If you’re visiting the Kona coast on the big island of Hawaii, you might enjoy having breakfast or lunch at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Way too much food, way too cheap, but so much fun! Escape the resorts and eat with the locals! Bring a big appetite and plan to skip a meal! Just be sure to get there before closing – 1:30 PM – and bring cash (no plastic accepted!). While you’re driving up to Waimea, get in the Big Island mood with KAPA Radio on 99.1 FM.
Here are my for places I’ve eaten in my travels. This list was begun in May 2002, last updated January 2009.
Note that I live on the San Francisco Peninsula — so my comments about restaurants closer to home are likely based upon repeat visits. My comments about restaurants in other cities are based upon my travels to various locales and based upon a more limited set of experiences with a particular restaurant. For every listing I’ve included the date of my most recent visit.
I’d welcome your comments on my recommendations here and suggestions for new places to try. Please post your comments here or email them to me.
Here are my favorite restaurants in the following locales:
- Bellingham, Washington
- Bellevue, Washington
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Hawaii-Kona Coast
- Menlo Park
- Pacific Grove
- Palo Alto
- Portola Valley
- Redwood City
- San Francisco
- San Mateo
San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants (4/3/05)
San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants (4/13/03).
New York Times: Fluent in French with a West Coast Accent, Paris in San Francisco (12/10/02).
Seattle Times Critic’s Choice (11/17/02).
- Bellingham, Washington
- Bellevue, Washington
- Daniel’s Broiler
- 4 Stars (September 2002) – Classic steakhouse in the penthouse of a tall downtown building. Great views when the weather permits.
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Clio, in the Eliot Hotel, 370 Commonwealth Avenue. (617) 536-7200
- 5 Stars (October 2002) – A delightful restaurant with incredible food! Expensive (both the food and the wine!)
- Hammersly’s Bistro, 553 Tremont St.South End. (617) 423-2700
- An old stand-by in Boston, great food, bistro atmosphere.
- Legal Sea Foods
- Another “forever” place in Boston — noisy and crowded with reliable seafood. Wine list is very reasonably priced. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to the Kendall Square location. It’s always busy. Bring a good friend for conversation — or a book to read while you wait!
- Hawaii-Kona Coast
- Hawaiian Style Cafe, 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd, Kamuela, HI 96743. (808) 885-4295
- A local place – cash only! (December 2007) – A great breakfast or lunch place (closes at 1:30 PM). About 15 miles up from the Mauna Lani/Mauna Kea area in Waimea. Very close to Merriman’s – on the same (left) side of Highway 19 as you get into Waimea. Big portions – I had an omelette which came with a huge portion of hash browns as well as a separate plate of great (fluffy!) pancakes!
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Alan Wong’s, 1857 South King St., Third Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826. (808) 949-2526
- 4-1/2 Stars (February 2003) – You won’t find Alan Wong’s in Honolulu if you’re just driving by. In a non-descript 4-5 story building in an out of the way section of town (about 10 minutes from Waikiki) is perhaps the best restaurant in Hawaii. Street parking in this area is dicey — use the valet and feel secure! Small and intimate, an elevator ride upstairs, you’ll find a staff committed to your satisfaction with outstanding food to help ensure it! The Caesar Salad in a cheese basket with Kalua Pig underneath is just wonderful. For an entree, try the Seared Yellowfin Ahi with the most amazing Crispy Asian Slaw — absolutely delicious!
- Roy’s Restaurant, 6600 Kalanaianaole Hwy.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825. (808) 396-7697
- 4 Stars (February 2003) – This is the original Roy’s, opened in 1988. If you’ve had dinner in Honolulu since Roy’s opened, you’ve probably been here. We watched the sun go down from our second story table. Be prepared for endless choices at Roy’s — daily and regular menus and a wine list that goes on forever. You really can’t go wrong for dinner at Roy’s — if per chance you do, given all the choices you have — it’s your own fault!
- Menlo Park, California
- Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, California. (650) 327-0830
- 4 Stars (All the time!) – Cafe Borrone is my favorite breakfast place. Parking is easy in the underground garage. My favorite bookstore (Keplers) is right next door. I meet friends and colleagues for breakfast here at least once a week! My favorite is their #2 breakfast — eggs scrambled with Black Forest Ham and Cheddar. With a mild sausage on the side and a mug of decaf coffee and I’m set to attack the day! The line to order can be a problem later in the morning, so be sure to get there early like I do (7 or 7:30 AM)!
- Carpaccio, 1120 Crane Street, Menlo Park, California. (650) 322-1211
- 4 Stars – Our old standby dinner place in Menlo Park. This is the place for Italian food in Menlo Park. You can spend more (Del Baffo) but you can’t get better price performance than at Carpaccio. Quieter than the bistro atmosphere at Left Bank. Owners also run a bigger place called Capellini in San Mateo – which is just too far from home!
- Marché, 898 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, California. (650) 324-9092
- 5 Stars (March 2003) – An excellent (and expensive) local restaurant that is the equal of the best you might find in San Francisco. Delightful room and atmosphere (high ceiling, spacious but small space). The small (10 max) private room looks ideal for small groups. Had the Dungeness Crab Cakes to start followed by California Halibut — both were just outstanding. Superb wine list. Great desserts (including cheeses and salad after). Wow! But hold on to your wallet! You have to pay for this kind of excellence.
- Left Bank, 635 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, California. (650) 473-6543
- 4 1/2 Stars (March 2003) – A wonderful French bistro restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. The owners over a wonderful high ceilinged space about 5 years ago that was formerly a Chinese restaurant. Kitchen in the restaurant kind of bistro atmosphere. Great private room upstairs in back. Had fabulous wild salmon on bed of the sweetest creamed corn in memory! Pork with spaetzle is always great. Braised veal cheeks make a wonderful stew. Wonderful desserts. Great wine (and dessert wine!) list.
- Oakland, California
- 4 Stars – Had my 50th birthday party in the private room at Oliveto a few years back. Wonderful pork loin! Great salads and desserts. Warm family memories!
- Pacific Grove, California
- Passionfish, 701 Lighthouse Avenue. (831) 655-3311
- 4 1/2 Stars (September 2002 and several times since!) – Delightful, just delightful. Fabulous wine list (at minimal markup), great seafood (half the menu) and meats (the other half). Highly recommended! If you’re in the Monterey/Carmel area, you just have to enjoy Passionfish!
- Palo Alto, California
- Il Fornaio
- 1 Star (July 2002) – I used to eat here a lot — it was a big “power breakfast” spot in the heyday of the Internet boom. But, recently, I had dinner there and was very disappointed in the quality of the food. One redeeming value (and why it’s even listed here): a free WiFi connection available in the bar area in the front of the restaurant!
- Mike’s Cafe Etc., 2680 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, (650) 473-MIKE
- 4 Stars (March 2003) – We’ve had family and friends dinners at Mike’s for years it seems. Mike’s is one of those great neighborhood restaurants (in Palo Alto’s Midtown area) which just feels good — for either lunch and dinner. My favorite entree is the Penne with Chicken and Broccoli — along with a glass of the Morgan Chardonnay! Desserts are from the Prolific Oven in downtown Palo Alto — the Carrot Cake is my favorite! The San Jose Mercury News reviewed Mike’s in January 2003 with a very favorable review.
- Peninsula Creamery
- 3 Star – This was my favorite breakfast spot during the heydeys of the Internet boom in 1999-2000. A great place to meet people in the morning — if you’re in the mood for a full breakfast. Lately, I’ve become more comfortable with Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park — but the Creamery remains an old favorite.
- Portland, Oregon
- El Gaucho – 319 Sw Broadway. (503) 227-8794.
- 4 1/2 Stars (June 2002) – Fabulous steaks along with at your table Ceasar salad creation. Dark and romantic atmosphere. Pricey — but a great night on the town! A great place for some delicious protein if you’re on the Atkins diet! Sister restaurant in Seattle.
- Papa Haydn
- 4 Stars (August 2002) – Right on busy NW 23rd Street (people watching), indoor dining, some 2 person street tables. Known for its awesome dessert menu. Good menu. I had the Filet Mignon Bresaola which was very good — although the filet was a thinner slice than you might normally expect for this cut.
- 4 1/2 Stars (May 2002) – Great food, atmosphere. My favorites on the current menu are the Wild Salmon and the Pork Loin. Owner Cory Schreiber also has a cookbook. Would have been 5 Stars — but it’s a bit pricey.
- Portola Valley, California
- Red Lotus – 3130 Alpine Rd, Portola Valley, CA 94028, (650) 851-1718
- 4 stars (January 2009) – Another Asian fusion blend – small room, also available for take-out. See our January 2009 review.
- Redwood City, California
- Red Lantern – Winslow St. – 4 stars (December 2008).
- An Asian fusion blend of flavors, great room and right near the downtown Redwood City theatre complex. See our full December 2008 review here.
- San Francisco, California
- Boulevard – Mission and Steuart Streets
- 4 Stars (October 2002) – Top rated San Francisco restaurant. Great food, nice atmosphere, but very high prices and ridiculous valet parking ($12.00 for lunch, $10.00 for dinner). In other words, if you can get there on foot and are living on an expense account, enjoy yourself — it’s great. Public transportation (BART/Muni) is available a block away at the Embarcadero station.
- Pacific Cafe – 7000 Geary Blvd. (34th Avenue), (415) 387-7091 (No reservations)
- 4 Stars (August 2002) – Good food, great prices on fresh seafood, wonderful service, a local place that’s fun with family and friends. No reservations but they serve wine to those waiting.
- Palio d’Asti – 640 Sacramento St. (between Montgomery and Kearny Sts.), (415) 395-9800
- 4 1/2 Stars (August 2002) – Great food, reasonable prices. We took a family party of 11 (including 3 kids) on a Friday evening. The Chef came out and had a great time with the kids, helping them decide on their pizza and pasta choices, etc. I had king salmon which was among the best I’ve had all year — including at Wildwood in Portland! Started with a panzanella salad (not on the menu). Wonderful wine list.
- Red’s Java House – Bryant at Embarcadero – Pier 30.
- 3 1/2 Stars (May 2002) – The perfect waterfront hamburger joint. Classic San Francisco place with the cheapest prices in town for burgers, fries and a Bud for lunch. Lots of locals, construction workers, etc. frequent Red’s for lunch and eat out in the (mostly!) sunshine on the Embarcadero. A must do if you’re looking for a little fun for lunch.
- San Mateo, California
- Viognier – above Draegers Market, 222 East Fourth Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401, (650) 685-3727
- 4 1/2 Stars (August 2002) – This is one of our favorite restaurants. The atmosphere is delightful, the food is just grand, and the parking is easy (underground below the market). Prices are definitely on the high side but everything else seems to make up for it.
- Seattle, Washington
- Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1700 7th Ave., Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 267-BASS.
- Woodside, California
- Village Pub
- 4 1/2 Stars (July 2002) – Great food, atmosphere at the recently remodeled Village Pub. The chef, Mark Sullivan, likes to do combinations of the same meat/poultry — duck three ways, pork three ways, etc. If you like great pot roast, you’ll love the Daube of beef! Would have been 5 Stars — but the prices are very high.
Ideas for Restaurants to Try
- New York Times: Four neighborhood places in Boston – 6/8/03