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Aug 29, 2013 08:35 PM

Last minute trip to Bay Area and have no idea where to eat.

We've decided to take a last minute trip to the Bay Area without the kids and I haven't had any time to research food. We'll be in Carmel/Monterey, then planning to drive up the east bay to Sonoma and will end the trip with a few days in Mendocino.

We're looking for good, casual dining in any of those place or en route to any of those places. I lived in Fremont 15 years ago and loved eating in the asian strip malls. We're coming from NYC so would like to stick with stuff not easily available there. Namely good asian food and anything "California" style. We love Korean and Japanese food, but would love to hear about any other standouts. Anything from dives to find dining, sushi to burgers and beer.

I'm so excited to finally be going back to California! Super thanks for all your help!

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  1. Sounds like a great trip. I'm so jelly!

    We've liked Passionfish for seafood, and Trailside on the bike path for breakfast in Monterey. Carneros in Sonoma. Lately Ad Hoc, Farmstead and Goose and Gander in Napa. None of that is ethnic. San Francisco and Eastbay is where you might find that, but I don't have anything noteworthy to reccomnend. We are from Queens, but 20+years ago.

    1. My eating experiences in Monterey were pretty casual so I won't recommend anything there but I will tell you to check out The Girl & The Fig in Sonoma. Located about a block off downtown they are open for lunch and dinner. My husband and I went for lunch one day, in fact we drove around until they opened, and shared the fig and arugula salad (delish!), mussels, and then each had the duck confit-1 leg. It was fantastic. We sat on the patio which is just delightful when the weather is nice. Our service was fabulous and us being dressed casually wasn't a problem. They have a website so you can check it out ahead of time. It's the only place I've been to in Sonoma and I'm sure there are lots of wonderful places, but I'd definitely go back in a heartbeat. I also hear their burgers are amazing.

      3 Replies
      1. re: spammie5

        I second The Girl & The Fig! We stop by every time we are in downtown Sonoma, whether it's for brunch or dinner. Try to get a table in the back patio, which is incredibly charming at night!

        Also consider The Farmhouse Inn restaurant. Really great California cuisine for a great fixed price. It's in Forestville, which is off of Sonoma and a lovely area.

        1. re: bobabear

          While I've heard very good things about the Farmhouse Inn I can't speak to the food, but at $69 for three courses and $84 for four courses, I am not sure it is the type of casual place OP is looking for....

          1. re: susancinsf

            Ah I was confused by the OP asking for "anything form dives to fine dining," and completely missed the precursory "causal dining" ask :) Thanks!

      2. Ok, so I wrote another post that got lost, but the gist of it was: NYC might have an edge on SF when it comes to Japanese (ie. you have Kyo Ya for Kaiseki, we have Wakuriya. You have 15 Eat/Yasuda, we have Sebo/Sakae. NYC has Ippudo and Momofuku noodle bar, we have Orenchi/Ramen Shop).

        Korean isn't really the best in the Bay Area—go to LA instead—though I haven't heard of a lot of places in NY that are much better than Ohgane or Bowl'd here.

        Chinese, I'm not sure SF really has Flushing beat. Yank Sing's dim sum is better than anything in New York, even Hakkasan (we have a branch here). But both our Chinatowns have seen better days.

        SF may be better in the southeast Asian category. Pok Pok's NY branch has the crazy lines, but Ler Ros (I've only been to the one on Larkin and stuck to the popular items) can hold it's own. Also a couple blocks away on Larkin are Turtle Tower (northern pho) and Saigon Sandwich (bahn mi) which are really exemplary. Burmese might be a category that NY doesn't have: the top 3 usual suspects are Burma Superstar, Pagan, and Mandalay.

        1. My family of 4 New Yorkers recently returned from Bay Area visit, and offer the following suggestions. The food quality of our dim sum meal at Lai Hong Lounge in SF Chinatown far surpassed our most recent Manhattan, Flushing, and other NY dim sum experiences, despite the oddity (for us) of ordering off the menu as opposed to choosing from a cart. And the cost ($52) for a very large brunch for 4 also beat NY prices!

          For the Monterey peninsula, we second the Passionfish recommendation, and also suggest the Crown and Anchor in downtown Monterey if you like a fairly authentic English pub atmosphere and food. In addition to about 2 dozen different British beers, they offer tasty food (my pan-fried sand dabs were great) and wonderful sticky toffe pudding for dessert. If you go a little way off the beaten path, Cafe Rustica in Carmel Valley is a delightful spot for lunch (sit outside on the beautiful shaded deck if possible); my thin crust mushroom pizza was outstanding, as were the salad and sandwiches my family had.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Mike in Rhinebeck

            Lai Hong Lounge is my go-to spot in Chinatown for "good value" dim sum, but Yank Sing (either location) is a whole class above, both in terms of taste and price. Ie., Yank Sing could actually survive in LA or Hong Kong/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur. Not that it would be anywhere near the top of those cities, but it would be a solid average.

          2. Mendocino and Monterey are on the California Board so you should check out it for more suggestions.

            The best Korean is in the East Bay, so that will be on your route from Monterey to Sonoma. Bowl'd in Albany sounds like a good suggestion though I haven't tried it, or do a search on the Oakland options. There is a Korean restaurant in Monterey, Won Ju; friends swear by it but I haven't been in a very long time. Once you get to Sonoma your Korean or Japanese alternatives are limited, and even more so in Mendocino (I don't think there is any Korean food in Mendocino, can't even think of any Japanese). There is a sushi place in Sonoma, Shiso, that I have been interested in, so if you try it, please report back. However, on a short trip to Sonoma from NYC, I'd be much more likely to stick with Mexican food. Try El Molino Central on Highway 12. Lots of reports on the Boards.

            10 Replies
            1. re: susancinsf

              I'm curious about your claim that Korean is best in the East Bay. The drive from Monterey to Sonoma will also pass close to numerous Korean options in the South Bay (with Santa Clara as the epicenter). I know very little of East Bay Korean but I'm just surprised that it can unequivocally be called better than the South Bay. I did go to Fusebox (Oakland) recently and it was somewhat more refined but the flavors (and heat) were dialed back relative to most other places I'm accustomed to.

              1. re: bouncepass

                Oakland's good for Korean, but Sunnyvale probably has the edge. They have at least two Korean supermarkets and a bakery.

                1. re: bouncepass

                  Yes, I'd credit Santa Clara's soondubu row a serious leg up over Oakland's offering both in variety and quality.

                  1. re: bouncepass

                    actually, I am so geographically challenged these days that I forgot about passing through South bay, so this is a very good point, and Santa Clara would definitely be worth considering for a stop...note that it may be a bit out of the way on the way to Sonoma, since the smart way to come will be to turn off onto 80 and head north before one hits some of Santa Clara a bit to the west/northwest...not much of a detour, however. I will defer to others on the best options.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Korean is on the way --- although I'm surprised.

                      I think of El Camino and Laurence as the best epicenter of Korean, but it looks like there's another Jang Su Jang outpost in Milpitas, near the corner of 237 & 880, certainly on the way. And a Tofu House or two.

                      Also very strong along that freeway is Vietnamese. Tully Rd, Story Rd.

                      I drove over there for bahn mi a few months ago, I can't figure out which place I hit, but it was very strong. CH doesn't do great coverage of the myrad places on that side of San Jose (other than mentions of some of the most storied ones), but at least with one data point I found great random deliciousness.

                      You can also read with amazement about the McCarthy Ranch restaurant plaza, which has a DIZZYING array of asian food, and a very fun Indian place (anjapar chettinad). This is right off the freeway and you'll have trouble deciding between all the places so do some research and pick a target first.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Oh yeah, the Vietnamese food courts at Grand Century Mall and Lion Plaza are well worth a detour.



                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            The Viet places on Story Rd (Grand Century) and Tully Rd (Lion Plaza) aren't really a detour since they're south of Hwy 880 which is the turn-off to drive to the East Bay.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I think Robert meant they were WORTH a detour (in the michelin guide parlance) which is different from NEEDING a detour


                    2. re: susancinsf

                      El Molino Central is well worth a visit or two.