Living in the great state of California has its benefits. Beautiful weather all year round, a coastline to die for, mountains for skiing and camping, cities for an exciting nightlife, nature, do we need to say more? I have called the wonderful Bay Area my home for the last 22 years so I consider myself some sort of expert of the region. I live in the peninsula, aka Silicon Valley. We have everything here, Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, and what not. It’s funny to see people visiting these places in addition to the Golden Gate Bridge, or TransAmerica building in San Francisco.
In this travel post, I decided to focus on the Bay Area. Like always, I want to focus on the experience rather than the sights to see. For those who are curious about this region and are completely ignorant about it, let me spend a few minutes telling you about it.
Everyone has heard of San Francisco. Nestled in the northern region of the Bay Area, this big little city boasts natural beauty mixed with cosmopolitan fun (did I mention homeless people?). There are unique neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy that has the best authentic food. There is plenty of hiking trails and parks on Angel Island and northern Marine County. The best shopping experience is at Union Square and to browse unique art stalls and partake on festivals check out Embarcadero Road. For those of you who would like to visit some other local gems, then drive down south to Silicon Valley to see Stanford University and some of the biggest computer giants’ headquarters. For more natural beauty and beaches, you can visit Santa Cruz, which is about an hour and half away (There are beaches in Half Moon Bay as well which are much closer). To the East is Oakland and Berkeley, which is the cultural hub of the region. You can find plenty of protesters, hippies, and art here.
When you come here, you have to partake in the great food the region has to offer. I have traveled the world and I mean it when I say Bay Area has some of the best food options in the world. Michelin restaurants, food trucks, a plethora of global cuisines at varying prices all provide locals and visitors with a great culinary experience. If you are in the Bay Area (and particularly the Peninsula Area) I have recommended some restaurants for you based on the cuisine themes. I have eaten in these restaurants multiple times and never been disappointed. That’s why I recommend them.
- Zareen’s: This place is by far my most favorite place to eat out on the weekend. It has vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Zareen opened a few years back in Mountain View and did so well they opened a second location in Palo Alto. Zareen serves the best South Asian street-style food in the region. Kebab rolls, masala fries, stuffed samosas and juicy burgers are some of its specialties. I usually go there on the weekend when they serve kebab, omelet, paratha and my personal favorite halwa puri. You can view these items on their website.
- Mirchi’s: This restaurant is in Fremont and Dublin, which is not in the Silicon Valley, but we had to include it in our list. Like Zareen’s it is 100% halal and a favorite among the South Asian, especially Muslim population. Mirchi boasts a wide selection of Pakistani style burgers and the cultural staple, illachi ki chai. They also have paratha rolls and ethnic desserts like faluda. They also serve desi Chinese and pizza, which is very fusion. I prefer their South Asian dishes most of the time though. I usually order the Shami Kebab burger and faluda which sets me for the day. The burger comes with a choice of salad or fries. Make sure to get the masala fries for an extra fee. Totally worth it.
- La Baguette: I have been going to La Baguette in Palo Alto since high school. The little cafe is nestled in the beautiful and posh Stanford Shopping Center. The cafe itself doesn’t have any seating, but there is a nice sitting area available just outside where you can enjoy the food and have conversations with pigeons (??). The food is French and the servers are Mexican so it’s actually cute to see this little idiosyncrasy. The cakes and pastries are to die for. My personal favorite is the strawberry shortcake. Their savory food such as cheese croissants and sandwiches are good too. I am not particularly a fan of their salads because they are so expensive, so don’t need to try those. Coffee is good too. So for a little French flair in California, try La Baguette.
- Paris Baguette: is now a chain bakery scattered all over the peninsula region. Here you see the juxtaposition of french pastries and Asian workers. So interesting! I personally prefer La Baguette over Paris Baguette, but you won’t be disappointed if you come here. There is plenty of seating, a chic environment and fresh food to try. Their fruit-topped pastries are the best and their breads are nice too. I particularly like their coffee. I am a mocha girl and whenever I come here I order one in those big “Friends”-style mugs. I feel like I have traveled to Paris after I leave this place.
- Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream: For those hot summer days and even some winter nights, don’t go anywhere for gelato other than this place. The cue is always out the door and you pay cash only. Besides these inconveniences, the gelato and its flavors are unique and tasty. You can even sample before you purchase. This gem of a place is located in downtown Mountain View and a favorite among locals.
- Krung Thai: My sister introduced us to this place ages ago and although we don’t go to it that often (because it’s not halal), I highly recommend it to others. I don’t know why but I prefer their dinner menu over their lunch menu. The dinner food somehow tastes better. It’s almost always crowded, noisy in there, but their service doesn’t get compromised. You can request the food to be as spicy or as bland as you want. Soups, Thai dishes and desserts are totally worth the drive to San Jose. If you are ordering dessert, do get and share the mango and sweet rice dish-totally delish! One warning I may give you is to avoid the branch in Mountain View. The food is not up to par like the San Jose branch.
- Mandarin Gourmet Cupertino: This is my dad’s favorite Chinese restaurant and although it’s not halal, it has some good seafood and vegetarian options. When we used to go there regularly and I didn’t eat halal, I would order sweet and sour chicken and broccoli and beef dishes and enjoyed them tremendously. The food is spicy and pretty authentic.
- Chef Chu’s: Tucked away inside the intersection of Los Altos and Mountain View city boundary, this lovely Chinese restaurant is one of our recent favorites. I highly recommend making reservations for large parties. What I love about this eatery is its friendly service. The food is pretty authentic and clean, but the waiters are some of the friendliest I’ve met. This place is great for those special family occasions.
- Arya: This place is by far the best Persian food I have ever tasted. There are some cheaper options in the region, but for a fine dining experience, come here. With a wide variety of authentic dishes, the restaurant boasts live music and dancing on the weekends too. For appetizers, you have to order Borani Bademjoona and Vege Mezze Platter. We are never disappointed with these options and are always ready for the entrée afterwards. Their kebabs are juicy and tender and you can select a variety of authentic Persian rice sides on the menu to pair them with. Consequently, one suggestion I would give you is to substitute the plain rice and kebab dish with some special rice on the menu. A little extra fee, but oh so delicious!
- Jubba: This place was a great find! We were recommended Jubba by a family friend and let me tell you, we were so glad we listened to her. I will admit it is a little out-of-the-way and in a odd location, but it is totally worth it for us. It is about 30 minutes from our house so people in the East Bay or North Bay would have to drive longer to get here. The restaurant is not visually appealing from the inside or the outside, but if you want authentic Somalian food that is freshly prepared, then come here. We usually start off by ordering Sambosas for everybody. Sambosas are these meat stuffed savory pastry that you eat with a spicy chutney. So good! Then instead of ordering food for each and every person, we order the sports plate, which is good for 2-3 people. The sports plate comes with naan, rice, and pasta and plenty of juicy seasoned meat. For a little authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience, do visit Jubba.
- Sweet Tomatoes: Okay, I am breaking a few rules here and writing about a chain restaurant. I honestly don’t known if Sweet Tomatoes is a national chain or not, but their food is pretty darn good. If you are craving soups, salads, and breads, then do visit one of their many branches in this region. The salads are prepared fresh daily and it is all you can eat buffet so you get your money’s worth. In addition to salads, there is a variety of soups that come with bread. You can munch on those as well. You can finish of your meal with some ice cream, chocolate brownies, and coffee.
- Pluto’s: This place has been my favorite since high school. It is located in the prime location of downtown Palo Alto. So if you are craving a giant, make-your-own salad, macaroni and cheese, and/or sandwiches, come here for some American goodness. I always and I mean always have the salads here. They are not pre-made, but actually made in front of you after you select what goes in them. You can choose a small size salad or a large size salad and it comes with a piece of focaccia bread.
- True Foods Kitchen: A fellow blogger’s post convinced me to try my local True Food Kitchen and I was not disappointed. Mostly a brunch place, True Food Kitchen rotates their menu and their chef-designed dishes each season with freshly prepared, locally-produced ingredients. I went there for the first time recently and I fell in love, especially after learning their dishes have fewer calories. I do recommend their matcha coffee seasoned with special spices. It is so sweet and so delicious. The other dishes I tried was their pizza and cashew pad thai-yummy! Please note that they warn their patrons about the served meat (fish and otherwise) being undercooked so you have to request them to cook it well if you are worried about food-born allergens.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you live in the Bay Area, then do try these places and if you don’t then come here and try these places ;).