Review: Koyomi

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: Twice  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes Please

New sushi place in town? I’m there. What’s different about Koyomi? Well, maybe not a whole lot. But I like it anyway.

Koyomi is located in a tiny strip mall that borders the sidewalk in Castro Valley across the street from the mini golf place. It’s got a nice big sign; you can’t miss it. And inside they’ve really made it look slick. Hardwood floors, comfy chairs, big screen tvs above the bar, and… double crown molding around the perimeter of the top of the walls. You read correctly. Double. This place is serious.

dining room

Inside Koyomi Sushi in Castro Valley.

Between the classy Frank Sinatra playing in the background and the new picture-friendly menus, I really like this place. The menu is pretty standard for a sushi place offering appetizers, sushi/sashimi, combinations, udon noodle dishes, full dinners, and a variety of sushi rolls. The service is great and the food is pretty dang good as well. The first time I came here, I enjoyed a sushi/sashimi plate that was quite good. We also shared a pan fried calamari just like the ones we enjoyed in Japan. Boyfriend enjoyed the squid immensely, but I thought it was a bit too bland and a bit too tough; it didn’t stand its ground against its Japanese counterparts.

sashimi platter

Sashimi plate from Koyomi.


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Review: Dell Cafe

Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value:5/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Why not

Dell CafeIt’s Saturday. You want breakfast. Unfortunately, you’re in or around Hayward. Where to go? There are a few choices. I’m not a personal fan of the chain restaurants, so rule out your Denny’s and IHOPs right away. The next steps up are your Emil Villa’s, JD’s, Main Street Diners and Doug’s. Unbeknownst to me, Dell Cafe is also around for your breakfast eating pleasure.

Dell Cafe can be found at 2637 Castro Valley Boulevard, just after the mini golf place but before Redwood Road. I don’t actually think I’ve noticed it before. We passed it trying to find it. But, Yelpers like the place and I wanted a waffle. And hence we arrived at Dell.

This place is a diner. Actually, it’s more like a Diner. Old school style, capital “D” Diner. It’s small with a dozen or more patent leather booths, cheap varnished wood-veneered tables and two rows of counter seating that meet at a corner right as you walk in.

Dell Cafe

Inside Dell Cafe.


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Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  A Few   ♦   Will I Return?:  Likely

JD'sJD’s can be found at 2837 Castro Valley Boulevard in (yep) Castro Valley, just next to the Chabot Theater. It’s true that we don’t have a large variety of good breakfast places around the mid-east Bay, but JD’s is as close as I’ve come to filling this niche.

Historically, I’ve always liked breakfast. In recent years, however, I find that a full egg, hash brown and toast meal makes me feel a bit queasy. Hence, I don’t patronize the breakfast foods, especially at restaurants, nearly as often as I used to. Regardless, if you’re looking for breakfast out on a lazy Sunday, JD’s isn’t a bad place to go.

There’s also Doug’s, Emil Villa’s and a variety of chain restaurants ranging in quality (Denny’s, Carrows, Mimi’s, Marie Callender’s) in the area, but out of what I’ve had before, I’d probably pick JD’s. They (oddly, but not entirely surprisingly) don’t appear to have a website and hence don’t have a menu online. So we’ll have to go from my memory.

They serve breakfast and lunch every day and are only open from 7am-2pm (I cheated on that one — it’s on Yelp). They have all the standard breakfasts with eggs, a large variety of omelettes, waffles, pancakes, french toast and then dabble in the lunch category with cold and hot sandwiches, soups and salads. If this website is correct, their lunch menu actually extends quite a bit further and includes fancy sandwiches (Reuben, Linguica, Cheese Steak), fresh roast beef and turkey along with burgers (and the breakfast menu showcases the pies), but I’m not sure where this site gets their intel*.

I’ve been to JD’s a handful of times over the years and they seem to be perpetually remodeling, which is odd. The place never really looks finished and they have a weird partially outdoors area that seems like an enclosed patio that I’ve never really liked very much. The inside is small and diner-esque. The waitresses are typically older and the one we had last time wasn’t particularly nice or attentive, though that may have been an isolated incident. I suppose I’m not really talking up the place, am I? Let’s talk food then:

They do a standard egg breakfast well. Granted, it’s not terribly difficult, but they’re on top of their game there. Omelettes are good as well and the selection on the menu is quite large. Feeling non-breakfasty, I ordered a lighter lunch dish of a half tuna sandwich and salad. This was exactly as expected and was neither extremely delicious nor extremely bad for me, so I called it a win. Here, feast on pictures:


2 eggs scrambled, bacon well done, potatoes.

english muffin

Dad asked that I make specific mention of the English muffin he received which was appropriately crispy. This is rare at restaurants. I'm sure he will append this with a comment to this post.


Avocado, tomato and jack cheese omelette, potatoes, pancakes behind. This was all one meal for $8.50; God Bless America.

sandwich and salad

Half tuna sandwich on wheat, green salad with blue cheese, obligatory pickle coins.

My sister had the eggs Benedict which I have no experience with and hence cannot comment further than what she told me. She thought JD’s EB were…odd. Not horrible, just not great. She mentioned that she’s generally not terribly fond of the round Canadian bacon-type ham that comes on EB and that the hollandaise was off. Plus, the portions were huge and it’s not a great taker-homer, so that’s not real fun even if it is a better value. The picture turned out well though, see?

eggs Benedict

JD's eggs Benedict with potatoes.

*Yeah, I totally used the word “intel” instead of information or info. And I’m typing with my sunglasses on. So. Cool.

J D's Restaurant & Pies on Urbanspoon


Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 5/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Three   ♦   Will I Return?:  Wish I could go every night.

Genghix front doorDo you remember the Genghis Khan Kitchen in Castro Valley? Just near the corner of Redwood Road and CVB in the Lucky’s (then Albertson’s, then Lucky’s again) shopping center? Yeah, I do too. I had a bad feeling about that place for some reason, though I never went. Three years ago the owners of Genghis apparently decided they needed a change. Enter Genghix, the bad-ass older brother of Genghis*.

Genghix has a newly decorated interior and some rad, solid wood front doors that make it look sort of like a dungeon. But it’s not; it’s awesome. The interior has that sort of mood lighting that goes with polished concrete floors and dark wood furniture. It’s a bit Elephant Bar, sans all the safari equipment and foliage. It’s posh, it’s fun; it’s almost a magical transport from Castro Valley to the City.

Genghix interior

The inside of Genghix in Castro Valley

Their menu has graduated from whatever Asian buffet it used to be to “Asian Fusion”, a phrase with so many interpretations nowadays. What they mean at Genghix is Chinese, Japanese, and Thai (more generally referred to on their site as Southeast Asian and Japanese) and all sorts of awesome combos of these cuisines. When I see a menu selection as large as that at Genghix, I often cringe. Is all this stuff really good? Is it fresh? I haven’t tried everything at Genghix by any means, but what I have had was good.

We’ve gone three times in the course of a week and a half. Two of those times were sequential nights. That’s how much I liked it. To quote Black Rob, “Like Whoa“**.

Despite the huge variety on the menu, I have quite a love for Japanese food (as you may know), and hence this has been exclusively what I’ve ordered to date. Our first trip we ordered a Genghix Roll (fried shrimp, lobster, avocado, tobiko), Double Salmon Roll (salmon inside and salmon on top), and an order of salmon Nigiri sushi. Everything was fabulous. The salmon was tasty and generously proportioned on the Nigiri. And the deep fried roll, well, can you really go wrong there?

Japanese Food

Our food from visit #1 to Genghix in Castro Valley

The service on that first visit was also exceptional. The waiter was friendly, helpful, attentive, and he smiled. Like, not just at me in a creepy way, but at us in a nice way. He refilled our waters constantly. He answered our questions. It was wonderful.

Trip number two we went big with our gift certificate ($50 minimum purchase, we can do it!). Crab won tons, an 18 piece sashimi plate (butter fish, salmon, tuna, albacore), a Tiger Roll (fried shrimp, salmon), and a Magic Cube (chocolate covered white and milk chocolate mousse with a cherry center) for dessert. This meal was truly heavenly. The crab won tons were excellent (but they were deep fried, so that’s not so difficult). But the sashimi melted in my mouth. Literally. Butter fish—which I’ve never before had—was so succulent and savory that I actually ended up saving it for last. The salmon, usually my all-time favorite, came in a paltry third as the albacore was the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted. Even the dessert (good dessert at a Japanese place?) was wonderfully delicious and unique. It was the kind of meal you don’t want to end.

Japanese Food

Our food from visit #2 to Genghix

And so we went the night right after as well. We had to bring friends. The service was a bit more “eh” this time, but the food was just as good in my opinion. I ordered a 12 piece sashimi (soooo good) and other orders at the table consisted of three oysters, hot and sour soup, two more fancy sushi rolls, a cucumber avocado roll and another sashimi plate. Except for one forgotten thing by the waiter (though he didn’t admit that he forgot and stated that it was “on the way”, perhaps the most irritating part of that transaction), third time’s a charm for sure.

Japanese Food

Our food from visit #3 to Genghix

Needless to say, I love this place. Love, love, love. I want to eat there every night. Maybe someday I’ll get around to trying some of their other Asian dishes (Garlic Shrimp, Sweet and Sour Fish, Orange Scallops, Wok Tossed Garlic String Beans, etc.)…or maybe I’ll just order sashimi until I pop. But even then, I bet they’d clean me up quickly and efficiently and not charge me any extra for the mess.

*This is merely a metaphor, not historical fact.

**Yeah, I totally said that.

Genghix Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

El Rancho Taqueria

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

El Rancho SupermercadoEl Rancho Taqueria is a countertop-conveyorbelt-style setup along one edge of the El Rancho Supermercado across from Trader Joe’s on Redwood Road in Castro Valley.  What I mean is that it’s a Subway Sandwiches sort of deal with one long glass-protected counter where you order and watch as the cooks assemble your order in front of you.  You then make your way down the length of the counter and pay at the end.  When we went the other day, there was a line of a few people in front of us and the service was sloooow.

El Rancho Taqueria

Counter at El Rancho Taqueria

We visited El Rancho on a recommendation from friends, but we sadly did not have as pleasant of an experience as they did.  I thought at first that the service was taking so long because one of the cooks must be new.  But after watching both of the men scurrying around behind the counter handle some of the food, I realized otherwise.  I think it was actually a large to-go order that was holding up the line, though I feel like they could have dealt with it a bit better than they did (for example, have one cook work on the to-go and the other help the patrons in line).  Regardless, we paid at the counter and decided to eat in, which appears to be less common that to go orders.

El Rancho Taqueria

Tables and chairs at El Rancho Taqueria.

There is a little section of chairs and tables–nice ones, actually–just near the food counter and we sat down at one of the clean, tidy tables.  Since this place is in a supermarket, we were surrounded by the non-refrigerated beverages on one side, and the refrigerated drinks behind us.  It did make for a colorful scenery, and we had a variety of refreshments to choose from–I bought a Snapple.

The menu at this place is standard Taqueria: burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and soups, but also has tortas, tostadas, breakfast, dinner packs, dinner combos, and seafood meals.  I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the standard choices also listed with a vegetarian option on the menu.  All Mexican food can be made veggie–just take out the meat–but not all places list the items on their menu as vegetarian.  This always makes me feel more comfortable ordering meat-less dishes, I can be confident that they already know what they’re doing.  Veggie choices include burrito, quesadilla, torta, and tostada.

Veggie Torta

Veggie torta at El Rancho Taqueria.

Veggie burrito

Veggie burrito at El Rancho Taqueria.

I ordered a veggie torta, which is like a Mexican sandwich, and Boyfriend got a veggie burrito. At the recommendation of our friends, we also tried an a la carte chile relleno.  The torta included melted cheese, freshly sliced tomato and avocado, lettuce, mayo, and onions.  It was pretty good, I enjoyed it.  Boyfriend’s veggie burrito had the standard beans, rice, cheese, and also included tomatoes, lettuce, and guacamole.  It was pretty good as well, though we’re somewhat of veggie burrito elitists, so we’re a bit hard to please on this item.

Chile relleno

Our sad chile relleno from El Rancho Taqueria.

The chile relleno was a different matter.  The one described to us by our friends was delicious.  Lightly battered, fried but not greasy, and smothered in a delicious tomato sauce.  Ours was not similar to this.  It was large but flat and floppy, filled with an inordinate amount of cheese, and resting in a pool of grease – no sauce.  I’m not sure what went wrong with it, but I deemed it not worth eating and only had a few bites.  My friend showed me another chile relleno he bought at a later date that was again what he experienced the first time.  Maybe we just hit them on an off day.

Overall, I didn’t find this place particularly special, though Yelp reviewers seem to disagree.  The store itself is actually awesome; it’s phenomenally clean and organized and offers a large variety of Mexican food stuffs.  Plus, their take away menu is extremely pro.  They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you’re driving by it might not be a bad option.  I may not be returning just because there are literally hundreds of other taquerias to try in the area, but it seems like other people really like this place, so I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it again someday.

Also, where else are you going to fill all your tomato and shrimp juice needs?

Tomato and shrimp juice

Tomato and shrimp juice was offered in the non-refrigerated drink aisle of El Rancho Supermercado. How can you resist?

Katsu Restaurant

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

Katsu RestaurantKatsu is a tiny, unassuming restaurant in the increasingly decrepit Lucky’s shopping center across the boulevard from Castro Village.  I probably would have never seen it, so I’m glad my uncle recommended it to me.  I’m glad to have finally found another Japanese restaurant near my house that’s worth going to.

At first I was slightly alarmed – Katsu was by no means booming on a Saturday night.  You can’t see in very well from the outside due to drawn blinds, but it looked like no one was in there when we pulled up.  That wasn’t true, there were half a dozen tables filled, but it was by no means full.  This made me a bit sad, especially after eating the food – the place is good, why not more people?  I can only assume it’s one of two reasons: location and/or advertising.  The location is pretty poor (that shopping center is on its death bed) and I have no idea if they advertise, I was just assuming they don’t.  Fortunately, word of mouth and quality food speak loudly enough, so they’re still in business.

Katsu Restaurant

The inside of Katsu Restaurant in Castro Valley.

The service the other night wasn’t great, but it got better as the night went on.  I was initially dismayed at how long they took to take our order, and the fact that we were missing napkins through the first two courses of our meal.  But, the food was brought out in a timely manner, and the waitress was appalled and apologetic when she realized that we had somehow been served without receiving napkins.  So, strikes dismissed.  I would not say the service was enthusiastic, but it was adequate and our waters were refilled often.  Hence, I gave them an average rating.

Now the food, that’s where Katsu shines.  And since that’s what I’m there for, I was pleased with my Katsu experience.  The food’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.  Nigiri sushi and Sushi rolls will run you around $4 each, though the selection is excellent.  The lunch meals top out at around $8, so that’s probably the most economical time to eat there.  Dinner combinations were right around $14/plate, while some other dinner meals were even more (some were less, too).  The boyfriend and I each tried a different dinner combo – they all looked really good. I ordered combo A: sashimi and tempura; he ordered combo M: sushi and salmon.  The combinations included miso soup, salad, rice, and dessert.

Katsu Restaurant

Combination A at Katsu Restaurant: Tempura and Sashimi.

They start you out with a complimentary, tiny bowl of edamame, which I love.  Then they bring out your pre-dinner dishes one by one – first soup, then salad.  Their miso was excellent, and the salad has that tangy mayo-based dressing that I love.  Then came the main courses; we each received our mains on their own plates, and a separate bowl of rice.  My tempura was crispy and delicious, and included a variety of veggies and two shrimp.  My sashimi was all tuna and it may have been the best sashimi I’ve ever had.  Including anything I had in Japan (though, to be fair, we weren’t eating at fancy places in Japan).  It was tender, mild yet delicious, and almost melted in your mouth.  And they provided a relatively good amount of it – I was expecting only about half of what they served.

Tuna Sashimi

Tuna sashimi at Katsu Restaurant in Castro Valley.

Boyfriend’s salmon was teriyaki, though the menu didn’t mention that (not that he minded).  It was a tiny slab of fish, deliciously marinated and grilled.  It was extremely tasty.  His sushi plate was also quite good – he got a tiny order of California roll next to three pieces of sushi which I believe were maguro (tuna), mackerel, and shrimp (pretty obvious on that one).


Combination M: Salmon teriyaki and sushi at Katsu

Sushi plate

Close up of the sushi plate from Combination M at Katsu Restaurant.

Even though I originally thought the portions seemed small, we were quite full at the end.  I suppose all the small plates add up to make a good amount for a meal.  After we were done, we also received a scoop of ice cream, which was a nice touch (and prevented me from going to Loard’s after, which was both good and bad…).  I chose rainbow sherbet and boyfriend ordered green tea.  I was unaware that green tea ice cream actually tastes like green tea.  And it’s not gross either.  Katsu, good work, I will be back to see you again soon.

Ice cream

Green tea ice cream and rainbow sherbet at Katsu Restaurant.

Also see this review on
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Top Thai

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 5/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yep

I honestly don’t know of too many Thai places in the Hayward/Castro Valley area, so when my dad took us to Top Thai on Castro Valley Boulevard, I was intrigued.  There may indeed be many Thai places around, I just don’t know about them.  I’ve been to one place on Foothill in Hayward years ago, but I can’t really even think up the location of any others.  But no matter, Top Thai certainly fills the void.

TT is in a tiny, unassuming, single story building across from the ridiculously huge and sort-of-awful Rite Aid at the eastern end of CVB in Castro Valley.  I probably would have never noticed it, and even if I did, it doesn’t look terribly enticing from the outside.  One step inside the doors, however, and the scenery is transformed.  The decor at Top Thai is very nice.  So nice that it looks like a professional may have had a hand in it, either that or the owner is quite savvy.  Thai-themed artwork scattered tastefully around the walls, dark wood tables and chairs, and subdued lighting all work together for a warm, homey, classy feel inside Top Thai.  Kudos, guys.

One of two nicely decorated seating areas at Top Thai in Castro Valley.

Seat by the window at Top Thai.

The reason we came, however, was not for the wall hangings.  My dad is a true believer in this place, he will testify that the food is darn good.  After trying it, I agree.  The service when we were there was excellent, also, which makes for an even more enthusiastic desire to return.  There are many waitresses, all who are extremely polite and almost too attentive.  Your water glass is refilled before you even know it’s half empty (not being a pessimist here, half empty works better to describe a glass that needs to be refilled).  They “please” and “thank you” you nearly to death.  So polite, so helpful, so attentive.  Not really much more you could ask in that category, I suppose.

We ordered a good variety of food starting with spring rolls and ending with mango and sticky rice and fried banana with ice cream.  The menu has many meat options, but also has a plentiful vegetarian section, for all the veggos out there.  The spring rolls were good, pretty standard fare for a Thai place.  They claimed that the sauce it came with was plum sauce, but what we got was clearly sweet chili sauce (aka sweet and sour sauce).  My dad, being the waiter-questioner that he is, asked the waitress if the dish wasn’t supposed to come with plum sauce instead?  She politely informed us that the sauce on our place was plum sauce.  I beg to differ, Ms. Waitress Lady.  But, she said it with a sincere smile, so nothing could be done short of making a scene.  Plus, I like sweet chili sauce with my spring rolls, thank you very much.

Thai Spring Rolls at Top Thai.

For our entrees*, we ordered a salmon curry, vegetarian pad Thai, Green Top Thai (mixed green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and baby bok choy), and dad got BBQ beef.  There are two salmon curries on the menu, and I think I ordered the Penang curry; I did whichever one the girl recommended was less spicy.  It was quite good: tender salmon, creamy curry sauce (not too spicy, indeed), and chunky veggies.  The pad Thai was good, as usual – again, nothing terribly special about a Thai place that serves good pad Thai.  My dad enjoyed his BBQ beef and the side of sweet chili sauce it came with, which was, incidentally, the same sauce as was served with our spring rolls.  It’s gotta be one or the other, people, the same sauce can’t be both sweet chili and plum!  I digress.  The veggies were really good – it’s nice to see a mix of my favorite veggies all on one plate at a restaurant (baby bok choy far surpasses regular-sized bok choy in edibility, in my opinion).  It was certainly more than enough food, but we made sure to go on to dessert anyway.

Salmon with Penang Sauce at Top Thai.

Vegetarian Pad Thai and Green Top Thai with BBQ Beef behind at Top Thai.

BBQ Beef with rice at Top Thai.

Boyfriend ordered the mango and sticky rice, reminiscent of our trip to Thailand.  This dessert is everywhere in Thailand; the rice is sticky and sweet and made with sugar and coconut milk, giving it a dessert-y texture and taste.  We tried to make it once at home and it just wasn’t the same.  The stuff at this place was pretty much the same as what we got in Thailand, though I’m not a huge mango fan so I only tried a bite.  We also ordered fried banana and ice cream, which I thought was just ok.  But what can I say, I’m a chocolate and hot-fudge-sundae kind of gal, so these fruity desserts typically don’t strike me the same as, say, Death-By-Chocolate Pie.

Mango with Sticky Rice in front, Fried Banana and Ice Cream behind, at Top Thai.

Top Thai is certainly well named in my opinion, I’d be happy to go back again for great service, beautiful atmosphere, and delicious food.

*Side Note: Did you know they call appetizers “entrees” in Australia?  It confused the heck out of us for a long time; we could not figure out why the entrees were always listed first on all the menus.

P.S. – Sorry for the void in posts, I was in Japan on vacation for three weeks and didn’t write quite enough drafts to stave off suspicion of my absence on this site.  But, I’m back, and I’m hungry.  See you here again soon.

Pyzano’s Pizzeria

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: A Few  ♦   Will I Return?: Probably

Pyzano’s has somewhat of a cult following in the Hayward/Castro Valley area, and it always has.  I’m not sure when this place opened up, but it’s not a chain and it’s owned by 9 Time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, who has tossed pizzas with the likes of Jay Leno, Oprah, Emeril, and all over the Food Network.  He’s apparently quite good.

But with all this hype came a bit of a letdown for me.  I haven’t been to Pyzano’s in years and forgot that the atmosphere of the place is just your run of the mill pizza joint.  But the prices aren’t – you’re paying for gourmet here for sure.   I thought (read: was hoping) that with all the fancy pizza twirling, there’d be something more than order-at-the-counter, standard-leather-booths-and-rickety-tables, serve-yourself-soda-machine, and grocery-store-floor-tiling.  Seriously, I thought they might have put some effort into posh, above-and-beyond decor, and maybe even table service.  Apparently that’s not their style – moving on.

Inside Pyzano's Pizza in Castro Valley.

After I reconciled with my idea of what the place looked like, we ordered at the counter like the heathens we are, and sat down at the only remaining booth next to a table of children celebrating one or the other’s birthday.  Nothing adds to a gourmet pizza dining experience like a handful of screaming children.  At least they were screaming in Spanish so I could ignore them easier via not knowing what they’re saying.

The counter from which one orders at Pyzano's.

My spinach salad came first and it was plain but tasty.  Spinach, feta, cherry tomatoes and a simple oil and balsamic vinegar dressing makes for a nice, simple salad.  Our pizza arrived shortly thereafter; we ordered a New York Style “Little Italy” pizza with four cheeses, tomato sauce, and a thin NY crust.  I’ll honestly say that it was pretty dang good.  The crust was thin and tasty (but not crispy) and the four cheeses were delicious.  I can’t recall my feelings on the last pizza that I had there, so I’m only discussing my experience on this particular pizza.

New York Style "Little Italy" pizza at Pyzano's.

In summary, the pizza was good.  I was sub-par to me as far as my expectations based on all the ridiculous pizza awards, but if they hadn’t told me all that I probably would have just thought it was good pizza with no reservations.  Same goes for the atmosphere; I expected something more than they offer, but what is there is just fine.  The cost also seems to be a bit inflated due to all the good press, but, again, it is high-quality pizza and many people do love the heck out of it.  So, close your ears to all the hype and just go enjoy a decent pizza in Castro Valley.

Also see this review on
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Don Jose’s

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 5/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited: Lots   ♦   Will I Return?: Yes

Don Jose’s is an age old Castro Valley delight.  It’s been here since before I was, proudly heading up the ever-changing lineup at Castro Village shopping center on Castro Valley Boulevard in, yes, Castro Valley.  I’ve been frequenting DJ’s since I was a kid on-and-off with my family.  It’s a solid restaurant, and my most recent visit has left me intrigued and wanting more.

The shopping center where Don Jose’s is located houses dozens of shops and restaurants.  And though I often overlook the rest of this area, relying only on DJ’s and Loard’s, there actually appears to be some other interesting restaurants sharing the space, and I hope to try the good-looking Indian place next time around.

Don Jose’s is really quite a large restaurant, though you can’t really tell from the front.  Its high ceilings, open dining room, dedicated bar area, and two large banquet rooms make it a great hang out for all sorts of occasions.  We were there for dinner last week on a Monday night, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a good number of customers present on this famously slow weeknight.  It makes me happy to see good businesses doing well.

Chips and salsa at Don Jose's.

And our visit was no exception, the service was extremely attentive (as evidenced by the four baskets of chips we devoured), and the food was excellent.  The menu is extensive, offering a huge variety of all the Mexican favorites, plus some less traditional fare for the people who are dragged to the burrito shop when they really only wanted a hamburger.  Not feeling like something heavy, I ordered the mesquite salmon salad off the menu insert, which consisted of a grilled slab of herbed fish over a bed of lettuce and a side of creamy, Italian-ish dressing.  Squeeze a tortilla between the salad and the plate and – voilà! – it’s south of the border-style.

Mesquite salmon salad.

My fish was very good and the whole salad completely hit the spot.  Boyfriend ordered nachos that were pretty good, but were really nothing terribly special.  The price was right though; they’re technically an appetizer (he filled up on chips and salsa anyway).  Mom ordered the winning dish of the evening: a shrimp dish doused in a creamy barbeque sauce with rice and veggies.  I don’t know what that sauce was made of (and, incidentally, the head chef was on a break when we asked the waiter to find out for us…) but it was fabulous.  A little sweet, very creamy, potentially good on just about anything.

Delicious shrimp in bbq-cream sauce, with rice and veggies.

Mom’s boyfriend’s super burrito was a hit; he had a doozy of a time finishing the thing since it was so huge.  Though something didn’t sit quite right because he was awake that night with some indigestion – but Mexican food can do that to a person from time to time.

Generally, it was a great night and great food and I’m excited to see that Don Jose’s is keeping with the times and continuing to be a quality restaurant in the area.  And they even have some fun promos – happy hour from 3-6, margarita night on Tuesdays, and mojito specials on Wednesdays.  It’s true that there are many Mexican restaurants in the area, but few are the calibur of Don Jose’s.

Don Jose's on Urbanspoon

Loard’s Ice Cream

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 5/5   ♦   Food Quality: 5/5   ♦   Value: 5/5
Times Visited: Lots   ♦   Will I Return?: Have to restrain from going every day.

Cue heavenly sounding boys choir.  (Halleluja…)

Loard’s is an Establishment as far as I’m concerned. Capital “E” and everything.  The decorations are from a decade when my parents roamed the play yards (and I mean that they were children, not just really creepy adults) – pink and white stripes installed with enough vigor and enthusiasm to last a century.  And boy do I hope it does.

I have frequented this shop pretty much since I was a kid but became especially attached after obtaining my driver’s license and being miraculously allowed to chauffeur myself down for a sundae anytime I darn well pleased.

Pink stripes aside, Loard’s ice cream is legendary.  It is deliciously creamy and the choice of flavors is unrivaled (that is, I think there are more than 31 flavors, right?).  There’s a menu filled with fabulous concoctions to get you started on choosing your after-dinner (or pre-dinner, after-lunch, first thing in the morning…) delicacy , but anyone working there is happy to substitute butterbrickle ice cream for vanilla, add extra caramel or hold the whipped cream (though I’m not sure why you’d want to).

Coffee ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, toffee bits, whipped cream and a cherry.

As long as I’ve been frequenting Loard’s, I’ve experienced superb ice cream, exceptional hot fudge, professionally constructed desserts, friendly service, and reasonable prices (although it isn’t cheap, but that’s because it’s so good!).  I bring friends, family, visitors, strangers…anyone who wants dessert, I always know where to point them.  And supposedly, as the back of the menu informs me, there are many other Loard’s locations around the bay – San Leandro, Oakland, Alameda, Livermore, Danville, and Alamo to name a few – though I’ve never been to or even seen these other stores.  But, I have faith that Loard’s tells no lies, so I will believe them that the stores are where they say and that they are equally as yumalicious.

Writing this is giving me quite a hankering for some frozen delights – see you at Loard’s!