Berkeley/San Jose

Our first destination in Berkeley was Rudy’s, and ironically enough Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café failed.

We decided to try our luck at Bette’s Oceanview Diner.  The place was packed and we had to wait for a table, maybe 20 minutes.  Every seat was full and the tables are packed tight.  They have an open kitchen and we got a table near the action.  We drew a nice young waitress, Haley, who took pretty good care of us.

Souffle at Bette's Diner

Souffle at Bette’s Diner

Anna ordered the pancake soufflé with strawberries and a chocolate swirl (because it is something unique and was featured on the show).  I was more in a savory mood and ordered a hot chicken sandwich with cheese and peppers.  Anna enjoyed her creation and gives it three stars.  I wasn’t quite so lucky.  The sandwich was good, but they put too much cheese on it which overpowered the rest of the sandwich.

Chicken Sandwich at Bette's Diner

Chicken Sandwich at Bette’s Diner

We would be happy to go back to Bette’s, but we’d have to get a better table.  On this day, it was just one of those situations where you feel as if you’re in the way and everyone is trying to squeeze by you and bump into you constantly.  That’s no way to enjoy a meal.  Anna had it worse than me.  I was up against the wall, but Anna was out in the thick of things.  Also, our table was pressed right up against a bussing tray/cart and it was not fun to watch that action.  Surprisingly enough, even though we were not more than six feet from the kitchen, our dishes did not come out together, and they were served by a runner.

After it was all over, we offered our waitress a friendly critique (because we liked her) and she took it well.  Normally I wouldn’t bother, but Haley had a good attitude and she was smooth and efficient (great potential).  Now that my handy dandy “How to Wait Tables” guide is written and posted for free, all I’ll have to do is give out a card.

After Bette’s we explored the surrounding area on foot.  There were lots of shops and things to look at.  We did our best to work up an appetite so that we could catch the lunch service at Meal Ticket.

I should mention that we weren’t planning to go to Berkeley on this trip.  We were playing it off the cuff.  We had plans set for Saturday and ended up a few days ahead of schedule.  I’m mentioning it here because we didn’t review the DDD segments before the trip and didn’t have any of the details fresh in our minds

We snuck in just under the wire at Meal Ticket and ordered a steak sandwich to share.  We found a nice table in a charming outdoor patio in the back.  We didn’t have to wait long for the food.  The sandwich was excellent, and tasted just as good as it looks in the picture..

Steak Sandwich at Meal Ticket

Steak Sandwich at Meal Ticket

About the time we finished our sandwich, the owner (Jimmy Carter) came out to greet us.  I took one look at him and recognized him instantly from the show.  I blurted out, “You’re the guy who was in the Olympics, right?”  He was a good sport about it, and chatted with us for a few minutes.  Super friendly.  We had told his wife about our DDD touring and he came out to ask how our travels were going.  If memory serves, I think he said they were just getting ready for a trip to Europe themselves; and we wished them bon voyage.  Meal Ticket gets our highest recommendation.  The food was super fresh and super tasty, and they have a great menu selection that is truly continental.

We crashed and burned for dinner at a burger joint down in Hayward.  We were trying to explore some burger joints on this trip, such as Hudson’s in Coeur d’Alene, Crown Burger in Salt Lake City and Jim-Denny’s in Sacramento.  It was quite a mixed bag and some places were closed, although we managed to get a pretty good burger at Eastside Big Tom in Olympia,Washington.  Being a burger hound, I’m going to go nuts on the upcoming trip to Texas.  I will say one thing at this point, I already know that I’m going to be checking out at least a dozen great burgers in Texas.  But, the one I am looking forward to the most is at Lankford Grocery (and I sure hope to meet Eydie).  Pause.  I just called Lankford Grocery to make sure Eydie is still there and they put her on the phone by mistake.  I spoke to Eydie for the first time and she is just as friendly as can be.  She said Guy Fieri is the one of the nicest guys she’s ever met (no surprise there) and that she will be looking forward to our visit.  She said to pull her out of the kitchen when we get there.

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and from what I can gather, no self-respecting burger lover would eat a burger in Texas unless it was at least a half a pound and piled high with jalapenos (with a beer or two on the side).  It’s going to be one hell of a fun trip (and I’m sure I’ll be getting lots of new entries for the Ken’s Top Tens lists).  Come to think of it, Texas should have it’s own top ten list (so be looking forward to that).  And now back to our story already in progress.

Breakfast at 900 Grayson

Breakfast at 900 Grayson

We started the next morning with breakfast at 900 Grayson, a charming little restaurant with a killer menu and a rockin’ chef.  We got a table right away and our waitress took excellent care of us.  I ordered the classic breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Tragically, they were out of bacon.  Anna ordered the waffle.  As you can see from the pictures, the breakfast was excellent and cooked perfectly.  The real kicker for me was the hash browns and I asked to talk to the chef.  When chef Eric appeared through the window, I remembered watching him with Guy at the football game.  Very impressive.  It turns out that they fry the hash browns in clarified butter.  I’ve been trying my hand at it at home, but there is still room for improvement.  Chef Eric has graciously offered to stay in touch and help me.  900 Grayson gets our highest recommendation.  The breakfast really hit the spot, but they also have lot’s of other enticing dishes on their menu.

Waffle at 900 Grayson

Waffle at 900 Grayson

After breakfast we made the short drive over to San Pablo park to throw our ring and get in some laps.  After we finished at the park and got in some touring, we headed over to Rick & Ann’s for lunch.  We had to park several blocks away, but managed to find some free parking.  We didn’t want to be on a meter because we didn’t know how long we would be and we hate to feel rushed.  As it turned out, we weren’t real hungry and there was a pretty long wait for a table; so we ordered a sandwich to go.  I apologize for not getting a photo, but it was a marinated and grilled flank steak sandwich on a french roll with melted jack cheese, grilled sweet peppers and onions—and the kicker, a jalapeno-cilantro pesto.  It had me at hello (Anna too).

We have to go back because we both agree that it was the best steak sandwich we have ever had.  If you’ve had that sandwich you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t had it, you’ve got to go get one.  No wonder there was such a long wait for a table.  We ate off the back of the car, which is why I forgot the camera.  The potato salad was good too.  We’ll get a picture next time.  The funny thing is, we’re not really the steak sandwich type of people (especially Anna).  It just looked to be the best thing on the menu.  Now that we’ve had that steak sandwich, we might be ruined for everyone else’s.  Anna still raves about it all the time.  I wonder how good the rest of the menu is?

After we left Rick & Ann’s, we thought it might be fun to go explore the campus at UC Berkeley.  That was a mistake.  It was bumper to bumper traffic, terribly congested and no place to park.  We’ve never seen so many Priuses (or bad drivers).

We swung by Aunt Mary’s Café, but were nowhere near being hungry yet.  They didn’t have parking and so I left Anna with the car while I went in to check it out.  It’s a big place, with an open kitchen in the back.  I didn’t see anyone I recognized.  The staff was friendly and I ordered a slice of Buttermilk Chess pie to go.  The pie was good.

We had checked out of our room and were looking to get closer to San Jose.  We got checked into a new place and later set out for dinner at the Naglee Park Garage.  I want to mention that we would have sampled the taqueria food off the Los Tapatios truck.  From what I was able to find, it appears that they either sold or went out of business.

It was just after dark when we arrived at Naglee Park Garage and the line was out the door.  Fortunately it was a line to order, and not a line to get a table.  We studied the menu while we waited and had our order ready to go.  The line went fast enough.  We ordered a cheeseburger and a grilled tri-tip sandwich, with cheddar cheese, onions, bacon and BBQ sauce.  Although there were some nice tables in the dining room, we opted to sit outside on their spacious patio.  There are several small tables surrounding one gigantic family style table up the middle.  We chatted with some of the other patrons, and the regulars just love the place.  By the time our food arrived, we were sure ready to dig in.

Burger at Naglee Park Garage

Burger at Naglee Park Garage

As you can tell from the photo, the burger was picture perfect.  Sadly, the picture of the tri-tip sandwich did not turn out.  The sandwiches were big and hit the spot, and the kicker is the house-made ketchup.  We had a hard time finishing.  The staff was friendly and the service was good.  If you’re in San Jose and looking for a great DDD spot, Naglee Park Garage will put a smile on your face.


Falafel Gyro

Falafel Gyro with Hot Sauce

For breakfast the next morning, we opened the Falafel Drive-In.  The owner from the show was right there working and took our order.  We ordered the Falafel Gyro (with hot sauce), and a banana milk shake.  I’m sorry that the food doesn’t look all that great in the picture, but I’m happy to tell you that it was delicious.  It was our first time for Falafel and we both thought it was great.  We should have got a gyro each, but we’ll know better for next time.  The banana shake was a sweet and tasty complement to the falafel, and we rolled out of there happy.

After enjoying a fun-filled day at an area spa, we rolled into Santa Cruz just in time for dinner.  The traffic was heavy in town, but we finally managed to find some curb within walking distance of Aldo’s Restaurant.  We had been looking forward to the seafood for a long time and we had finally arrived.  As we walked up we could tell something was not quite right.  As it turns out, they had closed for the rest of the day for a private party.  Ouch.  We walked away sad and disappointed, and got right back into that bumper to bumper traffic.  We had passed the Santa Cruz Diner on the way to Aldo’s so we knew right where it was (and headed back to it).

We walked in and got a comfy booth along the front.  The Santa Cruz Diner is very spacious and inviting.  The walls were covered with signs, which I’m a sucker for.  Our waitress was very friendly and they have a large menu.

Sourdough Burger at Santa Cruz Diner

Sourdough Supreme at Santa Cruz Diner

We had been playing it by ear if we were going to stay another night, or jump on the road for the long drive home.  We didn’t want to get caught in Sunday traffic and decided to make the long drive home.  I don’t like to drive on a heavy meal and so we decided to split a sandwich.  Anna picked us out a Sourdough Supreme which was like a patty melt.  We made quick work of it, stopping just long enough to take the picture.  We’re planning to spend more time in the Santa Cruz area and it’s nice to know that the Santa Cruz Diner is there and open 24/7.  We will be going back for sure.

It was a long drive home, but it gave us a chance to reflect on all the good times we had on the trip.  The highlights included our visit with Celeste at Chaps, and getting to meet Danarae Clor in Boise.  We visited with many other family and friends, and had lots of good times and great food.  It was our second DDD excursion up to the great Pacific Northwest, and I doubt that it will be our last.

Next DDD Destination: Santa Barbara   (DDD count: 189)

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