Who: A Father and Son that like to eat.

Where: The Bay Area, California.

The Goal: To find the best hidden lunch spots based on your suggestions. We're looking for secret gems, not your neighborhood Chili's. We'll try anything - no distance in the Bay Area too far, no ethnicity of food too scary. We love a good challenge.

The Result: Based on our rating system, we will determine the best spot for lunch by the end of summer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lunch #8: Little Lou's BBQ

Eureka! There's BBQ Gold in thar' them Los Gatos hills!

Okay, maybe not in the hills of Los Gatos, but it is on Los Gatos Boulevard off of Hwy 17 and Lark. Little Lou's is serving big BBQ flavor in this little neighborhood gem with all your favorites on a menu so extensive it would take several visits to check out all the items including bbq chicken, hot links, pork and beef ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, beef brisket and more. The portions are huge, the service was extremely friendly and the prices are reasonable which right off the bat makes Little Lou's a winner...but what about how the food tastes?

My dad ordered the Hungry Man lunch special which comes with either two pieces of chicken (leg and thigh) or one pork rib and one beef rib, two sides and a piece of garlic bread for around $6. I ordered the full combo with the two pieces of chicken, two pork ribs, two sides and a piece of garlic bread to get the full experience. The ribs were outstanding, meaty, flavorful and huge. The bbq sauce that comes on the table is delicious and I couldn't help but to keep reapplying it in large quantities - we both ended up making a huge mess at our table and on our faces - but that makes good bbq right? The bbq chicken was also excellent and both pieces of chicken were very hot and had lots of juicy meat. Our sides were potato salad, corn on the cob, cole slaw and baked beans and all four were delicious - the best being my dad's potato salad - but the clear star of the show were the ribs. They offer an all you can eat ribs night which seems like a dangerous proposition...and one I'll likely take them up on in the near future. They also have sweet potato pie that I was dying to try but they were out. Bummer! It's probably a good thing since I could only finish half my lunch and had to take the rest home...

If you've ever been to Crimson restaurant in Los Gatos, you'll notice Little Lou's off to the side and probably not pay much mind. We've walked past the place several times and from the outside you might dismiss it - but inside it is cozy, clean and filled with the owners Boston Red Sox memorabilia. In fact, there is a sign at the front that demands that New York Yankee fans must pay double! This is the kind of character you want in a bbq place and they have the food to match. This is real winner that my dad ranks up with his two favorite bbq joints, Tony Roma's and Sam's BBQ. Go check it out!

Little Lou's BBQ
Los Gatos Blvd off Hwy 17/Lark Exit
Rating: 9 out of 10

Lunch #7: Lukoki Hawaiian BBQ

This being a blog named after the delicious staple of Hawaiian food culture, the infamous plate lunch, it's only fitting that we visit a Hawaiian style drive-in in search of our favorite lunch place in the Bay Area. Well...if you're looking for an authentic Hawaiian BBQ experience, don't bother stopping by Lukoki Hawaiian BBQ in Mountain View. A true islander would have a real "beef" (which is pigeon slang for problem) with the food here. In fact, we're not even sure if we'd serve it to our least favorite haole (foreigner).

Lukoki's is located in the shopping center off Showers and El Camino next to the Walmart but when we walked in the door, we knew something was immediately off. The decor is that of an upscale coffee shop with some local Hawaiian decor, and while there's counter service - if you want to eat there, you have to sit down and get your food from a waitress on real porcelain plates and silverware instead of the trademark plate lunch plastic fork and sagging paper plate. Being plate lunch experts, we ordered a combination of several of our favorites, including chicken katzu, bbq chicken, bbq beef, bbq spare rib and fried shrimp and fried mahi mahi. My dad thought his seafood was okay and I would say the same thing about the bbq chicken. The stand out on my plate was the tender and flavorful bbq spare rib, but there just wasn't enough meat to make it the star of the meal. The chicken katzu could have been any frozen Hormel chicken patty served on sushi rice and passed off as chicken katzu masubi (sushi roll). Very disappointed - I didn't even finish it. By far the worst and most offensive was the disgraceful piece of leather Lukoki passed off as bbq beef. My dad thought there was no excuse to serve such dry bbq beef - it tasted like it had been sitting around for an hour. Hawaiian BBQ Beef is so thinly sliced it should be cooked to order, as it is at other better Hawaiian BBQ places in the Bay Area including our favorite J&J in Cupertino - so this was a huge disappointment and left a bad taste in our mouth, literally.

So, in the end, I would leave this island disaster alone. For a restaurant that formerly had a good reputation before they merged with the coffee shop next door, the food has gone downhill and the prices are pretty unreasonable - especially when you consider you can get the same meal we got at J&J for almost $15 less. 

Mountain View (Showers/El Camino)
Our Rating: 4/10

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lunch #6: Dia de Pesca

Hola. Me llamo Plate Lunch con Boom Boom y me gusta comida! Donde esta el bano?

Okay, that's enough of my 12th grade Spanish on display. If you can't already guess by this brilliant intro, last week my Dad and I ventured out for some Mexican food and followed a recommendation to Dia de Pesca on Bascom Avenue in between San Carlos and Naglee. I've driven past this place a million times and I know I've seen the sign that says "Fish Tacos" and thought, you know I wonder if that place is good. It's so close to another one of our favorite lunch places, Falafel Drive In, that we should have known by pure proximity, it would be a winner.

There are two buildings when you pull up in the small parking lot and it looks a lot like a Trailer Park mated with a nursery covered in christmas lights. You order in the building on your right at the counter and then you can eat either inside or outside on the patio. We both ordered the same thing, the Seafood Taco Special, which features three different mini tacos of crab, tilapia and red snapper served with vegetarian nachos.

This are some top notch fish tacos. The fish is prepared perfectly, flaky and grilled to order on soft corn tortillas. My dad prefers hard taco shells and commented that the fish might have been a little under seasoned, but I thought they stood well on their own and each taco came with a light cream salsa. The nachos were really good but nothing special - and kind of an odd combo for the light fish tacos. Nothing like some delicious heavy beans to go with your healthy grilled fish. Oh, I'm not complaining - the nachos were good, just made me laugh a little.

Dad played "Where's the Beef" as well by ordering a pork tamale. Being the tamale expert, my dad thought theirs was moist and flavorful, with the right combo of pork and mesa. He'd definitely order it again. There's plenty of other menu items and a large list of different fresh fish to choose from for your entrees and other meat items. They have cucumber lemonade at the counter, which my Dad tried but found to be too sweet. Must have been pretty sweet if my Dad rejected it...

Overall, Dia de Pesca was a good experience. I think we'll both definitely be back to try a few of the other menu options. My only warning might be to sit inside, especially on a hot day the patio smelled of cooking garbage - not very appetizing. 

Bascom Avenue between San Carlos and Naglee
Our Rating: 8/10.

Lunch #5 Sam's Chowder Mobile

Our apologies for not updating the blog sooner. We've been in a food coma from all these great lunches this summer. Enough excuses, let's eat!

Two weeks ago, we logged onto Twitter and waited like hundreds of other hungry Silicon Valley foodies to find out where the beloved Sam's Chowder Mobile would be serving up their tasty seafood creations that day. Sam's Chowder Mobile is an extension of Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay - they send out their version of a roach coach that is more like Seafood Goodness on Wheels.

This day they were parked in Downtown San Jose by Julian and Market street. We showed up around 11:30 to a line of about 20 people but by the time we finished eating, the line had died down, so a Sam's Chowder Mobile veteran would show up around 12:15. They feature a limited menu of their Chowder House favorites, but there's plenty of delicious seafood favorites to choose from including fish and chips, clam chowder, fried calamari and their famous lobster roll. We both ordered a cup of chowder and a small lobster roll to make sure we got the full experience. The chowder had great flavor with chunks of potatoes and clams - it wasn't as thick as I prefer but my dad thought it was a winner!

The king of this lunch was by far the lobster roll, which certainly lived up to its billing. It comes served on a toasted roll with a buttery sauce and a sprinkle of chopped celery for crunch. I think we could have polished off the large version due to pure gluttony, but cooler heads prevailed. Overall the service was fast and while the prices might be high for your standard lunch ($10/15 for a lobster roll) it's worth it for a special treat. We'll definitely be tracking their next San Jose stop to check out the rest of the menu.

Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lunch #3 and #4: Hunan Taste (San Jose, CA) and Mark's Hot Dogs (San Jose, CA)

Two posts for the price of one. What a great value, especially for a food blog!

Last week, we visited Hunan Taste on N. 4th Street in Downtown San Jose. From the outside, this place looks like a real dive but inside, this intimate restaurant is filled with a bustling lunch crowd of business professionals. This week, we kept the theme of "dives" alive by having lunch at Mark's Hot Dogs on Central Avenue in East San Jose. Since 1936, Mark's has moved several times but they've kept the trademark giant orange dome, where all the hot dog magic happens. It's like an old style drive-in where you can get service in your car or you can sit outside at picnic tables.

When we go for Asian food, I usually let my Dad take the lead on ordering - he is the Menu Master - and at Hunan Taste he ordered the meat pie, beef and green beans and a seafood dish that was listed as the House Specialty. I have to admit, when my Dad suggested we get the Meat Pie, I was expecting something from Sweeney Todd - but what arrived was crispy green onion shell filled with spicy ground beef and shredded lettuce. We both enjoyed it, and it was my Dad's favorite thing that we ordered, but I couldn't help but think of a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell the entire time I was eating it. It was good, but not something I would go back for. At Mark's Hot Dogs, my dad got their regular hot dog which comes garnished with diced white onion, sliced tomatoes, sweet relish and mustard. I went big because the Hot Dog Gods required it and got the Chili Cheese Dog which arrives just as advertised and with nothing else added. We decided to sit at the picnic tables and ordered - we had to wait 20 minutes for the dogs to arrive, so if you're in a rush, speed doesn't seem to be a specialty or priority at Mark's.

Our entrees arrived quickly and featured quality ingredients that were cooked perfectly but really featured a lack of diverse flavor. All I got from the beef and green bean dish was a strong smell and taste of soy sauce and the seafood dish, which featured shrimp and scallops, was all heat and lack of spice/flavor. They did ask us how spicy we wanted our dishes and we asked for medium - but my Irish cheeks turned red and my Dad even started sweating a little. If that was medium, beware the hot. At Mark's Hot Dog's, my dad commented on the snap of the beef/pork hot dog and the flavor was balanced to him. It was a foot long dog on a steamed bun, nothing special but what you would expect from a regular hot dog. I thought my chili dog was good as well, exactly what you would expect - but nothing out of the ordinary. I liked it but I felt like I had eaten it before, at about five other places I can't remember the name of and maybe even a ballpark or two.

My Dad is planning to make a return to try their fried dumplings and the Hunan ground beef noodle, but I don't think I'll be joining him. It wasn't bad, but if I want Asian/Chinese food - I'll get my fix at a few other places I know. As for Mark's, we would both go back for a hot dog fix and I would be curious to order one of their milkshakes and their french fries to see how they stack up. If by chance you do visit Mark's, you must check out Peter's Bakery down the street for dessert. Possibly the best cream puff I've ever had and my dad devoured a lemon meringue tart. Don't tell Jenny Craig...

N. 4th Street
Our Rating: 6 out of 10.

Central Avenue/Alum Rock Avenue
Our Rating: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lunch #2: International Gourmet Buffet (San Jose, CA)

My dad made the call this week and we headed out to the International Gourmet Buffet on Curtner by the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. This restaurant can be hard to find, buried in the middle of a giant shopping center with rows and rows of new eateries and stores. It is nicely decorated and was busy at around 1pm with business professionals having lunch and taking in the World Cup on the several televisions around the dining area. There is a large seating area and the decor was upscale - this should not be confused for a Hometown Buffet by any stretch. There are three rows of buffet stations featuring international cuisine with everything from Mexican, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, American Southern and much more. Let's get to the food.

We did a pretty good job of getting a sample of most of the buffet items that were being served. My dads favorite by far were the Lemon Grass Pork Ribs, which he thought were tender and moist with great flavor. He also liked the Portuguese Beef Stew and the Blackened Fish. My dad commented during lunch that most of the dishes had flavor and nothing was bland, compared to other buffets we've been to - and I would have to agree with that, although I didn't find anything that was a stand out.

Probably the three best things I had were the Chicken Curry and Lemon Chicken Kabob and if I had ordered them individually as an entree, I would have been pleased - but the rest of the quality was only average. I would strongly advise them to stop with the Southern favorites, because the two worst things were the Herbal Corn, a horrible take on cream corn, and an incredibly dry piece of cornbread. Together, they might be able to plug the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

There were many dessert options and they were all fine, but really no standouts. My dad got a bad piece of bread pudding, but went back and found of much moister piece that was probably my favorite dessert on the 2nd try.

When the crumbs have settled and the forks have been put down, I don't think the International Gourmet Buffet will be in the running for our best lunch place in the Bay Area. I would describe it as having food ADD - they do many different types of food but none of them especially well.

101 Curtner Avenue
Hours: M-F 11-10pm, Sat 10-10pm
Our Rating: 5.5 out of 10. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lunch #1: Freshly Baked (San Jose)

The ground rules have been established. Our rating system of 1-10 decided on. Over 40 suggestions have flooded in to my Facebook page. We are locked and loaded and ready to eat.

My dad and I headed to Downtown San Jose for the inaugural lunch of Plate Lunch With Boom Boom. We've been eating lunch on a weekly basis together for the last year, mostly at our favorite Hawaiian BBQ joint in Cupertino called J&J on Stevens Creek and Budd across from DeAnza College. My dad being from Oahu, Hawaii - he knows about these things and what a good plate lunch (meat, rice and mac salad) should be - and J&J is always a home run, so much so that they catered the rehearsal dinner for my wedding.

LUNCH #1: Freshly Baked 

Freshly Baked is hidden in an office building and isn't visible from the street, you've got to know about it to find it. Inside you'll find a simple deli counter with fresh meats on display and the smell of freshly baked sourdough bread fills the room and you can't miss the rotisserie spinning roasted chicken and turkey. They have a simple menu of about 16 different sandwiches and they all cost $7 from what we could tell. This place is very East Coast, service was friendly and super fast - we ordered and had our sandwiches in no less than three minutes - they have it down to a science. All their sandwiches come with mayo, mustard, red onion, lettuce and swiss cheese - unless you say otherwise. When we walked out to sit on their patio with lunch, we were stunned to see a line of about 15-20 people out the door. We showed up at just the right time.

Boom Boom was torn between roast beef, pastrami and turkey but went for the pastrami.

Doug went for the turkey and pastrami combo.

The pastrami was lean and delicious, but the fresh bread puts this sandwich spot over the top and separates it from just a normal deli. My dad thinks it was one of the best sandwiches he's ever had and I'd have to put it in the top as well, although I might struggle to choose between a sandwich between Freshly Baked and Zanotto's. If you're in the mood for a great sandwich and a lover of fresh warm bread, this lunch spot is a must hit. We will both be back and it was a great way to start off Plate Lunches With Boom Boom.

152 N. 3rd St.  Downtown San Jose
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:30-2:30pm
Our Rating: 8 out of 10 or "Brok da Mout" (Outstanding in Hawaiian slang)