Update on Golden Tea Garden – Hayward

Golden Tea Garden is by far my favorite tea house in the East Bay. Today I visited it for the fourth time in four months and once again I had a great experience.
This time I tried the Margaret’s Hope tea (after researching and finding out it is, indeed, black) – and I liked it more than the English Breakfast or Earl Gray. It’s a Darjeeling, but one that can stand up to milk and sugar. It’s particularly good if you let it seep for a while. Mika (my 7-year old daughter and companion) once again had the caramel tea which she loved.
Golden Tea Garden now offers a “wee tea” for children 10 and younger ($7). It consists of a small pot of tea and a little plate of goodies. Today they consisted of a bite-size brownie, a petit four, two mini-sandwiches (the chicken salad one was quite good), two slices of green apple and a bag of gummy bears. Mika was happy with the petit four and gummy bears, but declined to try the rest. Instead, she went for the cakes in my “Tea Garden sampler” ($13), which consists of a large pot of tea and 3 desserts. Every time I’ve gone so far, the 3 desserts are three huge slices of cake – definitely enough to share (or to take one slice back home). Today there was a peach one that I really liked, a pink champagne one that Mika loved, and the perpetual red velvet cake that is a favorite of both of us. Yes, we both ended up in sugar coma.
Service, once again, was wonderful – and once again Mika got to be a princess with a complimentary jewelry set. She also loved trying the hats in a big box by the entrance.
My only concern with this tea house is that it’s so empty on Sundays. I really, really like it, and I really want it to survive – so go!

Feb. 2010 update. I returned to the Golden Tea Garden with my friends Vienna and Lotty a couple of weeks ago and once again we had an amazing experience. The food was excellent, the service first class and the little touches as cute as always. Vienna had the tea with sandwiches this time, a newish option, and she raved about everyone one of them – the chicken salad was a particular favorite. Lotty had the scones, which were also first rate, and I had my usual “garden sampler” which includes 3 huge slices of cakes. This time they featured a no-sugar-added chocolate cake which I found a bit dry and not very chocolaty. Vienna and Lotty really liked it, though, they appreciated it being less sweet than the usual kind. We also tasted their new gluten-free raspberry cream cake which is absolutely delicious.
Of course, Mika was jealous that she didn’t get to go – so I’ll be taking her there soon, I’m sure.
Golden Tea Garden - Hayward
The Kids’ Tea
Children's Tea at Golden Tea Garden
The Dessert Sampler

The Golden Tea Garden
22630 Main Street
Hayward, CA
(510) 538-4832
Th-Su 12 – 8 PM
Original Review
Reviews of Bay Area Tea Houses

Golden Tea Garden

Golden Tea Garden
Note: My complete review of the Golden Tea Garden is now available here.

I’m planning to write a full review of the Golden Tea Garden, a new and fabulous tea house in Hayward. But as the editing of my restaurant reviews is soooooooooooooooo slow, I figured I’d write about it here first.
I went there last Sunday with my friends Charlotte and Vienna and we had the best time. The little place is darling and very relaxing – they have harp music & a running fountain. The food (mostly sweets) was delicious and moderately priced and the service was out of this world. Indeed, at this point I’d say it’s one of the two best tea houses in the Bay Area (the other one being Lovejoy’s). I am planning to return this weekend with my daughter (they don’t have teas for children, but Mika likes fruit teas) – and then in May with another group of friends.
Golden Tea Garden
22630 Main Street,
Hayward, CA
(510) 538-4832
Tea Houses Reviews

Coffee Time

I’ve driven by Coffee Time countless times, but I had never had a reason to stop here. I usually do my coffee-drinking at Zocalo, and I rarely hang out in the Marina area. However, today I went to lunch with my friend Aamani to Zen’s Filipino Cuisine and we wanted to get a coffee, in lieu of dessert, afterwards. So Coffee Time it was.
Coffee Time is a very small coffee shop. Inside there is barely space for a counter, a tiny kitchen and a few knick knacks. The place has character, however, like something you’d find in a beach town. There are three or four tables in a small covered patio outside, right next to the parking lot. It’s a very relaxing place to seat in a sunny afternoon – even when you get to witness a police arrest (they did it very quietly).
I didn’t ask Aamani how her iced coffee was. My peanut butter chocolate drink was mostly air, but it was refreshing enough. Not sure if I’d order it again. But if I lived in the neighborhood, I’d definitely frequent the place.
They serve a variety of sandwiches for lunch, perhaps one day I’ll give them a try.
Coffee Time
2105 Doolittle Dr
San Leandro, CA
(510) 895-5997
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Safeway Ice Cream Cake

Yesterday was my birthday and my mom got me (by proxy) an ice cream cake from Safeway. It was a simple affair, a matter of vanilla ice cream sandwiched by white cake, and it wasn’t the most delicious thing ever, but pretty satisfying. I do think that I like their regular cakes better. They cost about the same, I think.

Safeway Birthday Cake

As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday was Mika’s 6th birthday party and as usual I got her a Safeway cake. I’d been going with Safeway cakes for several years – ever since I got a horrible cake from Just Desserts for her welcoming ceremony. Why pay $60+ dollars for something that in the end doesn’t taste good?

Part of the reason I go with Safeway is that there aren’t many choices for cakes in San Leandro. Costco has cheap cakes, but I dislike the frostings (which you know most likely have hydrogenated oils in them) and they only have basic designs, OK when your kid is very young but a problem by the time they are into cartoon characters. (Yes, I’m one of those parents that gives into commercialism and let’s her kids have character parties – I also buy Bratz for Mika! shoot me).

The chinese bakery
has nicely decorated cakes, with cartoon characters and all, but I find their cakes not to be sweet enough. This is a plus for some people, but I’m just not into them.
There is, of course, Marita’s, whom I like to support as they are locally and minority owned -, but while I like their cakes (in particualr their frostings), they don’t offer decorations. Plus I’m not sure you can get a rectangular cake that is less than a 1/2 or full sheet.

Then there is Baskin Robbins. We’ve gotten cakes from there before, and they are usually pretty good – if extremely expensive. Indeed, we were planning to get Mika one of them – but they didn’t have the Bratz decorations she wanted.

So we went for our tried and true Safeway cake. They didn’t have Bratz decorations but they did have Bratz pets decorations (I didn’t even know they existed!) and that was OK with Mika – who by then realized there weren’t many other choices. Plus the good thing about Safeway is that if you don’t want such a junky cake you can order it with whipped cream and strawberries (or another fruit). I usually get the white cake, which is very light, and the results are very good. For Camila’s birthday I actually got the whipped cream and banana cake, and I may have liked it even more. Best of all, the kids love it and I don’t feel they are eating too much sugar.

The one minus about Safeway cakes is that they aren’t cheap. A small, 1/4 sheet cake is about $21! You can get a half-sheet cake for about $16 at Costco. But hey, I’m willing to pay for whipped cream and fresh strawberries (and nice decorations). You can order the cakes just one day in advance, good for us procrastinators.

One thing to keep in mind is that the cake book that they have outside does not include all the decoration options. I was bummed when we didn’t find the Bratz there, but Mika insisted that we ask if they had Bratz anyway. I thought it was futile, but once again my 6-yo proved to be smarter than her mother. They indeed have other cake books under the counter – and usually they carry a Bratz cake. Unfortunately, there is a backorder on Bratz decorations and that’s why we had to go for the Bratz pets, but the point is that even if you don’t see what you want in the book, you should ask.

Anyway, this is a long posting to say that I like Safeway cake.

Cafe Americano


Updated 5/11

Cafe Americano has been closed for a while now. I think the building is for lease.

Update 3/10 Cafe Americano is now under new management. They are serving simple breakfasts (bagels, eggs, bacon,sausage, ham), cold sandwiches (ham, roast beef, roast chicken, pastrami and turkey – all $5), salad sandwiches (egg, tuna, seafood, chicken, all $5) and several hort sandwiches, most $5. For the vegetarians they offer avocado & cream cheese sandwiches ($5). They continue serving coffee drinks at *very* reasonable prices. That said, I haven’t check them out so I can’t opine on the quality.

Cafe Americano opened a block away from my house a month or two ago, but it wasn’t until today that I visited it. I generally hang out at Zocalo, which is much further from my house but has a play area for children. Cafe Americano is very nice, it has newly painted orange walls and multi-colored chairs, but it’s small and there is no space for kids. It has, on the other hand, a full sandwich menu making it a great place to get both a latte and lunch.
Indeed, it was in search of lunch that we went there today. I had their spicy tandoori lamb kebab wrap, while Mike had their regular tandoori chicken kebab wrap. I liked mine much better. The ground lamb kebab had a strong lamby taste and it was nicely seasoned. It was spicy but not too much. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough meat for the vegetable content (but it was a pretty large wrap, and at $5 definitely well priced). It was also a bit on the thick side, so it was difficult to get both the lamb and the veggies on the same bite. Mike really liked the chicken kebab, though the chicken seemed overprocessed to me. I’d definitely stick with the lamb.
They also offer a whole array of “American” sandwiches which I may or may not try again, as I said, I may just stick with the lamb 🙂

I didn’t try their coffee products, but they also have a whole array of cold drinks. We had a strawberry smoothie ($3.50 I think) and I was disappointed. It was more like a shake, consisting of ice cream and a strawberry product, and it tasted like fake strawberries. Mika drank quite a bit of it, but wasn’t too enthusiastic, and Camila didn’t drink hers at all. On the plus side, the smoothies are very large, and they were very nice in serving one smoothie in two cups.

Most of the pastries I saw were in plastic wrapped and did not look very appetizing. However, they had three types of refrigerated cake, including chocolate and carrot. They had canned and bottled drinks as well.

Cafe Americano also offers wireless but their service seems to be spotty, at least it was this afternoon.

Given that this place is so close to my house, I’m sure I’ll go back again, probably when I don’t want to prepare my own lunch 🙂

Cafe Americano
2150 Washington Ave (at Marina Blvd)
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 895-8044

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Lovejoy’s Redux

My friends Lotty, Regina and Vienna (and occasionally our friend Frank) and I get together monthly for tea. Sometimes we go out and sometimes we do it at our homes. As many places as we try, however, we always end up going back to Lovejoy’s.
There are many reasons for this. One of them is that Lovejoy’s is the most comfortable tea room we’ve found. It looks like your quirky grandmother’s living room, and the place invites you to stay and linger for a long time. Another is that the service is superb, a little bit contrived in that they are super-friendly, but your tea is topped and your requests are quickly fulfilled. But probably the main reason we keep going back to Lovejoy’s is that the food is superb. Their scones are always warm and fresh and just fluffy enough. Their chicken salad sandwiches are even better than mine. And their tea – I always get the English Breakfast – is quite good as well.
Today was not different than usual. We went at 3 and stayed until they closed (must have been around 6), talking and enjoying the food, the ambiance and each other. We’ll probably be back soon.

March 2010 Update
Once again, Vienna, Lotty and I went to Lovejoy’s for tea. Yummm. The tea (English breakfast) was excellent, and the large, warm scones with double Devon cream and strawberry preserves, are out of this world. Indeed, I ordered the cream tea so that I could get two scones 🙂
The tea services are pretty expensive, in particular after you compare them to The Golden Tea Garden in Hayward, my new tea hang out, but the atmosphere is so relaxing, and the scones so good, that it’s definitely worth going there as an occasional treat. Still, given the limitation of their menu, I think the Golden Tea Garden is a better choice for little girls (who love cake), so I probably wouldn’t bother taking Mika there.
Lovejoy’s Tea Room
1351 Church Street
San Francisco CA
P: 415.648.5895
Original Review

Keeping cool in San Leandro

San Leandro, like the rest of the country, is undergoing a heat wave. Unused as we are to high temperatures, our homes are not prepared to take them. In our particular case, our house has no insulation to speak of, and heats up like an oven in summer. It’s hot.
So thanks god for Zocalo, the cafe on Bancroft. Zocalo is already my favorite place to hang out – not just because I can drink an iced mocha while the kids play in their corner, but because I always run into someone I know and often I like too. But in this wave heat, their strong air conditioning is the real draw. I guess one of the advantages of remodeling is putting new equipment, and the A/C works remarkadely well for such a large space.
so if you’re hot and thirsty in San Leandro, head to Zocalo for some cool.

Marita’s revisited

March 2011 Marita’s has closed, its Richmond branch is open at the Hilltop Mall

I’ve written about Marita’s Sweet Potato Pie Co. before, and I’m not sure I have much more to say about it, except that we stopped by the other day for a small Red Velvet Cake loaf ($10) to take as dessert to Desiree’s house, and it was very well received. The cake itself, once again, wasn’t anything special. Indeed, I don’t think it’s a chocolate cake died red, but a plain cake died red, but the cream cheese topping was wonderful.
In addition Marita now has a website, http://www.maritasbakery.com/, where you can check out their offerings. Their website is only half-developed, though, and they clearly based it on standard format. This makes for some funny reading, for example in their mission statement you can read how they’ll strive to give you financing for your purchase and how the owner, John Doe, is a member of a number of Metropolis organizations.
And they do deliver, though they have a $25 minimun order and they charge a $10 delivery fee for all orders under $100. So far they only deliver throughout the East Bay, though they hope to expand (so all of you in San Francisco who are hungering for Red Velvet Cake, may get it soon).
Anyway, it’s a locally own (AFAIK) and small business, and I like that it’s there.

Cafe Sorriso

Cafe Sorriso opened about a month ago in the old Lateda location, in front of the downtown Safeway in San Leandro. Lateda was much loved in this community, but it had to close after the owners increased the rent to impossible levels. I’m not sure how the economics will work for Cafe Sorriso – the sad fact is that cafes in San Leandro (save, I imagine, for Starbucks) are not big money makers.
The new Cafe Sorriso looks wonderful. On the outside, it’s benefited from a coat of orange paint that makes it look sunny and friendly. I’m partial to that particular yellow-orange color, so I may be biased here. Inside it looks brand new. The “kitchen”/food preparation area has shrank a bit in size and is now composed of brand new impecable stainless steel surfaces – while a new counter has appeared making an L-shape with the old one, where they feature the day’s pastries and take your order. Back there there is a wall with miniature tea pots and small mugs – I thought they were just for decoration, but apparently that’s what you get if you order tea. I didn’t pay attention to their tea offerings this time, but I certainly will in the future (which reminds me – I have to make reservations for our April and May monthly teas!).
The rest of the restaurant features new paint, a lot of dark wood lintels, a new fake-fireplace (but still nice) and new, stylish furniture. There are a couple of fake-leather (or cheap leather, didn’t look closely) couches with a fake-marble coffee table, and otherwise crowded tables and chairs. But everything looks very nice and comfy. Cafe Sorriso’s space is quite small, so there isn’t an area for children – but they do have a couple of toys and story books in a shelf, as well as a lot of newspapers. The sofa area is large enough that a couple of patient kids can hang out for a little while – but still close enough to the rest of the scene that it took my 4 yo no time at all to make friends with another little girl sitting nearby. Still, I’m not sure of how child friendly this space will be if we have to sit at one of the tables. I’ll report on that later.
The menu features teas and coffees – but alas, I didn’t take the time to look at those. Instead I concentrated in the half-dozen or so ‘smoothie’ offerings (including a mango lassi) and the 3 or 4 shakes (all $3.50, I think). I’m convinced that if independent coffee-makers want to stand up to Starbucks they really need to spruce up their cold drink offerings (does anyone really go to Starbucks for coffee? It’s the frapuccinos that keep them coming!). I didn’t see any Frapuccino-style drinks here (though truth be told, I was feeling hurried by the server) but the smoothies sounded yummy. I settled in a “strawberry vanilla surprise” while Kathy went for a vanilla shake. I don’t know what the “surprise” on my smoothie was, perhaps that it wasn’t really a smoothie – more like a shake with a heavy ice cream base. I saw frozen strawberries and strawberry torrani added, but I don’t know what else. The result was quite good, it reminded me of the shakes at Vo’s, though it wasn’t quite as yummy. Still, some kids at a nearby table who were also savoring it seemed to like it very much and I certainly would order it again. The vanilla shake started good, but it didn’t hold up. It probably had too much ice, for at the end it was thin and tasteless. If you order it you may want to ask for “easy on the ice”.
We were hungry but none of the limited soup or sandwich options sounded appealing (of the latter they have a turkey, a veggie and a ham and cheese, I think, for about $5) so we instead went with a couple of pastries ($2 each). These were dry and not very tasty – unexcusable given that the cafe is just a few feet away from Safeway where they could easily get better quality baked goods.
In all, I’m quite pleased with Cafe Sorriso and I will go again. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to offer WI-FI.
Cafe Sorriso
1501 Washington Ave
San Leandro CA
M-Sa 6 am – 7 pm
Su 6 am – 5 pm