California, Here We Come!

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The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 05/8/13 8:04 PM
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buffetbuster


If this won't make TTM want to visit El Paso, then nothing will.  You can go see Pancho Villa's trigger finger on display in the window of a pawn shop!

You know me TOO well. This is exactly the kind of thing that would get me to El Paso!

Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 05/8/13 8:08 PM
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Not the car wash?

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 8:25 AM
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April 19, 2013 cont.
 
Despite the fact that it was getting late, I wasn't particularly worried about dinner plans, because the restaurant where we would be dining didn't close until 1:00AM.  We headed for downtown San Jose and located Original Joe's, but couldn't find any street parking.  We finally pulled into a garage and took an elevator to the street level.  When we walked out of the elevator, we were now in an empty convention center and on the outside of the elevator on this floor was a sign that said elevator closed for repair.  That's always a pleasant feeling!
 
Original Joe's

has not appeared in a JMS book since 1983's Goodfood.  At one time, there were several restaurants in the San Francisco area that used Joe's in the title, such as New Joe's, Original Joe's, etc.  Maybe this is still the case, similar to all the Ray's Pizzas in New York City.  The historical importance of this place is that it seems to be closely related to the inventors of the famous Bay Area dish Joe's Special.  You can read what Original Joe's says about their history with the dish here.  I have only ever eaten a Joe's Special once before and that was at the Roadfood reviewed Frank's Diner in Spokane.  You can see a photo of it in the review.
 
The inside

of Original Joe's is dark and clubby, with big, roomy booths.  I loved the place immediately.  It did have an an upscale atmosphere in that the tables had linen tableclothes and the waiters all were in tuxedos, but it still managed to be a comfortable.  The waiter, an older gentlemen, wasn't much of a conversationalist, but was still right there with more bread or a refill of iced tea as soon as it was needed.
 
As expected, the meal starts off with almost a whole loaf of sourdough bread. 

Johnny is more the bread eater and he ate most of this on his own.  It didn't hurt that other than a Chicago Dog at Midway, he hadn't eaten much on this day.  We both got soups, Johnny getting the minestrone,

me the red clam chowder.  

These two soups were seasoned so similarly (a little on the spicy side), we thought they must use the same base for both.  My clam chowder was full of fresh clams and when I told the waiter how good it was, he brought over another cup at no charge.  
 
Johnny did order the Joe's Special,

which is made here with ground chuck, along with the eggs and spinach.  And for another dollar more, he added the mushrooms.  We were talking about the fact that this dish did seem like late night drunk food and with the eggs, Johnny felt like he was eating breakfast.  Anyway, this was a big hit with both of us and the portion size was so big that between the two of us, we still couldn't finish it.  Part of that is because my dinner, the spaghetti and meatballs 

was massive.  Love2bake told me that this is what she orders when she comes to Original Joe's and said that she especially liked the meatballs.  Considering Original Joe's is an Italian restaurant, this sounded good to me.  The meatballs were so big, Johnny quipped that it looked more like spaghetti and meatloaf!  I thought the sauce was a little runny, but the meatballs were indeed terrific.  Thanks for the tip L2B!
 
That photo I posted earlier shows a waiter at another table, where a very large man and an attractive woman was sitting.  The guy started a conversation with us, asking about what we ordered and how good it looked.  It came up while we were talking that he lives in Las Vegas and I had the feeling that he was somebody famous.  I am thinking he was a professional wrestler, but would never be able to come up with a name.  After trying unsuccessfully to find another way back to our car in the garage, we got back in the broken elevator, which luckily didn't kill us.
 
Original Joe's
301 S. 1st Street
San Jose, CA
408-292-7030
 
When we got to the hotel in Fremont, Johnny polished off his slice of olallieberry pie and we called it a night.
 
Much more to come..... 
<message edited by buffetbuster on Thu, 05/9/13 8:31 AM>

ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 8:34 AM
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Johnny's Joe's special is quite unique...I have never seen or heard of that dish before.  Eggs, beef and spinach...that's it?  Is there a sauce that binds it?  Onions, garlic maybe?  Love to try it! 

mr chips
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 8:42 AM
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Cliff, you just drive a hell of a long way to get to Big Bend. it is well worth the drive. there are really only two large cities i have not visited. Witchita, Kansas and the tidewater towns in virginia(Hampton, Virginia Beach, norfolk, Chesapeake
<message edited by mr chips on Fri, 05/10/13 8:35 AM>

pnwchef
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 9:19 AM
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BB, great report, great pictures, it looks like you had fun. It looks like you will never go hungry following L2B lead. GGEEEZZ that gal knows how to eat, nothing shy about her...........pnwc

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 9:29 AM
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mr chips-
From the photos, Big Bend looks like a special place.  But, it is so far away from anything else, trying to incorporate it into one of our vacations just hasn't worked out.  And Wichita is a highly underrated town.  I have always loved my visits there.
 
CTD-
The Joe's Special was a little oily, but in a good way.  Other than that, no sauce.  No doubt that are countless variations of this dish, recipes which can be found on the internet, but almost all included spinach, eggs and hamburger meat. 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 2:35 PM
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Saturday April 20, 2013
 
After getting in so late the night before, we would have loved to have slept late.  But, both of our internal clocks were still on Eastern Standard Time and we were up early as usual.  Instead of going out for breakfast, we lounged around the hotel unitl it was time to leave, arriving at the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose right before they opened at 9:00AM.  For those who aren't familiar with the place, the owner Sarah Winchester was a big believer in spirits.  She was a widow and thought the ghosts of all the people killed with Winchester rifles (where the fortune came from) would haunt her.  According to one story that our excellent tour guide Tiffany related, a Boston psychic told her she needed to move to California and build a mansion.  And never finish building it, which is exactly what she did.
 
There are no photos inside the mansion, which is disappointing, but understandable.  To confuse these spirits, there are doors that open up to a brick wall, a third story door that leads directly outside (with no deck or anything so if someone took a step they would fall directly down), huge cabinet doors that open up to maybe an inch of storage space.  The whole thing was ridiculous.  The lack of any kind of an architecture plan is astonishing.  The rooms were very small, although there was one ballroom of decent size.  Still, she kept building it for 38 straight years, until her death.  The mansion is very attractive on the outside


and the gardens are lovely, but the inside is just a mess.  I am glad we came here to see it once, but there is no reason to ever return.  And I don't complain about the price of things very often, but $30.00 a person for the tour seemed steep.
 
By the end of the tour, we were ready to eat.  Our first lunch destination is a place famous for burgers called Val's in Hayward.  The parking lot is small and narrow and since there is only one way in and out, it causes a bottleneck.  Eventually, another car started pulling out and we took their space.  Since it was almost noon and a crowd of people were headed for the door, we walked in with a purpose.  After standing inside the doorway for probably 30 seconds, a guy with a bushy mustache starts walking over to us.  I said hello and asked if we seat ourselves.  No greeting back, he just points and says "Booth against the wall".  Seeing lots of counter seats open, I asked if we could sit there instead.  He just said "Go".  Not exactly the friendliest person we have encountered, that's for sure.  
 
But, the waitress we ended up with more than made up for it.  Despite how busy the place was, she was very friendly and offered plenty of advice for us first timers.  As usual, I took photos of several pages of the menu, to help remember what we ordered.  Val's is famous for their shakes and you can combine different flavors.  Johnny loves the chocolate/cherry combination at a hot dog joint near home and he was happy to order this when the waitress said it was her favorite.  The Hamburger America book strongly recommended the root beer/banana combination.  Although Rootanana didn't sound particularly appealing, I kept an open mind. 
 
Another employ started mixing milkshakes right in front of us, so I snapped a photo. 

The guy at the counter next to me, leaned over and whispered, "Hey, you aren't allowed to take photos in here".  Huh?  Just to be sure, Johnny asked the waitress and she immediately shot a glance over to the boss.  She told us, "No, you aren't, but sometimes he lets people if they ask nicely"  Knowing she was talking about the guy with the mustache, I wasn't about to go ask him.  So sorry, no food photos.  I probably could have snuck some and gotten away with it, but if that is the rules, then if I want to eat here, I have to abide by the rules.  I definitely don't like it, though.
 
If we were allowed to take photos, then I could have showed you the great Roadfood atmosphere, with a cool counter and a Richardson's root beer barrel.  The Rootanana shake was fantastic, with large chunks of banana.  When the waitress noticed that we were sharing the shakes, she brought each one of us an extra glass to make it easier.  We read that they make great handmade onion rings here, but those and a few other items aren't available until 1:00PM.  We settled on french fries, which were typical uninteresting steak fries.  We also split a bowl of chili, which neither one of us liked.  The burgers here, though, are excellent.  They come in three sizes,

from the 1/3lb. baby burger to the 1lb. papa burger.  Though we were both very hungry, we knew there were plenty of stops ahead, so we each settled on the 1/2lb. mama burger.  They use fresh ground beef and ask you how you want them cooked.  We both asked for medium and they were beautiful, big, juicy patties.  I asked for grilled onions with my burger and we received a plate full of excellent grilled onions on the side, more than either one us could even dream to pile on.  
 
It was my turn to pay, so I took the check up to the register to the same guy.  He never said one word to me as I was paying.   On the way out, I spotted this sign

just outside the front door.  I'm just glad I wasn't wearing cleets!
 
Val's Burgers
2115 Kelly Street
Hayward, CA
510-889-8257
 
We continued north towards Oakland.
 
Much more to come.....           
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 2:02 PM>

The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 3:24 PM
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You know I have been to some odd roadside attractions - the Mayor's house, notwithstanding - and I can tell you that the Winchester House is probably the strangest place I have ever visited.
 
As for Val's, you know I would have handled that situation very differently, but I would still yearn to know...
 

 
Does "top secret beef" come from top secret cows?

mar52
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 7:16 PM
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The Winchester House has been on my list of places to see for many years.
 
I believe Cliff and TTM.  I may have to miss it.
 
I love the picture of Joe's Special.  It looks like a troll village.  Anyone hiding under those mushrooms?

love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 05/9/13 7:21 PM
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LOL Mar!
 
BB - Your cousin Johnny's right - Joe's Special is very much breakfast food.  That's where it's found on most menus around here, anyway.  Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner, though!!
 
Glad you liked the meatballs (meatloaves).  They're thugs.
 
And I totally agree about saving room for pies made in house vs. not.
 
Looking forward to more!

ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 05/10/13 8:09 AM
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So you're up early due to time zone considerations and still don't eat til noon! 
Perhaps Mr. Grumpy hadn't eaten either! 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 05/10/13 8:20 AM
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CTD-
Considering we didn't leave the restaurant the night before until 1:00AM, most people would understand.  But, I still feel like we let you down!
 
mar-
Love the troll village comment!

mayor al
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 05/10/13 8:30 AM
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TTM
Your room is always here for you ! Strange or Not, you gotta have a home away from home ! The Kitchen Staff is always working to please you !!

 
Cliff,  Keep those reports coming. You and Johnny set a standard for the rest of us !! 
   Here is my ALL-TIME FAVORITE BB Food Review photo...no caption necessary !  For those who haven't seen it before, thats a 12 oz, 32 oz, and 64 oz Margarita !!  
 
 
<message edited by mayor al on Fri, 05/10/13 8:49 AM>

mr chips
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 05/10/13 8:52 AM
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I loved the Winchester mystery house and its spooks and phenomena.Strangely enough, my other great memory is s leaving the house for a nearby mall cinema and seeing All That jazz for the first of over 20 times. That frightfully, honest powerful pic is one of my favorites over the years and the combination of house and movie has remained with me over the years.
<message edited by mr chips on Fri, 05/10/13 2:35 PM>

Ralph Melton
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 05/10/13 1:40 PM
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I really liked the Winchester Mystery House, but I agree that that is a steep price.

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 8:22 AM
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My apologies for the slow going so far.  The weekend trip out of town didn't help, but watching the hockey playoffs has been the big distraction lately. 
 
MayorAl-
Thanks for posting that photo of us with the margarita.  It is a personal favorite of mine, too!
 
mr chips-
That's right, there is a shopping center with a movie theater right next to the Winchester House.  In fact, we missed the driveway into the house the first time because we thought it was part of the shopping center.
<message edited by buffetbuster on Tue, 05/14/13 8:24 AM>

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 9:39 AM
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Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
Our first destination in Oakland was El Paisa Taco Truck, in a Hispanic neighborhood along International Boulevard.  When we arrived at the address it is supposed to be parked at, there is a shopping center with a different taco truck.
 
Did El Paisa change their name?  Did they go out of business or move?  We had no way of knowing and since we had another taco truck on the list just a few blocks away, we decided to head there.
 
El Ojo de Agua seemed to have an entire parking lot all to their own.  Besides the truck,

there was another building across the lot

and we weren't initially sure if that was a restaurant of just offices, but we knew the truck was open for business.  They have a large menu board

and we took some time trying to decide what to order, but finally settled on just getting three different types of tacos.
 
This plate

has a pastor (pork) taco, one asada (beef) and chorizo.  The pastor was crumbly, with wonderful porcine flavor, while the asada had small chunks of tender meat.  The highlight for me was the chorizo, which looked like mini sausage patties and was fiery hot.  The green salsa on top was also very tasty.  It was interesting to see the plate came with onions, radishes and cucumbers and the latter was an especially pleasant palate cleanser.
 
To drink, Johnny ordered a mango agua fresca, which he described as thick, ripe and sweet and said it was almost more like a milkshake.  I drank my horchata

looking for some relief from the spicy chorizo, but it turned out to be even hotter.
 
While we were waiting for our food, there were two Asian men finishing up their lunch at a table next to the truck.  One struck up a conversation with us by saying, "We don't see you guys around here anymore."  My initial reaction was, does he think he knows us?  His next comment was, "You people used to come around, but not in the last few years."  That is when it occurred to me that he meant Caucasians.  I turned around to Johnny and asked him, "What do you think he means by you people?"  Johnny just laughed.  They turned out to be pretty friendly and offered some advice on what to eat, which was too late since we had already ordered.  Not that we were offended, it was just unusual to hear a generalization like "you people" in the politically correct world we live in.  
 
By the way, the address for El Ojo de Agua is listed in 500 Things to Eat as being located at 3132 E. 12th Street, but they moved and can now be found at 3053 International Boulevard in Oakland.
 
Next stop was another place in 500 Things to Eat, Bittersweet Café.  It made its appearance in the book for their hot chocolate.  Located in what seemed to us to be a hipster neighborhood, there were several people enjoying pastries and their beverages at outside tables. 

Johnny made a beeline to the bathroom and since it was again my turn to pay (we take turns figuring that over the course of a week, it will all even out), he asked me to just pick something out for him.  Looking over the different hot chocolates,

I chose the safe classic for him and the peppermint for me.  They actually looked identical

and the strange thing is that the plates they were sitting on were actually hotter than the drinks.  Which is fine with me, since I don't like it when my soups and beverages are too hot and you are forced to wait until you can consume them.  In both cases, the hot chocolates were not overly sweet, tasting more of the chocolate, as it should be.  Mine did have a strong peppermint flavor and we both really enjoyed this pleasant afternoon break.  I would highly recommend stopping here.
 
Bittersweet Café
5437 College Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-654-7159
 
Much more to come.....      
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 2:08 PM>

love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 10:38 AM
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Wow--I didn't even realize this place was in the book.  My bad!  I probably never looked much at the Bay Area section.   Regardless, I stumbled upon Bittersweet in March and tried their bittersweet hot chocolate and their Oreo style cookie.  My experience wasn't as good as yours, but I'd definitely go back and try something else here.  What else amazed me about this area was seeing people just a block away smoking dope on the street while waiting for a bus...

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 11:01 AM
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love2bake-
We looked at the pastries (although I don't specifically remember the Oreo cookie) and nothing really grabbed us, so we skipped it.  Sorry your experience wasn't as good.
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 2:10 PM>

EdSails
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 1:00 PM
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I love chorizo tacos. They are hard to find, so good to hear you lucked out!
 

ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 1:46 PM
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Been on a salted caramel kick lately...I see it has spread to hot chocolate!  Good to know!

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 2:52 PM
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Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
One of the places we were most eagerly anticipating visiting was Bakesale Betty's.  Based on the review and the obvious enthusiasm the Sterns have for the place, we expected it to be something special.  Unfortunately, we were running out of time, since they close at 2:00 in the afternoon and are not open on Sundays.  We drove by just a little after 1:00 and there was a line out the door at least 30 people long.  Yeah, I'd love to go there, but not that bad.
 
We thought this would be a good time to visit one of the tourist sites on my list, the Oakland Museum of California

This is both an art museum as well as a focus on California history.  We decided to explore the latter part.  The museum is extremely well done, going back to the first native people settling here, through the Spanish, the gold rush, the baby boom, onto today.  Here are a few photos from the exhibits.





 
In the area on the gold rush, they talk about how few people really found gold and became successful.  They even had a spinning wheel, in which you could determine how you would have done had you chose to go to California in 1849.  So, I gave it a spin and apparently I would have been stabbed to death in a bar fight.  

Good to know.  Cousin Johnny didn't strike it rich,

but still fared better than I did.
 
There was also a big section where it went into detail about all the people who flooded into California during the Depression and the Dust Bowl Era to work on the farms. 

Here, they had yet another spinning wheel.  Surely, I would make out better this time, right?  Nope,

I died yet again.  Remind me to stay out of Santa Clara.  Once again, Johnny didn't make it big,

but at least he lived to talk about it.
 
We briefly considered touring the art museum also, but there was an especially large crowd here because an artist, Hung Liu,

was here signing books in the giftshop.  Besides, we had our appetites back and were ready to eat again.
 
Much more to come.....     
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 2:12 PM>

ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 4:31 PM
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Turning down another dessert stop...something is amiss! 

mayor al
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 5:44 PM
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CTD--  Check Costco for the jars of Salted Carmels...Outstanding treat !

Sundancer7
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 6:01 PM
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mayor al


CTD--  Check Costco for the jars of Salted Carmels...Outstanding treat !

 
What are salted caramels?
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN


ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Tue, 05/14/13 6:03 PM
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Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 05/20/13 8:02 AM
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Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
We decided to make this a two hamburger day and went to Barney's

in Oakland.  This is a small chain with seven locations around the Bay Area.  Like most of our time in Oakland, finding parking was a problem and we ended up driving around for several minutes until locating a spot on a side street a few blocks away.  The interior doesn't have the feel of a Roadfood burger joint, with a high ceiling and lots of room between tables.
 
We started with the garlic fries,

which had small dots of chopped up garlic on top of shoestring fries.  The smell was intoxicating and this is a dish we enjoyed, although we wish the garlic would have stuck to the fries better.  But, that is quibbling.
 
There is a long list of burgers available here and took us a few minutes to finally to make a decision.  Johnny ended up with the Voodoo burger,

which featured mushrooms, bacon, blue cheese and provolone, plus a voodoo sauce.  Truthfully, he was not a fan of this burger, noting that it was medium well rather than the medium he ordered and the bacon was short lengths of curled up pieces, making it much more difficult to eat on a burger.  He also did not like the voodoo sauce.  
 
Channelling the great Hickory Burger at The Apple Pan, that is what I ordered here. 

Covered in hickory sauce, jack cheese and bacon, I was much happier with mine, with the cheese and the sauce being especially tasty.
 
On the downside, the milkshakes here were not good. 

We both chose the blackberry/chocolate combination and the two flavors just didn't mix well.    Neither one of us came close to finishing them.
 
Barney's gets mixed reviews from us.  While there are some things we appreciated (they brought a big carafe of water for the table, so we never needed refills and we did get excellent service), we didn't think the food was that good.
 
Barney's
4162 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-655-7180
 
Walking from the car to the restaurant, we noticed that we passed a La Farine bakery, which we knew was reviewed on Roadfood.  And while sitting at our table near the front window, we saw several people pass by with cups of ice cream from Fenton's, which ended up being just down the street.  So, we knew where we were heading next.  But, after two large milkshakes so far on this day, we were ice creamed out and decided to save Fenton's for tomorrow.  Yes, we passed up ice cream!
 
You can tell by the enthusiastic review that Michael Stern really likes La Farine

So, our expectations were high and all the beautiful pastries in the case


really made our mouthes water.  Johnny and I both ordered several items to take with us.  Cool tip jar!

 
La Farine
4094 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-420-1777
 
Once back at the hotel, Hyatt House in nearby Emeryville, our lack of sleep caught up with us and both slept through to the next day, with neither one of us touching our pastries.  I will include those photos later when we actually ate them.
 
Much more to come.....      
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 2:43 PM>

Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 05/20/13 10:12 AM
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ChiTownDiner


Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!

ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 05/20/13 5:30 PM
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Michael Hoffman


ChiTownDiner


Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!

 
I will be all over that one...thanks Michael! 


EdSails
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 05/20/13 5:40 PM
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I go the a French bakery called Bon Epi in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree (an amazing Asian mall with several awesome restaurants) that make sea salt macarons. I cannot go past there without getting some. It is such an amazing flavor contrast.

love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 05/27/13 11:06 PM
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buffetbuster



La Farine
4094 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-420-1777

Once back at the hotel, Hyatt House in nearby Emeryville, our lack of sleep caught up with us and both slept through to the next day, with neither one of us touching our pastries.  I will include those photos later when we ate them.

Much more to come.....      

Those burgers and shakes looked absolutely awesome!  But hurry up--I want to see when you actually touched these pastries.

billyboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Sun, 06/2/13 5:34 AM
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Stellar report, BB!  Some great sights and eats.  I wasn't hungry before I read this...  I spent about 3 months driving through California from El Centro all the way up to Eureka (and just about every town in between!).  Did you happen to pass by Gilroy at all?  Love the smell of that garlic in the air!  I posted a Trip Report when I went to San Fran and San Jose in Sept. 2007.  I took the Winchester Mystery House tour as well.  Definitely one of the oddest places I've ever been.  I looked at my photos and I have a whole bunch from inside the house.  I don't think they were enforcing a "no photos" rule back then (or maybe I lagged behind and took them when no one was looking!). 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Mon, 06/3/13 9:03 AM
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billyboy-
No, we did not make it to Gilroy.  There is so much to see in do in Northern California, we couldn't have possibly fit it all in.  I can definitely see me going back out there again in the next couple years.  The idea of the whole town smelling of garlic is very appealing.
 
love2bake-
I think we did eat some of the pastries without getting photos ahead of time, but I should have a couple to post.  Eventually, when I get back to this report.  

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 2:54 PM
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It has been so long since I posted in this trip report, the title should be changed to California, Here We Came and Went.  Rereading this today made me realize two things.  First, the spelling and grammar on my part was appalling.  Hopefully, most of those are corrected.  Secondly, my enthusiasm has returned and I plan on diving back into this.  But, it will be relying more on notes and less on memory, so some details will be sketchy. 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 6:47 PM
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Sunday April 21st, 2013
 
Our destination for breakfast was the eagerly anticipated Bette's Ocean View Diner

We pulled up just a few minutes before they opened at 6:30AM.  The first thing we noticed is that there is no ocean view from Bette's, but we should have known that ahead of time, since no place is Berkeley has such a view.  The second thing we noticed was that right next door is Bette's To Go,

a take-out only joint.  We peeked in through the window at all the great looking desserts in the case and we knew already these would play a big part in our meal.
 
We were the first in the door when they opened and were led to the nearest booth to the door.  On my side of the booth, there is this photo

to greet me, while Johnny was blessed with this one. 

I'll let you decide which one of us looks more like the accompanying picture.
 
I knew early on that this was going to be my kind of place.  The great neon sign out front was clue number one.  The large, eclectic menu was sign number two.  But, any restaurant that has a large slice of pie

hanging over the customer's heads, well.....   you have already won me over.
 
Johnny settled on the banana rum soufflé pancake and how great does that sound?  The waitress did let us know that this item took longer to make, but that didn't deter him.  It took a little more than a half hour for it to come out and we had noticed that several other customers had come and gone, but we can't say we weren't warned.  Fortunately, this

was well worth it.  It was incredibly light and fluffy, with a mild rum flavor and Johnny was thrilled with it.  My entrée was a special that featured smoked salmon, avocado, poached egg and hollandaise sauce over sourdough bread, plus crispy home fries on the side. 

Excellent!
 
For sides, we went full-on carnivore.  The crumbly chorizo

was slightly greasy and what it lacked in heat, it made up for in flavor.  The scrapple (yes, we ordered scrapple in No. Cal.)

was leaner than what we typically eat, had a very crispy bottom and was superior to anything I have eaten back in Pennsylvania.  On the table was some outstanding homemade blackberry preserves

for the sourdough toast.
 
The pie and other desserts list was daunting, but Johnny couldn't say no to the banana cream pie. 


While the banana filling tasted fresh and satisfying, it was the extra-thick, flaky crust that was the star.  I went for the dessert that they are most famous for, the chocolate espresso twinkie. 


Not being a coffee lover, I was worried that the taste may overwhelm me, but was proven wrong.  It was incredibly dense and rich, but tasted more of chocolate than espresso.  It was indeed delicious, but more than one would have put me in a sugar coma.
 
It wasn't until we were leaving that I saw that Bette's is so proud of their pancakes that they sell the mix and even wrote a book on the subject. 

Next time here, I will be trying the more traditional pancakes.  With the classic diner feel,

friendly service and excellent food, Bette's made a big impression on us.
 
Bette's Oceanview Diner
1807 4th Street
Berkeley, CA
510-644-3230
 
Believe it or not, Bette's ended up being our second favorite breakfast of the day!
 
Much more to come..... 
<message edited by buffetbuster on Wed, 08/7/13 6:50 PM>

1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 6:58 PM
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lots of ocean views in Berserkley, BB, just none with diners. :)
 
<message edited by 1bbqboy on Wed, 08/7/13 7:01 PM>

Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 7:02 PM
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See, now that's what a banana cream pie should look like -- topped with whipped cream. The banana cream pie I had today at Henry's was topped with meringue.

will_work_4_bbq
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 8:06 PM
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Bette's looks wonderful!  Esp for a banana lover.  I would love to try and duplicate that banana rum soufflé pancake!  Then banana pie to top it off. 

agnesrob
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Wed, 08/7/13 8:38 PM
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Michael Hoffman


ChiTownDiner


Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!

Thanks Michael! I will be on the look out!!

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 7:28 AM
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Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!
 
1bbqboy-
Now, isn't that really a bay view?  Or is anything past the Golden Gate Bridge considered ocean? 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 8:12 AM
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Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
The drive to Albany and our next breakfast destination was short and we found ample parking around the corner.  This sign on the street

let us know we were only 22 happy steps away from Jodie's Restaurant
 
We knew from the review that this place was small, but we didn't expect it to be this small.  I am trying to think of what other Roadfood restaurants have tiny interior seating areas and came up with The Dory, Haven Brothers and the previous Kitchen Little and all of those feel like the Taj Mahal compared to Jodie's.  There are six stool seats at the counter, but those seats are tightly packed together and if you have large men like Johnny and I, there is no way six people can sit comfortably.  I sat in the stool closest to the opening to the kitchen and there was constant traffic behind me trying to squeeze by.   This may sound like a real inconvenience, but the friendly vibe of the place made it tolerable and even made it feel more like an adventure!
 
They do have a regular menu

at Jodie's but I was told that absolutely nobody orders from it.  We didn't even bother to open it.  Above and behind the customers on the other side, the wall is filled

with dozens of different dishes to choose from.  If that isn't enough, the wall space next to the grill is filled with more available selections.  

The obvious question is how can a kitchen this small make so many dishes? 
 
And they also obviously ran out of names to call the different items.  Quite a few are named after regular customers, but you can also order Why?,

I Don't Know

or the ever popular, I'm Not Ready Yet!  

It would be impossible to sit there and read every single one, besides, there is most likely going to be someone waiting for your seat.  Once I found the name of something especially intriguing, I went with that, which is how I ended up with Nothing, With Something.

 
Since there is no list of ingredients on the card, I asked what I should expect.  They said it was something different everyday and was basically up to the whim of the cook, although there was the option of meat or vegetarian.  So, here

is Something, With Nothing, which on this day featured egg, squash, zucchini, onion, red peppers, mushrooms and beef brisket!  An unusual combination of flavors for sure, but it worked.
 
Johnny went with the Joel's Omelet,

which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, cheese, three eggs, plus Jodie's special sauce.  I asked Johnny about the sauce, but he said it was hard to tell since the eggs absorbed most of the sauce.  Some really nice, dark, crispy hashbrowns came on the side.  We both got thin, grilled English muffins, which we ate with some of the different preserves and jams laid out on the counter.  
 
Even though the food here was very good, what we loved most about the place was the atmosphere.  The other three guys sitting opposite of us

were most certainly regulars, but they were more than happy to include us into the running conversation.  When we weren't chatting, I was able to keep an eye on the grill,

just a short distance away.  The young lady manning the grill worked it like a seasoned pro and one of the regulars told us we were lucky we were there on a day she was cooking, since she was the best one Jodie had.
 
Jodie himself was hanging around behind the scenes, chatting with everyone, while downing his own breakfast.  He stood behind us or just outside the entire time we were there.  He is originally from Arkansas, where he learned to cook and has plenty of great stories.  As we were leaving, I asked if I could take his photo and he was nice enough to oblige.  Whoops, wasn't quite ready yet! 

Okay, this one is better. 

Great guy!
 
BTW, Jodie's is planning on moving to bigger accommodations

and we wish him much success with the project.  But, we were very glad to got to experience this place exactly as it is now.
 
Jodie's Restaurant
902 Masonic Avenue
Albany, CA
510-526-1109
 
Now that we have two breakfasts out of the way, it was time for some ice cream.
 
Much more to come.....   
<message edited by buffetbuster on Thu, 08/8/13 9:14 AM>

hatteras04
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 9:32 AM
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Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.

ScreamingChicken
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 9:33 AM
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Two very different places, each unique and great in its own way.  There might even be some Chinese carryout places with fewer menu offerings than Jodie's!
<message edited by ScreamingChicken on Thu, 08/8/13 9:34 AM>

Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 9:39 AM
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buffetbuster


Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!


I would at least have gotten the third slice to go. I did feel a little guilty about lleechef being the only one getting  slice of pie to take home. Of course now the next slice of pie I'll eat will be pumpkin, and it won't be till Thanksgiving.


Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 9:44 AM
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hatteras04


Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.

And lleechef and I occupied two of them yesterday.


buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 10:21 AM
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hatteras04


Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.
Oooh, good one!  While Crabill's does have only eight stools, there is still room behind them to walk around.  At Jodie's, there was no room behind the diners at all.  Every available inch of space was taken!


Howard Baratz
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 10:25 AM
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Love the way the onions on Johnny's Joel's Omelet look like the onions on an Oklahoma Onion Burger.   

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 10:49 AM
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Howard, always a pleasure to hear from you!  That's a good observation and I think the onions were Johnny's favorite part of the omelet.

love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 11:46 AM
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That's the craziest menu I've ever seen!  If I get up to that neck of the woods, I will surely check out Jodie's.
 
I've been to Bette's Oceanview only once, but I loved it.  Got the potato pancakes.

1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 12:26 PM
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buffetbuster


Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!

1bbqboy-
Now, isn't that really a bay view?  Or is anything past the Golden Gate Bridge considered ocean? 

If it is salt water with tides it is ocean to me.  And beyond the GG lies Japan, so yes. 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 12:40 PM
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1bbqboy-
Fair enough.  But if someone can see Japan from Berkeley, they have enjoyed too many chocolate espresso twinkies!
 
love2bake-
Oh, I bet Bette's makes excellent potato pancakes!
<message edited by buffetbuster on Thu, 08/8/13 12:54 PM>

1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 12:59 PM
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When you close your eyes in Berkeley, anything is possible :)

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Thu, 08/8/13 2:16 PM
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Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Despite how much we had already eaten so far, we decided that there is always room for ice cream.  So, we made Fenton's

in Oakland our next stop.  And Hallelujah Hollywood, they have their own parking lot!  It sure was nice not having to circle around looking for a parking spot for a change.
 
They have a full menu of breakfast and lunch options and the food we saw on other tables looked good.  But we came here for the ice cream.  You can just order cones from the front counter, but sat at one of the big booths in the spacious dining room

and received friendly service from our waiter.  Johnny chose the Black & Tan sundae,

with vanilla and toasted almond ice cream, plus layers on hot fudge and a caramel sauce.  When your sundae has as much going on above the rim and there is below the rim, then you know you have chosen wisely!  Needless to say, Johnny was very happy with his sundae.  I ended up with the banana split junior. 

If this was the junior version, the regular banana split has to be for a group of you and several of your closest friends.  Sorry to say, I was unable to finish, but still managed to eat most of it.
 
In the back of the restaurant, behind a glass wall, you can see workers making ice cream.  One man close by was breaking up oreos.  I motioned that I wanted to take his photo and he gave an okay. 

What a job to have!
 
Fenton's
4226 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-658-7000
 
Now that we were officially stuffed beyond belief, we headed to downtown Oakland to check out Jack London Square.  This lies right next to the water and the marina, plus there is lots of shopping and restaurants in the area.  We were more interested in seeing the reproduction of the Jack London's cabin

from the Yukon.  Near the water is also a statue

of the author.
 
The square was busy with people and dogs relaxing in the grass, while some were jumping in and using the available hula hoops. 

There was also some really cool looking art in the square. 

On Sunday mornings, they have a farmer's market. 

Had we any appetite at all, we may very well have bought a few things, we still had pastries among other items back in the room.  My favorite stand was selling hummus with the irresistible slogan, "You had me at hummus!"

 
We spent about an hour here, before leaving to see some of Oakland's interesting architecture.
 
Much more to come..... 

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 8:46 AM
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Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Oakland has some really nice buildings and we enjoyed driving around checking them out.  Among my favorites were the Cathedral Building,


which understandably draws comparisons to New York's Flatiron Building.  A more modern beauty is the Cathedral of Christ the Light

We would have loved to seen the inside, but the doors were locked.  Living on the other side of the country, all I ever heard was how bad Oakland was.  Instead, we were impressed by it's natural beauty, like this lake

near the city center.
 
Being a big college sports fan, I wanted to visit the University of California's bookstore to buy a sweatshirt, so we headed back to Berkeley.  After a successful shopping mission, we wanted to visit a couple of local food stops recommended here in the forums by my friend cecif, who is a Cal graduate.
 
First up was Top Dog,

a short walk from the university.  This is a small chain with locations in Berkeley and Oakland.  The menu

offered some interesting choices, but since we had already eaten so much earlier in the day and had a big dinner planned, we didn't want to overdo it.  The inside space is tiny and if you are the third person in line to order, chances are you are standing outside.  The grill is right in front

and I always love watching a good grillman in action.  Note that the tip jar is chained down and he is watching an episode of Star Trek off of his cell phone.  By the time Johnny and I ordered, there was a nice variety of different sausages on the grill.  Here

is a close-up.
 
Johnny went for the garlic frankfurter, which was short and plump and not especially garlicky. 

Love those grill marks on the dog!  I got the regular frankfurter,

which had a mild flavor and a nice snap to it when you bit into it.  As you can see, they don't use a typical hot dog bun.  This bread is crusty, has a nice chew and was an excellent holder for the wiener and the condiments.  Speaking of which, they have a small help yourself condiment bar,

with several different kinds of mustard, plus ketchup, relish and onions.  The one issue is that the few interior seats are right in front of here, so if you do sit down, you will have other diners trying to get around you to get to the condiments.
 
Top Dog
2534 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-843-5967
 
Just up the street from Top Dog is another cecif favorite, King Pin Donuts


All the donuts in the case

looked wonderful and we ended up buying a half dozen to take with us.  Sorry I did not take any photos, but the glazed, chocolate glazed and maple long john with custard filling were the standouts.
 
King Pin Donuts
2521 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-843-6688
 
We headed back to the hotel to relax for a few hours.
 
Much more to come.....  
<message edited by buffetbuster on Fri, 08/9/13 8:51 AM>

ScreamingChicken
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 9:32 AM
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buffetbuster


Living on the other side of the country, all I ever heard was how bad Oakland was.  Instead, we were impressed by it's natural beauty, like this lake

near the city center.
The guy on the path is running from the cops.
 
I'll take one of those garlic hot dogs from Top Dog, please!

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 1:14 PM
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SC-
No wonder he hid his face from my camera when he ran by!

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 2:06 PM
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Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Our next food destination was Sketch,  a place that appears in the 500 Things to Eat Book for their macaroons.  While looking for a place to park, I spotted Sprenger's Fish Grotto


The only thing I knew about the place was that they appeared in an older Roadfood book.  I asked Johnny if he was interested in seafood for dinner and he happily agreed.
 
The inside had the usual nautical theme,

only done in a nicer, more attractive way.  And you have to love the full diver's suit in the corner.

 
As soon as I picked up the menu, it looked vaguely familiar.  Okay, a lot of places offer the iceberg wedge salad. 

This place has an appetizer called shrimp kiss? 

Wait, that and the wedge salad is what I always order at.....  I said to Johnny, "This menu is exactly like a McCormick & Schmick's" and I immediately looked down to this napkin. 

Groan!  Now, I kind of like M & S.  Thanks to the dearth of good seafood here, Mariton and I eat at the one in downtown Pittsburgh a few times a year, before we attend a play of musical.  But there is no way I want to eat at one while vacationing in California.  But we had already ordered our drinks, Johnny was elbow deep into the bread, so I resigned myself to a chain meal.
 
Not wanting to get food we can easily get back home, Johnny went with the cioppino,

full of fish, small scallops, clams, mussels and crab claws and he said everything tasted good and fresh.  He used the bread on top to soak up the extra broth.  His meal also came with a bib

so you don't have to worry about staining your clothes, but he had no interest in putting it on.
 
I also ordered a more west coast dish with the Crab Louis,

with 1000 Islands dressing, but it was not good at all.  The crab tasted old and I ended up not even eating half of it.  The McCormick & Schmick's back home have some interesting beverages like flavored iced teas and an Arnold Palmer and I ordered the latter here. 

This meal was not going my way as the lemonade part was much more tart than sweet and I couldn't drink it.  Terrible!
 
Needless to say, I would not go back here.
 
Sprenger's Fresh Fish Grotto
1919 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-845-7771
 
The reason I wasn't overly concerned about the poor meal was we would be going directly back to Sketch.  Even though they sell macaroons, plus other cookies and candy, they are an ice cream place first.  I like how the sign

is a giant ice cream stick.  The inside is very roomy

and they really don't utilize most of their space.  It has a kind of cool, industrial vibe.  I started out with cups of burnt caramel soft serve. 

I much prefer hard ice cream to soft serve, but this was so good, it could change my mind.  Johnny was equally enamored with his refreshing meyer lemon sorbet.
 
To go, we grabbed a couple of the macaroons

which were dense, chewy with intense flavor, plus an ultra-rich chocolate pudding cake. 

Sketch was a big hit with us and we wished we had bought more.
 
Sketch
2080 Fourth Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-984-0294
 
We went to bed early, knowing we had such a full day planned, we had to leave the hotel extra early, also.
 
Much more to come.....   

The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 5:30 PM
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I went to Spenger's Fish Grotto on my first visit to Berkeley in maybe 2003(?). I am not sure when they joined the McCormick and Schmick's chain, but my buddy had researched the place and had also found it in an old Roadfood book. I recall our meal there better than you describe, but it was my first time in the area and I may have just been easily wowed back then! 

mikeam
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Re:California, Here We Come! - Fri, 08/9/13 10:12 PM
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Thanks for sharing. I love your trip reports.

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