gets a frequent percentage. On the nicer side, St Michael's Alley. Just don't eat Chinese.

                    St Michael's Alley
                    806 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    Peninsula Creamery
                    900 High St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    Coupa Cafe
                    538 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      We tried Coupa one night and had a crispy delicious arepa (wish there were two per serving!) and a very fresh and large salad. We would have stayed within budget except we couldn't resist the hot chocolate and pastries. (Son gave a thumbsdown on the burger, however)
                      Peninsula Creamery was a good solid/plentiful breakfast spot. We shared and were still stuffed. Thanks!

                      Peninsula Creamery
                      900 High St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      Coupa Cafe
                      538 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                2. What a wonderful idea to start this list. I add:

                  Curry House in Cupretino: just about any of the curry with fried shrimp, tonkatsu, or tomato rice covered with egg omelet.
                  Muracci in Los Altos: they offer brown rice. nice healthier touch.
                  Korean Restaurant (actual name of the restaurant) on El Camino in Santa Clara: chap chae (sp?), pancake, fried fish, bbq chicken (avoid the beef)
                  Krung Thai in Los Altos/Mountain View by Trader Joe's: Roasted duck curry, rama tofu, and sauteed watercress green (it's not watercress though, even though that's what they call it on the menu)
                  Hana no Gyoza by Mitsuwa in San Jose: definetely boiled or panfried dumplings, onion pancakes, chive pastry. stay away from the chow mien.

                  Krung Thai Restaurant
                  1699 W San Carlos St, San Jose, CA 95128

                  675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA

                  Curry House
                  10350 S De Anza Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wendy

                    How about Nick's On Main in Los Gatos? It is small and not really small children friendly but very well done food. Also Olio in Campbell. Really good smoked chicken pasta and a filling Paella.

                    Nick's On Main
                    35 E Main St, Los Gatos, CA 95030