Pleasant Hill or adjacent lunch options

What’s good for lunch along the top of the 680 corridor? Any intel on some of the below places I have bookmarked? I’m commuting there now, more often than not just getting a salad at Sprouts if I drive, but want some others options. Priority on stuff I can’t get in SF’s Mission district/Bernal:

Will you be near Benicia? For lunch I would highly recommend the excellent BLT at One House Bakery. We had one for lunch today. They have other good sandwiches too. It’s a totally awesome wonderful place. https://www.onehousebakery.com/sampe-menu

We regularly get takeout from Aung Malika, we got some last week. We regularly get the Mohinga, Samnosa soup, tea leaf salad, ginger salad and rice salad. Any would be good for lunch. We also get the lamb red curry which is excellent and would make a more filling lunch.

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It’s been a couple years since I had to go out that way for work once a week. The one thing I miss are the tacos dorados and chips from Tortilleria El Molino in Concord. And beer brewing supply store More Beer!

As a side note, I always appreciated Sichuan Fortune House because they served lunch specials, including Sichuan specialties, like the Water-boiled fish, ordered frequently by me. It’s nice to have an individual portion with rice (and a soup) rather than the typical banquet portions when you’re on a lunch break.

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Great tip! Good lord, there looks to be about a dozen lunch specials I‘m interested in, and would otherwise not order if eating solo!

I’ll be in Pleasant Hill, and I look forward to One House Bakery en route to I-80!

Thanks so much for the Aung Malika recommendations (and everything else in your previous threads!). I’m excited to have good Burmese in the regular rotation, and for days I don’t bring my car, it looks like I’d be able to get them via Grubhub delivery.

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Are you living closer to area these days?

Never had their lunch special at SFH, but it does sound like a good option. As for food, we liked Sichuan House much better. The story is that the original chef/owner of SFH split with his partner and opened SH. Current owner of SFH was mainly a marketing guy, hence the idea of lunch special, I guess.

Incidentally, adjacent to Pleasant Hill, Aung Maylika has a branch in Concord (near Sunvalley Mall)

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Good heads up about a place in Solano County.

We visited Sabores del Sur March 2017 with friends. It’s pretty good from a value standpoint, altho our preference for value would be Barranco/Lafayette. Their portions were massive when we tried them in 2018, a single empanada or bowl of chicken soup was a full meal to itself! Barranco’s pastry is a softer, thicker dough, btw; unusual for a Peruvian restaurant.

Summary of March 2017 visit:
Ordering is cafeteria style. You’re handed a number, and the order is brought to your table. If you want sangria, it’s ordered at the cash register. Soft drinks are in the back, near the second register where the tea, coffee and espresso drinks are available. The food comes quickly. Each empanada comes with a small dip of a raw onion salsa. Carlos liked it; I would have preferred the aji amarillo green sauce that is served by other Peruvian restaurants like El Mono/El Cerrito.

Aguadito de Pollo , chicken and rice soup. It’s a decent soup, using canned base but with the taste of chicken bones simmered in to enhance the broth. Carlos said there were a lot of vegetables in the soup, along with shredded chicken meat and the rice.

Empanadas. The chicken, beef, and steak have chopped hard-boiled egg added. The pastry dough is tender and thin. We found it quite tasty. The steak, however, uses a different dough. It’s leaden and heavy by comparison to the other dough. We intended to have leftovers to bring home: we cut each empanada in half, and the two of us then shared a half so we had tastes of all six types.

  • Chicken. Finely shredded chicken, so a little on the bland side. I’d like to see some diced chicken in this for more texture, the way BurtoNZ does with their chicken pies. No cheese, no spices. We brought half of this home and stuffed in some sharp white cheddar before reheating, which improved it.

  • Beef. ‘Beef’ always means ground beef in Latin American cooking. This was very tasty, with olives and the chopped hard-boiled egg. I liked this a lot – I’m a ground beef fan – so I ate the second half.

  • Steak. This was not so much steak as it was stewed beef cubes. It was tasty, but the tough leaden pastry was not. We don’t like this type of pastry dough. It’s similar to the one used by Eddison & Munroe/Monterey on its sausage roll. Impervious to moisture, but it reminds us of cardboard. Carlos preferred this filling to the ground beef, and we brought half of it home.

  • Veggie. This is for mushroom lovers. It’s mostly mushrooms with a bit of sautéed onions in it. I enjoyed it, but it isn’t that interesting on its own.

  • Ham & cheese. Both this and the shrimp are generously stuffed with cheese, but of course once it melts there’s an air space left inside. This contrasts with the chicken, beef or steak empanadas, which are without cheese and are more tightly stuffed. The ham is diced, a reasonably good quality. It’s a tasty empanada, and the half we brought home reheated surprisingly well.

  • Shrimp & cheese. Carlos really liked this one and would order it again. The onion salsa went very well with it. We brought half of it home, and like the ham version it reheated quite well.

The size of the empanadas is generous. One is enough for a meal. We had four halves to bring home, which we ate for lunch the next day.

The sparkling lemonade soda I got was very good. I didn’t note the brand except that it was an import, but it wasn’t oversweetened and so was refreshing. Carlos had a citrus soda made by a Pepsi affiliate, but it turned out to be artificially sweetened which he dislikes. He had a cup of coffee afterwards, which was quite good.

We tried the alfajores. These kinds of cookies are very sweet, fine with coffee but too cloying by themselves. SdS makes the traditional kind, two soft puffy cookies with a sweet filling in-between – a home-style version of a commercial Oreo.

This is not a destination restaurant. It’s a casual café with a happy, welcoming atmosphere. Sra. Osorio is often working the register and greets many customers by name. There’s parking in the garage behind the office building, which is helpful on weekdays (its entrance is off Wayne St.).

Two people, lunch: one soup, six empanadas. Beverages and tip not included, $51.

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Thank you for such a detailed report! I might skip it for lunch, but your descriptions encourage a stop for breakfast empanadas since they open at 8am

@geo12the, I still live in SF, but started a new job over there!

Great report!

Thanks! The report is 2 yrs old, however, so if anyone stops by, please update the board!

Yeah…We don’t get much love here in Solano county.

shrinkrap: Yeah…We don’t get much love here in Solano county.>>

Wait, I think you meant Contra Costa county? (at least, I hope so!)

We go out there on a regular basis, although we’re usually around the Hwy 24/Hwy 242 ends; e.g., Lafayette and Concord, rather than P.Hill.

Spouse and I tend to prefer sit-down leisurely lunches/dinners (we’re retired) so fast/casual is not our style.

For the OP, if you’re still interested (this thread started a year ago) I can report on:
Lafayette: Locanda, Reve, Park Bistro @Lafayette Park Hotel. Not big fans of Metro Lafayette so haven’t been back in ages. Barranco I already mentioned above.

Concord: Brasas do Brazil, Fiore, La Tapatia, Luna, and Lima (also mentioned above).

It’s sort of convoluted at this point, but I meant Solano County, which I believe still includes Benicia. I was attempting to respond to

“Will you be near Benicia? For lunch I would highly recommend the excellent BLT at One House Bakery. We had one for lunch today. They have other good sandwiches too. It’s a totally awesome wonderful place. https://www.onehousebakery.com/sampe-menu

Oh, I started the thread on Jan 19 (th) of this year! I doubt I’ll get to Lafayette, but let me know if you have positive things to say about those places in Concord! I’ve had positive lunches at Sichuan Fortune House and Jun’s Island Fusion so far, and will give a report once I’ve had a few meals there)

Fiore: We have not been back since Dec 2017 but liked it as an old fashioned Italian place. CCC is one of the last bastions of only slightly updated Italian American restaurants. The Yelp reviews are up and down; we’d be in the middle. The red sauces were good and the cream sauces were RICH. My full review was:

The on-line menu for lunch looked interesting. But when we sat down we were handed a different one. Spouse was disappointed that there was no calamari steak, but decided to console himself with a pasta dish. We split a starter and salad before our entrées.

Stuffed Mushrooms: Baked button mushrooms with crab cream cheese and herbs in a gorgonzola sauce.

Five tiny button mushrooms had a decent filling – one could actually taste some crab through the cream cheese – but the sauce was a mushroom cream sauce with a good dose of beefsteak au jus added, turning it a creamy brown. It was very tasty; Spouse mopped it up with the classic Italian sliced bread that is served warm. This is an old throwback from the 1960’s days of Continental restaurant menus, but there’s no denying just about everybody is perfectly happy to chow down on it.

Caesar Salad: Chopped romaine hearts in a classic Caesar dressing with parmesan cheese, croutons & anchovies.

If Fiore used better quality romaine we would rate this really high. I thought it was over-dressed, but with such mature romaine it’s probably better this way. This is a Caesar dressing for anchovy lovers like us: not only was there a noticeable amount of them mashed into the dressing, there were two filets draped on top. There is also a lot of garlic and a generous handful of Parmesan. It’s not elegant, but it’s satisfying and gutsy.

Fettuccine Gamberi: Tiger shrimp, crab & tomato sauce or creamy Parmesan sauce.

Spouse opted for the tomato sauce. This was a very simple dish, but well-executed and he loved it. All the flavors married well in the sweet tomato sauce, which was a top-quality canned sauce with no tinny-tasting tomato paste in it. He said he absolutely would come back for this anytime. He has also enjoyed the Richard’s Sauce pasta at Catelli’s/Geyserville, as well as the excellent Seafood Trabocco linguine at Trabocco/Alameda, and said Fiore’s dish is just as good as both.

Salmon Momonia: Pan seared salmon with capers, Kalamata olives, basil in a tomato lobster sauce.

I wasn’t completely sure about the sauce, but as with the mushrooms, the menu was completely off. This was a mushroom cream sauce, very rich; completely blanketing a thick, nicely cooked filet of salmon that was unusually flavorful. The roasted vegetables were carrot coins and short lengths of Chinese yard-long green beans. A few roasted fingerling potatoes completed the plate.

I would not think of combining salmon with a cream sauce, but it went fairly well together – or at least, innocuously enough that there were no objections. Spouse agreed with me the salmon was very tasty; possibly a king salmon. The vegetables had been parcooked and then roasted, so they were cooked through but not mushy.

The menu claimed it used rum-soaked ladyfingers and Marsala, so this enticed us both to share an order. Fiore has espresso, but we stuck with regular coffee. Fiore uses an excellent blend, very strong and smooth, a classic Italian roast.

The tiramisu could have used some mascarpone, but it definitely had a good wallop of alcohol. It’s one of the better versions we’ve found, having lost our gold standard from Venezia/Berkeley. We really enjoyed this, and it was an excellent ending to lunch.

Summary:

Fiore may be a modest little restaurant, but it shows that when the food is good quality and well-executed, we can’t think of anyone who would dislike eating here (okay, maybe vegans. Or people who can’t take dairy.). Fiore isn’t impressive or unusual or fancy. But it’s charming and low-key, and the food’s a good value.

Two people, lunch: two starters, two entrées, one dessert, two beverages, without tip $74.

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La Tapatia-Concord. Review date: November 23, 2015

We had the choice of fighting the traffic in downtown Walnut Creek to eat lunch at one of the fancy new restaurants recently opened, or taking the easy way out with a lesser quality restaurant in Concord, where the parking is easy and the cost is half what it is down the freeway.

Ease won out, and we decided to try La Tapatia, whose cheerful storefront is visible to everyone who visits Fry’s/Concord. It’s a classic old-style restaurant, which one can easily tell by the fact that the cushioned chairs are extremely comfortable, the aisles are wide, and the tabletop RE is generous. The waitresses are brisk: newbies like us needed more than a few minutes to read through the very long menu, so our waitress said she would come back to take our order.

These are experienced waitstaff; unlike new restaurants where “I’ll be back in a few minutes” translates to another ten-minute wait. Our waitress was back within four minutes, ready and waiting. It’s not that they want to rush you, but their lunch business is from regulars who work nearby, so diners usually know what they want to order, and prize a quick turn-around.

Spouse chose the Enchilada Verde. There’s a choice of chicken or beef. Spouse hesitated, and the waitress offered one of each. Spouse always forgets that “beef” means ground beef, although it was very tasty. The chicken was shredded chicken breast, juicy and tender. He enjoyed both very much, but decided he liked the chicken best. It came with the usual refried beans and rice, which we both enjoy. I like beans in any form; he only likes the refried puréed beans or lentil soup.

I decided on the Steak Ranchero dinner: strips of New York steak grilled with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes simmered in a “la tapatia special sauce”. This special sauce seemed to consist of chunky canned tomatoes and not much in the way of seasonings, outside of the onions and bell pepper. However, the grilled steak slices were generous in amount, and although the steak wasn’t more than an inch in height, the crust was tasty and the interior a perfect medium rare, something that takes a really hot grill and very good timing to accomplish. It wasn’t a great dish, but satisfying and tasty. I had no complaints, and neither did Spouse.

Spouse is very fond of old-style Cal-Mex food. He doesn’t like the newer, ‘authentic regional’ cooking. The rest of his family barely tolerates Mexican food in any form, save for Mission-style burritos. As he points out, this kind of food wasn’t found in Asia when he was growing up in the '50’s. It was unknown to them until they arrived in the U. S. Cal-Mex was his first introduction to Mexican food in any form. Since he’s not a corn or bean lover, it leaves out a good part of their more authentic regional cooking.

We liked La Tapatia. It isn’t a great restaurant, nor does it pretend to be. It is hearty, filling, classic Cal-Mex, served efficiently and quickly. We were in the mood for what it offers, and got precisely what we wanted and expected. We’ll be happy to return next time we’re in the area.

I had an iced tea, Spouse had a Coke - Mexican, of course!

Two people, lunch: two entrées, two beverages, with tip was $51

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Luna Ristorante. Review date: Nov. 11, 2014

We had the choice of eating in downtown Walnut Creek or Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza area. I chose the latter, as it’s easier to park and less crowded, being more a business center than the shopping/strolling scene that is downtown WC. We’ve liked DJ’s, the small German restaurant, but Spouse wanted to try something new.

I did a Yelp zipcode search and found a couple of Italian restaurants. One was highly rated but only open for a dinner, a growing trend these days. The second was Luna Ristorante, located in a small strip mall. Although its address is the shopping center address on Willow Pass Rd., it should be noted Luna’s entrance is actually located on the side street of Mt. Diablo St. (not to be confused with Mt. Diablo Blvd.)

Although small, it’s a pleasant dining room with a dark wood bar. The waitstaff is cheerful and efficient, both the waiter and the busboy.

Spouse and I shared the Piedmontese salad: baby spinach, pears, apples, glazed pecans & gorgonzola cheese. It was missing the pears, but we both agreed we enjoyed this salad very much. The spinach was a little bruised, but the balsamic-based dressing was perfect – mild but tasty. The thin slices of crisp apple added texture as well as flavor, in just the right proportion.

My MIL was visually confused by the menu, so we ordered for her. There was a chicken cannelloni that sounded good, with chicken, caramelized onions, ricotta, and Asiago cheese. She received a surprisingly large plate of three short but well-filled crepes rolled around a filling of chopped chicken and cheese.

The ricotta was well-seasoned with grated Asiago cheese, and very tasty. The crepe in the middle sat on a cream sauce, with a heap of baby arugula hiding it. The two flanking crepes were in a tomato cream sauce. Because visually she couldn’t see how many there were, Inez (who has a tendency to skimp on her eating) made a very good meal, eating everything but a last half crepe.

Spouse ordered a pasta special, crab linguine with sun-dried tomatoes. The linguine was just tossed with garlic, EVOO, crabmeat, and shreds of sun-dried tomatoes. It was simple but delicious, and he really liked it although he ended up picking out half of the sun-dried tomatoes. He isn’t very fond of them.

There was a special of calamari steak, so I ordered it. The white wine/cream/caper sauce was very good, but the calamari itself was not as tender as it is at The Fat Lady/Oakland, nor was the egg batter as tasty. But the roasted vegetables – hefty slices of carrot and zucchini, halved baby white potatoes – were incredible. If I’d had an entire plate of them I would have eaten it all. Simple but delicious.

Spouse was in a “bread” mood and ate four slices of it, using the last one to mop up the leftover sauce on my plate! These are basic ‘comfort sauces’, not gourmet creations, but they’re tasty and satisfying without being overly rich.

For dessert, we were disappointed to hear the namesake “Luna” dessert, a cappuccino almond mousse, wasn’t available. I chose the tiramisu, and Spouse opted for the profiteroles. Although we liked our lunch, we weren’t expecting anything remarkable from the desserts and coffee.

To our surprise, the coffee was excellent and the desserts were both above-average. Each plate was nicely decorated with the star design that’s created by drizzling different colored sauces in circles, then a skewer is dragged from the center outwards to create the star. The sauces here were crème anglaise, reduced orange juice, and chocolate. If the chocolate hadn’t been a little too sweet, the combination would have made a four-star sauce.

The tiramisu was small and quality, rather than the big square of bland whipped cream mocha cake that so often appears. The filling was enriched with the proper mascarpone, and the cake wasn’t overly sweet. It wasn’t the best tiramisu we’d ever had, but it’s well worth ordering again.

The profiteroles were the biggest surprise. All too often profiteroles are too large, made with cheap flour in the pâte à choux dough and fillings gloppy with cornstarch (a European no-no), then drenched in enough sweet chocolate sauce to float a small boat. Instead, Spouse received three small, super-crisp balls, filled just before serving with a proper vanilla pastry cream, with the barest drizzle of chocolate sauce over them. It was the multi-flavored “star” design garnishing the plate to add the extra sauce. This was a nice touch, as one could use it or not, as preferred.

Luna is the type of moderate-priced, 2.5 star Cal-Italian restaurant that used to be in every neighborhood. It’s a bit fancier than going out for a pizza yet still affordable for anyone, whether for a quick business lunch, socializing with friends, or like us, looking for a good lunch. You can eat and get out fast, or hang around and chat at your leisure. Not a great restaurant, but definitely a nice little place to remember when one is in the area.

Three people, lunch: one salad, three entrées, two desserts, three beverages, with tip $102.

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(Note: I’m going to revise/repost the Brasas review; I did not make clear most of the comments were about Galpao, not Brasas)

This is long, my apologies in advance. I do very detailed reviews and felt this gives the best info on LiMA and the context in which we rate it.

Lima Restaurant in Concord, CA – update, lunch
Review date: April 29, 2019

The chef/owner of Lima is John Marquez, who was one of our favorite chefs when he owned the Cal-French restaurant in nearby Lafayette, Artisan Bistro. Marquez took some time off to work under Chef Gaston Acurio, who is considered the doyen of modern Peruvian cuisine. Upon his return to the Bay Area he opened Lima in November 2016.

I was feeling a little under the weather, so it was difficult picking a restaurant for lunch in downtown Concord. Mexican or Asian food didn’t appeal, nor did Cal-Italian (Luna) or German (DJ’s). We decided on Lima – technically the restaurant name is LiMA – where we have eaten twice before.

We come out this way periodically, often to shop at the 99 Ranch Market/Concord as I prefer it to the one in Richmond. Lima is located in the Todos Santos Plaza, which is ringed with both sit-down and fast/casual restaurants. One of the attractions of Concord over Walnut Creek is that parking is free in Concord, and fairly easy to find.

The restaurant wasn’t crowded as it was a Monday. Most of the tables that were taken emptied quickly since many workers get an hour or less for lunch. There were only two other small groups who, like us, were enjoying a leisurely meal.

Empanadas: Chicken with huancaina and Beef with rocoto aioli.

The pastry is not quite so thin and crisp as it was originally, but it is still very good, tender and tasty without being overly thick or tough. The beef is picadillo, hand-chopped beef – not ground – braised tender with raisins added. The ricoto aioli is rather like a red bell pepper mayo. It’s tasty, but the best sauce is the huancaina , the spicier dip using huacatay aka black mint. It goes with both empanada fillings. The chicken is mild, creamy, and delicious. Lima’s empanadas have no filler; they are all meat with only enough gravy to moisten the filling.

There are two small pies to an order. We shared one order of both as a starter, and also bought a double order of each pie to bring home for lunch for another day.

Mixed Seafood (Ceviche Limeno): Assortment of rockfish, octopus, prawn and squid with sweet potato, sliced red onion, cilantro, Peruvian corn.

There are larger servings of ceviche at some other restaurants, but Lima’s ‘leche de tigre’ marinade is precisely balanced, with a more generous amount of seafood than first appears. The seafood is always first-rate quality as well. There were only a modest number of raw onion slices, which we approve of. We hate those ceviches where a stingy amount of seafood is buried under a mountain of raw onions and choclo, the hominy-like starchy field corn . The choclo was mostly on the side; Carlos doesn’t care for it but I ate some of it. Spouse orders ceviches wherever they’re offered. He says the best ceviches he’s eaten are from Lima and Tambo/Oakland.

Chupe (Prawn Chowder): Prawn chowder with potatoes, rice, peas, carrots, oregano, huacatay, feta, aji Amarillo, cilantro & poached egg.

This is one of the smaller bowls of soup available at Peruvian restaurants, which is much appreciated since these are filling soups but nobody offers a cup size. Spouse really enjoyed this soup. As we would expect from John Marquez, the broth of this soup was excellent.

Papa Rellena: Smashed potato filed with sautéed sirloin, botija olive, hard boiled egg and raisins, served with salsa criolla.

I chose this starter as my entrée. The filling is picadillo , same as in the beef empanadas. The salad on the side is Roma tomatoes and mild, raw, sliced red onions. The tangy criolla sauce was a tasty accent. It was ideal as a light entrée.

Arroz con Mariscos - Seafood Paella: Peruvian style paella - a fresh seafood and rice mixture of calamari, prawns, mussels, clams, octopus, ají panca and parmesan cheese.

This was a generous amount of very good seafood with only a modest amount of rice. Peruvian paellas are not like Spanish ones. Peruvians prefer a moister, saucy rice, so there is none of the baked-crust socarrat which is so highly prized by the Spanish. The calamari rings were the large sized squid, and Spouse said they were tender, cooked perfectly. The mussels and shrimp were large and fresh. His only criticism was the octopus was minimal in amount.

Pineapple-Coconut Custard Bread Pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

We like our bread pudding very soft, a style which is not so popular as we could hope. Marquez’ version isn’t quite as custardy as we prefer, but shows that fine sense of balance he brings to most of his cooking. It is soft enough to remind one of a moist, freshly baked cake, with only the top having a very slight crustiness that contrasts well. The flavor of the coconut and fruit really came through, with a minimum amount of sugar added. The caramel sauce was drizzled on the plate and was easy to pick up if one wanted to add a bit more sweetness. Both Spouse and I gave this five stars. Marquez’s desserts were a strong point at his previous restaurants, and it’s still true at Lima.

The coffee is strong and very good, a smooth rich French Roast.

Summary:

We think highly of Lima. It’s one of the three best Peruvian restaurants we’ve tried, the others being Pucquio/Oakland and then Tambo/Oakland. Yet all three are quite different from one another in style. Pucquio is the smallest physically, with a very creative chef. Tambo’s ceviches are outstanding, but their chefs are a level below the other two kitchens in training and discipline. Lima is the most polished and smooth-running. It can handle food for one person or a group of twenty. But it does have the most static menu of the three, the usual list of “Peruvian Greatest Hits” that fails to surprise after visiting half a dozen different Peruvian restaurants. Peruvian cuisine is advancing creatively by leaps and bounds, and is probably the most well-known Latin American cuisine on a global basis. It’s a shame to see so many of the Bay Area menus already frozen in time, all offering the same dishes.

Lima isn’t the cheapest (by a long shot) but it’s the Peruvian restaurant we admire the most. Barranco/Lafayette is our value pick, offering massive portions of really excellent food – their soup was five stars all the way – but we love the precision and balance of John Marquez’s cooking. It gives his food that half-level jump the others can’t quite match. Pucquio comes closest, but its owners’ inexperience in running the front is obvious. Marquez is the consummate professional: like Sophina Uong and Banks White, his restaurants are well-run in both the front and the back of the house.

It’s the way things are now: the best young French-trained chefs are doing other cuisines, but bringing with them the discipline and trained palate of classic European gastronomy. There are still other Peruvian restaurants to try, and it will be interesting to see how we’ll end up ranking them on a master list.

Two people, lunch: nine starters (four starters were to-go for another meal), one entrée, one dessert, three beverages, without tip $121.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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