New favorite bowl of noodles: Thai Boat Noodles at Zen Yai Thai!

Posted in Around the Bay Area, noodles with tags , , , , on December 9, 2013 by junkfoodie

My new current favorite bowl of noodles is at a small hole-in-the wall Thai place in Little Saigon in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. The place is clean, but not too much to look at. I recently led a group from Explore San Francisco through Little Saigon, and we stopped in for a bowl of these noodles. We were the only non-Thai customers in here on a Saturday afternoon. There are two chalkboards on the wall listing specials, but they are only written in Thai. Local SF foodies may know to order this off menu special, and if you get a chance, stop by and grab a bowl. The name Boat Noodles are a nod to the noodle vendors that sell their noodles from boats in the many waterways of Thailand.ImageYou can choose from beef or pork, thick or thin noodles, large or small bowl. I chose the small bowl of pork with thick noodles this time. The thick noodles are toothsome and slightly firm. Sliced pork, meatballs, some spinach-like greens in a small bowl covered in broth and topped with cracklings(!). The broth is what makes this dish though… long simmered broth, laden with chiles and intensified by the addition of beef blood! The blood lends a dusky, deep flavor without the metallic, “bloody” taste one might expect. Just enough heat from the chiles makes tray full of dried chiles, jalapenos, chile paste and sauces unneccesary. So good, you’ll finish the noodles, meat and cracklings, and probably want to lift the bowl to your lips and finish that broth.


Falafel Drive In – San Jose, CA

Posted in Around the Bay Area, junkfoodie Hall of Fame with tags , , , , on September 23, 2013 by junkfoodie


I first heard of Falafel’s Drive In (2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128) years ago after seeing it featured on the Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives. I stopped by and had a gyro’s sandwich $7.25 large), and was severely underwhelmed. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. A few months later, I happened to be in the area and I thought I’d give it another shot.

If you are going to a place  called Falafel’s Drive In, you kinda have to try the falafel, don’t you? I tried the falafel ($5.50 large), and NOW I get it. I’m by no mean’s a vegetarian, but I get this every time I come here now, along with a side of their hummus. I know you all know what a falafel is, but if you don’t, it is a deep fried ball of ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with onions, spices, etc. In the wrong hands, these can be dry and tasteless, but these are perfect. They are fried perfectly so they form a nice crunchy crust while keeping the inside moist and succulent. The falafel sandwich is served in a pita with lettuce,, tomato, onion, yogurt sauce and their fantastic home-made hot sauce. Even if you don’t like things spicy, you must get their hot sauce. I always ask for extra hot sauce, and they fill a paper boat of it for me. The hot sauce is sweet and tangy, with just a bit of heat.Perfect for the falafel. The sandwich itself is very balanced; crunchy, nutty, almost meaty falafel, crunchy vegetables, creamy yogurt sauce and the aforementioned hot sauce.


The hummus is nice and creamy, and is served with slices of pickled radish and cucumber and dollop of the hot sauce and topped off with a drizzle of olive oil. A bag of pita bread comes with it as well ($6.75 large).


Part of the appeal of the place is that it has been around since 1966, and retains not only the old-school neon sign, but the local, small town drive in feel, even though the city has grown up all around it. The rest of the menu includes, burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings and wonderful shakes. The fresh banana shake is my favorite ($3.25).

There are other middle eastern favorites on the menu as well, including the gyros (meh), kifta, foul, koubby and more. Haven’t tried any of those except the gyros, and I probably never will because the falafels are that good. Is it the best falafel in the world? Who knows, but certainly the best I’ve ever had. Definitely know what Guy Fieri meant now.


The Codmother Fish & Chips- San Francisco

Posted in Around the Bay Area with tags , on September 23, 2013 by junkfoodie

Anyone that has looked for good fish & chips in San Francisco knows how hard it is to find. Trying to find quality fish & chips at a reasonable price (sub-$10) in the City is nearly impossible. After passing by the Codmother (2824 Jones Street) on numerous occasions, I’d always wondered how it was. It is a trailer parked  semi-permanently in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. It’s located off the main tourist drag across the street from Walgreen’s hidden among a few other food trucks. There is a nice patio area for seating out front, and it is blocked from the wind and has nice umbrellas for those rare sunny San Francisco days.


The order of fish & chips ($9.25) gets you 2 generous sized pieces of firm yet flaky cod, and a nice serving of chips. The chips are double fried and have a crispy exterior and are nice and fluffy inside. The fish was nicely cooked, with a crispy, flaky exterior that holds onto the fish. It is served hot, and the portion is plenty for one person, and makes a good snack to share as well. There is malt vinegar on the tables, but the tartar sauce, if you are so inclined, comes in individual packets.

Other items on the menu are limited to Baja style fish tacos ($5.25), chicken strips, corn dogs and assorted fried desserts. Snickers, Twinkies and Oreos. It is a great find for SF visitors, as it provides a great food quality/price value for the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Junkfoodie says check it out if you are in the area!

World’s best hot chocolate?

Posted in Around the world, junkfoodie Hall of Fame with tags , on July 15, 2013 by junkfoodie

Admittedly, I haven’t tried all the hot chocolate in the world, but for my money, the award goes to Angelina in Paris (226 Rue Rivoli). It looks like a dark, very traditional, stereotypically Parisian tea salon, which it is, but the hot chocolate is perfect.

Founded in 1903 by Austrian confectioner Antoine Rumpelmeyer and named in honor of his daughter-in-law, Angelina is conveniently located on the Rue Rivoli directly across the street from the Tuileries gardens and the  Tuileries Metro stop. The beautiful Belle Epoque tea room serves breakfast, brunch, lunch as well as wonderful pastries and tea time snacks. The location is perfect after a visit to the Louvre or Tuileries, and is my favorite places anywhere for their house specialty, “Le chocolat chaud a l’ancienne dit l’Africain”, or old-fashioned hot chocolate “l’Africain”. At €7.90, it is not terribly expensive, and for my money is the most memorable way to spend $10 in Paris. I am not a big chocolate fan, but this hot chocolate is among the best in the world. It is thick, silky smooth and velvety rich. It is more chocolatey than milk chocolate, but not quite as deep as bittersweet chocolate- the perfect balance. Even if you are not a chocoholic, make sure to order one per person, do not split an order or share a cup, or you will regret it. Each serving comes in a cute little pot and is serves with a healthy portion of whipped heavy cream and a pitcher of water. Add one of Angelina’s fantastic pastries, and you have the perfect afternoon pick-me-up after a long day of sightseeing. Try their signature Mont blanc (€8.40) which is meringue, chantilly whipped cream and chestnut “vermicelli”, or my favorite, the Paris-New York (€8.40), which is almond choux pastry, crunchy almond and pecan praline and pecan praline light cream. At peak hours, or on weekends, the wait can be long, but it is worth the wait. Kill time watching the parade of Paris society ladies, clueless tourists, and curious foodie pilgrims in line with you. You can pick up decent hot chocolate mix to take home at the gift shop up front. Make sure to stop by the Hotel Meurice a few doors down to use their elegant restrooms before trekking back to your hotel.

Paris-New York from Angelina

Paris-New York from Angelina

Angelina's signature hot chocolate " a l'Africain"

Angelina’s signature hot chocolate ” a l’Africain”



Posted in junkfoodie Hall of Fame, Road trip, SoCal, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by junkfoodie

Now, I love New York delis as much as the next foodie, but for my money, the best pastrami sandwich lives in L.A….or at least it did until I ate it! The thankfully old-school Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant 704 S.Alvarado Street, Los Angeles builds the best Pastrami sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I’ve had pastrami sandwiches all over including at old school NYC delis like Katz’s, Carnegie and Lindy’s. I’ve had pastrami at LA fast food joints like Johnnie’s in Culver City, It’s Tops in Pasadena and various branches of the Hat. I’ve even had pastrami on a hot dog at Pink’s and stuffed into a tortilla with chili ,cheese and hot dogs at Oki Dog, but for my money, nothing touches Langer’s pastrami sandwiches. I’ve had it plain, on rye with a little deli mustard, and it was excellent. This last time, I had the #19, which is a pastrami and swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw on rye. Perfect! Get the pastrami hand cut! And not too lean. The extra fat is essential to the enjoyment of this sandwich. The unctuous, salty fat surrounded by the crusty edges of the pastrami topped by the gooey melted swiss and topped by the creamy cole slaw on their perfect corn rye is just right. The portion isn’t as huge as say, Carnegie in NYC, but it is better pastrami IMHO. What is the difference between pastrami and corned beef, you ask.? Pastrami is simply smoked corned beef. Why thanks junkfoodie! Anyway, the pickles in New York are better than Langer’s, if that makes you New Yorkers feel better. Junkfoodie says Langer’s pastrami sandwich is “Best In Class”, and in my top 5 sandwiches of all time. Junkfoodie says check it out! photo-4

Smoke Barbecue, Berkeley

Posted in about junkfoodie, Around the Bay Area, Uncategorized with tags , on June 24, 2013 by junkfoodie

What is it about car washes and cheap eats that I can’t resist? I’m not sure, but whether it’s tacos, hot dogs, sandwiches or whatever, whenever I see a food stand next to a car wash, I almost stop and check it out. I happened to be in Berkeley recently, and saw Smoke next door to the Solar Car Wash at 2434 San Pablo Avenue. They are in the space formerly occupied by a mediocre taqueria. I had read about Smoke,and I am a sucker for barbecue, so why not?

Now, my favorite Bay Area barbecue of all time used to be available about a mile-and-a-half down the road at Flint’s in West Oakland. I’ve searched high and low since they closed up a number of years ago, but every place has come up short. If you remember Flint’s,they were the epitome of old-school, no frills urban barbecue. The sides were simply potato salad and sliced, commercial white bread stuffed into a Glad sandwich bag. None of that mattered once you tasted their barbecue. The coarse ground hot links were excellent, but the ribs were the thing to order. Smoky, tender, just the right combination of atty and lean, lightly touched with their serviceable sauce. There was just enough chew where you had to work a bit to get them off the bone, but not too much. Always meaty, with a chewy, crusty tip, these were the best I’ve had in the Bay Area. The sauce is better at Everett & Jones and the sides more interesting at Doug’s ( barbecued spaghetti anyone?), but the ribs & links were better than those places, KC’s, Chef Edwards, Leon’ s, Big Nate’s, People’s Choice, Brother-In-Law’s and even Vic and Betty’s…….ahh the memories! But this is not about Flint’s, but about Smoke.

The ribs were smoky, and plenty meaty, but were not as juicy or succulent as they could be. They wphoto-7ere also surprisingly a bit bland, except for the smoke.

The sauce could use more punch, but that could have been because I took them to go. When I got home, I had to slather them with some sauce from Everett & Jones.

The collard greens were not bad after a few shots of hot sauce. They were less cophoto-6oked than you would normally find at a typical soul food joint, but they did have some nice bits of smoked pork ( ham hock?) And chopped onion. Nana’s potato salad was not bad, but nothing spectacular. The small rib plate ($12.95) included 4 ribs, a small side, and a square of jalapeno corn bread. I opted for the jalapeno mac & cheese, but couldn’t detect any jalapeno. The free pickles and onions are a nice touch. I wasn’t overly impressed, but I’ll try them again as many of the other items on the menu sounded great. Vegan sauteed brussel sprouts and the watermelon and feta salad sounded worthy of a second trip.


Pioneer fried chicken! Get it while you can…

Posted in junkfoodie Hall of Fame, Road trip, SoCal on June 20, 2013 by junkfoodie

Anyone remember Pioneer Chicken? Growing up in the Bay Area, I remember eating at Pioneer locations in Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco. The chain was started in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1961. By the time the original owner sold the business, he had franchised over 270 locations. There are currently only 3 locations left in the US, all in the LA area. Sadly, the original location in Echo Park clphoto-3osed in 2009. I used to like this location best., but now I prefer the location in East LA at 904 South Soto Street. There is a location in Bell Gardens and one on Olympic, but I haven’t heard good things about them from my Socal Junkfoodie friends. The East LA location sells “BBQ” riblets., fried fish, sandwiches and other stuff, but I’ve never tried them. I stick to the fried chicken and always leave happy. There are always specials painted on the windows outside to catch the attention of the passers by. This time we got the 10 piece leg & thighs for $10.99, an order of fries, mashed potatoes, potato salad and and Orange Bang and we were all set.

It’s all about the chicken here. The chicken is dipped in batter before frying in a pressure cooker (I’m guessing) which causes the skin to puff up into a crispy,salty, slightly greasy layer over succulent and juicy meat….perfect. Just the right amount of crunch, moist enough to cause the combination of juice and grease to run down your chin on your first bite.

This is old school fried chicken at it’s best. IMHO, much more flavor than KFC, juicier than Popeye’s and crispier than Church’s. Junkfoodie says get some before the last locations are gone!



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