When we went to California…

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Welcome to our California food diaries! When we came back to Cincinnati we thought to ourselves why… why do we live in Cincinnati… well such is life- we’ll make the most of it. So we went road tripping with friends around California over the Christmas holidays and had the best time ever- EVER! We actually managed to go to quite a few places while we were there- San Francisco, Folsom, Napa Valley, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, the not- so famous but awesome Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz and drove down half of the famous highway 1. Only if we could go back in time and pause…Thank you Megha & Tanuj for the awesome hospitality and Aadi, Varsha & Vaibhav for the good times! 🙂

California is full of great places to eat and a seafood foodie’s paradise. We unfortunately did not have any “exotic” seafood as I am not a fan of seafood and N is allergic to most shellfish. When you are travelling as a “tourist” it’s difficult to actually stop by and eat at restaurants which you have on your list of must-do’s, so we just make good with what we think would be the best places to eat at the time. We will go back again just for the food! So here are some of the food highlights from our trip-

Don Pisto’s, Union Street, San Francisco

Don Pisto’s is a Mexican street food stylish restaurant in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco. This restaurant’s biggest asset is the ambiance.  The minimal modern dimly lit decor, friendly low key vibe of the staff and abundance of young hip crowd lends Don Pisto’s an air of greatness.  It took us a while to locate the place ‘coz there are no signs or boards which lead you into the restaurant. You need the exact address, a good cabbie and the ability to locate a small black door next to huge glass windows with red lights. The Mexican food you have here will be like nothing that you have had before. An unconventional Mexican menu with great flavor and NO CHEESE- yes no cheese! You know it’s authentic Mexican food when they don’t serve cheese on everything! Slightly over-priced- expect to pay around $40-$50 for two people without the drinks. This one gets 4.5 stars from us! Because it was so dimly lit and we were starving from a 27 hour day (thanks to the time difference!) we don’t have great pictures but be sure to drop by this place when you are in SFO next!

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Mama’s on Washington Square, San Francisco photo 5 (1)

This breakfast place has been around for over 50 years and is surely worth a visit. We had read a lot of reviews about it so we braved the crazy lines and a one-hour wait for a scrumptious breakfast and it was so so worth it! This is how long the queue was.. there can you see it? They have an amazing menu with something for everybody. Not just the plain old eggs and pancake breakfast but so much more. The variety is awesome and the prices were not too bad either- expect to spend around $30 for two people for a heavy, delish & scrumptious breakfast that won’t leave you hungry for quite a few hours. Everything was just so fresh..a peek-a-boo over the kitchen counter: photo 2 (27) So we had the Smoked Salmon Scramble (Smoked Salmon, Red Onion, Capers and Roasted Tomatoes served with mama’s Grilled Potatoes and Bagel with Cream Cheese) and Banana Pancakes with the Chicken Turkey Sausage. Be sure to try this place when you are in SFO next! This one definitely gets 5 stars from us. photo 3 (18) Shalimar Restaurant, Jones Street, San Francisco

When in doubt and very hungry have biryani! This time we actually went hunting for a biryani place called Pakwan and in fact had been building our appetites for it too. Since Pakwan was closed we just settled with this biryani place that we saw right across the road- Shalimar. This is a hole in the wall restaurant that is super easy on your pocket, has quick service and serves authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine! They have an extensive menu with biryanis, kebabs, curries, naans, desserts and  beverages that they  called –Mind Blowers! 🙂  So we ordered the usual suspects- Chicken Biryani, Mutton Biryani, Mutton Rogan Josh, Chicken Tikka masala, some naan breads and just gobbled all of it within 15 minutes! It was absolutely delicious and that’s how hungry we all were! Expect to spend not more than $30 for all of the above. We give Shalimar 4.5 stars. Here are just a few snapshots: photo 1 (26) Boskos Trattoria, Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga

Tucked away in one of the historic buildings in Calistoga, at the northern tip of the Napa Valley, Bosko’s Trattoria offers fresh home-style Italian foods. They make everything from scratch- from thin-crust, wood fired pizzas made with fresh ingredients to the delicate pastas made from scratch. Everything is so fresh and bursting with natural flavor, you’ll love this place! And their breads- oooh… were so good! If you are on your way back from visiting the vineyards just stop by for a wonderful meal here! This one definitely gets 5 stars from us. photo 4 (10) Vik’s Chaat Corner, Berkley

No we didn’t go up all the way to Berkley to eat at Vik’s. We were driving down to Folsom from San Francisco and Berkley happened to be on the way and it was lunch time. So we stopped by to have a quick lunch which was not so quick thanks to the long Q’s at this popular Indian street food restaurant. It’s like a fast food joint- that serves Indian fast food :). We were hungry enough to gobble away so sorry no treat for the eyes on this one. But in case any of you are in or around Berkley do try Vik’s out. Vik’s gets around 4 stars.

The Golden Bear, Sacramento

This is one of those places that we were lucky to run into. We spent half a day in Sacramento just going around what we thought was a “sleepy” downtown and it was lunch time. We quickly googled places to eat and found this one. The Golden Bear featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives. They have a very selective menu but we’re sure you’ll find something that you like. Even something like a burger sounded, looked and tasted different. A good change from the regular fast-food burgers that we get in most restaurants. They are also known for their sausage and smoked slaw pizza which was also very good. All in all the pizza, burger, ploughman’s lunch with the bacon fried potatoes as a side dish did well for us. We thought the service could be better but then it was Christmas eve and this was one of the very few places open so we’ll let that pass. 🙂 We give The Golden Bear 3.5 stars. photo 2 (28) Rick’s Dessert Diner, Sacramento

Whether or not you go anywhere else in Sacramento, even if you are just passing the downtown area, just stop here. You will thank us! Rick’s Dessert Diner serves homemade cakes, pies, tortes, cheesecakes and pastries but with a sophisticated flair and HUGE portions. You can see how fresh everything looks the moment you get into this dessert diner. We must admit this is probably the first time we’ve seen an exclusive dessert place call itself a dessert diner! Rick’s Dessert Diner is great place to go when you yen for anything sweet and anything chocolate! Sorry we don’t have pictures of what we ate – the moment we entered the diner it was like we went to a different world, we forgot we had phone cameras- we got so carried away! If we could we’d given it more than 5 stars but for now 5 stars it is!

Curry Up Now, San Mateo

A great Indian-fusion fast-food style restaurant. From the decor to their casual twist on Indian fare.. it’s right on target. For those looking for vegan and gluten-free options this is the place to go- they have separate vegan and gluten-free menus too!  What’s more interesting are the names that they give their dishes- itsy bitsy naan bits, the naughty naan, thee unburger- to name a few. Apparently they have four food trucks which do rounds around the bay area. Now you may think way on earth did we go all the way to San Mateo to have lunch? Well, just so you know this is very close to the airport so a good option to pack yourself some food for your journey or even to stuff yourself before your flight! This one gets 4.5 stars from us. photo 3 (17) Do let us know your favorite places to eat in California! We’d love to hear your recommendations for our next food-only vacation! 🙂 P.S.: Please excuse us for not clicking high quality pictures, we only used our phone camera as we were famished by the time the food reached our table!

Here are some other pictures from our trip: collage


  1. Major hunger pangs came on reading this… Everything looks delicious!! 🙂

  2. Looks like so much fun! But why in the heck did you want to go to Folsom? The mall? I was happy to see Rick’s Dessert on here, as I frequented this place many many times whilst living in Sacramento!!! Memories!

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