Hayward Japan Grill

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Probably Not

Hayward Japan Grill is located at 920 C Street between Mission and Main in Hayward. It seems to have been here for ten years or so (judging from Yelp reviews), though I’ll admit that I’ve never noticed it. We tried this place for the first time last week and I was not particularly excited about what we found.

The atmosphere isn’t fabulous by any means, but they’ve made a bit of effort with some hanging plants and traditional Japanese decorations. The dining room itself is actually quite large and could hold quite a few patrons if need be. I am curious if the “need” ever “be” though; the place was dead (though it was a Wednesday).

Hayward Japan Grill

Inside the Hayward Japan Grill

First impression was in my nose; the place stank. Sorry, but it did. I’ve only been here once so I’m not sure if it was a one time thing or if this is just the smell that exists, but it smelled like the sea (and not in a good way) and I wasn’t digging it. The strange pop music in the background also wasn’t really getting me into my Japanese food groove. Additionally, there was a man in the back hammering something. What needs hammering in a restaurant? Especially for like 20 minutes continuously? I have no idea but if the FBI is around there later, we’ll all know why.

Alas, we took a look at the menu.

Which is hilarious. There are two menus actually, one with the regular Japanese items (udon, donburi, tempura, etc.) and the other with only sushi rolls. The sushi menu is just a standard bi-folding booklet with descriptions of their sushi, but each description is pointedly hilarious. It was so unexpected, I laughed out loud at a few. Here are a few favorites:

“Pancho Villa Roll: This roll is the commander of the Sushi Division del Norte, with strict orders to defeat your hunger in the for la dia del revolution [typo in tact]! Spicy tuna, avocado, and green onion in a Maki roll topped with tuna and fish eggs. And The Revolucion!”

“Godzilla Roll: Shrimp tempura and avocado in a Maki roll topped with barbecued eel and avocado. Order this roll or Gojira, King of all Monsters, will stomp so hard you’ll be saying “Oh, I guess I should have ordered the roll named after you, my lord King of all Monsters, but now I can’t do that because I’m like a pancake under your foot or something now. I guess I won’t be needing that haircut anymore. Probably.””

And my personal favorite:

“Triforce Roll: Tuna with spicy sauce, Tempura shrimp, and avocado in a Maki roll topped with thinly sliced avocado. Now you too can wield the power of of the Golden Goddesses of Hyrule!”

That was pretty much the best part of the restaurant. But I have to say that I rarely do laugh out loud at sushi restaurants, so that’s a tribute to their cleverness to be sure. We ordered three rolls to split: the Nacho Special Roll (a blend of steamed shrimp, spicy tuna, real crab, and scallops), Spicy Sake Roll (salmon with spicy sauce in a Maki roll) and Spicy Tuna Hayward Roll (tuna with spicy sauce, Tempura shrimp, and avocado in a Maki roll).


Nacho Special Handroll


Spicy Tuna Hayward Roll and Spicy Sake Roll from Hayward Japan Grill

The sushi was ok, nothing really special. The miso soup was good though and the food wasn’t terribly expensive. The chop sticks were the terrible kind (we’re super sensitive about chop sticks) and the actual plates on which the food was served were beat up and chipped. The service was also pretty terrible, the waitress lady (who may also be the owner?) didn’t come back once after giving us our food. No water refills, nothing. She didn’t even bring us our bill, we had to go up to the counter to pay.

Basically, I probably won’t be returning as Wakamatsu is literally two blocks away and I had a far better experience there. There’s just too much sushi around to waste time in a sub-par place.

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The Ranch

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Possibly

The Ranch signHoly moly, I’ve finally done it. I’ve been to The Ranch. How is it that I’m a born and bred Hayward-ian and I’ve never been to The Ranch? If you’re a local you’ve surely seen and/or been to this place—the huge cow head on the sign (which, incidentally, I didn’t get a picture of) along Mission Boulevard at the corner of Jackson is hard to miss.

The Ranch has been around since 1948 and—prepare for history lesson—much of the random farm equipment and gold-rush-looking junk that adorns the walls was apparently donated by local farmers and ranchers of the day. This made me a good deal more excited to gaze at the seemingly-dangerous-in-an-earthquake decorations. This isn’t Applebee’s, folks, this is Hayward history.

The Ranch

Outside The Ranch

Since I’ve never actually been inside this place, I really had no idea what to expect. I was honestly expecting the worst. To be fair, this is not my type of place. I don’t like “good ‘ole American” cookin’ as it’s fattening, bland, and generally bad for you. This is what I was expecting. And, really, it’s what I got. But, I can say that it was better than I thought.

inside The Ranch

The main dining room at The Ranch

Ok, I didn’t exactly have a steak dinner so I can’t comment on the quality or taste of most of their menu items. What I can say is this: the menu selection wasn’t bad, the zucchini sticks were homemade and delicious, and our server was excellent. Why does an attentive, intelligent, helpful younger man work at The Ranch in downtown Hayward? I have no idea, but he made our night better.

scampi appetizer

Scampi appetizer at The Ranch

I had the scampi appetizer which was prawns in a wine/butter sauce. I thought it was just ok; the sauce was really heavy (as expected and forewarned) and I think I was more in the mood for shrimp cocktail instead (which was my bad). Boyfriend had a side salad which was standard from a diner: packaged iceberg lettuce, garbanzos, kidney beans and croutons.


Side salad with Italian dressing from The Ranch


Crinkly cut french fries from The Ranch

We all also shared the fried zucchini and a basket of fries; it wasn’t exactly health food night in our household. The fries were the crinkly kind that come in frozen bags at the grocery store and were fine. The basket was pretty giant and was only $2, so that’s sort of exciting. The zucchini was home made and was perfect in consistency, the breading was very yummy, and the homemade ranch dressing had me breathing a sigh of relief (after all, a place called The Ranch simply cannot very well have bad ranch dressing).

fried zucchini

Homemade fried zucchini with ranch dressing from The Ranch.

Overall I had a good time since I was with good company, wasn’t expecting a lot, the food was decent and the service was great. I knew it wouldn’t be my favorite place, but I may indeed return someday when I get a hankerin’ for the best dang zucchini sticks around.

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Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please

SpettroSpettro can be found at 3355 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and is one of a huge many awesome restaurants which I’m only just finding out about in this area. Seriously, Oakland is pretty awesome. Our friends described this place as Mexican/Italian fusion, but after seeing the menu, it pretty much looked like Italian to me.

A variety of delicious-sounding salads; entrees including chicken marsala, chicken or eggplant parmesan, oven braised lamb and chicken risotto along with pastas and pizzas will start any mouth watering. Seriously, it was super hard to choose between the salads and the pizzas…so Friend #1 and I split one of each. This was a fabulous choice.


Inside Spettro, Oakland.

Despite my continual urge to order a Caesar, I deferred to a Marblehead salad of “Tender Butter Lettuce, Tart Green Apples, Candied Walnuts and Crumbled Bleu Cheese In a Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette”. Yeah, it was worth it. Seriously though, there are quite a few salads to choose from that sounded DE-licious. Oh, and you can choose a small, medium or large size for any salad which is so, SO nice of them.


Marblehead Salad from Spettro, Oakland.

Though I really did have my eye on a pasta dish (dude, pesto eggplant lasagna…hard to resist!) we settled happily on a Lofaro pizza: “Thin Crisp Crust Brushed With Garlic Olive Oil Topped With Roasted Shitakes, Spinach Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic And Mozzarella”. Cannot go wrong there, as far as I’m concerned. And, indeed, we did not. It was delicious. Everything was delicious.


Behold the glory of the Lofaro Pizza from Spettro, Oakland

Friend #2 ordered the chicken risotto with which he appeared pleased. Our salad and pizza was gone without a second thought (oh, garlic, you’re soooo good)…and we were on to dessert. I think I got caught up in the moment (and the dessert menu posted on the wall across from us) as I don’t typically order dessert. Since we couldn’t decide between the offerings we chose to all split an ice cream covered brownie and a peach crisp.


Smoked Chicken Risotto from Spettro, Oakland.

I’m not a fan of fruit crumbles, so I took my mandatory bite of crisp and quickly moved on to the brownie and ice cream wholeheartedly. For $5 each, both desserts were pretty plush, but I must admit that I was sorely disappointed by the brownie. It is, in fact, the very reason I rarely order brownies: it was dry, hard, and seemed old. I have no idea if it was actually old or overcooked or what, but it was not terribly satisfying. As it was the only thing on our table that I didn’t absolutely love, I did pardon good ‘ole Spettro for the single blunder.


Brownie and ice cream from Spettro, Oakland.


Peach Crisp from Spettro, Oakland

The service was good but nothing terribly special. I did love the atmosphere: smaller, single open room with brick walls and strings of lights spider-webbed over the room. Upscale dining and great food with medium prices…I like you, Spettro.

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Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Happily

Named after a town in Ethiopia, this Oakland restaurant at Broadway and 25th is one of the nicer Ethiopian venues I’ve been to. Shashamane is easy to miss from the front but has a clean, nice interior with hundreds of flags from around the world circling the rim of the large, open dining room and connected bar. I have to admit, these flags provide a lot of entertainment and trivia; I can identify far fewer world flags than I would have imagined.

shashamane restaurant

Bar area with world flags at Shashamane in Oakland.


Seating area at Shashamane in Oakland.

Their menu seemed typical to me, though I really don’t know what most of the dishes are from place to place. And it doesn’t matter, all you need is the Combo (the Beatles were wrong, incidentally, about the Love thing). The Veggie Combo for me, or the Meat Combo if you’re the carnivorous type.


Veggie sambusas from Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #1 ordered some veggie sambusas to start and we shared a veggie combo for our main meal. Sambusas are like samosas at an Indian restaurant—miscellaneous spiced mush inside a crunchy, deep fried, flaky dough shell. You really can’t go wrong. I thought these were ok; for some reason I didn’t love the mix of lentils and spices inside, but they were still pretty good. My friend loved them.

ethiopian food

Veggie Combo at Shashamane in Oakland.

The combo was pretty standard and included all colors of mush, as expected. Nothing was terribly spicy on our plate, and the salad was good. The quantity was also good; we were nice and full at the end.


Tibs at Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #2 ordered a tibs dish; spiced meat with some veggies. It’s a bit like Ethiopian stir fry but heavy on the meat. He wanted it extra spicy and was apparently satisfied with the side of flaming hot sauce provided. Despite his initial hesitation at Ethiopian cuisine (this was his first try), he appeared satisfied.

This place isn’t quite as cheap as some other Ethiopian places, but that’s probably because it’s a bit nicer. All the pages were present in my menu, for example, and there’s a price to pay for that. Still, it was priced well for the quantity of food we received and for how impossible it would be for me to make this at home (I find that to be a factor—Ex: when I pay $6 for a grilled cheese I don’t find it to be as great of value as when I pay $6 for Indian food).

I hope to see you again, Shashamane, though I hope no one ever asks me to pronounce your name out loud.

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