Lunch at Chicago Blues Cafe

Chicago Blues Cafe is a tiny restaurant and coffeehouse located in the parking lot of the Palma Plaza shopping center. It started as a place where you could get coffee, then branched out into hot dogs, and has since become pretty much a full fledged restaurant, serving late breakfast, lunch and early dinner (they are open from 11 AM – 7 PM weekdays, from 9 AM – 7 PM Saturdays and closed on Sundays). The owner, Mark Tichy, is a colorful character currently running for city council.
I went to Chicago Blues Cafe for breakfast a few weeks ago, and had a very nice crepe, and I have since been wanting to go back to try their BBQ. The opportunity finally presented itself yesterday (my birthday) when Joaquin Deli, my first choice, was closed.
Chicago Blues offers a large menu of hot dogs, sandwiches, BBQ items and deep-dish pizza. My friend Cynthia had had the latter and has enjoyed it. Prices are moderate, with pizza slices starting at $4, and BBQ lunch plates averaging around $8 (it goes up to the low teens for dinner and combinations). You order at the counter and can either eat inside their little covered area or in one of the unshaded tables outside. There isn’t really much room for more than 2 or 3 parties inside – but I find the place cute. We ate outside, however.
Mike had the links BBQ plate with potato salad. He wasn’t happy with it. He thought the links tasted mostly like plain sausage covered by BBQ sauce, rather than by the slowly smoked links we usually get at our favorite BBQ joint. He found the medium-spiced sauce to be quite spicy, but otherwise unremarkable. The potato salad was also pretty pedestrian.
My dad had a hot dog with sourkrat and he was very happy with it. He thought the baked beans were very, very good.
I had the pulled pork sandwich, which is often on special for $5. The sandwich was huge, and definitely a great value, but I didn’t find the pork very appealing. It had the look and texture of pork that had been boiled rather than smoked or baked. The flavor was quite mild (Camila liked it). I also found the vinegary mild BBQ sauce unremarkable, though better than commercial products. In any case, I wouldn’t be rushing back to have this dish. All this said, with E&J’s around, my standards for BBQ are pretty high.
In all, I’m glad that Chicago Blues Cafe is around, and I’d definitely go there for breakfast or for a hot dog, and might even give the pizza a try, but I wouldn’t go for their BBQ again.
Chicago Blues Cafe
13802 E. 14th St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 352-3053
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