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.

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.