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Anything good in Niles (Fremont)?

Tonight I'm going to the silent movie theater in downtown Niles, a little town that was gobbled up by Fremont, and am looking for a decent/interesting place to eat.
I'm not necessarily looking for anything great, just suggestions for a decent meal, not too expensive. Interesting cuisine would be nice, (But no Indian -- my wife can't handle that anymore.)
And if there's a great find there, I wouldn't turn that down either.

Sep 03, 2011
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Does anyone like Meredith Brody??? (column, not person)

Yes, the LA Times did publish the name of Mother Phucar's restaurant, but it wasn't a review -- just a bogus announcement of a new business. Obviously, that slipped past more than one person at the paper.

Sep 25, 2008
Janko in Food Media & News

A mini-Safeway coming to downtown SJ?

About a week ago, the SJ City Council approved a liquor license for a future Safeway at the 88, so now it's a go.

I hope that they can get it up and running soon, and that Zanotto's can respond to this competition effectively and creatively.

I also hope that Safeway can make a go of it. The units in the four large new(ish) upscale condo projects downtown -- City Heights, The Axis, the 360, and the 88 -- are still unsold for the most part.

Sep 20, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Riga Bakery is out of business

Riga Bakery on the Alameda in San Jose suddenly closed about two weeks ago.
A taped notice on the door mentions personal reasons and a difficult decision, but gives no details.
It was one of the very best in town, and my favorite.
This is a real loss for the Bay Area's biggest city.

Sep 19, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Georgian restaurant(s) in Bay Area?

That map and list is a great resource -- thanks for posting it.
Since your map extends up to Davis and has no marker there, I'll mention that there's a Czech restaurant in town:
Little Prague Restaurant
330 G St
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 756-1107

It's OK -- good soups, good bread (they bake their own), OK (but not great) main dishes generally, some good desserts, and a good Czech beer selection. They claim to be northern California's premier Czech restaurant, but there's not really a lot of competition.

Aug 31, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Georgian restaurant(s) in Bay Area?

Thanks for the Sadko link -- it didn't come up in my search.

The thread seems to suggest that it's a Russian resto, with Russian staff and owners, that has a couple of Georgian soups on the menu. Did I get that right?

Recent events have put the distinctions between Russians and Georgians into sharp relief. Once independent, Georgia was a conquered Russian colony for most of the last couple of centuries. They pride themselves on having a unique culture, and their language and their alphabet bear absolutely no resemblance to Russian. I don't know how much overlap there is between cuisines.

Aug 29, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Georgian restaurant(s) in Bay Area?

Our daughter is returning from a prematurely concluded Peace Corps assignment in the Republic of Georgia. We would like to take her to a Georgian restaurant in the Bay Area. The most recent discussion here was for an SF place called Traktir, and that thread is four years old.

Is there anything new on the scene?
Is Traktir still operating, and has anyone eaten there more recently?
Would any of the participants in the 2004 excursion care to join us sometime soon?

Also, are there any good sources of Georgian wine, preferably in the South Bay?

Aug 29, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Naglee Park Garage, definitely worth checking out

Two years later:

The Naglee Park Garage is a great neighborhood hangout, a classic "third place."
The landscaped courtyard is a good alternative to the cramped interior.
The outdoor movies and live music are nice touches.
The three owners are there a lot, keeping an eye on things.

But the food is hit-and-miss, and the service is also spotty.
It takes too long to put your order in -- the line is often long and usually very slow moving.
Bread is only given with soup (and maybe with salad?, and then it's just one slice that comes out with the food, rather than being there to nosh on from the beginning.

The concept is wonderful, but the execution is not consistent.
Quality control seems to be a foreign notion.
Louis, the chef, admits to being bored with his gig.
Maybe its time to revitalize the operation.

Jul 24, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Teske's revisited - A Chicagoans perspective...

Yes, it was the Berghoff. The only time I ate there, (about three years ago) we were served by a very knowledgeable Latino waiter -- changing times for sure.

The old-school local-institution midwestern German restaurants are steadily vanishing -- a few years back, Milwaukee lost one of its big three -- purportedly the best of the bunch.

Back to Teske's -- I think their all-inclusive policy is misguided. They serve a heavy cuisine to start with, and then bundle it with three more courses, two of which (soup and salad) are very nondescript. A la carte at a lower price would probably work better for most of their clientele.

Jun 27, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Teske's revisited - A Chicagoans perspective...

What were the prices of those all-inclusive meals, und what were they charging for the bier?

Also, please remind me of the name of that big, long-established German resto in the Chicago loop.
How would you say that Teske's compares to that?


Jun 27, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Saigon Sushi, downtown SJ (in Saigon 75's former location)

Two of us went there (7th & E. Santa Clara) last night, at my wife's prompting. She was a big fan of Saigon 75, which went out of business a couple of moths ago.
Saigon Sushi has now taken over the place, keeping the old decor and furniture, but adding two TV sets. The menu(s) are Japanese, and Vietnamese, as the name suggests.

My wife found that they didn't offer green papaya salad, her favorite Saigon 75 item, so she ordered scallops and broccoli from the Viet menu, and I ordered tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) from the Japanese. The waiter sounded like he never hear of tonkatsu (a common dish): I had to repeat the word and show it to him on the menu. After a while, he came back to announce that they didn't have it, so I ordered the chicken katsu out of inertia.

Her dish was not good, undercooked in a not-good way. Mine was bland and mediocre, with odd, non-standard breading that fell off the meat. The service was on the inattentive side, with the three young staff people seemingly more interested in hanging with one another than in keeping an eye on the room and clientele. The TVs were running two different channels (one was sports), detracting from the nice sophisticated atmosphere that the old place had.

We're unlikely to go back. Prices were about the same as the old place (moderate/inexpensive), but the food, service, and atmosphere were not as good. There was a sense of elegance and professionalism that imbued Saigon 75, and it has been replaced by slackness and inattention to detail.

OK, the place is new, and it theoretically might get better, but somehow I got the impression that they were rather clueless and quite happy with things as they were.

Jun 25, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Good, moderate priced Atlantic City restos?

OK, but the same can be said of a lot of other places in town, including the cheese steak place right next door.
So what sets this place apart from the herd?
What are their best dishes?
And how are their prices? -- the website doesn't reveal any.


Jun 12, 2008
Janko in Mid-Atlantic

Good, moderate priced Atlantic City restos?

We might be spending a few days in AC, and are wondering about eating options near the Boardwalk/center of town. We'll probably come in by train, and not have a car available.

Jun 11, 2008
Janko in Mid-Atlantic

Italian Restaurant in South Philly

I'm about to visit Philadelphia and would like to know if all of these recommended places are in South Philly.

Jun 11, 2008
Janko in Pennsylvania

A mini-Safeway coming to downtown SJ?

I took a tour of the fancy, nearly-complete "88" condos at 3rd & San Fernando Streets yesterday, and the sales agent mentioned that the the SJ Business Journal had just published an article claiming that Safeway would be opening an experimental "urban store" in the building. She then smiled and said that the SJBJ has better sources than she does.

The "88" has 32,000 sq.ft. available for retail tenants, with none announced so far. The "urban store" designation implies a smaller than normal floor area, and some degree of specialization, so it could wind up being more like the nearby Zanotto's than like a standard Safeway. Still, it would be a great thing for the heart of town if it did happen.

Does anyone have further info?

Jun 02, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Ice wine tasting

I'm wondering if anyone makes ice wine popsicles, and, if so, who sells them in the South Bay.

Jun 02, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Best of Prague

Hergetova Cihelna (address: Cihelna 2b in Mala Strana) was very good in 2006. Moderately expensive, refined and imaginative dishes. The outdoor dining terrace is right on the river and has great views of Stare Mesto and the Charles Bridge. It was a very nice splurge for my wife's and daughter's birthdays.
phone +420 296 826 103

The cheery and unpretentious Pivovarsky Dum brew-pub in Nove Mesto has gotten conflicting assessments here. Based on four visits in 2006 and 2007, I vote with the majority -- the food is representative of the national cuisine, reasonably good, and low-priced. The beer is good and, obviously, unique to the establishment. Some beers are a bit exotic, but you can always stick to the tried and true: light, dark, or half-and-half. The atmosphere is pleasant.

A moderately upscale resto occupies the ground floor of the prominent Radio Free Europe building located between the National Museum and the State Opera (not to be confused with the National Theater). The food is refined, lighter than traditional Czech cooking, and the design is a pleasant and elegant modern.

A caution about prices -- the Czech crown has risen more than 50% vs. the US$ since my 2006 visit, so my comments about costs need some major upward adjustment. But, by US standards, these places are probably still reasonable for what they offer.

Jun 02, 2008
Janko in International Archive

Who Makes Trader Joe's Food?

Why is it that the makers of Mochi, which TJ's sells under its original name and in its original packaging, won't supply TJ's with its mocha flavor, whereas other flavors are supplied?

Jun 02, 2008
Janko in Features

Good local beer?

No one seems to have mentioned Gordon Biersch.
What do you all think?

And can anyone confirm my hunch that the various Trader Joe's house label beers are produced in the Biersch brewery? If this is so, is the TJ line totally separate from GB's line, or is there some overlap and name-changing?

May 29, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Bohemian Food

A couple of Elbe tips:

The potato pancakes are excellent, and make a good appetizer.

I've been disappointed with the sauerbraten. Maybe my expectations are too high for that dish. I've had very good home-cooked sauerbraten (in its Czech guise as svickova), and the best ever was in a greasy-spoon Ukrainian or Polish counter-style place on Tompkins Square in NY back in the '60s, but I've never had a really good one in a "serious" restaurant, not even in Germany.

With this cuisine, beer is usually more appropriate than wine, unless you're having fish or chicken. Their selection of European beers on tap is impressive.

May 25, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Su Vianda open in downtown SJ!

I see this new store as a lost opportunity for downtown SJ and the immediately adjoining residential communities. The previous occupant of the space was Albertson's -- not the best supermarket chain in the US, but far from the worst. The store was clean, decently stocked, and had frequent specials. When corporate management pulled the plug, it left a big hole, because this was the only mainstream supermarket in central San Jose (say, the transportation loop formed by 280, 101, 880, and 87.) The closest full-scale supermarket to that location is now the Midtown Safeway on W. San Carlos, about 2.5 driving miles away. I don't count Zanotto's, because it's smallish, somewhat expensive, and more of a deli/gourmet/specialty store.

SuVianda is a mercado, rather than a supermarket. Its selection is deep in certain ethnic items, but sparse in many basic mainstream items. It's website announces that it "was created for Latinos by Latinos."

That's all well and good, but central San Jose does not lack for mercados: the block-long Mi Pueblo, just four blocks away, has served the Hispanic market well (even including a taqueria, which Su Vianda lacks), and there are a couple more largish Latino grocery stores within a mile or so east on Santa Clara.

I hope that the many new condos and apartments now going up in downtown SJ will induce a supermarket operator to re-enter the now abandoned central zone of America's tenth-largest city. There are rumors that Safeway may go into the nearly completed 88 E. San Fernando project. Has anyone else heard anything along those lines?

May 23, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Bohemian Food

Over the years, I've eaten in quite a few (about 30) Czech and Slovak restaurants and bakeries, some in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but most of them in North America: Manhattan, Queens, Texas, Montreal, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Iowa, suburban Chicago, Davis, and Los Angeles.

The one in Davis -- -- isn't bad. Soups, bread, beers, and desserts are good. Entrees are variable. I'd eat there a few times a year if they were close to San Jose, but as it is, I need a reason to be in the vicinity.

DJ's in Concord seems very well regarded by many Chowhounds, so that's now on my to-do list. I've also heard, off list, of another place in Inverness.

There are other analagous and overlapping cuisines -- German, Hungarian, and Polish. In the South Bay, only German seems represented, AFAIK. Teske's Germania in San Jose is overpriced and mediocre. Elbe in Palo Altois good -- it costs less and has better food. Harry's Hofbrau sounds German, but isn't really, as far as food goes.
Has anyone encountered any Hungarian or Polish restos in the South Bay?

May 23, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Cafe Prague

Glad to see that it's still a Czech joint.
When I was there, there were only three entrees on the menu -- is that still the case?
The food wasn't great (it was bearable for someone wanting a Czech food fix), but the beer was excellent.

May 21, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area

Bijan Bakery downtown SJ, the service!

Yes, Bijan's service is lethally slow, inefficient, and frustrating. They've been open for a few months, time enough to work things out for such a relatively simple operation. Maybe the owner doesn't care, or thinks that a fancy interior will keep customers coming.

Sandwiches are good (thanks largely to good bread) but take forever to make, and, as you noted, the laterally stretched-out layout behind the counter leads to lots of wasted motion. Also, the convex-curved display case layout produces the least amount of customer circulation space at the front entrance, where it's needed most. I wonder if any professional restaurant/food-service planners were involved (or listened to).

Last Friday night, four of us bought six desserts to split. Based on that and three previous pastry sampling visits, my conclusion is that most of their desserts are seductive and sophisticated visually, but don't taste as good as they look. The shortbread-based sandwich cookies (apricot or raspberry filled Linzers) are reliable, but the tarts are run of the mill, and the Black Forest, mocha, et al. cake slices lack proper texture and adequate flavor. This business is a product of suburban Cupertino, and I don't think that's the world's most discerning market for European style baked goods.

We agree about Riga -- it's good and reliable, and may be the best bakery in San Jose. Their selection isn't as overwhelmingly broad as Bijan's, but what they do, they do better. And there's also Flower Flour (or is it Flour Flower?) in Baja Willow Glen -- good baked goods, and a charming atmosphere.

We also agree about Bijan's contribution to the struggling but improving downtown San Jose urban scene. It attracts people and provides a nice sidewalk-cafe hangout spot -- as does the Illy cafe with red umbrellas, directly across Paseo San Antonio, whose imported-from-Trieste coffees are splendid, even better than Peet's, IMO. That half-block stretch is my favorite downtown zone right now, especially duriong daylight hours.

I hope that Bijan can pay better attention to their operation. Their seeming nonchalance about service seems surprising in light of the apparent size of their investment in polished stone and brass interior materials. Or did the San Jose Redevelopment Agency give them a subsidy to come downtown?

May 19, 2008
Janko in San Francisco Bay Area