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Apr 24, 2012 02:05 PM

Quick lunch in San Mateo near the fairgrounds?

I'd like to stay within a mile of the San Mateo Fairgrounds and have a quick lunch, but have car, will travel if necessary. I can go up to El Camino Real and am planning to get cannoli at Romolo's. I could have the fried chicken at that place near Romolo's but I will be handling photographs later in the day so greasy fingers not a good idea.

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  1. Within a mile, the pickings are pretty slim.
    On El Camino Real, at 28th Ave, is Taxis Burgers. Standard fare, grilled to order and always quick.
    On Hillsdale at Saratoga Dr. (the side street off Delaware from the fairgrounds) is Whole Foods Market and The Habit Burger, a chain from So. California. Also in that development is Daphne's Greek (another chain), Pasta Pomodoro (ditto) and a sushi place. Oh and Peets Coffee is there too.

    Then there's Hillsdale Mall, also very close to the fairgrounds. Typical mall offerings and of course, The Cheesecake Factory. The Counter Burger is across the street from Cheesecake F.

    2 Replies
    1. re: alwayshungrygal

      In the past, I've noticed a lot of small places up on El Camino 2 blocks up from the fairgrounds. I recall Peruvian and Chinese. Are none of them any good. If not, I might as well eat near Romolo's.

      1. re: chocolatetartguy

        The only place I've eaten at on ECR that close to the fairgrounds is La Fonda and that was only one time. Not sure if they're open for lunch. I defer to the other posters about the other places. I trust their recommendations.

    2. Some consider this the best Shanghainese on the Peninsula - half a block from the main entrance from SM Fair Grounds...

      Little Shanghai
      17 E 25th Ave
      San Mateo, CA 94403
      (650) 573-7161

      I'm not positive but I think the chicken place you mentioned on 37th Ave. is closed. Alhana Foods, a middle-eastern grocery store/restaurant is on the same side of the street as Romolos closer to the El Camino Real. Very casual and IMHO, good.

      12 Replies
      1. re: RWCFoodie

        Thanks homeboy or homegirl. Little Shanghai sounds like a winner.

        I last ate at the chicken/ribs place 3-4 years ago. Is the Italian Deli across the street any good? Open on weekends?

        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          Up the street from Little Shanghai is Spicy Empire (Sichuanese) which I was surprised to read from a LA Chowhound that it was better than what he had in San Gabriel Valley, that will give you another option.

          Not too far from there is Silver House (Cantonese). They are very quick and efficient, provided you can score a table. Across the street is Silver Lake, which is a bit cheaper and better value, but to me a little less refined (style is typical of many Cantonese restaurants along Taraval in San Francisco). Next door is Yummy World, which may have easier on the wallet lunch options. A little bit further away but within reasonable driving distance is Cooking Papa (Foster City) which has more variety in quality (Cantonese), TW Village Bistro (Taiwanese style), Myung Dong Tofu Cabin (Korean). Before that there's a Whole Foods if you want something even quicker.

          1. re: K K

            Here's the thread for Spicy Empire.

            Yes, a ton of options in that neighborhood. From the intersection of 25th and El Camino Real, very easy to walk 3 blocks in any direction and find a more than decent lunch.

          2. re: chocolatetartguy

            The Italian deli is also closed. Makes the neighborhood sound like it's in bleak shape, but it isn't really! The chicken place (Little Biscuit House) started off promising but declined IMHO, and the deli was more or less just a typical sandwich place.

            I'll put in another vote for Alhana Foods. Decent, inexpensive, and definitely quick. I like their falafel if it's freshly fried.

            1. re: Champ

              I loved that little block. What is replaced the closed restaurants? I did stop in at Alhana once after eating at Little Biscuit House and it looked promising. The young owner at Romolo's recommended the deli to me. I thought it might be good seeing how it was an Italian deli in a neighborhood where there is an Italian senior population (They hang out at Romolo's).

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Little Biscuit House's space is still occupied by the catering business that used to run the restaurant, I think, so it has just gone from a restaurant to perhaps a prep space.

                The deli's space is empty and I haven't seen any sign of life (I live in the neighborhood and drive down that block every morning as I go to work). I think the paper taped to the inside of the door regarding the deli's closure is still there, and it has been like that for a number of months now.

              2. re: Champ

                Alhana Foods had SALE signs in their windows and appear to have vacated the premises.

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Yeah, it happened fast -- I'm pretty sure the whole "going out of business sale" and subsequent decampment occurred entirely between the time you and I exchanged posts a month ago and now.

                  Too bad. They were a decent source for takeout and the occasional odd non-supermarket Middle Eastern grocery or spice item: sumac, decent feta, bulgur, rose water, etc.

                  I'm not too surprised because I rarely saw other people shopping there, but I live in the neighborhood and work elsewhere so I had just assumed weekday lunches kept them going.

                  1. re: Champ

                    I'm really disappointed too. I depended on them for the same items plus fresh phyllo and olives in bulk. Especially the fresh phyllo...

                    Does anyone have another good Peninsula source for these items?

            2. re: RWCFoodie

              Absolutely second Little Shanghai - you could walk from the main entrance easily (as noted), the only problem might be a short wait as they are often full (for good reason) at lunch.
              There are also a few restaurants on the further side of 25th (I like the Filipino one a year ago), within a few blocks but none I'd recommend the way I do LS :)

              1. re: RWCFoodie

                Many thanks for your Little Shanghai recommendation. It was more than convenient, less than 2 blocks from the fairgrounds gate and right next to Palm Ave where I parked.

                It was quite crowded Saturday around 1 and I think I misordered. On a hot day, the salted pork and taro claypot probably not the best choice. They were not kidding when they said salted pork. It was very much like a pork version of hom mee (salted fish) and too much so for me. The taro and the gravy hinted at great flavor. Am actually going to chop up the leftover salted pork for a soup noodle dinner tonight. I was still hungry so got an order of XLB. The meat filling was very rich tasting although not a big fan of the soy vinegar dipping sauce. The couple at the next table (whose change the waiter brought to my table!) said that the Noodle House/Shop a Hunan restaurant a couple blocks up 25th, made better with more soup.

                I also got a rice plate of shredded pork, bamboo shoots and pickled vegetables to go. I heated that up last night for dinner and now know what you are raving about. I am unclear on exactly what unami is, but if it is richness and sheer deliciousness then that dish certainly had it. It was so good, I ate more than I really wanted to. Slightly salty, but well-balanced and completely wonderful.

                I don't go to San Mateo often, but when I do I will have to add Little Shanghai to Romolos' on my list of must stops.

                1. re: RWCFoodie

                  The chicken place may have been Li'l Bisquit House. They are now catering only. Also, was surprised to see that Al-Hana is gone. I had been for dinner just a couple of weeks before, and the place is empty now.

                2. Not yet mentioned:

                  The Swinging Door is the closest food to the fairgrounds. They have the famed habanero hamburgers, fried pickles, and is somewhat pedestrian but can be fun. Especially if you plan on having an afternoon beer or like very, very spicy food. Counter service means fast.

                  Nipa-pon is one of the most underrated thai places in the peninsula, if not the bay area, if you like spice. They do a nice quick lunch special which should be ordered spicy. The pumpkin curry is also very nice.

                  Little Shanghai - just make sure you get actual shanghai food. The XLB aren't bad, as in, they're really nice. KK's word on all the chinese places is to be trusted.

                  I have sometimes tried a few of the other places along there - there's always a viet place - but keep going back to Little Shanghai and Nipa-pon.

                  1. If you head out of the fairgrounds on 25th ave then turn right on El Camino, the Curry Up Now people have opened a new place called The Dosa Republic. It is at 2299 S. El Camino, and it is walking distance. I haven't been there yet, but plan on going soon, as I do like Curry Up Now. I imagine it is fairly quick and relatively inexpensive.

                    1. Take Saratoga (fairgrounds frontage street) to 3rd Ave. Turn left to B Street and left for Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa serves excellent Mexican food and made-to-order fresh fruit and vegetable drinks. This is our go-to place when looking for lunch in the area.

                      Try the prawn cocktail for lighter fare.

                      Menu and directions here:

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: mangeur

                        Those are misleading directions. Saratoga does not connect with 3rd Avenue; one end is at Delaware Street and the other is Hillsdale Blvd.

                        Proper directions: if exiting fairgrounds onto Saratoga, turn left onto Saratoga, then right onto Delaware. Got all the way to 3rd, then to B Street. If exiting onto Delaware, just turn right.

                        On B Street, there are numerous choices for food. At least 3 taquerias, several pizza places, B Street and Vine (my favorite), Kingfish, Johnny's Burgers, Chinese, Japanese etc. The side streets (2nd, 3rd, 4th) have options as well. Draegars is on the corner of 4th/B. Downtown San Mateo is an embarassment of riches.

                        Oh, and the link doesn't seem to work either...not sure why as I tested via Google, no luck that way as well.

                        1. re: alwayshungrygal

                          You are so right! I meant to say take Saratoga to Delaware, then Delaware north. I wrote this originally but lost the post before pushing enter. Thanks for catching this!

                          Can't explain the broken link. All of them worked this morning, and now none of them do. Too bad because the complete menu is on the website.