Review(s): Palm Springs and Cabo San Lucas

Happy New Year! The end of the year brings, again, a welcome vacation which made me feel relaxed, happy, and inspired. To recap all the delicious happenings in my second trip to Palm Springs and first trip to Cabo, read on.



Palm Springs

This time, we rented a sweet retro house in a sleepy little desert neighborhood just outside Palm Springs. We made a lot of our own great food, but also hit up some restaurants in Palm Springs, a few of which I’ve added to my list of PS favorites.


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Short Review: Padrecito

I had dinner at Padrecito last weekend — a newer, stylish Mexican restaurant in Cole Valley. My experience was so-so. While the decor, atmosphere, and menu are well done, I simply wasn’t terribly impressed with what I ordered, nor with the service. As this was my first time in the restaurant, I’ll give the latter the benefit of the doubt, but my lack of enthusiasm probably won’t have me returning terribly soon.



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Review(s): Palm Springs

Happy New Year!

You might think, oh, she hasn’t blogged in a few weeks, she is probably just being typically neglectful of her beloved blog. Wrong! I was on vacation, nerds.

good morning

good morning

Since I often speak in math: I wanted to go somewhere warm for the holiday break + I booked to late = Hawaii and Mexico were outrageously expensive + Florida is kinda far away + I’ve never been to Palm Springs. If you carry the one, it works out. Trust me, I’m an engineer.


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Review: La Urbana

La Urbana is the newest schmancy Mexican joint to open up in SF — it’s on Divis and Grove, right next to Bar Crudo and a skip away from Nopa. A friend of mine heard the buzz and made a reservation, and I was happy to check it out.

Quesadillas "Tijuana" - Smoked Goat Cheddar, Summer Vegetables - $8

Quesadillas “Tijuana” – Smoked Goat Cheddar, Summer Vegetables – $8

The space is really cool. It’s open and bright and sufficiently posh for upscale SF dining. It’s pretty loud, however, and toward the end of our meal, we were struggling to hear each other. Now, regarding everything else, apparently Eater SF has already got it covered. Though their article really does just quote Yelp reviews… so I’m going to one-up them and do my own drawn-out Yelp review on something called a blog. Read on!


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Review: Nick’s Crispy Tacos

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: One  ♦   Will I Return?:  Si, Por Favor!

I’m thinking I should shorten my food reviews. Sometimes I take notes after I go to a place since I don’t review it for a while after. My notes on this place were as follows*:

Russian Hill, corner of Broadway and Polk. Totally radical space looks like a 70’s swinger’s club or something. Red velvet everywhere, round booths in the wall, dozens of crystal chandeliers from the ceiling, large bar. Apparently a club at night. Apparently an attendant in the men’s room who will hold the water faucet on for you. Ladies room normal, no attendant. Taco selection good. We ordered fish, fried fish, and veggie. Get it “Nick’s Style” with guac and a crispy taco. Which apparently means they just fry it up a bit.

Inside Nick’s (during the day).


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Roosevelt Tamale Parlor

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

Wow. For so many reasons. Let’s quickly explore the wows about Roosevelt’s:

  1. It’s been around since 1919 (per their menu). Wow.
  2. Their tamales are really, really good. Wow.
  3. They do not have a website. Triple wow.

Maybe they’re the type of place that quote/unquote “doesn’t need” a website? Because they’re, like, an Establishment in San Francisco? Either way, I’m amazed. I understand that the taqueria down the street doesn’t have a website; they’re small, interchangeable with the next taqueria and most of their business is from people who are walking or working nearby. Fine. But this place is nice, well known and de-licious. Why not use the interwebs to market? I digress, I will need to stop being so surprised at some point.

Roosevelt has been firmly planted at 2817 24th Street in the Mission district of SF for, well, nearly 100 years according to their menu. It’s a small place on a strip of questionable shops and restaurants, but it’s worth the trip.

Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor

Inside Roosevelt's

Nicely decorated, kind service, great menu, and on weekends, a beautiful woman singing softly as she strums an acoustic guitar. What more could you ask? Well, you could ask for it to be closer to home and have a full liquor license, I suppose, but let’s not nitpick.

While they don’t have a full bar, they do beer, wine and they make a killer wine-based margarita that is surprisingly delicious, strong, and doesn’t really taste like wine. They have a huge food menu, but I didn’t get a good inventory to report; my bad.


Fish ceviche appetizer, also good.

What I do know is this: I have never really liked tamales very much. They’re covered in that corn husk, right? What’s that about? And then it’s just mush inside, usually with some sort of pork or something. No thanks. But since it’s a tamale parlor, you gotta try one, right? Yes, definitely. And you won’t be disappointed.


Roosevelt's Famous "Round" Tamale, cheese inside, rice and beans.

These tamales are rich and delicious: the tender corn paste — called masa — (already removed from the husk they use to cook it in) is wrapped around chicken, beef, pork, cheese, beans, or squash. Yeay for choices! They actually have a few different kinds of tamale, though I’m not sure what the difference is between their “Famous Round Tamale” and the rest of them. Some appear to be served in the husk (I didn’t have one of those) and they may have different sauces on top.


Squash tamale with tomatillo sauce and cheese.

The cheese tamale is fabulous. I don’t know what kind of cheese they use, but it’s the best. Ever. The squash tamale was good too, but the cheesey guy was top dog in my book. Rice, beans, chips, salsa — good. They know what they’re doing and they apparently don’t even need a website to prove it.

La Imperial

Atmosphere: 1/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 2/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One  ♦   Will I Return?:  No, Thank You

La Imperial* in Hayward has been around since the ’70s as per the dot matrix printing on the front of their menus. This is a difficult review for me because, like some other Hayward favorites (case #1, case #2), I don’t really like it. But some people are wholly devoted to this place, per their Yelp reviews. And since there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, I’m going to tell you my side of the story.

La Imperial is on C Street in Hayward between Mission and Main. It is directly adjacent to another Mexican restaurant, Los Compadres, which is a bit odd. I have only been to the latter once, but I recall it being very diner-esque and nothing particularly special regarding food or service. But that was a long time ago. And it doesn’t matter because, given the choice now, I’d go pretty much anywhere besides La Imperial. Let’s discuss the pros and cons:

Pros of La Imperial:

  • It’s downtown and centrally located
  • Parking in front is easy to come by
  • The food is pretty cheap and/or the portions are huge compared to how much they cost
  • The waitress (at least the one when we were there) is extremely nice, friendly, talkative and good at her job.

Cons of La Imperial:

  • It’s on C Street which isn’t the nicer part of downtown
  • It’s a diner: leather booths; fake wood paneling on the back wall; old, hideous linoleum floors
  • The layout of the furniture is atrocious
  • The menus are from circa 1980
  • The patrons (at least when we were there) were… low caliber (is there a nice way to say white trash?)
  • The food was not great
  • The nachos had nacho cheese on them (this will be discussed further below)

Entering La Imperial felt, to me, like being magically transported to a diner in Nevada. It’s like they took a small, crappy roadside steakhouse outside Carson City and put up a few pinatas and a south-of-the-border-esque murals and called it a Mexican restaurant. It was the first time I’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant and not heard one single word of Spanish spoken (Australia included!). It was extremely eerie and not terribly faith-inspiring.

La Imperial

Inside La Imperial, Hayward

La Imperial

Looking toward the front door inside La Imperial, Hayward

So, the people who like this place DO NOT CARE about atmosphere. And some people don’t, that’s fair enough. I do care and I didn’t like it. So there. The people who Yelp up a storm are lovers of their food, however, and the service.

We ordered nachos, a bean/rice/cheese burrito and an enchilada combo. The entire meal cost $19.76 with tax (add $3 for tip). The nachos were just tortilla chips and nacho cheese like at a goddamn baseball game. This is so wrong in my opinion. At the very least, nachos should have regular shredded cheese melted over chips. I also submit they should have any combination of beans, salsa, sour cream, guac or olives. Jalapenos are also an acceptable nachos ingredient., though I always pick them off. Velveeta or whatever is not ok at a sit-down restaurant. Having said that, I do love movie theater nachos, so I partook. But not without judging harshly beforehand.


Nachos from La Imperial, Hayward

The burrito was ok, though the tortilla wasn’t yummy for some reason. The concoction was a bit plain and since boyfriend didn’t like the salsa (which he usually uses to drown a burrito), he didn’t enjoy it terribly. As a side note, I thought the salsa was tasty though a bit too spicy.


Burrito from La Imperial... should have gotten a pic of the inside...

I ordered a cheese enchilada meal (2 cheese enchiladas, rice, beans and a salad) for $10.50. It was an amazing amount of food and probably the best thing on the table. I liked that they gave me a bowl of salad with home made Thousand Island dressing as opposed to the tiny scattering of lettuce most Mexican places call salad. The enchiladas were fine but they had the most cheese I’ve ever seen in an enchilada. It was like eating a melted block of cheese with a thin covering of tortilla around it — a bit overwhelming. The rice and beans were solid, kudos to them on that.


Salad with chips and salsa from La Imperial, Hayward


Enchiladas, rice and beans from La Imperial, Hayward. Look at the fork for scale -- so much food!

As for the service, the waitress was totally sweet, seemed to know everyone and was on top of her orders. She seemed neither lazy nor incompetent and was probably the very best thing that La Imperial had going for it in my opinion. If she had been a crotchety crone I would have been grasping at straws to compliment much of anything about this place.

Overall, La Imperial is not my kind of place. The atmosphere is grungy and the food isn’t the premium Mexican that I’ve grown to know and love being a native Californian. To those who love it, I’m glad you do. As for me, I’ll try someplace else next time.

*Yet another restaurant for which I could not find a website… come on people!

La Imperial on Urbanspoon

Pepe’s Taqueria

Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Possibly

Pepe'sYou may have noticed Pepe’s Taqueria on one of your millions of trips down Mission Boulevard (if you’re a Hayward frequent-driver, that is); it’s on the west side of the street between Harder and Tennyson (across and down a few blocks from Moreau). It’s a smaller place, but it’s got its own parking lot and it’s painted bright yellow so that it blends in a bit less with the flooring stores, consignment furniture lots and appliance outlets.

The interior has a dated, fast-food feel to it; nothing special there for sure. But what did you expect from a taqueria in the bowels of Hayward? I was just excited that there was no bullet-proof glass between me and the cashier. The menu is posted above the counter and offers all the taqueria-style favorites (burritos, tacos and the like) for pretty cheap prices.


Inside Pepe's: the front counter.


Inside Pepe's: The seating (and a yawning man).

A duo of signs at the front door boasts the “best fish tacos” and “best Mexican food”. I beg to differ and suggest they re-think this strategy as I in fact ordered a fish taco. It was ok, but it was a bit dry and is nothing in comparison to Tacos Uruapan. Having said that, however, the wet burritos are something quite special indeed.


Fish taco, rice, beans from Pepe's

Boyfriend ordered an “El Cheapo Burrito” which is essentially a veggie burrito with rice, beans, guac and sour cream. The zinger was that he ordered it “wet” meaning that they slather the burrito in enchilada sauce and cover it in melted cheese. This makes all the difference and their enchilada sauce was absolutely heavenly. I have no idea what was in there that would be so much better than other enchilada sauce, but it was indeed far superior.


Glorious "El Cheapo" wet burrito from Pepe's.

And the El Cheapo held true to it’s name at only $4.50. And it could have fed a horse* so this option was indeed a good value.

The rice, beans, salsa and chips were all pretty good; these are other items I use to gauge the quality of Mexican restaurants. As nothing was terribly amiss and that wet burrito was cheap and delicious, I would have to say that I may return to further investigate the wonders of the wet burrito.


Plus, gotta love robot man inside Pepe's.

*If said horse enjoyed Mexican food, of course.

Pepes on Urbanspoon

Los Dos Hermanos

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Wouldn’t be opposed but not likely.

Los Dos HermanosEver drive down Mission Boulevard (in Hayward) and see the the droves of Mexican restaurants that line the street? There are a great many of them, it’s true. Los Dos Hermanos is one of the many choices on this lonesome, long strip of road and resides on the west side of the street between Tennyson and Harder.

While it fits in with the surrounding single-story, run-down buildings, everyone seems to know this place. The sign is big and the building isn’t really in bad shape, especially compared to the neighbors. But have you gone in? Doubtful. I couldn’t find anyone I knew who had actually eaten here, though rumors floated around that it wasn’t great. I decided to try it out for myself.

Los Dos Hermanos

Interior of Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

Inside the restaurant, the decor was meager but acceptable while the low ceiling and poorly lit foyer were a bit off-putting. Seats by the window allow in plentiful light during the day and the hostess/waitress was a nice woman. The menu was well done (I have a thing about poorly organized/presented/constructed menus) and includes plentiful choices of Mexican fare. It wasn’t the fresh-mex that I hoped for—creative (and often healthier) fusion dishes aren’t the specialty here. Not that I had expected this, but it would have been a nice surprise.


Menu cover at Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

I ordered the ensalada camaron (shrimp salad), which was well-made (see the care taken in organizing the extras on the salad) but wasn’t really anything special. The shrimp were ok, the salad was fresh enough, but the dressing was bottled and the toppings were unimaginative. Boyfriend ordered the veggie burrito with cheese enchilada, rice and beans. All was well with this dish—they are certainly qualified to cook traditional Mexican fare.

shrimp salad

Ensalada Camaron (shrimp salad) at Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

mexican food

Veggie burrito, cheese enchilada, rice, beans from Los Dos Hermanos.

Overall, like I say about many Mexican restaurants and taquerias in the area, there are so many different places to try around here that there’s no reason to return to a mediocre restaurant. If LDH were the only place in town, I’d have no problem returning since the food was decent, the price was reasonable, and the service was adequate. It’s the abundance of fabulous Mexican places in this area that will probably keep me from making any more trips to Los Dos Hermanos.

If I do go back—or if you decide to try it—note that they are listed on where you can buy a $25 gift certificate for $10 (with a $35 minimum purchase) so you can save a few bucks! Also, this is a rad picture of chips and salsa, both of which were good at Los Dos Hermanos:

chips and salsa

Chips and salsa from Los Dos Hermanos, Hayward.

Los Dos Hermanos on Urbanspoon