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
Update: The bakery is closed, a hair salon has opened in its place.
Angelina’s Pastries opened a few weeks ago in the space previously occupied by Marita’s Sweet Potato Pie. I’m sad to see Marita’s go, but red velvet cake lovers need notdespair, Angelina’s has it too. Alas, the cakes are more expensive and smaller than those sold by Marita’s, and I haven’t yet tried them.
I did stop by Angelina’s the other day to take a look at their goodies. They mostly serve European-style pastries, the owner specializes in cakes and chocolate work. The do have some Mexican pastries and they also do cakes-to-order.
Camila and I shared a dessert that consisted of a white cake with vanilla pudding and chocolate fondant. The portion was large enough, and appropriately priced at $2.50. I thought it lacked umph, but Camila liked it. I am looking forward to trying more of their pastries, however.
600 Dutton Ave, Ste C
San Leandro, CA
Update: This restaurant is closed
Sunday before Valentine’s Day a few girlfriends and I got together at this latest reincarnation of Viva Portofino for a “Galentine’s” day brunch (apparently still owned by Francisco). I had heard from others than Viva Portofino (the name it finally settled on) had improved so I wanted to give it a try. The verdict is mixed, at least for breakfast, while none of the dishes stood out, none of them were particularly bad either. Overall it’s an improvement over other local breakfast joints, but only because the competition on that front is so poor. I wouldn’t be raising there for breakfast again.
There were six of us and two (including me) had the strawberry crepes (~$6.50). The thin crepes were “stuffed” with a very thin layer of sweet cream cheese and were topped with sliced fresh strawberries and cream. It was good but nothing too exciting. I probably would have preferred a little bit more cream cheese.
Cynthia had the eggs benedict ($8) and while she enjoyed the flavor, she was unhappy that they were served lukewarm. I can understand their difficulties getting 6 dishes out at the same time, but other restaurants manage to send warm food to the tables and Viva Portofino should as well. Katrina was also disappointed with her vegetarian crepe. She felt it was the sort of thing that she could have tossed together very quickly, and the vegetables weren’t tasty enough to make up for the simplicity of the dish. She wouldn’t order it again. Both Parker and Eloise had omelets, and they were much happier with their choices. They thought they were tasty and well made.
One other “minus” for Viva Portofino is that they don’t have much on the way of coffee drinks to go with breakfast (they do have plain tea & coffee and lackluster mimosas, $6). This is not necessarily a problem if you remember to stop by Zocalo on the way, as Katrina wisely did, and getting your caffeine of choice.
On the plus side, service was good and professional and prices weren’t unreasonable – we ended up paying $14 each after tax & tip. Still, I’m left hoping someone else will open a better place for brunch.
599 Dutton Ave.
San Leandro, CA
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews
Bay Area Restaurant Reviews
2013 Update: The restaurant is now closed
Feb. 2011 Update
Villa Portofino is now Viva Portofino. I went there for breakfast on 2/11 and it was OK. Full Review.
December 2010 Update
Villa Portofino is open once again, serving Italian food. A friend went for breakfast and said it was basic but good.
September 2010 Update. Villa Portofino seems to be in the process of being remodeled. The restaurant has been closed for a while now, and it’s packed by still-in-wrapping brand-new chairs. They also seem to have painted the walls (badly). It seems to be under the same management than before, and it’s anyone’s guess what it will try to re-invent itself as.
A couple of weeks ago (late August 2008) Mike and I finally had the opportunity to try Villa Portofino, the new Italian restaurant in San Leandro that occupies the space on the corner of Bancroft & Dutton previously occupied by Viva Pancho Villa and Francisco’s. I’d have tried it sooner, but it’s not open for lunch.
The restaurant hasn’t changed too much, but it does have a slightly more upscale look now that there are tablecloths and cloth napkins. Still, it can’t really escape its architecture and it’s can’t really get beyond being a casual place for dinner. Indeed, I’d say that it doesn’t quite aspire to be much more than that, but for the $140 bottle of wine in their menu! Mike had to ask if it was a misprint, not just because it seemed out of place in a restaurant where most dishes are in the mid-teens, but because it was designated in the menu just as a “cabernet sauvignon” – no indication as to winery or vintage. Weird. I think we had soft drinks.
Villa Portofino’s menu features Italian-American classics, focusing on pastas. They have several well priced daily specials (low to mid teens for pastas), and when we visited we both ordered from the specials menu. Mike had a sausage risotto while I had a rigattoni with some kind of tomato sauce I can’t quite recall. My dish was good and hearty, with al-dente cooked pasta and familiar flavors. It wasn’t gourmet or particularly delicious, but quite satisfying. I wouldn’t make a point of going there to have it again, but I’d order it if I was craving something homey. Mike was quite happy with his risotto. he liked the combination of flavors and the creaminess of the rice.
The dessert list is very prosaic, tiramisus and so forth, and I had the creme brulee. It was a good sized portion, and I appreciated that it was served warm. There is nothing as off-putting as cold creme brulee. It was quite good, though the layer of caramelized sugar was too thin. Still, I’d order it again.
Service was a bit fluky, the waitress seems to be new to the profession and did not pay enough attention to our table (at least look at me so I can flag you to get my bill!).
In all, it was a pleasant dining experience, and I’d go again – albeit not for a date.
599 Dutton Ave @ Bancroft
San Leandro, CA
Open for dinner only
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews
Bay Area Restaurant Reviews
Update: The Mutt Hut closed, which is pretty sad because it was such a San Leandro institution.
I just realized that I have never reviewed the Mutt Hut, a humble restaurant with an exclusive menu of hot dogs, which is just around the corner from my house.
The Mutt Hut is a small place, they have 3 or 4 tables inside and perhaps a couple outside. They have hot dogs, polish sausages, hot links and a couple of other varieties. There are a variety of toppings (cheese, bbq sauce, etc.) but not much more. You can get chips and drinks and that’s about it.
The hot dogs are good, but not extraordinary. This is basically a convenience place, where you can get a quick, cheap lunch. The owners are very friendly, there is always a newspaper around to peruse while you wait/eat, and the place is very clean. We come from time to time.
The Mutt Hut
1904 Washington Ave
San Leandro, CA
M-Sa 11 AM – 5 PM
Vo’s has closed.
I just went to Vo’s for a late lunch with my friend Cynthia. I hadn’t been there for a while, and once again I was not overly impressed. The food was fine but not exceptional, and even at discounted prices sort of expensive for what it was.
Cynthia and I shared the chicken wings appetizer ($3.50, usually $7). There were five or six lightly spiced wings, deep fried, that were well cooked but completely unremarkable. They came with a very nice peanut sauce which was better by itself than on the wings.
Cynthia had the Vietnamese peppered beef sandwich ($4). It was described as beef sauteed with green peppers and onions, so she was disappointed that most of what she found in the bread was cucumber and other light veggies. She also wasn’t fond of the cheap-tasting baguette the sandwich came with. I got a chicken sandwich for Mike and he had similar complaints, he found there was too much bread, too little chicken and not enough flavor.
Cynthia had the banana and mango dessert ($5, I think) and she thought it was pretty good, she liked the tapioca sauce which had a generous amount of coconut milk. I had the fried banana with ice cream (also $5 or so) and while it was good, it wasn’t exceptional. There were two pieces of banana wrapped in eggroll skins and a very so-so ice cream. I’ve had a much better version of this dessert at other restaurants.
In all, it was a nice lunch, but not good enough for $40 after tax & tip.
Nov. 2008 Review
Last night, Mike took me out to dinner at Vo’s to celebrate our brief childless status (we do miss the kids, though). I had been there last a few month prior with the girls, and I’d had a pretty good meal. This one, however, was lackluster – the food seemed tired and lacked shining flavors. Part of the problem may be that Vo’s seems to specialize on seafood (its specials menu featured only one meat dish), and that the choices for non-seafood eaters are very limited. After a few visits to the restaurant, you would have tried them all. I think it’s time that they revamp their menu, at least vis a vis meat choices.
Mike started with the crab puffs ($8, I think) – five or six little purses fried and filled with crabmeat. He liked them, but in particular enjoyed the mustard sauce. I had the crispy rolls ($8), an old favorite. I had loved the very light and crispy skins and the flavorful filling. This time, the rolls tasted like egg rolls in any other restaurant. They lacked flavor, and even the dipping sauce couldn’t help them much. I wouldn’t order them again.
My main dish was the caramelized pork & shrimp ($14). I’d had this dish before, and I think I’d enjoyed it, but this time it was pretty average. The caramelization hadn’t added much sweetness to the dish, and I think the meat was underseasoned to begin with. The sauce was very one-dimensional. It wasn’t bad, indeed it was perfectly acceptable – but there wasn’t much of a reason to eat it other than being hungry and having ordered it. I wouldn’t do it again, either. Also, the portion was on the small side (something I’ve noticed to be an issue with Vo’s from the start) – if you came in moderately hungry and haven’t had an appetizer, you’ll still be hungry after eating it.
Mike had the lemongrass catfish filet ($16) from the specials menu. He didn’t think it was that great. The sauce was too viscous and bland, but at least the catfish was properly cooked. He wouldn’t order it again.
Probably the worst part of the meal, however, were the desserts. Mike had the caramelized bananas with ice cream ($7, I think), and the dish consisted of perhaps half a banana sliced and covered in caramelized sugar, it was served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. The banana slices were nice, but again, nothing special. And given how small the portion of bananas they serve was, the dish was grossly overpriced.
Worse still was the cheesecake ($8). I knew that they didn’t make the deserts on site (with the exception, I imagine, of the two banana dishes) – but they really need a better dessert provider. This cheesecake ($8) was flavorless and had been badly defrosted. While part of the cheesecake had the unpleasant texture of ice crystals, the other was thawed to the point of almost melting it. I’m not sure if they did it in the microwave, or how they managed to mess it up so much. The portion was pretty small for the price, but in this case it really didn’t matter as the whole thing was a waste of calories. If I do eat at Vo’s again (and I may very well do so, if I go out with friends who insist on going there), I will make sure to avoid dessert here.
Service was adequate (though the waitress did not ask how our meal was), but the timing of the dishes was off. Our entrees came before our appetizer dishes had been removed from the table. In all, it felt like it was a pretty rushed meal. Which is strange, as the restaurant was almost empty on a Friday night.
Dinner came to about $82 after tax and tip. I used a $25 gift certificate that I got at restaurant.com for $3 (they are usually $10, but they were running a special) – but I felt that even at $60 the dinner was overpriced. Too bad, because I like Vo’s, or at least the concept of Vo’s – somebody just needs to get back in the kitchen and shake things up a bit.
277 Parrott St.
San Leandro, Ca.
Update: Prince has changed owners and it’s now King Kong Dim Sum. It’s a shame because we had returned to Prince for Mother’s Day this year, and I had decided to make it my annual Mother’s Day brunch place. The food had been amazing, so good that we returned the following week when my brother visited us. The new place gets mixed reviews on Yelp.
Prince Dim Sum House opened a few months ago, I think, at the space where East Village used to be. The restaurant underwent renovations before it opened as Prince, so I’m not sure if the owner, as well as the look and the name, have changed. The menu is pretty similar, as are the prices. I’d been to East Village several times, and this was my second visit to Prince as such.
Esthetically, they spiffed up the room a little bit, putting new furniture and a wine wall and removing the unattractive handwritten “specials” posters from the walls. Still, the room is square and has a flat ceiling, and there isn’t that much you can do with it to make it attractive. The place is nice enough, but it’s not and does not pretend to be, a “date” or “special occasion” sort of restaurant.
Service leaves something to be desired. We were seated quickly, but it took quite a long time for someone to come to take our orders. As we were waiting we saw the host chatting with people at one table, and one of the waitresses clean up another table, so I don’t think the problem was that they were just busy. Once we ordered the food came to the table quite quickly, which we liked as we were starving. It took a little bit, though not as long, to get our bill. Prince, just East Village before it, has a printed dim sum menu and you chose what you want to eat and then give the completed form to the waitress. They have several dozen items, costing $2-$5.25 depending on the ingredients. In all, lunch here is comparable in price to lunch at most non-sandwich restaurants.
I’m not the best person to review a dim sum place – which is why I’m writing about it on my blog, rather than in one of my more formal (and edited!) restaurant reviews – as I don’t really like most of what appears in dim sum menus. I do love pork buns, however, and that’s what kept bringing me to East Village, and now to Prince.
Prince’s baked BBQ pork buns are very good ($2 for 3). They are small and have a sweet glaze, they also have a nice amount of pork. I fear that they may be too sweet for some people, but they are my favorites in San Leandro. If you go, you should give them a try.
This time we also tried the Baked BBQ Pork Tart ($2.75 for 3). These are longish, thin pastries, also glazed and filled with BBQ pork. The dough is very flaky and Kathy liked it very much. I found them somewhat dry (though not nearly as dry as other versions of this dish) but also very yummy. We ordered a second serving.
I’d never had the Hong Kong Fried Bread Sticks ($2 for 3) before, but I was curious about them. They ended up being very light pieces of fried dough. They were a bit salty, but I thought they’d be delicious dipped in sugar – alas, there was none on the table. They were a bit oily, and kind of boring by themselves, and I wouldn’t order them again.
The fried chicken wings ($5.25 for 4) were plump, juicy and very hot. They were lightly spiced and salted, so you could really appreciate the taste of the chicken, and I liked them quite a bit – but I thought they were too expensive for what they were.
Finally, we had the Layered Egg Custard Cake ($2.75 for 3 small slices). Neither Kathy nor Mika were crazy about it, but I thought it was OK if you like Chinese cakes. I do think Mika would have been happier with a custard bun.
In all it was a good lunch, and I’ll go back to Prince again for those pork buns.
Prince Dim Sum House
14736 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews
Bay Area Restaurant Reviews
Mae’s closed down. A Chinese fast food place has opened at the Dutton & Bancroft space.
May 2011 Update
Mae’s has now moved to the corner of Dutton & Bancroft. I hadn’t gone back to eat there because it’s open between 1 – 8 PM, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. But I’ll try it sometime.
Dec. 2007 Review
Mae’s Soul Food is the newest venture to open on Victoria Court in San Leandro – at the space occupied until a couple of months ago by Joplin’s. Indeed, it was to Joplin’s where we were headed today, for a burger, when we noticed that the sign with that name was no longer in front of the business. A new owner and a new menu greeted us inside, and always the adventurers we decided to give it a try. But for the fact that we got stuffed, it was not a bad call.
Mae’s Soul Food specializes in fried food, their menu, indeed, is pretty short and basically includes fried fish, fried shrimp, fried chicken and fried pork, available in various combinations with or without gravy. There are also a plethora of side dishes, from candied yams to red beans and rice. There are also po boy sandwiches, made with, you guessed it, fried meats. Don’t come here if you are watching your weight. Prices go from $7 for a 3 pieces of fried chicken to $17.50 for a seafood combo platter with shrimp.
I had the 3-pieces of chicken platter with french fries. The three chicken drumsticks were large and meaty, they were very nicely breaded and seasoned, and they tasted fresh and crisp. They also managed to not be oily. If I wanted fried chicken, I’d definitely come here. The fries were less successful, they were very thick and long, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Not my favorite type.
Mike had the chicken po boy sandwich, which was also enormous, and he liked it though he’d preferred less bones on his chicken. He also liked the crispy romaine lettuce in the accompanying salad. Mae, the proprietor, is proud on not skimping in either quantity or quality, and the results show.
Service, at the hands of her son, was good – but, as we were warned, it takes quite a lot of time to get the food to the table. It’s made to order and it takes time for chicken to fry. Don’t come here if you are in a hurry.
Atmosphere wise, the place is not very different from what it was Joplin’s – there are still some Joplin posters around. They have, however, decorated with a nice array of beautiful wooden African masks.
My final warning is that they still don’t have heat in the restaurant, so if you are coming here bring your jacket.
I should mention this is not the Mae’s first venture as a restauranteur. Her restaurant was previously open in a high-crime section of Oakland, Mae decided to move to make it safer for her customers to eat at her restaurant.
Mae’s Soul Food
585 Victoria Court
San Leandro, CA
2013 Update: This restaurant is now Ahu’s Hawaiian BBQ
San Leandro has more Hawaiian restaurants that I can count, and I’m not sure that Ohana was actually needed (and judging by the lack of patrons last Thursday evening, I may not be alone in that assessment), but it’s not entirely unwelcomed. If you are at that shopping mall (you know, the one that has Home Depot, Walmart and the Pet food store – which was why we were there) and you are hungry, your choices are limited to Togos and whatever fast food place there is in Walmart. So Ohana at least presents another choice for food. And while it’s a chain, it’s well located in chain heaven.
Ohana presents a menu very similar to those in other Hawaiian restaurants. It includes BBQ meats, alone or in combination, chicken katzu, curry and a couple of chicken dishes with “special” sauces. They also have burgers and spam.
We weren’t too adventurous that evening and decided to go with the Seafood BBQ Combo ($8), Chicken Katzu ($6) and BBQ Chicken Saimin ($4). The seafood combo was good, but it only contained one piece of fish!!!! There wasn’t even enough to share. The chicken katzu was heavily breaded – as it usually is – but tasted fine, though I think I prefer Ono’s version. I’d ordered the saimin for the kids and they weren’t thrilled by it. It basically tasted like chicken noodle soup, so clearly the problem wasn’t in the dish.
In all, Mike thought the meal was fine, and probably better than at Ono’s (where we go from time to time as it’s close to our house), while I think I rather go back to Ono, though the portions there have gotten smaller and smaller.
Ohana Hawaiian BBQ
Westgate Mall Shopping Center
1933 Davis St. #135A
This restaurant is closed
Another restaurant I’ve been remissed in reviewing is Tuttle’s Sea Garden on Bancroft. The little restaurant had skipped our radar until our daughter started going to daycare in the Broadmoor district and we started to go by in on a daily basis. One time when we both picked her up (September 2005) we decided to stop for lunch and see what they had to offer.
The little restaurant has a counter and a small, informal dining room, but it’s clearly mostly a take-out place. Still, it’s much nicer than most BBQ joints, a perfeclty fine place to have lunch. At about 1 pm on a weekday, however, we were the only people eating there, though several came to pick up orders.
The menu basically consists of fried fish and chicken and BBQ meats. The day we were there they were out of the BBQ beef so instead I went with the BBQ Ribs ($11 for 4, $13 for 6 large ribs). They were good, the meat was very tender but they had the consistency of ribs that had been boiled rather than slowly barbecued. The BBQ sauce was nice, not very spicy, though still not as good as E&J’s. The ribs come with potato salad, coleslaw or fries – I had the latter and honestly can’t remember them 🙂
Mike had the catfish ($7.75 for 3 pieces), which he thought was quite good, though couldn’t elaborate on how.
We still prefer E&J’s for our BBQ needs, but Tuttle’s is a perfectly acceptable place to go.
Tuttle’s Seafood Garden
395 Bancroft Ave.
San Leandro, CA.