Cheddar & bacon waffles with fried chicken, organic maple syrup and cranberry butter


Fried Chicken & Breakfast Waffles at NOLA in Palo Alto.

Baking cheddar and bacon inside the waffles set NOLA’s Fried Chicken and Breakfast Waffles apart from the usual brunch fare.

The waffles were fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside, and dipping the waffles in the organic maple syrup created a delicious sweet and savory combination. The chicken breasts were huge, thick and tender, and the breading was crisp and peppery.

If you love thyme, you’ll want to try this. It is accompanied with a side of thick chicken-thyme gravy, as well as a side of creamy cranberry butter.


Closeup of fried chicken at NOLA in Palo Alto.

NOLA did not skimp on the portions, either. On a recent Sunday, I only made it 1/3 of the way through my meal, and I took the rest home for an additional two meals. However, I’m one of those people who likes to spread their food out in small meals throughout the day.


Close up of cheddar and bacon waffles at NOLA in Palo Alto.

It is by far the best chicken and waffles I’ve had so far. These menu items at the Palo Alto restaurant are on my to-do list for my next visit:

Bananas Foster French Toast: Baguette french toast, cream cheese, candied pecans, bananas, rum & brown sugar foster sauce

Shrimp & Crab Salad Po Boy: Wild gulf shrimp & lump crab salad, with lemon herb aioli and avocado, on a toasted bun

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes: Paired with housemade raspberry compote and whipped cream cheese

NOLA is located at 535 Ramona St. in Palo Alto. For hours and more information, visit or call (650) 328-2722.



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Fresh seafood, beautiful waterfront and downtown nightlife highlight first visit to Seattle


View of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park.

Somewhere between a huge, thick pancake and a fluffy biscuit is the savory Dutch Baby. Bacon and broccoli are cooked throughout the warm and moist baked dough, the top is covered in sharp white cheddar, and the croissant-like outer crust puffs out along the edges of the small skillet. This brunch dish at Tilikum Place Cafe is one of the best I have ever had on the West Coast and a great kickoff to my first visit to Seattle.


The savory Dutch Baby at Tilikum Place Cafe in Seattle.

The fresh seafood, the waterfront, the parks and the downtown nightlife are enough to convince me to move to Seattle in the next five years. Seattle has that big city atmosphere without feeling overcrowded with people and traffic. Being the awestruck tourist, I loved the sight of the Space Needle outside my friends’ apartment window and the snow-capped Mt. Rainier from afar at Myrtle Edwards Park.


Fresh seafood on display at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

There’s no shame in doing all the touristy stuff: shopping at the Pike Place Market, visiting the famous Market Theater Gum Wall, walking along the waterfront near Pier 70, and viewing the beautifully lit skyline from Kerry Park. The send-off was sampling from the extensive list of ciders at Capitol Cider and performing Japanese-style karaoke at Rock Box, where patrons get to reserve private rooms to drink and sing silly songs with their friends.

These places make for a great Seattle to-do list, but there’s so much more to explore. Check out the photo gallery of my trip to this great city.

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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in brunch, comfort food, seafood, travel


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The Silicon Slammer: Soft French bread topped with pastrami, salami, roast beef and provolone


The Silicon Slammer at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

When I can get lunch for under $10 and be met with a friendly staff, I am a happy camper.

I got both at The Sandwich Spot, a casual deli shop that offers 24 specialty sandwiches and five house specials (including tri-tip Friday through Sunday) at its downtown Sunnyvale location.

The made-to-order sandwich company has 28 of its 29 locations in California – one location in Las Vegas – and was born in midtown Sacramento in 2006. The Sunnyvale location hosted its grand opening in January of this year.


The “Love All Feed All” signage at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

Dish of Choice

I was in the mood for roast beef with a little something extra, so I chose the Silicon Slammer – pastrami, roast beef, salami and choice of cheese and bread. I chose provolone and soft French bread. I also selected “everything” to go on the sandwich: mayo, mustard, secret sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and banana peppers.

I ordered the combo meal, which included a bag of chips and a 20-ounce fountain drink. My meal came to just under $10, including tax.


A close-up of the Silicon Slammer at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

The Taste

At first glance, I thought the sandwich needed more meat. But once I bit into it, I realized it was just enough. The meats went well together and were tender, savory and flavorful. Juices came down onto the basket as I picked up the sandwich. The French bread was soft and thick.

I was trying to distinguish the secret sauce from the mustard and mayo. I thought I tasted something similar to pesto or Italian dressing, but my palate could have been confused from all the flavors combined together on the sandwich. Next time, I’ll ask for the secret sauce on the side. Either way, it was a great sandwich.

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Other Details

I was most impressed with the friendliness of the staff at The Sandwich Spot. I was greeted by the cashier, who had an enthusiastic smile and made me feel welcomed. The staff routinely went around to customers’ tables to make sure they enjoyed their meal. When a customer inquired about the soup of the day, the cashier gladly offered him a sample. Little things like that make for good customer service.

I also enjoyed some of the original mural artwork, including the “Love All Feed All” signage painted in graffiti style on the wall behind the order counter and a picture of what I assumed was the San Francisco Bay on the left side wall. The pillar painted like a Redwood tree with a sign that says “Rooted in the Bay!” was also a nice touch.

The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale is located at 121 S. Frances St. A breakfast menu is expected to come soon, but the current hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week, according to its website.

For more information, call the Sunnyvale location at (408)962-0463 or visit


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Taco Tuesday: Deliciously messy food-truck tacos topped with asada steak, cheese and sour cream


The Super Tacos at El Taco de Oro food truck in Sunnyvale.

A fire in October shut down my favorite taco stop, Mercado La Torre in Sunnyvale, and I’ve been sad ever since. I had my first taste of the restaurant’s delicious street tacos when I first came to visit California in the early 90s. I hope the owners are able to reopen, but in the meantime, I’m on the search for the next best taco.

My search brought me to a food truck that I see all the time in front of my neighborhood Safeway on 789 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale: El Taco de Oro. Based in Alviso, the business offers tacos (of course), as well as burritos, tortas, quesadillas and much more.

Dish of Choice

I decided to go with two Super Tacos, which came on two corn tortillas each, onions, cilantro, cheese and sour cream. I chose asada (steak), but customers can also choose pastor (pork), cabeza (beef head or cheek), or pollo asado (grilled chicken). My meal came out to less than $4, including tax.

The Taste

Getting only two tacos was a tease. The asada was tender and had a great savory marinade. It was very juicy, so be prepared to get juices down your chin. Despite this, the soft corn tortilla was sturdy and didn’t fall apart.

The taco had a nice dressing of cilantro throughout and an good amount of sour cream. The generous portion of cheese tasted fresh and mild. I was afraid to eat the slices of pepper on the side because they smelled super spicy. The zest of lime gave the taco an extra zip in flavor.

I enjoyed the tacos so much that I went back two days later.

More Details

For more information about El Taco de Oro, including the full menu and hours, visit the business’ Facebook page.

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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Mexican, tacos


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Made-from-scratch Snickerdoodle cookies make for great holiday cookie-exchange treat


The second batch of Trisha Yearwood’s Snickerdoodle cookie recipe.

Baking intimidates me.

There’s more to it than just measuring and following directions. I think there’s a certain art and talent to baking that I haven’t quite mastered due to lack of experience. The pre-made cookie dough in a tub is usually how in-depth baking goes for me.

So when my friend Lindsey decided to host a holiday cookie exchange, where we had to make cookies from scratch, I was apprehensive. I had visions of guests spitting out my creation.


Don’t be afraid of the chunkiness: the dough turns out fine.

Cookie of Choice

I’ve always liked Snickerdoodle cookies – the name and the taste. It’s a sugar cookie with a slight tartness, and it’s topped with cinnamon sugar. I recently enjoyed a scoop of coffee ice cream sandwiched between two warm, moist Snickerdoodle cookies from Palo Alto’s Cream (Yum!).

I wanted to replicate this delicious baked treat, and I came across Trisha Yearwood’s recipe, which received five stars on the Food Network’s website. The most expensive ingredient is cream of tartar (it cost about $5 for a 1.5-ounce jar), but everything else is probably already in your fridge and cupboard.


Another glimpse of the slightly burnt Snickerdoodle cookies.

The Taste

So the recipe says to let the cookies bake for 8-10 minutes.  I recommend only leaving them in for 8 minutes, max; the test batch got slightly burnt at the bottom. My first test dozen went to the family, but they still enjoyed them.

The cookies had that slight tartness to accompany the sweet, buttery taste. Don’t be afraid to literally dunk the balls of dough into the cinnamon sugar mix. I was a little light-handed on this process, so some of the cookies were only half covered in cinnamon sugar.

I was a bit worried after I mixed the dough because it came out chunky. However, it turned out fine, resulting in cookies that were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and not overly sweet. It’s a great cookie for the holiday season that’s pretty easy to make, even for an inexperienced baker like me. Side note: no one spit out my creation!

(Click this link for the original recipe)

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Posted by on December 8, 2015 in baked goods, cookies, holiday


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Sunday Brunch: Rich Canadian rock crab and Swiss quiche with fresh fruit

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The Canadian rock crab quiche at Country Gourmet American Bistro in Sunnyvale.

Whenever I go to a restaurant for Sunday brunch, the first item I look for on the menu is quiche. This rich egg pie is just one of those dishes that I strictly associate with brunch. If a restaurant wins me over with its quiche, I’m likely to become a regular.

The Canadian rock crab quiche at Sunnyvale’s Country Gourmet American Bistro convinced me to put the restaurant in my Sunday brunch rotation. The egg filling was packed with rich flavor and a generous amount of crab, Swiss cheese and onions baked through. The dish had a nice toasting on the top, and you could tell the crust was made from scratch.

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Close-up of the Canadian rock crab quiche at Country Gourmet American Bistro in Sunnyvale.

It was great comfort food. I even enjoyed the juicy fresh fruit, and I’m not really a big fruit fan. It was a great meal for only $10 (not including the $7 mimosa I had to accompany the meal).

Country Gourmet American Bistro is a family-owned business that seems to take pride in the quality and healthiness of its food. The food is never made from mixes, and the restaurant buys local, organic and free-range products when they are available, according to its website. It also offers a gluten-free menu that includes a housemade gluten-free cornbread.

Country Gourmet American Bistro is located at 1314 S. Mary Ave. For more information, call (408) 733-9446 or visit


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Chimichanga with chorizo, creamy sauce and fresh guacamole brings back childhood memories


Close-up of the Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Chimichanga is one of those dishes that brings back childhood memories of my family regularly visiting a local Mexican restaurant less than a mile from our Metro Detroit home.

I remember the anticipation of cutting into that crispy fried tortilla and getting to the meaty, cheesy center. I savored every bite but could barely ever get through the whole dish, which was about the size of my head. It was all the deliciousness of a burrito, only deep-fried.


The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Those fond memories came to mind when I arrived at Speedy’s Tacos, a family-owned restaurant that opened its doors this year at the corner of E. Duane Ave. and San Rafael St. in Sunnyvale.

With Chimichanga as one of the daily specials, I decided on a chimichanga with chorizo, a spicy sausage. The dish came with a side of rice and guacamole and cost about $10. These days, you spend almost that much on a fast-food combo.

The Taste

The chimichanga special was a satisfying dish that I could only get through halfway. The tortilla was thick and had that nice crunch on the outside, but it wasn’t greasy.

I like the creamy, pumpkin-colored sauce that surrounded the chimichanga. The texture and taste reminded me of enjococado sauce, a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce that I tried for the first time this year at another local Mexican restaurant. (Related: Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce)

The chorizo was crumbly and tender, with a mild, smoky spiciness. The guacamole was thick, fresh and a great complement to the savory chorizo. It was a good-sized meal for what I paid.


The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Other Details

Speedy’s Tacos is a casual restaurant where customers order at the counter, and the waitstaff brings the food to your table. The restaurant has a patio area to enjoy your meal on those warmer days.

Speedy’s Tacos offers an array of meats for its tacos, including fish, shrimp, al pastor and carne asada. Vegetable tacos are also available. The menu also boasts taquitos, tortas, burritos, tamales and several a la carte items.

Speedy’s Tacos is located at 929 E. Duane Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (408) 685-2791 or visit

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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in comfort food, Mexican


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Indian black-pepper chicken curry brings subtle, smoky spice at new Silicon Valley restaurant

Close-up of the Black Pepper Chicken Curry at Indian Street Cafe in Sunnyvale.

Close-up of the Black Pepper Chicken Curry at Indian Street Cafe in Sunnyvale.

Pieces of black peppercorns were stuck between my teeth after I was done, but it was worth it.

The black pepper chicken curry, prepared by the new Indian Street Cafe in Sunnyvale, is going to make me a regular customer at the restaurant. The chicken was so tender that no knife was needed to cut through it. The peppercorns throughout the dish brought a smoky spice and subtle, growing heat with every bite, and the cilantro added extra liveliness to the curry.

The entree, which cost about $9, came with a side of white rice and a fresh side salad. I would also recommend the paneer paratha, a white-flour flatbread filled with spiced and shredded paneer, a fresh, soft cheese common in Indian cuisine. The paneer paratha was warm and soft with a mild flavor and paired perfectly with the spicy curry.

The Ambiance

Indian Street Cafe is not buffet style, like several Indian restaurants in the area. The host takes your order near the front of the restaurant and gives you a number to set on your table. The waiter then brings your food to the table.

The Paneer Paratha at Indian Street Cafe in Sunnyvale.

The Paneer Paratha at Indian Street Cafe in Sunnyvale.

The setting is casual, with wooden cabin-like tables and benches to sit on, an exposed ceiling showing industrial piping and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that look unto the street. Another wall is decorated with various foreign-film posters.

I also like the “Foodie Philosophy” mural near the kitchen, which states that the restaurant doesn’t microwave, freeze or deep-fry its foods. “We believe food is one of life’s greatest joys,” the mural states. “We aim to strike a balance between delicious and healthy.”

Other Details

Indian Street Cafe is located inside Arques Square strip mall at 927 E. Arques Ave. Use the door that is located inside of the plaza. The door located at the corner of Arques and De Guigne Drive was not accessible when I went this past week.

For hours and more information, call (669) 246-5034 or visit

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in chicken, food, Indian


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Juicy Umami Burger with parmesan frico and shiitake mushroom

The Umami Burger at Umami Burger in Palo Alto.

The Umami Burger at Umami Burger in Palo Alto.

The juices were dripping onto the plate from the burger as I grabbed it to take my first bite. Knowing how often I end up wearing my food in public, I set the burger back down and started eating it with a knife and fork.

I probably looked ridiculous, but the Umami Burger was the juiciest, melt-in-your-mouth beef sandwich I’ve had in recent memory. I could tell the beef was of top-choice quality, and the medium rare patty was not salty, like some burgers can be. The soft bun was like a sponge for the juices, but it didn’t get soggy or fall apart.

My favorite part about the burger, besides the patty, was the parmesan frico. I had to Google what that was: it’s basically cheese, baked or fried until it turns into a crispy wafer of deliciousness. So, a cheese chip. I loved it, and it just added more savoriness to the burger.

I also enjoyed the Umami house ketchup, which had a sweet and tangy flavor, and I picked up a slight marinara taste as well.

The only recommendation that my friend had was that the restaurant needs some wet wipes at the table, just in case you get beef juices down your hands. Other than that, Umami Burger will be in my South Bay dining rotation and a place I’ll take out-of-town visitors.

Umami Burger in Palo Alto is decorated with tall shelves of books, like a library or study.

Umami Burger in Palo Alto is decorated with tall shelves of books, like a library or study.

Other Details

I try to stay away from reviewing restaurants that have a footprint outside of the West Coast. I’ve done a few in the past, but I quickly realized I wanted to focus on locally-owned establishments.

Umami Burger has three locations in New York, one in Illinois and one in Nevada. However, the restaurant was born in Southern California, and 80 percent of its locations are in this state.

With it being so close to Stanford University, I like that the Palo Alto location looks like a library or study with its tall shelves of books, wooden furniture and artwork. I felt like I could just order a cup of coffee and read a good book for hours.

Umami Burger’s Palo Alto location is situated at 452 University Ave. For more information, call 650-321-8626 or visit


Posted by on October 11, 2015 in burgers, comfort food


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Sunday Brunch: Brioche french toast with huckleberry compote and Grand Marnier creme

The Brioche French Toast at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Brioche French Toast at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The huckleberry compote and the Grand Marnier creme were what drew me in to the brioche french toast at Sam’s Chowder House. I typically stay away from french toast (having too much egg makes me nauseated), but the Sunday brunch entrée at the Palo Alto restaurant was too tempting to pass up.

The Home Fries at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Home Fries at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

Luckily, the egg did not dominate the taste of the french toast, which was thick, pillowy soft on the inside, and nicely toasted on the outside. The compote was sweet with a little tartness, and this berry sauce soaked into the toast, making it that much more moist. The Grand Marnier added a subtle citrusy taste to the light and smooth cream. If you’re a fan of french toast, make sure this entrée is on your list.

The Sunday brunch menu at Sam’s Chowder House is not extensive, but there are some intriguing items, including the Dungeness Crab Deviled Eggs and the Smoked Salmon Soft Scramble with tarragon and home fries. The brunch menu also offers bottomless mimosas and a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary” bar with more than 20 ingredients to choose from.

The Nueske's Bacon at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Nueske’s Bacon at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The restaurant also serves lunchtime items, such as sandwiches, appetizers and seafood house specialties, if you’re not in the mood for brunch. Hours for brunch are 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays.

Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto is located at 185 University Ave. For more information, call (650) 614-1177 or visit

(Related: Big clam helpings by the spoonful at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto)


Posted by on October 6, 2015 in breakfast, brunch, comfort food, food


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