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Dec 11, 2011 02:56 PM

Redwood City and surrounds

Some friends that moved from Eastbay Foodieville (who still come up this way to meet for dinner) want to take us out for a decent dinner in their area - they are clueless about what is good in their new surrounds, and have been generally underwhelmed with what they've tried. What is "chow-worthy" in the moderate department? (and actually, I'm sure they'd appreciate any recommendations at all price points)

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  1. We enjoy Donato Enoteca in downtown Redwood City. Good food [DH always gets their Bigoli pasta with nebbiolo braised oxtail & asparagus; I could just go for their bread served w/ parsley pesto(?)] good service & lively atmosphere. Nice to have such a place nearby since we don't always feel like driving into The City.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ceekskat

      + one for Donato - probably the best Italian in the area.

      1. re: RWCFoodie

        Thank you for recommending Donato! We were staying in Redwood a few days ago and tried it since I read your recommendation here. I tried the Bigoli pasta and it was amazing! Very nice ambiance and service.

      2. re: ceekskat

        Chowhound rarely fails me, but it did in this case. We ate at Donato Enoteca last night and, across the board, it was pretty disappointing. The wild board on the bruschetta di cinghiale was fantastic, but the bruschetta was soggy. We ended up just scraping off the boar. Our other starter was a zucchine tortino, which had too little salt and too much truffle oil, was luke-warm, and was not completely set. For our main dishes we had the three meat ravioli and a mushroom tagliatelle. The pastas were well cooked, but the meat ravioli filling was uninspiring and I couldn't finish the mushroom sauce; the mushrooms were overcooked and, honestly, tasted liked they had come out of a can. We had one dessert as part of the three course pre-fixe, an apple torte with a homemade caramel gelato. The gelato was anything but smooth, with lots of ice crystals, and the apple torte was served at room temperature. While I don't want to discount other people's positive experiences here, the food was definitely off last night.

        1. re: apple314

          You ordered the wrong items. I've also tried some of those, and had the same experience as you.

          At Dontao Enoteca, I have found these to be consistent winners: This stuff is also a very good value:

          - pesto / salame pizza: $13.

          - focaccia di manzo (steak sandwich) : only available at lunch. $10.

          - piadina emiliana: very simple, but fantastic, made-to-order flatbread with mozzarella and tomatoes: only available at lunch. $8.

          - bigoli pasta with oxtail: $17.

          - grilled prawn salad: $11. only available during lunch.

          - grilled calamari appetizer: $10, or $5 during happy hour 3-6 PM.

          - clams/mussels in garlic/wine sauce appetizer: only available during dinner. $10, or $5 during happy hour 3-6 PM.

          - straight shots of espresso. They rotate among about 5 beans from a supplier in Verona. The single-origin bean from Timor is a god shot. The bean from India is terrible; the others are excellent, and far better than anything else I can get on the peninsula. Their extraction is perfect.

      3. Look at the posts on El Hueco. We ate there today and it was stellar, though ambiance-lite, perhaps. Apps $8.00, mains $14.00. I did post about the lunch. Peruvian.

        Menu says El Huec but all posts here were El Hueco.

        El Hueco
        593 Woodside Rd, Redwood City, CA 94061

        1. My favorite is Martin's West, in RWC proper. What kind of food do they like, and what have they been unimpressed with?

          2 Replies
          1. re: bbulkow

            It's not that far to Palo Alto or San Carlos, depending on the side of town. Both of those open up dining options considerably. If you include San Mateo (great asian generally), the options are wide open. Which side of town are they on?

            Also - Village Pub and Station One aren't in the "moderate" department.

            New Kapadocia is.

            I really like the tortas at Casita Chilanga 2. #1 seemed somehow less yummy.

            1. re: bbulkow

              Shalizaar in Belmont is elegant, reasonably priced, and delicious.

              300 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002

          2. I've heard that RWC has the most taquerias per capita of any city - I don't know if this is true, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were. Mexican is the way to go, in terms of an area specialty, in my opinion. My favorites are Los Gemelos and Bravo Taqueria. A lot of people like La Casita Chilanga. I think the Mexican here is among the best in the Bay Area, a distinction I haven't been able to discern for other types of food.

            If you're looking for fancier food - there's Village Pub (1 star) and Station 1 (lost their sole star this time around) in nearby Woodside. I think Village Pub is okay for dinner personally, but I do think they have one of the best Sunday brunches around. Haven't been to Station 1.

            62 Replies
            1. re: mr_darcy

              It is true that Redwood City has more taquerias per capita than anywhere else. Here is the link to the master list, with google map and several sidebars


              1. re: Sushi Monster

                That list doesn't mention Los Gemelos in RWC. We were in the neighborhood and stopped in recently. Handmade thin tortillas, all your Mexican basics for tacos (no al pastor or chicken). I ordered the chicken taquitos (tacos dorados de pollo) that might have been the best ever because it came topped with a salad of dressed vegetables. Tacos were $1 each. The taquitos dish was more of an entree and was less than $7.

                1. re: scarmoza

                  Yea, the list is a little out of date. It's a pity the author didn't make it a wiki or something like that. Try the quesadilla de maiz - it's something you can't get at most taquerias :)

                  1. re: scarmoza

                    "no al pastor"? I've had the al pastor there, it it likely my favorite.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      My bad. They do have both chicken and al pastor. Here's a yelpers pic of the menu for those who might be interested.


                      1. re: scarmoza

                        Mexican food is the one thing they said they are really enjoying.

                    2. re: scarmoza

                      Our favorite at Los Gemelos is the cabeza - so delicious.

                      Their truck doesn't seem to be around anymore (either that or I just haven't found their latest location).

                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                        cabeza is one of hte few things I shy away from outside the best restaurants. Prions lead to an ugly death. Or should I not be concerned?

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Def worth being concerned; although not sure if French bistros necessarily use better cows than taquerias.

                          What's the latest on mad cow disease?

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Cabeza around here refers to beef cheek meat, sometimes the forehead. Not brains, which is where the highest concentration of prions would be, however, be aware that any tissue part could be infected. I no longer eat beef or veal brains anywhere. Brains are called sesos.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              A funny story, but not funny @ the time. I ordered sesos mistaking it for cabeza. I don't do brains.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks Melanie for explaining about cabeza - my experience is that it is made of the meat off the face, not the brains. I certainly wouldn't eat any mammal brain at this point.

                                Just heard from an acquaintance about a friend of hers who had recently died of mad cow disease...

                                1. re: RWCFoodie

                                  I had brain at Incanto. Once. Never again - that was a one-time and fear of prions will prevent ever having it again.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    I don't do oxtails either for the same reason.

                                    1. re: letsindulge

                                      This might sound ignorant, but are ox tails really a hazard? I know they are an extension of the spinal cord but it's only the meat that gets eaten...

                                      What about marrow bones?

                                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                                        Call me paranoid but I'm not taking any chances of BSE infiltrating the meat on oxtails. The research on marrow bones is "so far inconclusive". Not giving me the warm & fuzzies.

                          2. re: scarmoza

                            As of 1/3/12, note that Los Gemelos is setting to open a second location in the old vacuum and sewing machine shop 50 feet north of ECR and Roosevelt. The block to the south is particularly hot for foot traffic, with Mi Rancho, Mercadito Latino, Chela's, et al. Should be a nice addition to the neighborhood. Didn't note an ETA on the opening.

                            Sushi Monster

                            1. re: Sushi Monster

                              Thanks SM for the news, I fear parking will only get worse in that area... Park in the BevMo lot and pray they don't catch us?

                              1. re: RWCFoodie

                                Street parking around back of the Mo, etc.

                                That block anchored by the Mercado on the ECR side and Mi Rancho in back is so hot. Always something interesting to see. The other block that's so visually arresting that you don't even notice the congestion is ECR between Broadway and Brewster, with Casita Chilanga No. 2, etc. The city planners hate 'em both. But it's the marginal retail that's the most fascinating. The city sees "seedy" and I see a block that's alive w/entrepreneurs. Gotta love the shop that sells gold bullion and quinceanera gowns.

                                1. re: Sushi Monster

                                  Yes, I do love that block - like the produce and meat dept at Mi Rancho.
                                  Do you find LCC #2 to be as good as the one on Middlefield? My experience is that #2 doesn't put the tortas in the press long enough (but maybe that's just me...) Love La Tesorito!

                                  Have you tried the Chinese place on ECR closer to Brewster?

                                  1. re: RWCFoodie

                                    Are you talking about Beijing Kitchen? The lady there is super nice but I found the food mediocre at best, sadly.

                                    1. re: mr_darcy

                                      Thanks - yes, that's sad. I've driven by many times but parking there is difficult, even around the back, so I've never stopped. to try it...

                                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                                        I think it used to be a Chinese-Hawaiian place - as far as I could tell, it's the same owners as before. I think they're Cantonese. The food was definitely not authentic to Beijing - perhaps the Cantonese dishes would be better, but I'm skeptical.

                                    2. re: RWCFoodie

                                      I adore both of those Casita Chilangas (and they're not the only outlets, either). But I'm just on ECR more than I am on Middlefield these days. Two benefits to the ECR location: Decent sit-down, dine-in option. And lamb tacos on the weekends most of the time (a very DF specialty I haven't seen at any other RWC taquerias).

                                      And hell yeah -- I've pretty much stopped buying meat at Safeway now that I'm in the vicinity of Mi Rancho most days. Handmade fresh chorizo!

                                      1. re: Sushi Monster

                                        If someone could explain how to cook chorizo, I'd greatly appreciate it.

                                        There seems to be wet and dry. The casing is inedible. So --- how do you deal with the casing?

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          Inedible? now you tell me after my chorizo crawl a few years ago. cook on lowest heat possible. more info in this home cooking oost


                                          The crawl with lots that i learned about chorizo

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            If you're supposed to eat the casing, I can try the slow & low etc. It just seemed really, really tough.

                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                              Depends on the maker but if the casing is tough you just peel it off and cook it crumbled. We have loved Molinari's chorizo of all brands.

                                              Dry chorizo is different - it will just dice.

                                        2. re: Sushi Monster

                                          SM, you're totally right about the ECR Casita Chilanga location - really quite nice. Now if I could just get them to press/toast the tortas long enough for me....

                                          Will have to try the lamb tacos one of these weekends; I keep forgetting about them.

                                          Chorizo? I thought you were a no pork guy...???? I too like the chorizo at Mi Rancho, especially the dry one.

                                          I usually marinate my own meat/chicken but I like the pre-marinated chicken leg/thighs there for when I'm feeling lazy :-) No skin so I can feel like I'm doing a good thing diet-wise!

                                          1. re: RWCFoodie

                                            You got me. I'm supposed to be a no-pork guy. If my rabbi is lurking on this thread, there's going to be an uncomfortable discussion. Seriously: If I had to go through the rest of my life without dim sum or spaghetti carbonara ... it'd be a bleak existence indeed.

                                            1. re: Sushi Monster

                                              Yes, the lure of pork belly, carnitas and chicharrones is too much for me too! Not to mention bbq pork ribs...

                                  2. re: Sushi Monster

                                    I tried the ECR Los Gemelos, and it has a few things over the original on Middlefield. First, the Middlefield location no longer has the old ladies, and you can taste it. Second the ECR version is open late - I'm not sure how late, but at 10:30 is was pretty hopping. Third is the wide Camarones menu, but I stuck to the "quesadillas", which were much closer to a monstrous $2.50 version of their $1.00 tacos. All in all, worth a trip.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Yup. I tried the ECR branch a couple of weeks ago. Was surprised to see the camarones items - had a tostada. Extremely small shrimp, not the best quality but all in all, it wasn't bad! Nice airy spot. Was doing a big lunch business.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        I can never seem to find good chowhound Redwood City taqueria recommendations on mobile when I find myself over there, just multiple references to "check out the Mexican neighboorhoods in Redwood City". I've finally clipped Sushi Monster's list from 2008 so I'm somewhat prepared for next time.
                                        Last weekend I stopped by the El Camino Los Gemelos and sampled a couple things. Their fresh-made tortillas were quite good. The cabeza taco wasn't my favorite--not too much seasoning or beefy flavor. The quesadilla with chorizo was great--like bbulkow said it's a larger tortilla filled with meat, a little melted cheese, lettuce and salsa. I was hoping for something griddled, like this or even better, the kind of quesadilla that is fried straight from fresh masa, but overall, a good large taco--I liked the flavor of the chorizo. The tacos dorados ended up being chicken taquitos--you have to order 4 and they come under a salad with pickled veggies, an avocado salsa, lettuce, salsa roja, crema, and queso fresco. Everything was good except the dried out, bland chicken filling. This would have bothered me more if my primary interest wasn't the fried tortilla portion of the taquito, and eating the rest of the salad on top of the (not free) chips.

                                        1. re:

                                          I wish I had better news, but although I'm still sniffing around the taqueria scene in RWC, I haven't found clear winners. There's a new Gruensele on Middlefield, but it's same-as-the-old-ones. I end up more at the El Gruenselle #1 on ECR, everywhere else is "try somewhere new". My only thought is to try Casita Chilanga if you haven't yet.

                                    2. re: scarmoza

                                      I'll have to try the taquitos; I've just had the tacos.

                                      This place would be perfect if you could get the tacos with slices of REAL avocado; they only have guac. I might bring my own avocado.

                                    3. re: Sushi Monster

                                      Sushi Monster or other RWC taco hounds, have you tried La Viga (Broadway about 2 blocks south of downtown)? IMO, the best tacos anywhere. Very different style than typical RWC taqueria. Exquisitely constructed, fine ingredients, sophisticated flavors, but about the same price point as Chavez or Grullense.

                                      1. re: Lisa S.

                                        I'll get on it when I'm down there next. Is this the place on the east side of Broadway near the back of the Kaiser campus? If so it's been a taqueria under three different administrations.

                                        The truth: Right around the time Tacos Elizabeth became a brick-and-mortar Gemellos on Middlefield I realized I was going to be 300 lbs. if I kept it up. So that was where it stopped, alas.

                                        These days, "old Grullense" (ECR south of Jefferson) and Casita Chilanga No. 2 (ECR north of Broadway) are my mainstays, along with the pupusa truck on Woodside Road.

                                        I really should get back to it ....

                                        1. re: Sushi Monster

                                          Where on Woodside Road can I find the pupusa truck? Years ago, I lived in El Salvador and the pupusas there were different (and better) than I've found here. They were smaller and not greasy.

                                          1. re: walker

                                            The pupusa truck, which also has a full range of the typical Mexican fare, is a husband/wife team parked on the south (eastbound) side of Woodside Road between Alameda de Las Pulgas and Woodside Plaza. They're usually there from lunch until 3. If they can't park there, their backup is further east near Woodside x Valota. Always fast. And the lengua is d-lish.

                                          2. re: Sushi Monster

                                            It looks like it's right near the main "climate best by government test" sign where spring and broadway intersect at a strange angle - but not right on the corner. It's on my list now, but reporting might take a while. We're still eating through the random restaurant list.

                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                              Do you know the name of the truck?

                                            2. re: Sushi Monster

                                              Ha ha, than maybe La Viga's a good fit since its healthier style than others on your list. "old Grullense" is my favorite traditional taqueria, but funny thing is the Grullense which recently opened a bit further south on ECR in the Target center is one of the worst I've experienced. Same owner, how could this be?

                                              1. re: Lisa S.

                                                I've found a fair amount of variation among all the grullense's. I chalk it up to the very different kitchens, and maybe they way they are managed is hands off? The Al Pastor at Old Grullense is on a spit with the pinapple at the top, the Grullense at the very north end of middlefield is cramped and has no such device. The new one far south on MIddlefield near 5th seems pretty good, though, can't remember if they had a spit.

                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                  Perhaps because they have different owners. Sr. Gamez owns these three,

                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                    Someone (bbulkow, RWC Foodie) really should revisit El Rincon Tarrasco, anchoring the hot, hot intersection of Fifth and Middlefield. One of the oldest sit-down Mexican restaurants in Little Michoacan. Major, complete makeover, judging from the outside.

                                                    Last time I was there I had the machaca (air-dried beef) and eggs platter. Very nice. And I was really stymied in my reporting by my lack of Spanish fluency. The waitress let it be known rather strongly (even with the language barrier) that she'd just made each of those tortillas by hand and was personally hurt that I was not a member of the clean plate club. Lo siento!

                                                    And while we're at it, I'm still on the hunt for a killer regional seafood place in the neighborhood. 7 Mares was OK and a bit overpriced (I can do that camarones diablo at home in 20 minutes ....). Michoacan, although thought of as a mountainous region, does have a sizable chunk of coastline on the Sea of Cortez, with a culinary tradition to go along with it. Now we just have to find the place. In the interim, I go to Mi Rancho (on Roosevelt) and get a pound of the medio camarones, a lime, an avocado and some mild Mexican melt-y cheese, plus two boletas (the torta rolls, which are wonderfully fresh). Overstuffed shrimp torta in no time.

                                                    1. re: Sushi Monster

                                                      Noted. I lunched at that intersection yesterday and eyeballed the place, but went to Hometown Noodle instead. The pho there is OK, solid broth, although the meats are only average. The non-pho dish (imperial rolls) were quite good.

                                                      1. re: Sushi Monster

                                                        Wow, thanks for the El Rincon Tarrasco rec. Popped in today for lunch. Excellent chicken mole (more spicy than sweet) and some of the best tasting refried beans I have had. The thick homemade tortillas weren't to shabby either.

                                                        I'll be back, but [please] what else is good in the area?

                                                        1. re: Sushi Monster

                                                          SM: It's been quite some time since I've tried Rincon Tarasco, probably before the changes... I was not impressed at that time (for small street-type tacos). Were those tortillas corn or flour? I love, love, love handmade corn tortillas... Will have to stop and check it out soon.

                                                          Have always been curious about 7 Mares but haven't gotten around to trying it. Need to do that one of these days.

                                                          When I want a quick tasty coctel de camaron (shrimp cocktail) I hit Mar y Tierra in the shopping center with the Big Lots store on Broadway I think at Chestnut. I like my coctel cold and that's the way they serve it. At least 10 large shrimp and a decent tomato juice base - add several squeezes of fresh lime and maybe a little hot sauce and I'm happy! They used to be more generous with the chopped radish and cucumber but I still like it a lot. I love the big schooner glass this is served in too... Seems like a healthier alternative when I get a craving for Mexican food (if I can keep from eating a whole basket of corn chips & salsa).

                                                          1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                            Is that Mar de Tierra still going? Liked it the one time I wrote it up years ago. (Big after-church weekend crowd coming out the door. Nice vibe.) I somehow thought it had ceased to be a going concern. I'm going to have to pay more attention on that section of Broadway.

                                                            (And by the way, on Chesnut just two blocks west, in a very historic bar/bodega location, there's still Apatzigan No. 2. Really cool funky space with a nice beer garden/patio out back. Another of those places I promised myself I would revisit and then never got around to it.)

                                                      2. re: Lisa S.

                                                        Don't assume the same owner. The Gamez family (Old Grullense and Grullense Grill on Woodside Road) are the best. I tend to avoid the E&E installations, particularly the one at James and El Camino Real. It really is unclear on some of them who is backing them. Generally, if you see bright yellow/black uniforms, it's Gamez family.

                                                        Grullense is a semi-generic like "Tasty Freeze" or "Jolly Kone." Not a trademark.

                                                        By the way, I see that as of this month the Grullense No. 1 (Middlefield just south of Main) has a sleek new black wagon. It's usually parked in the lot, though. Not sure if it's for catering only or what. If I'm eating at No. 1, it's almost always for a quick asada fix. I don't mix it up there.

                                                        1. re: Sushi Monster

                                                          I've also found a lot of variation between visits, even at Old Grullense. I had an Al Pasto Burrito Wet at OG one day that was "best ever", and in three subsequent tries have never repeated. Sometimes you get lucky.

                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                            This is just so impossible to explain to people who don't live in this region (particularly Angelenos): The Old Grullense red wet burrito is not really a burrito in the traditional sense at all. It is three meals of glorious, guilt-inducing flavor (or one meal for a family of 3-4) in a single styrofoam clamshell.

                                                            I can't think of anyone I've encountered who can put one of those down in a sitting. (I suppose you could try IF you had an ambulance on standby waiting to take you to the ER...) Like so many things in this life, the midnight leftovers just add to the pleasure.

                                                            1. re: Sushi Monster

                                                              It's big, but you exaggerate. I have eaten one at a single sitting multiple times, and I am not that big an eater. I only order them when I am hungry, and often I don't eat the last half inch or so - but sometimes I eat the whole thing. They are good.

                                                              I have only once seen someone sent someone to an ER due to overeating, and that was a torn esophagus, and that was my father, and it was about 3am when he started bleeding. Not fun. Of course, he was trying to keep up with me. Torn esophagus is not treatable, and is self-healing, so all was well.

                                                              Angelenos will talk of a California Chimichunga, most of which are larger and denser than an OG red wet, I hear tell. I personally have never experienced such a thing, did notice that one of the Grullense is serving a California Burrito, so I must talk them into the Chimichunga version. Will report when done.

                                                    2. re: Lisa S.

                                                      Completely agree with you - great tacos! The pork is my favorite - with the slice of tangerine - heavenly.

                                                      1. re: mr_darcy

                                                        Would love to hear about the seafood dishes at La Viga if anyone's tried them.


                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                          Hm. That's slightly outside of "restaurant roulette RWC", which we capped at Maple St (just 3 storefronts away). Will see what I can do.

                                                          Last RR RWC was Diablo Lounge, up from Martin's West. Shorter bar bites menu like a very plausible quesedilla but nothing found that is memorable. The amount and types of Tequilla there are very, very impressive - at least 100 types. Bonus is the place is pretty quiet in the late afternoon, but I'd think anyone in a relaxing tequilla mood would head over to Milagro's, only 100 yards away, with much better food.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            The first time we went to La Viga, we got some seafood dishes - the filete de pescado frito and the dorado a las brazas. To be honest, I found these dishes to be less remarkable than the tacos. To my taste, the fish in the former was a too heavily breaded, while the fish in the latter was a little too dry / over-fried. Kind of weird, because the fish in the fish taco is superb! The shrimp in the shrimp taco is also really good.

                                                            1. re: mr_darcy

                                                              Gracias! Is the fish in the taco de pescado fried or grilled?

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                No problem :) Fried... lightly breaded (much less than the filete de pescado frito).

                                                                I should also mention - my girlfriend got the empanada de camaron and was disappointed (she loves the taco de camaron though). I didn't verify this but apparently there was only one shrimp in it (as opposed to several in the taco) and it was on the greasier side. She's not too knowledgeable about latin food though, so take it for what you will.

                                                                1. re: mr_darcy

                                                                  You know, I've ordered empanada de camaron at three or so different places and didn't like any of them. I'm skipping them unless someone raves about a particular version.

                                                        2. re: Lisa S.

                                                          Not sure exactly when it happened, but La Viga has changed its menu and dramatically reduced the taco offerings. I used to loooove the tacos--after sampling a couple of other things, I went there for the tacos exclusively.

                                                          Now, not so much. They no longer offer tacos one-by-one. Inconvenient because I like to mix and match, but no big deal. So I ordered the seafood tacos on the tapas portion of the menu. ~$7 --not sure what I would get.

                                                          Out came two tacos--one taco of lightly battered and fried shrimp, another taco of a white fish with a chipotle crema. On the upside, the taco fillings were HUGE. Easily three tacos worth in two tacos. But... the formerly sophisticated flavors were gone. Replaced by too much pico de gallo with waaay too much red onion.

                                                          If I hadn't ever savored La Viga tacos I might have found these good, but I had and I didn't. They weren't bad--the fish/seafood--was well prepared, but the flavors were pedestrian.

                                                          Here's hoping this is a change that doesn't last long.

                                                    3. I had an enjoyable pre-holiday meal @ Mandaloun's on Broadway. It's a beautiful space with a nice Mediterranean menu.