Just as we sometimes venture to our neighbor to the north for food that we can’t find in the City of Good Eating, we also sometimes venture southward to Redwood City. The place that is “Climate Best by Government Test” has gone through a fairly dramatic transformation in the last decade. A town that was not too long ago called “Deadwood City” has morphed into a dynamic place with lots of new housing, businesses, stores, and restaurants. There has been some local political controversy regarding the development and pace of growth, but there is no denying that there are many more good places to shop, eat, and gather with friends and family. With four times the land mass and three times the population of San Carlos, it is obviously a much bigger place, but most of the change (as well as the concentration of new restaurants) is in the downtown area. There are a definitely a handful of places that we need to try and thus have left off this list (so feel free to leave comments below with any suggestions), and many of the restaurants are similar to what we have in San Carlos (the most notable and popular being Vesta), but we did want to highlight a few unique eats in Redwood City:
Gourmet Haus Staudt – If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest, you can virtually travel there all year round by finding a beer garden at the back of a grocery store on Broadway Street. It takes a little effort to get there, though. You can see the grocery store front from Broadway, but you have to know to travel around to the back to find this biergarten operating out of the back, fronting a parking lot in which you’re not allowed to park! But it’s worth parking on the street somewhere and finding your way either to their outside patio or cramped inside area at communal tables. You can order your beer from the bar and then try to find a frantic server to take a food order. They have about a dozen German beers on tap in various sizes up to a liter and a number of bottles available as well. The food is what you’d expect from a German beer garden – bavarian pretzels (with cheese and/or salami), pickles, spätzle, and a number of bratwurst and other sausage options. It can definitely get crowded, so pick your day and time carefully, but it’s a unique experience with very tasty food and interesting beers!
LV Mar – This restaurant’s uniqueness stems from being a reasonably upscale tapas/latin fusion restaurant with an emphasis on seafood. The sister restaurant of the more casual La Viga Seafood (which could also go on this list), LV Mar has been in the middle of the bustling downtown area of Redwood City for a little over five years and has earned a loyal following (definitely make reservations). They specialize in their sizable selection of hot and cold tapas, including a number of very good ceviches, oysters, crab, shrimp, and salads. There are a also a number of meat selections, particularly on the hot tapas menu, including seared duck breast, chicken empanadas, and potatoes with ham. There is also a selection of tacos and larger dishes including chicken mole and one of our favorites, arroz con mariscos (rice with scallops, lobster, and sea bass). They also have a decent-sized bar where you can also order and eat your dinner.
Green Leaf Asian Bistro – it’s odd to include what is essentially a fast food restaurant in a list of favorites, but Green Leaf is evidence of a larger trend of Vietnamese quick eateries becoming much more common in many cities. Similar to the trend with Poke Bowls (see below), places like Green Leaf essentially do a limited number of things very well and allow you to customize what you want. It also has a very convenient location on theater row a few doors down from the Century 12 cinema, so it’s a great place for a pre- or post-movie bite. There are really only three main menu items: rice bowls, spring rolls, and banh mi sandwiches. In the case of the bowl, you pick your base (white rice, brown rice, salad, rice noodles, or papaya salad) and for all selections you pick your protein, which includes various chicken and pork options, beef, shrimp, tofu, etc.). You then decide on the various vegetable add-ons and sauces. It’s a fairly efficient operation, so you get your food quickly, and it appears to be all very good quality. We’re partial to the spring rolls, as they are easy to share so we can often get a few different types for the group. It’s a fairly good prediction that you’ll see more of these types of places popping up all over the Peninsula.
Go Fish Poke Bar – Poke Bowl places top the wish list of places we’re missing in San Carlos, but it’s only a short drive to get your fix. Tucked away on a side street (Hamilton Street) just off of Courtyard Square in the heart of downtown, Go Fish is fairly typical of these places both in ingredients and process. We’ve found that it doesn’t necessarily have the variety of ingredients at some other poke places that we’ve tried, but it’s good quality and reasonably healthy food.
Old Port Lobster Shack – We haven’t been to their new location in a mall off of Woodside Road (they also have a spot in Burlingame), but this is the place for east coast transplants looking for their taste of New England. Maine lobster isn’t cheap to fly out to California, but if you’re willing to spend a little more than you would at a typical casual restaurant and have a hankering for real lobster (not the west coast spiny kinds), Old Port delivers. You can go for full steamed lobsters, lobster rolls (Maine style or naked, meaning no mayo), louie salads, clam chowder, lobster bisque, as well as a big selection of seafood sandwiches and fried seafood. A great place for real lobstah!