San Leandro Reviews
Summary: Chose from American, Mexican and Mediterranean specialties, chicken is specially good.
Update 6/06: The Blue Dish is closed as the owners have decided to dedicate themselves to their catering business.
The Blue Dish is a small restaurant that has grown out of a catering business. I think it started serving lunches and later expanded its hours into the evening (it closes at 8pm Mondays through Wednesdays and at 8:30pm on Thursdays and Fridays). It's closed on weekends. I first heard about it a couple of years ago from other mothers in the San Leandro Parents Network and, of course, I had to try it. My verdict was that it was a good place to stop by for a bite when you are hungry, but not necessarily worth a special trip. Since then, my daughter started going to a daycare only a few blocks away from the Blue Dish so it has become a convenient place to go for lunch before or after I pick her up. I've been there three or four times in the last few months (fall-winter 2005/6) and I will continue patronizing it.
The little restaurant is quite informal. It has the look of a deli, or one of those takeout counters near college campuses. There are five or six bare tables, no decorations to speak of (save for the busy menus on the wall and a refrigerator from which to choose your drinks) and a counter where you can get silverware, paper napkins, ketchup and salt. High chairs are available for little ones.
The menu is salad and sandwich-based and features American, Middle Eastern and Mexican specialties. This is the place to come when you want a Mediterranean salad, your husband wants a patty melt and your kid will only eat a quesadilla. Menu items average around $8.
It takes a while to read over all the choices (seven salads and more than 30 sandwiches, burgers and burritos) but on our first visit Mike finally settled on the lamb burger (char broiled spiced lamb with cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles with a side of french fries, $6.50). Mike liked the burger, the lamb patty was juicy and flavorful and he'd order it again. I had the burger myself a few weeks ago and was less thrilled by it, it just didn't seem to work as a concept. I've had lamb burgers in India before and while they were an improvement on the goat burgers usually served there; they are just not as good and balanced as beef burgers. Still, if you are a lamb burger afficionado, you should be satisfied.
On my first visit I went for the lamb shawerma (sandwich wrapped in pita bread with lamb, a diced tomato-cucumber salad, hummus, grilled onions and tahini sauce, $6.50). I wasn't happy with it. The flavors of the lamb and the veggies all intermingled so that you couldn't quite tell them apart and in any case they were overwhelmed by the tahini sauce. Now, I like tahini sauce in my shawerma, but I also like being able to taste the meat. In any case, the meat needed more seasoning. I revisited this dish a few weeks ago and I felt it was better, the lamb was better seasoned than before and the tahini sauce was lighter, though still in the bitter side. On yet another visit I had some of the chicken shawerma my friend Desiree ordered and this was actually much better. Their marinated chicken was delicious on its own, and it was able to stand up better to the other flavors in the wrap. I'd order it again.
The chicken was also a winner in the chicken quesadilla ($7.50) I ordered for Mika on another visit. The combination of the chicken, cheese and grilled onions was delicious, though Mika didn't really like it. The guacamole was also very good, though beware that it's pretty spicy. I'd certainly order the quesadilla again but for myself.
They have a few choices for dessert (baklava, carrot cake, etc.) but I haven't tried any yet. The owner is often behind the counter and he's very nice and friendly. As the place is so small there is a communal feeling to it, and indeed it's the kind of place where you can easily run into someone you know (our fishmonger and another mom from our daycare on my last visit), something I personally really like.
In all I still feel the same than after my first visit, the Blue Dish is a great place to stop for lunch if you are in the neighborhood though I wouldn't go out my way to eat there.
585 Victoria Court
San Leandro, CA