OK – so I’ve been on a rather extended hiatus, but with good reason. I’ve been on a diet these past few months and am committed to dropping another 15 pounds before I begin recreational eating again. I figure I should be back in business sometime in mid- to late summer. Stay tuned! (And wish me luck and continued self-discipline.)

… don’t tell anyone, but I cheated on my diet when I was in Hayward last weekend.

Cruising down Mission Blvd Saturday afternoon, I was starving and there just wasn’t a healthy meal in sight. So the Pupuseria y Taqueria Los Cocos was the obvious next best thing.

Trying to keep the fall from grace a moderate one, I limited myself to a couple of pupusas revueltas. They were cheap ($2.25 each) large and very tasty.
pupas 1
After I got home, I checked out the Yelp reviews on the place, which were surprisingly negative – it got barely over 3 stars. Reading the comments, however, it seems like many of the complaints had to do with rude and/or negflectful service. I did not have that problem, however. The counter person was friendly and responsive and our food arrived fairly promptly. (In my experience, Salvadoran food tends to be a bit on the slow side.)
Ext
As I said, the pupusas were very good – although I suppose that given the fact that I have pretty much been eating non-stop vegetables for the past several weeks, just about anything that wasn’t green would have seemed awesome.
pupas sm(By the way, as far as I can tell, the PyT Los Cocos has no relation to the venerable and excellent Los Cocos on Fruitvale in Oakland, although I could be wrong.)

Pupuseria y Taqueria Los Cocos
29617 Mission Blvd
Hayward, CA 94544

(510) 889-9919

OK, so I’ve been neglectful.

The problem is that I had such a great time over the holidays, I didn’t do any posting – just working, hanging out and, it seems like, non-stop eating.  I initially figured that my New Year’s resolution was going to be blogging regularly again, but when I got on the scale on January 2nd, I realized that a detour was necessary.

And so… since then I’ve been on a diet.  And for another 3 weeks yet, no banh mi, no burritos, no pizza, no Hawaiian bbq… well – you get the point.

Instead, it’s stuff like this (today’s lunch):

glass

Honestly, it’s not as bad as it looks – in another week or two I might even get used to it.
glass2
I do have a post from last month that I will probably get organized enough to finish shortly, but otherwise I’m continuing to try to ignore real food for the next few weeks. After that… everything (in moderation). Stay tuned.

Mr. T’s was a perfectly adequate little place – decent (if unremarkable) food, reasonable prices, a picturesque locale and a friendly owner. There are plenty of restaurants that do a much poorer job on all of the above and yet remain in business and even thrive. But life isn’t fair and the mortality rate among restaurants of all calibers is high, so I wasn’t that shocked today when driving by to see that Mr. T’s had closed its doors (and boarded its windows).

We can only hope that Mr. T’s will be revived more successfully in the near future. In the meantime, RIP, Mr. T’s.

(See here for my previous post.)

In many ways, Concord is a prototypical California baby-boom suburb.  In 1940, it was a sleepy little town of about 1,400, by 1950 its population had increased some 5-fold to almost 7,000 – still modest but growing.  The real boom began around 1950, and by 1960, the were some 36,000 Concordians, by 1970, more than 85,000 and by 1980, over 103,000. (The current population is about 122,000.)

At some point in the mid-1950s, in order to accommodate this growing population and keep up with California’s nascent car and consumer culture, the Park and Shop mall came into being just west of Concord’s downtown.  Since that time it has been expanded several times and now stretches for the equivalent of about 4 blocks – sort of a strip mall on steroids.

Over the years, the Park and Shop has had its ups and downs – facing pressure from the near-by and more modern Sun Valley Mall shopping center and the reality that Concord is generally a less upscale market than the neighboring communities of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill.

In recent years, however, Park and Shop has landed a couple of big retail fish – Fry’s Electronics and 99 Ranch Market – both attracting large numbers of shoppers (such as myself) and significantly re-vitalizing the mall.

Today Park and Shop is a bustling but undeniably somewhat dated and down-at-the-heels spot (in spite of recent efforts to pretty it up).  Still, to me its very unfashionableness is an asset, almost certainly contributing to keeping the rents affordable and allowing a profusion of small, independent restaurants to survive. Now, in addition to several fast food places and a couple of buffets, there are at least 3 Mexican, several Chinese, 2 Vietnamese, 1 Mediterranean, 1 Korean, and 1 Indian (I think) restaurant – and Chick’s Donuts.

Chick’s is one of my top 5 doughnut shops in this part of the world and so when I was up at Fry’s this morning, picking up some boring odds and ends of things I decided to stop in for a late breakfast.

Chick’s, as the menu says, has been in business since 1955. The interior is authentically retro, with the vintage of the last remodel being, perhaps, the 1970s (maybe the ’80s), by the look of the counter at least.

The staff is very friendly and much of the clientele seem to be regulars.

As is usually the case in the morning, the place was pretty full, so I grabbed a seat at the counter and almost ordered my usual – an apple fritter, along with a cup of coffee.  Chick’s apple fritters are mamouth and very good, but I have to admit that I had noticed a seductive looking lemon jelly doughnut in the case as I came in.

So I switched things up and went for the jelly doughnut – an excellent call.  The doughnut was perfectly cooked, with a hint of crunch to the outside and a ton of jelly on the inside.  (They take the term “filling” literally.)

This was a really excellent jelly doughnut – every bit as good, if not better than Doughnut King’s also very good version, which I described several months ago.

In addition to doughnuts, Chicks does “American Breakfast and Lunch” – with the emphasis on breakfast.  While I usually stick to the doughnuts on my visits, last week I decided to have the full-on breakfast special – 2 eggs, 2 sausages and 1 biscuit and gravy ($6.50).

I like Chick’s biscuits and gravy a lot – even if maybe it doesn’t look so appetizing in the picture.  I’m not sure how much of it is homemade, but the biscuits are light and the gravy sausage-y, rich and flavorful without being gluey.  Add a couple of shots of Tabasco and you’re good.  (I’ll admit that the sausages are pretty generic and – hey – eggs are eggs, but at least they’re cooked right.)

Overall, Chick’s is a great spot – the breakfasts are very good, the doughnuts are excellent, the staff is helpful and nice, the place is lively and relaxed and the prices are reasonable.

Chick’s Donuts & Coffee Shop
1801 Willow Pass Rd
Concord, CA 94520
(925) 682-4917

Ok – so I haven’t had much to say lately, mainly because I’ve been working a ton and haven’t had much time to hit a lot of new places.  Worse than that, the ones I’ve tried have been definitely on the disappointing side, especially since a couple have actually been close to being good.  In both cases, I had a very promising first experience but on the second trip was seriously let down.

Because I hate to trash some obscure little restaurant which, for all I know, I just caught on a bad day, I’m not going to name names, but the first one was a Mexican place on Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg (and that doesn’t narrow it down really at all).

Anyway, my first time in I had a gordita, which was good, and my son had a pastor sandwich which was excellent and made me wish I had gotten that instead.

Everything about this sandwich was great – bread, meat, just right.  (The price was reasonable at $5.99 but no steal.)

So, when I was back in Pittsburg last week I thought I’d give it another shot.  Now, I really love pupusas and so I decided to go for the pupusa, rice and beans plate which, at $3.95 seemed like it would make a fine lunch.

So, to be fair, the pupusa and the ensalada were decent enough – nothing special but one might reasonably ask what one wants from a $3.95 lunch these days?  Well, the problem was that the rice and beans weren’t hot – they were barely even warm.  (As you can see in the picture, the cheese wasn’t melting even a bit.)

Cross it off the list.

My next disappointment was at a cavernous but promising-looking Salvadoran place which opened not too long ago in Concord.  Here, on my first visit, I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of pupusas (revueltas) which were really an excellent lunch at $2.25 each.

So far so good.  I stopped back by there earlier this week, looking forward to enjoying some Salvadoran tamales but instead faced the crushing disappointment of 2 mushy, over-steamed, disintegrating, poor-excuses for same.

To top it off, I encountered a large chunk of chicken bone halfway through the second one.

Cross that place off the list as well.

(Actually, I might go back again, but just for the pupas.)

PS If you don’t know what a pupusa is – and I can’t imagine that being the case with yougo here.

I was over in Oakland a few days ago, driving around looking at houses and thinking about food. Being as it was more or less lunchtime, eating a Vietnamese sandwich seemed like the right thing to do.

When it comes to banh mi, Oakland has lots of credible options, but I wasn’t into cruising for a parking space and/or walking 5 blocks after finding one – so I opted not to head into Chinatown proper, but instead stayed in the less-crowded New Chinatown neighborhood. Besides, I was thinking that I would just grab something and go over to the lake (Lake Merritt, that is) and have a little private picnic.

The obvious choice, then, was Than Thuy which, unlike all the other Vietnamese sandwich shops I know of in Oakland, has its own little parking lot out front.

Than Thuy is toward the northern end of New Chinatown in a somewhat seedy little strip mall.  It has a handful of tables outside, which are usually occupied by a handful of Vietnamese guys who always seem to be smoking up a storm.

The menu is the usual selection of sandwiches, as well as some noodle dishes.  Prices are reasonable at around $2.75 per sandwich.

If you’re in the mood, you can sit at the counter and check your Lotto numbers, or chose one of the small inside tables, but instead I got mine to go.

I thought seriously about going for a fish cake sandwich, but instead opted for the grilled beef.

Than Thuy’s Vietnamese sandwiches might not be the best anywhere, but they are very good – the rolls seem fresh and the meat and veggies are tasty.  Overall, a great value.

Lake Merritt is just a few blocks away, so I headed over there, parked my car and spent 15 minutes or so enjoying my lunch and watching the world go by.

Than Thuy
745 E 12th St
Oakland, CA 94620
(510) 836-1212

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