This is not as much a restaurant review, as an overall praise of Joe’s Pho, a year-old restaurant located near Bayfair mall. I had never even heard of it until my friend Parker suggested we go there for dinner, as our old friend Eddie was back in town. I’m not a huge fan of pho (or soup in general), so I was reluctant at first – but Parker mentioned it had other food.
God, I’m glad we went. Joe’s Pho not only has an extensive menu, but the food we tried was delicious. Alas, I didn’t want to inconvenience everyone by asking specifically about their dishes – but everyone agreed they liked the food, including my vegetarian and vegan friends (there are plenty of choices for vegans).
Personally, I ordered the basil popcorn chicken appetizer ($9), and was very happy with how tender and flavorful it was. I’ll definitely order it again in my next visit. I also had the grilled beef banh mi ($6.50), a Vietnamese sandwich, and loved the marinated beef. The proportion of beef to veggies was also quite good, and I liked that the bread was a soft bun.
The place itself is large and informal. They have long tables, so it’s perfect for groups. Service was friendly and attentive.
I can’t wait to go there again with my family, at which point I’ll take pictures and write a better review.
15070 Hesperian Boulevard
San Leandro, CA
M-Su 10 AM – 10 PM
I’ve written about restaurants deals in San Leandro and the Bay Area before, but new places offering deals have come around, so I thought it was time for an updated posting. These are the deal sites I’ve found, if you know of others please let me know!
Get $25 gift certificates to local restaurants for as little as $2. Minimum purchase (usually $35-$50) required. Other restrictions. Click on link above for details.
The original “daily deals” service. You sign up and you get an offer for a good or service, often at a deep discount. Relatively few restaurant deals but they have the occasional one.
These are the coupons you get in the mail. I thought it was the same site as the one above, but they have different offerings. The link goes to the deals for San Leandro, but they have them for all over (just enter your zip code).
Also check the website of the particular restaurant you want to go to. Some (pizza & Chinese joints in particular) will have coupons there or clubs that you can join for special deals.
Pools coupons from the sites above
Joan’s Bakery Cafe has been opened for just a few months and is already in its last legs. It’s clear from the offerings that its owners don’t have the capital to keep it running. My bet is that it will close soon, very soon.
The space that Joan’s occupies has been having troubles for years. It seemed fairly successful when it operated as Planet Coffee under its original owners, but a series of new owners and new names were unable to make it succeed. I’m not exactly sure as to why, as before this latest incarnation as Joan’s Bakery, the offerings were both good and well priced.
Joan’s Bakery Cafe, however, is a mess. First of all, it’s not a bakery. I don’t know if it ever was, but right now all they sell are pre-packaged, dried Chinese baked items from a bakery in Oakland and old and stale bagels and doughnuts, I recognized as sold at Grocery Outlet. They do have cafe offerings, though I cannot comment as I didn’t try any. Though I did order a large glass of orange juice, thinking it’d be freshly squeezed (it should have been, for the $4.50 price), but it was not.
The place was empty, both of customer and of stock, and it seemed to me like the owners had run out of money and couldn’t keep with the expenses of daily operations. Indeed, it turns out that the space is up for lease.
The food itself wasn’t bad, though grossly overpriced. I had the lamb shawerma ($8). The tiny sandwich came with lamb, thick slices of cucumber, tomato and sauce. The lamb was nicely spiced, it definitely had some curry powder, but not an overwhelming amount. However, there were no sides (not even chips) and I was nowhere close to full after eating it (the doughnut I bought for dessert must have been a week old).
Mike had the rib-eye blue cheese sandwich ($8) and it was also minute but very tasty.
The whole cafe is in charge of a young girl with limited command of English. She has to attend to customers, answer the phone and prepare and serve the food. That means limited service even if you’re the only ones eating there.
In all, I’m sad this cafe was such a bust – but I look forward to the space being occupied by a good restaurant one day.
There are many positive things to say about Rubiano’s. It’s located in a neighborhood that has long been desperate for good restaurants – but which seems unable to keep them for long. It’s very child friendly, one our visit there there were a couple of tables with toddlers and a guy with a friendly dog waiting outside. The food and atmosphere are decent. The prices are not outrageous. And it has developed, very quickly, a large base of fans.
However, from the beginning I had heard rumblings about slow service and mediocre food, so I gave it several months to settle down before trying it. When I finally did, last Friday night, my experience was pretty mediocre. There is no compelling reason for going back.
We arrived at the restaurant after 7:30 PM. I had anticipated that we might have to wait to get seated, but fortunately there were spaces at the bar as well as a table for two where we could add an extra chair. The restaurant soon got even more crowded, plus there were people waiting on the sidewalk. The waitresses seemed to be rushing to attend to everyone.
The menu is pretty compact, which makes sense for such a small restaurant. It offers a few deep-fried starters ($6-10), a couple of salads ($5-8), simple pastas ($8-10) with your choice of marinara, alfredo or pesto sauce, stromboli sandwiches ($9) and, the piece of resistance, pizzas and calzones. These start at $11 and $14 respectively for a small cheese, with extra toppings $1.80 to $2.40 each. The prices are not low, but they’re in line with other local restaurants.
My daughter decided on the cheese tortellini with marinara sauce from the kid’s menu ($7), which included a drink and a scoop of ice cream. Mike went for the meat’s lover small pizza ($19) and I ordered the meatball stromboli ($9). What we got, however, was different.
It took me a while to conclude that there were no meatballs in my stromboli. I had been surprised to not find them in the first few bites, but I figured they might have ended up at the ends. No such luck. The stromboli I got had cheese and tomatoes/tomato sauce, and some long, thin strips of something which I assume were artichokes. There were no meatballs and no olives (as advertised for the artichoke heart stromboli) though there was some basil. It tasted fine, though it was a bit too doughy for the amount of filling and the different ingredients weren’t completely harmonized. The basil was a tad too bitter, and yet it’s what gave the dish its fresh flavor. I decided not to send it back because I figured that it would take another fifteen minutes to get the right stromboli, and I was pretty hungry. Even without the meatballs this was a pretty messy dish, you need a fork and knife to eat it discretely.
The stromboli came with a side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, green peppers and croutons with your choice of dressing. I was pretty good.
My daughter’s troubles with her food actually started earlier. She had ordered a raspberry iced tea, but what she got was a plain, unsweetened ice tea. It turns out that they don’t actually carry the raspberry tea advertised on the menu. The waitress happily substituted it for a diet-pepsi. She did get her order of tortellini right, though instead of bringing her a kid’s size portion as she had ordered and billing accordingly, she brought a regular portion. Thus a $7 meal, which included a drink and dessert, became an $12 one. She didn’t charge us for the ice-cream, however. Not a big deal, but yet another mistake that shouldn’t have happened.
Mika liked the tortellini, she thought the marinara sauce was fine though she left most of it on the plate. The adult-size serving was fine for an adult-size appetite, but not particularly generous. She didn’t have leftovers to bring home.
Mika and I were almost done eating our meals by the time Mike got his pizza. The meats had a very nice smokey flavor, though the saltiness in them pretty much overwhelmed the rest of the pizza. This, of course, is a problem for meat-heavy pizzas, which is why I personally don’t order them. He liked it well enough. I thought the dough was pretty nice, a bit tough and a bit chewy but with a good flavor. I prefer thick-crust pizzas, however. I couldn’t taste much of the cheese and sauce because of the flavor of the meats. The pizza didn’t keep that well, however. By the next day the smokiness on the meats had become much weaker and, eaten cold, it wasn’t particularly compelling.
Service was rushed but friendly. There were obviously two pretty major mistakes. The fault on the stromboli lies with the kitchen, it appeared correctly on the bill. The other mistake was the waitress’, but I can’t really blame her because the place was very loud and she seemed so rushed. We paid the bill – after all, she had consumed the food and we were ready to go-, but I would be careful of examining it and the order carefully if we returned.
As a final note, before writing this review I included a brief summary of the experience on my San Leandro Talk Facebook page. One of the cooks from Rubiano’s chimed in to say that I should have either spoken up then – though he did recognize it would have taken at least 10-15 minutes for me to get the right stromboli if I had done so – and should “shut up” now. He also made some comment about how I am not a San Leandro native. That type of anti-customer attitude makes me doubly-reluctant to return to the restaurant.
600 Dutton Ave, Unit C
San Leandro, CA
M-Su 11 AM – 10 PM
You get what you pay for. At Li Do, that’s a lot of bread and very little meat in your Vietnamese sandwiches.
It’s been a while since we got there, so I don’t quite recall what we got. I think one of us had the grilled pork and the other the BBQ pork sandwiches ($3.50). Whatever filling was there was good, but I rather pay twice as much and have a sandwich with a filling I can taste.
They also have noodle or rice plates for about $5
We haven’t return and won’t bother to.
Li Do Vietnamese Sandwiches
1338 Fairmont Dr
San Leandro, CA
M-Sa 8 am – 6:30 pm
UPDATE May 2014: Looney’s has been sold. The new owner will open a Mexican/American restaurant.
We had returned to Looney’s back in February and had a pretty good dinner. I liked my tri-tip quite a bit, Mike was enthused about his ribs, but they were good enough, and Camila was happy with her French bread pizza. We all loved being able to try all the sauces.
We love BBQ. More to the point, we love Everett & Jones BBQ. We want our ribs slowly smoked for hours and presented with a complex and exciting BBQ sauce. We don’t want uniformity and we want a good value.
Looney’s can’t offer any of it. To be fair, I think new environmental regulations do not allow for the type of commercial smokers that make E&J’s BBQ as amazing as it is. But, well, that just means we have to drive a bit further. We got the spare ribs at Looney’s and were pretty disappointed. They were tough, uniform in texture – which suggests they had been boiled – and pretty tasteless. The BBQ sauce was pretty generic, somewhat vinegary but also just blah. For $20 for a half-rack we expected more.
In addition to BBQ and BBQ sandwiches, Looney’s offers burgers (~$10), stuffed potatoes ($6 + $2-$3.50 for toppings), steaks ($18-24), jambalaya ($15), catfish ($20) soups and salads and pizzas.
Looney’s Southern BBQ
14680 Washington Ave
San Leandro CA
A’s Cafe opened where Blossom and several other Chinese restaurants used to be. It’s still a Chinese restaurant for lunch (I think it’s closed for dinner), but they now serve American breakfast. That’s what we went for a few weeks ago. My family left satisfied, I was less than impressed.
Let’s be honest here, if what you want is plain breakfast food – plain pancakes, omelets or eggs, and hashbrowns, A’s Cafe won’t disappoint. They do the basics well but that’s all they do, the basics.
If you want something more in your pancakes – some blueberries? chocolate chips? bananas? -, a crepe or some other fancy breakfast concoction, then A’s Cafe is not for you.
So it’s not the place for me.
We all had some combination of pancakes, eggs and breakfast meats. They were fine, not exciting. I had a hot chocolate, same thing. I wouldn’t go back because if I go out for breakfast, I want something special, but I’m sure the rest of my family would.
14807 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA
M-Su 6:30 AM – 3 PM
Jan 2014 Update
We returned to Padi tonight with a group of San Leandro friends, including a couple who’d spent months traveling around Indonesia after college (and who actually remembered how to speak some Indonesian!). While the menu is still limited, this gave us an opportunity to try some dishes we’d missed the time before. I’m glad we did, for a couple of them ere real winners.
My favorite has to be the Mie Tek Tek Ayam (Fried Noodle w/ Chicken – $9). The thick soft noodles resembled those in chow mein, but were coated with a sauce that had a lovely, slightly sweet flavor. The dish was very well balanced and it was a generous portion. I’d definitely order it again.
I only had a bite of what I believe was the Ayam Balado (Spicy Chili Chicken – $10), bone-in chicken in a heavy dark sauce, but it was delicious. It was, again, slightly sweet but with a deep flavor. I’d like to have more. The chicken satay was once again a winner, though once again I disliked the peanut sauce, though my daughter liked it.
While it’s not on the menu, the Nasi Goreng (Chicken & shrimp fried rice – $9) was also tasty, though not more than the Chinese version. My friends all seemed to like the eggplant dish, but I didn’t try it. The one dish nobody thought much of was the Gado Gado (Indonesian Warm Salad w/ Peanut Sauce – $8). I’m not surprised, as it was the same sauce that came with the satay.
Service was amazing, with two very attentive waiters who catered our every need. The owner chef came to our table a few times, and he gave us a complimentary dessert. My daughter loved the Ketan Hitam (Black glutinous rice pudding with coconut milk – $5) but I wasn’t as fond of it. It wasn’t too sweet and it just didn’t do it for me. She was happy she could eat my portion.
Padi also sells some Indonesian goodies you can take with you (as well as Indonesian food items to do your own cooking), and Mike bought a container of something that looked like donut holes. They weren’t quite that, but they were very tasty as well.
In all, it was a great dinner and I’d love to go back soon for more of those noodles!
Original Review – September 2013
I love Indonesian food so I was glad to find that Padi opened a restaurant in unincorporated San Leandro. This restaurant is by no means perfect, and anywhere but in San Leandro it might not merit much enthusiasm, but there is such a dearth of food variety here that it is more than welcomed.
The restaurant’s main problem is its lack of ambiance. Now, I traveled throughout many developing countries on a $15 a day budget and I can find some nostalgia on undecorated dining rooms with formica tables and metal chairs, but only if they come together with dirt cheap food. Padi’s prices are too high, and they should make more of an effort to spruce the place up.
Having to order at the front, rather than on the table, is also annoying. You are crowded by the entrance, trying to quickly decide between the limited selections, which makes it less than a relaxing experience. Given how small the place is, I don’t quite understand why they can’t take orders at the table.
The menu includes a small selection of meat and vegetarian items. If you want to try them all, you can go for a “mini” rijstaffel for two which includes 12 items for $44. Unfortunately, they do not serve any breads/pancakes, my favorite Indonesian items.
On the plus side, the food is pretty tasty. The chicken satay ($10 for 6 skewers) was delicious, with a strong, sweet flavor and a nice peanut sauce. The ayam madu, or honey grilled chicken ($12), was similar, though it didn’t come in skewers. It was somewhat sweeter and perhaps less balanced. Both were grilled and had some blackened parts which added to the flavor.
The beef rendang ($11) was also good, though too spicy for the kids (just spicy enough for me). I felt it needed a bit more intensity, however, and this is a dish that would prove boring if it’s all you ordered.
Service was very good and pleasant. I definitely want to return.
Padi Restaurant & Catering
16695 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA
M, W-F 11:30 AM – 3 PM, 4 PM – 8 PM
Sa – Su 10 AM – 8 PM
We came upon Shami last July, 2013, while trying to have dinner at the not-yet-open Padi. It was a positive experience, though the only one who would want to rush back is my 11-yo daughter Mika, she positively LOVED the salad there.
Shami’s menu is pretty limited, all they had when we visited were kebabs and sandwiches, in addition to a few salad and appetizers. It calls itself a Middle Eastern restaurant, but the owners are Yemeni, as indicated by the posters on the wall and the specific seasonings in the food. Indeed, we found most dishes to be more spicy than you’d usually find in other Arab cuisines.
I tried both the grilled chicken and the beef kebabs, both were nicely spiced and very tasty. The chicken was a bit dry, however, and too charred in parts. The flavors were very homey, there was little sophistication on these dishes. The yellow rice was perfumed with cinnamon and other spices and was addictive – though a bit too spicy for my youngest daughter. The meals came with salads, and Mika just adored it. I can’t say what it was about it – surely the dressing – but she ate every last bit, and has been asking us to take her back since.
The only thing that didn’t prove popular was the felafel. The kids found it too spicy, and since a falafel food poisoning incident 24 years ago, I haven’t been able to eat it.
Platters are about $10, sandwiches I think were $8.
I’d recommend it for when you need a kabab fix.
16490 E 14 St
San Leandro, CA 94578
M-Su 11 am – 10:30 pm
I haven’t been to dinner to the new Taste of the Himalayas restaurant, which replaces CreAsian, but I did go to its Grand Opening which included a limited free buffet. From it, I can say that I’m glad to welcome them to San Leandro.
Taste of the Himalayas is a popular Nepali restaurant in Berkeley. They’ve taken over the old CreAsian space, a much welcome change as far as I’m concerned. While I liked CreAsian, it was too expensive and the menu never changed. Alas, they seem to be wary of their new venture in San Leandro, so they are keeping some old CreAsian dishes in the menu and they are mostly concentrating in serving Indian rather than Nepali food. I imagine that will change as they get more comfortable in San Leandro.
At the Grand Opening they had three meat curries to taste, their chicken curry (normally $14), lamb curry ($14) and the chicken nauni (not yet in the online menu). The regular curries were OK, the flavors were good and solid, but not compelling. However the meats themselves were spectacular, the chicken was velvety and the lamb was beyond moist and tender, without being fatty. These taste like high quality meats. The chicken nauni, on the other hand, was very, very good (though actually, the sauces mixed together tasted even better). It was similar to a tikka masala, only the chicken wasn’t smokey (and was moist) and the sauce was less sweet. Still, it was very balanced. Taste of the Himalayas does offer a chicken tikka masala ($15), and I look forward to tasting it.
Both the plain ($3) and garlic ($4) nan were nice, though the fact that they were hot and not burned helped.
I didn’t try the vegetarian offerings, so I can’t opine, but I heard the vegetable pakora (also not in the menu) was also very good.
According to their website, they deliver with a $25 minimum order.
CreAsian – Taste of the Himalayas
1269 MacArthur Blvd.
San Leandro, CA
M-Su 11:30am to 3:00pm, 5:00pm to 10:00pm