We get over to the Burlingame/SMateo area twice a year (business) and have done so for the last ten years. Haven’t been really impressed with the restaurants there. Good, but few true “destination” places so it’s easier for us to stick to the Alameda/CC Cty areas where we live. We avoid most of the Chinese restaurants there; very value-oriented so cheap but mostly not worth going out of one’s way for.
However, we have liked:
120 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA
Not a destination restaurant, but a very pleasant place to socialize. Lovely sophisticated décor, nice for lunch but even prettier for dinner. Its food is similar (although not identical) to the deli/restaurant Taste In Mediterranean/SMateo. But the latter is a simple, casual café, whereas Tannourine is, for want of a better word, a more ‘adult’ restaurant.
Taste is where you’d go to stretch your dollar. Tannourine is where you’d take a first date, or with a group that was looking for a mid-priced dinner that was “just a bit special”. If some of your group isn’t sure about liking Mediterranean specialties, Tannourine is a little more accessible in its cooking, and looks more upscale without being expensive.
Skip the sambousek, but the cheese borak and small tender dolma were excellent. Kebbeh is fabulous paired with their house salad which has a magnificent tangy (but not overdone) vinaigrette. Flatbread is outstanding, almost as good as Aziza/SF.
The baba ghannouge is exceptional. One of the best versions we’ve had of the dozens we’ve eaten over the last decade.
Kebabs and kefte (both lamb) were very good. Not huge portions but nicely executed. All mains come with hummus and the baba ghannouge. So don’t order those two as starters unless you want a massive amount of them!
Loved the Arabic coffee, served traditional style with lots of cardamon. Service is professional but can be stretched thin when full.
Taste In Mediterranean Food
1199 Broadway, Burlingame, CA
Deli/café, very busy with big portions at low prices. Most of the food is very good, some dishes (like the veggie/potato latkes) not so much. But overall, excellent value and most of the food is tasty with that homecooked touch.
Soups are excellent across the board. Their cacik, yoghurt dip, with 5-star housemade pita chips is addictive. The babaganoush is excellent, smoky and flavorful.
The lamb chops are preferable to the kebabs, the latter being uniformly overcooked. Even if you’re not vegetarian, get the Mediterranean eggplant stew. This has a lovely depth from the grilled eggplant, which dissolves in the cooking to flavor the tomatoes, well-caramelized onions, and small red beans. With the rice, hummus, delicate housemade slaw, and more of the cacik, even my carnivorous DH said he wouldn’t miss the meat.
Taste In Mediterranean has a marvelous array of desserts. They had eight different kinds of baklava, with your choice of walnut, pistachios, or cashews; with or without rose syrup. There were at least four different nut-topped single-layer cakes, halvah, and two kinds of pudding (rice or halvah). They had knefe, the Lebanese cheesecake with a bottom and top crust of filo shreds, which we rarely see in Oakland.
1155 California Dr., Burlingame, CA
Some very good yakitori and bento boxes at lunch. The octopus starter was refreshing and unusual. Crowded at dinner time. Grilled items can be very good but sometimes execution is erratic. Don’t get tipsy and walk into those glass partitions! Aggressively hip, but the food’s good enough that you won’t hold it against them too much.
New England Lobster Market & Eatery
824 Cowan Rd., Burlingame, CA
If you’re dying for some Dungeness but it’s out of season, come here. They get it from Alaska and their flash-frozen Dungeness has no additives or icky preservatives gunking it up. In fact, if you don’t tell people it’s frozen they’ll probably never know. Heck, I can’t tell it from fresh. It rips me more than you know that there is NO PLACE in the EBay as good as NE Lobster Mkt for frozen Dungeness. This is a long drive from where I live. Yes, and I’m including Monterey Market, Whole Foods and Tokyo Fish Mkt. I warned you; it rips me.
Forget the overrated lobster rolls (honest, why celebrate puffy white bread? Just eat the lobster straight, with butter). The lobster/corn chowder is excellent (and sold frozen too). Get the bowl; the cup won’t be enough. And you won’t want to share it, either.
But smart people come here for oysters. We watched in awe as three Chinese women worked through four dozen raw shucked oysters, then went back for another round!
Lovey’s Tea Shoppe
4430 Coast Hwy (aka Cabrillo Hwy or Rte 1), Pacifica, CA
If you didn’t already know, this is a branch of the esteemed Lovejoy’s Tea Room/SF. Easier parking although not handicap-accessible (bathrooms are outside and down the stairs).
The very best tea in the SFBA is Pardee Museum/Oakland. But pinning them down to a date can be rough; they can only do a few teas per month (all-volunteer cooks). The second best is Angelica’s/Sebastopol which is a French patisserie par excellence, but one can’t always be jaunting off to Hwy 116 spur of the moment. Plus, you always need reservations in advance for ALL these places.
If you’re in the Peninsula, Lovey’s will satisfy you. Their tea selection is excellent and the food is good. It and Lovejoy’s are the best of the lot at the second-tier level.
Three @Draper University (formerly Astaria @Hotel Benjamin)
50 E. Third Ave., San Mateo, CA
We have liked Three (formerly Astaria) for a long time. But although the food is still good, the portions have gotten smaller, the sides especially skimpy, and prices have risen. We have gone for both brunch and weekday lunch/dinner, and been pleased with the food, but it has dropped a half level strictly on value. We’re not particularly price-sensitive but Three just feels a bit overpriced now vs the competition.
They are, however, one of the few restaurants that still carries flaming cheese on the menu as a regular item. When properly executed, it’s a great starter.