Tag Archives: San Leandro

Christmas Eve Dinner 2021: Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen + Luke’s Grill

A wonderful Christmas Eve Dinner with some help from Luke’s Grill

This year, probably for the third time in two decades, I didn’t cook Christmas Eve dinner. I’m going through one of my anti-cooking spells, and the thought of making course after course of food I’d barely have time to eat before getting up to prepare the next one just wasn’t appealing. Plus, after the fiasco that was Thanksgiving Dinner, I wasn’t eager for a repeat. Moreover, with another COVID wave hitting us, we had decided that once again it would only be us having dinner.

So, I decided on take out – but what? This shouldn’t have been that hard a question, but I wanted something “special”. That meant something that we didn’t usually get for take out, something that I wouldn’t be able to make easily, something that could be eaten family style and something that would satisfy all our individual food issues. Deciding on a specific cuisine, much less a restaurant, was hard.

Ultimately, I decided upon Greek because it’s homey, it’s somewhat Christmasy and it can be served family style. We actually have two pretty good Greek restaurants in town, and rather than decide between them, we tried them both.

Items from the Zeus Platter from Luke’s Grill.

We ordered the Zeus Platter ($20) from Luke’s Grill. This appetizer combo came with Greek sausage, meatballs, tiropita, spanakopita, dolmades, tzaziki and abundant pieces of pita. Though it was a bit cold by the time we started eating it, I was quite pleased with both the sausages and the meatballs. The tiropita, phyllo dough cooked with herbed cheese, was also quite delicious, and I enjoyed the pita with the tzaziki. Unfortunately, my vegetarian daughter wasn’t in the mood for dolmades or spanakopita, so those went uneaten.

We got all our mains from Moussaka. I particularly enjoyed the Hunkar Beyendi or Sultan’s Favorite ($28), apparently an Ottoman specialty. The dish consists of a smoked eggplant and mozzarella puree topped with braised lamb and tomato sauce. It’s served with a rice/orzo combination. By the time I transferred it to a serving dish, the whole thing was mixed together but that’s how you are supposed to eat it anyway. It was delicious. I’m not a particular fan of eggplant, but it provided an amazing smokiness to the dish. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the whole dish just came together with homey umami. And it was just perfect for Christmas: it has too many elements for me to easily replicate and it’s too expensive for a regular take out meal, and thus provided the “specialness” I wanted from a Christmas Eve meal.

Manti

I was far more disappointed in the manti ($18), pasta filled with spiced beef and supposedly served with a garlic yogurt sauce, brown butter and fresh mint. The little dumplings were tasty, but they were very lightly sauced, and therefore way too dry to really enjoy. They quickly became monotonous. I wouldn’t order them from here again.

Two portions of the combo kebap (one kofta already eaten)

In order to get a good sampling of their offerings, we ordered the combo kebap ($29), which came with a meat skewer, a chicken skewer, a single kofte, a mixture of beef/lamb gyro meat, rice and a salad. The meat skewer was listed as a lamb skewer, but it was actually beef. It was very tender, very nicely spiced and just delicious – often times kebabs are dry, but this was not the case even when the leftovers were reheated.

The same cannot be said for the chicken kebaps. They were very tasty, but dry. Fortunately, the kofta was delicious.

Beef/lamb gyro meat

I’m totally in love with the beef/lamb gyro meat. I couldn’t tell a difference between each slice of meat, so I’m going to guess it was all lamb, but whatever it was was delicious. Also very tender and not dry, and perfectly seasoned.

Chicken shawarma

A dish of chicken shawarma ($20), also served with rice and salad, was equally delicious. Again, they seasoned it perfectly and managed to not make it dry.

Finally, I ordered a felafel wrap ($13) for my vegetarian daughter, and she was happy enough, though wouldn’t elaborate about it.

In all, it was a great meal and I’d order from here again for a special occasion meal.

Gateau Basque, perspective from above

We had two desserts, though we were too full to eat more than one that night, and then well after the meal. Early in my meal planning, when I still thought I’d actually cook Christmas Eve dinner, I had proposed making Gâteau Basque for dessert. My first trip with Mike after we got married was to Spain, where we spent several days in the Basque country. We had enjoyed an amazing gâteau basque at a restaurant in Aoiz, my great-grandparents’ hometown and the memory has lingered with Mike ever since. However, in the decades since, we’ve been unable to find a cake that matched those memories, either at a restaurant or at home. It’d been many years since our last try, so I was game to do it again.

This time I decided on a well reviewed recipe that I found on the internet. I was quite pleased with the flavor, both of the cake and the pastry filling, but I felt that the dough needed more flour – my daughter preferred the soft texture, however. In all, it was good but not as sublime as our memories of that cake in Aoiz.

I also bought a Tres Leches cake from Safeway, a favorite of all of us. I was lucky to get to eat a slice the next day.

Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen
599 Dutton Ave, San Leandro
‭(510) 850-5020
Closed Mondays

Luke’s Grill
1509 East 14th St, San Leandro
510-614-1010
Closed Sundays

Bag O’Crab Review

They literally mean “bag”

A new Bag O’Crab franchise opened in the old The Englander spot in San Leandro, which is sad in many, many levels. My husband decided he had to try it out. While I’m not a fan of crab myself, a quick look at the menu assured me they had other stuff, including wings and fried fish, so I said I was game. He got take out and brought it home. I don’t think we’re going to make it a regular haunt.

Bag O’Crab’s menu consists of seafood and chicken cooked in a variety of ways. You can have different flavors of chicken wings ($8/$13 for 6/10 pieces) and french fries ($4/4.5), fried fish/shrimp/calamari/oysters/chicken tenders ($11-14), fish/chicken/shrimp po’ boy sandwiches ($12), a $25 lobster roll, grilled shortribs ($13) and cajun fish ($12) and a few soups, saladas, pastas and sides. But the main attraction, as suggested by the name of the restaurant, are their bags of seafood cooked in your choice of sauce at your choice of spiciness. These are sold by the pound and in combinations. My husband went for the bag of head-off shrimp, in a medium spiciness original cajun sauce ($16 for 3/4 lbs); he wasn’t impressed

The first disappointment was the bag. Now, we definitely can’t accuse Bag O’Crab of being circumspect about the fact that their bags of seafood are exactly that: plastic bags filled with seafood and sauce. It’s in the name of the store, after all, and of the particular dish he ordered. Still, we didn’t expect that they would be so literal – having the dish come in a transparent plastic bag seemed precarious and cheap. I’m assuming these are food grade plastic bags they are using, but it feels weird as they don’t look that way. They are also unwieldy and not exactly something you want to store as-in in the fridge.



I will admit that my husband is somewhat of a lazy eater. Other people may enjoy nothing more than cracking crab legs, gnawing at bones or cooking their own food at restaurants – but he wants all the work done for him in the kitchen. Thus, he was quite unhappy to find out that the head off shrimp, while indeed being devoid of heads, still had their exoskeleton (his word) on. Deshelling shrimp is never fun, but particularly not when the shrimp comes in a thin sauce. Needless to say, he wouldn’t order this again.

I should ad, that he did enjoy the flavor of the sauce, and it was correctly spiced. So there is that.

I, meanwhile, decided on the fish po’ boy sandwich ($12) with a garlic fried upgrade ($1 additional). The fries were pretty standard, thinnish and with a nice garlic flavor. It’s the type of fries you can eat a a handful of, and be done. The sandwich itself was too heavy for me. I think the combination of the oil from the fried fish and the dressing/remoulade was too much. I could only eat about half of it. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I did enjoy having the other half for lunch. Still, I can’t see ordering it again.

Indeed, I don’t see us returning to Bag O’Crab which I think it’s a good thing. Their website does not mention where they source their seafood from, and given the widespread use of slave labor in producing sea food – not to mention sustainability issues – I find this very problematic.

With this, I hope our foray into chain restaurant eating is over. And, indeed, it’s inspired me to do more cooking at home going forward.

Bag O’Crab
101 Parrott St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 878-9965

Bara’s Deli – San Leandro – Review

Though Bara’s Deli has been in San Leandro since the ’80’s and we’ve lived here for over 20 years, I didn’t try it until recently. It’s not in “our” part of town – though it’s pretty close by -, and there were other closer sandwich places. Still, I’ve heard good things about them and when, a few weeks ago, I was looking to try a Reuben sandwich, I decided to give them a try. And then another.

So far, I’m fairly happy. These are not the best sandwiches I’ve ever tried (that distinction goes to Giugni’s Deli‘s in St. Helena where, granted, I haven’t eaten in a decade but whose sandwiches were great for the two decades before that), but they were very good anyway. The sandwiches look a bit small, but they are quite substantial and they definitely won’t leave you hungry – if you can finish the whole thing.

I’ve had the Reuben twice now, and while it’s still the only Reuben ($11) I’ve ever had, I liked it a lot. The meat to cheese to sauerkraut to bread ratio was perfect, it was a very well balanced sandwich, and made me a fan of Reubens. I just ordered the ingredients to make some myself. I’m actually not sure if this sandwich is meant to be hot – both times it came in the same bag with another hot sandwich, but it works well either hot or cold.

My husband had The Hangover from their specialties menu ($11.25), a sandwich consisting of “hot roast beef, Swiss cheese, red onions, jalapeños, mayo, BBQ sauce on Dutch crunch.” We both liked it very much, again the ingredients were well balanced.

I was less enthused by the meatballs. I had a meatball sub ($10) one time and a side order of meatballs ($6 for a small) another. The meatballs are small, are too salty and they otherwise have a very generic taste. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were commercial rather than made in house. They are a bit too dense and just not particularly tasty.

The caprese panini ($9) was better. Again, the ingredients were in the right amounts to balance each other and the bread, and the whole sandwich was tasty. My daughter – who ended up eating it – would have preferred fresh basil (in season now) to pesto, but that’s not a big deal.

A “make your own” roast beef sandwich ($10.50) was good and had ample meat.

The one real disappointment was a side of macaroni salad ($3.50) which was just a waste of calories.

In all, we’ll continue ordering from Bara and I look forward to trying other sandwiches.

Restaurant Review: Joe’s Pho, San Leandro

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.

Joe’s Pho
15070 Hesperian Boulevard
San Leandro, CA
(510) 363-9691
https://joespho.com/
M-Su 10 AM – 10 PM

Bay Area / San Leandro Restaurant Deals

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!

Restaurant.com

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.

Groupon

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.

ValPak

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.

Local Saver

Pools coupons from the sites above

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

San Leandro Talk

Joan’s Bakery Cafe

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.

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Rubiano’s – San Leandro – Restaurant Review

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.

Rubiano’s

600 Dutton Ave, Unit C
San Leandro, CA
(510) 553-1000
http://www.rubianos.com/
M-Su 11 AM – 10 PM

Li Do Vietnamese Sandwiches – San Leandro – Review

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

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Looney’s Southern BBQ – San Leandro – Restaurant Review

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
510-969-8889
http://www.looneysbbq.com/
M-Th 11am-10pm
F-Sa 11am-1am
Su 8am-10pm

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Closed restaurants

A’s Cafe – San Leandro – Breakfast Review

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.

A’s Cafe
14807 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 816-1187
https://www.facebook.com/ascafeinsanleandro

M-Su 6:30 AM – 3 PM

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews