Review: Kokkari

Kokkari is a Greek restaurant downtown (fine, Jackson Square if you want to be super pretentious/specific). It’s hard to get into, which is why I have not been to date. Not, like, State Bird Provisions hard, but just like regular, really good SF hard. However, lunch is not quite as in demand. And our boss took us there last week. Booya.

Octopus Salad from Kokkari

Octopus Salad from Kokkari


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Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  A few   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, I like it here.

Zorba's HaywardZorba’s is a Greek place that’s been around for a long while. They have two locations: Amador Street in Hayward and wayyyy down Mission Boulevard in Fremont. I’ve been to both but I didn’t have my camera at the Fremont one, so I’ve waited until now to post.  Cool story, I know.

I like Zorba’s*.  I like their Mediterranean food, I like their menu, and I like their facilities.  Or maybe I was just in a good mood the other day, who knows.  Their style is order at the counter and pick up when your number is called — no frills, but clear as day.  The menu is extensive and thorough, yet not so diverse that I fear the freshness of certain items.  They of course do the standard lamb and chicken dishes native to the themed region, but they also have sandwiches, paninis (which are actually also sandwiches), salads, and burgers.

Zorba's front counter

The front counter and menu at Zorba's Hayward


Dedicated Vegetarian menu at Zorba's -- Booya!

During our spur of the moment meal at Zorba’s last week, I ordered off the dedicated vegetarian menu (bonus points!!!) and got a Greek Vegetarian Sandwich which was focaccia bread filled with feta cheese, spinach (raw), kalamata olives, and tomatoes.  One piece the bread was slathered in a sun dried tomato pesto, while the other piece was graced with a generous layer of regular basil pesto (or at least that’s what I deduced).  It was delish, though a bit salty (feta + kalamata olives = sodium overload).

Greek vegetarian sandwich

Greek Vegetarian Sandwich from Zorba's

Boyfriend’s falafel wrap was also a hit – falafel patties with hummus, lettuce, tomato, onion, and cucumber all inside what I call a Greek tortilla.  He liked it, though no falafel can compare to the homemade stuff we create…which will be discussed another time.

Falafel wrap

Falafel wrap from Zorba's before eating...

Falafel wrap

Falafel wrap from Zorba's being eaten...

The criss-cut fries were good in theory, but I submit that whatever oil they deep fry them in added an odd flavor.  I won’t pretend to know the culprit, but I found myself staring at many a french fry through squinted eyes thinking, “There’s something a little wrong with this…”.

Sandwich and fries

Odd tasting criss-cut fries with my vegetarian sandwich at Zorba's

Overall, success!  I like Zorbas.  I like the all-you-can-dip ketchup bar and soda fountain.  I like the semi-cheesy decorations around the place, I like the guy behind the counter, and I don’t mind too terribly much that the place isn’t kept spotless like your grandma’s bathroom.  Zorbas: Greek, good, go there.

Zorba's Hayward

Zorba's Hayward -- the inside

*Despite this statement and all the positive words to follow, I gave Zorba’s rather (or exactly) average ratings.  While nothing is terribly spectacular about any aspect of the place, I did enjoy it here.

Zorba's Deli Cafe on Urbanspoon

California Gyro and Pizza

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited: Two  ♦   Will I Return?: Yes…(it’s close to where I work)

This seemingly tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant is just near the corner of Mission and Industrial in Hayward, not 200 feet from the Burger King that’s been on the north-west side of that corner for a very long time.  It used to be a plethora of other restaurants that apparently haven’t made it to 2010 for one reason or another.  I surmise that one reason is likely location – it’s just in a bad place.  There aren’t hardly any businesses around (especially since the cherished Holiday Bowl across the street closed its doors a few years ago), and it’s not really a “take a walk around the block” sort of residential area.  Hence there are few folks in that area looking for food that doesn’t have a drive thru.

That’s my feeling anyway, maybe I’m totally wrong.  The fact remains that California Gyro and Pizza has moved in and is hopefully able to hold down the fort.  From the outside, I thought this place was going to be tiny, with very few tables if any at all.  Upon arrival, I found I was wrong.  The place is rather large and could easily accommodate over 50 people sitting, and far more standing (they do birthday parties for kids, say the advertisements at the tables).

Inside California Gyro and Pizza at Mission & Industrial in Hayward.

It’s an order/pick-up at the counter type deal with the menu posted above the cashier.  The man who has greeted us the two times Dad and I have gone was extremely nice and helpful, offering advice and descriptions of their dishes and being generally kind and courteous.  I swear, a helpful owner/employee makes all the difference in the world in a place like this.

The first time we went, I ordered a vegetarian gyro and Dad got a small beef shawarma.  The veggie gyro consists of some sort of mushroom/veggie mush that looks a heck of a lot like meat, but upon closer inspection did not appear to be (thank goodness, that would not be good).  It comes in a gyro bread wrap (like a pita) with tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber sauce, and with two tiny plastic ramekins full of hummus and more cucumber sauce.  For about a dollar more than the sandwich alone, you can get fries and a drink included also.

Veggie gyro meal at California Gyro and Pizza.

The shawarmas are similar to gyros except that instead of a thicker pita wrap, it’s more like a tortilla.  The shawarma comes with meat (I assume you could get veggie too, though I’m not sure if it’s on the menu), grilled onions, lettuce, chopped up tomatoes, pickles, and olives.  Dad thought it was pretty good and didn’t even complain about the extra toppings (he’s not usually one for “things” on his food, just give him the meat and the bun/wrap/tortilla!).  And, the size “small” shawarma was pretty dang filling.  Again, the meal includes fries and a drink too, quite a large meal for a good price.

Beef shawarma meal at California Gyro and Pizza.

The second time around I tried the falafel sandwich which was pretty good, but not nearly as good as the falafel I make at home.  But, what are you going to do – it’s like $6 so I can’t ask for too terribly much.  It was good and the sides of sauces made it stand out.  There were a good number of veggie dishes on the menu, which was both nice and surprising.  In addition to the veggie gyro and falafel sandwich there is also a vegetarian pizza and, if you eat seafood, fish sandwich, fish and chips, and shrimp dishes.  There’s also a greek salad, though I’m not sure how big it is.  It’s not fancy, it’s not fine dining, but it’s better for you than fast food (while still indeed being fast) and it’s a nice lunch for a good price in South Hayward.  I recommend giving it a try if you’re in the area.

Additionally, it’s nice that they try to help you out with Greek pronunciations:

Can you say "yee-ros"?