NY Chowhounder visiting Redwood City for 2 nights
I'm going to be staying in Redwood City for 2 nights but will have access to transportation and would be willing to travel up to 45 minutes for quality food. I'll be dining alone so anyplace with a bar is fine, but have no problem dining alone at a fine dining establishment. No budgetary limitations and my only veto would be a steakhouse as we have those in abundance here in NY. I have an adventurous palate and am open to trying any ethnic foods, but would really love to sample places that are unique to the bay area whether because of cooking style or ingredients.
Any suggestions would be appreciated and I will certainly report back on my experiences. Thanks in advance.
Good luck with manresa. The place is a little too variable for the price: I have had world-beating three star meals, and some experiences I was really unhappy about. Do get the tasting menu, do not get the premium wine flight.
For around-town food, it really depends exactly where you are and what you like. Strong choices are Crouching Tiger for Chinese (the dry-fried dishes are good and unusual), for beer City Pub has some of the good west coast choices fresh, Martin's West for Haggis on a Stick and cocktails, and the beer garden previously mentioned. Most - not all - of the other places downtown are "a cut below".
For Only In California, I'd direct you to the Village Pub in Woodside, which is a quite quick drive. The place is "old money" silicon valley and a real hoot, as well as having good food. There's a couple of places in Palo Alto that are worth a drive (evvia and tamerine), and a couple places to the north (the refuge, Everyday Beijing, Little Shanghai). But these downtown - specific places might not be right. Maybe you're working at the salt complex, where you should really try Back-a-yard.
Manresa is definitely worth a visit. Personally, having traveled up and down 101 during the evening commute, I don't think traffic going S on 101 is that bad. It's much worse if you're trying to get to SF. On the other hand, if you're able to travel outside of the commute hours, you should consider going up to SF. It's about 30-45 minutes if you avoid traffic.
That said, All Spice in San Mateo (about 10 minutes from Redwood City) has amazing and unique Indian food. If you have any quick lunches free, I would also suggest Ike's Place for sandwiches in Redwood City. Lots of amazing sandwiches that you won't find anywhere else.
Gourmet Haus is one of my favorite beer gardens in the Bay Area and has a little social history as the place where an iPhone prototype was misplaced, causing considerable consternation at citadel Apple. Food is not elaborate, but the beer is amazing. Family run with a German gift shop in the front and a bar with patio in the back
I am not sure about bar dining but..
there is Donato Enoteca, but not sure I'd recommend Italian to a NYC visitor. Honestly, I would seek out Indian or Mexican. There is a taqueria thread I think already referenced. RWC is sometimes termed little Michocoan, but amazingly there aren't too many non-taqueria type places. Los Gemelos or El Gruellense Grille (which has a place to sit) are go to places there.
For California cuisine fairly close there is John Bentley or Village Pub. There is also a little Peruvian place that we have enjoyed called El Hueco.
For Mexican, I've liked Margarita's in downtown Redwood City, and Milagros gets good reviews. There are a few places called El Gruellense - look for the small letters near the name (I don't know the story behind them - I've heard rumors of a falling out between the original owners with each faction opening their own chain). I recommend the lengua and tripitas burritos at El Gruellense E&E on Middlefield across from Costco.
If you wander around downtown Redwood City you may come across the plaza with the explanation of how it got to be the county seat and the place where the ballot box stuffing occurred. Local color: "ballot box stuffing" was the theme for some of the floral arranging and table setting competitions at the county fair a few years back.
Manresa is the best high end dining restaurant down this way. As a warning, it is, however, more than a 45 minute drive from Redwood City during commute times. (The 101 slightly north of San Mateo through Sunnyvale has become somewhat of a disaster).
Closer, but certainly not in the same league, is Station 1 in Woodside. Definitely not Manresa standards, but has a very California feel.
Martin's West, in Redwood City, has good British food/beer list/scotch list.
Along with Taquerias, Indian and Korean is big in the Penninsula/South Bay.
Here's a recent thread on Indian: