This is what happened when a craving that doesn't often strike me, struck. Usually when I crave Middle Eastern food, it comes in the form of intense yearning for falafel or hummus. But, on this particular day, I needed to find an extremely meaty meal of kebab over rice and a quick search of the nearby Sunnyvale area brought Kabul, an highly-rated Afghan restaurant, to light.
Another day, another lunch. Working in Sunnyvale has definitely had its lunchtime limitations, but when I looked hard enough, there was definitely greatness to be found. Asian food has proven itself as the area's strong suit so it was almost unsurprising that there's a real, legit, banh mi-slinging hole-in-the-wall in Sunnyvale. This shop, called Cam Hung, is located in an extremely nondescript strip mall parking lot much like every other decent eatery in Sunnyvale and would be next to impossible to spot if you weren't intentionally seeking it out. It's literally not visible from the street and has almost no signage to catch the eyes of passerbys so its a little amazing that they get traffic.
If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
When I was living in New York, I used to eat falafel sandwiches, hummus, and other Middle Eastern specialties A LOT. It was one of those cheap things that I could grab on nearly every corner and still manage to convince myself that I was actually eating healthy. This thought was probably completely false since falafel balls are deep fried and pita bread is super-carb heavy, but it still had to be better than the fast-cheap alternative. Looking back, I realize that I must have been pretty naïve thinking that great, cheap falafel shops could be found every, even outside of New York. But, upon moving out west, I had to face the harsh realization that in California I no longer had easy access to great Middle Eastern food. I am happy to announce, however, that I have actually found a place in the Bay Area that up to my high standards and has proven itself as a more than suitable place to get my fix – Oren's Hummus Shop.
Unless you live in the Los Altos hills, I'm not sure why else anyone would drive out of their way to go there. It's certainly a cute little town with its own downtown main drag and array of restaurants, but it's definitely an out of the way trek from pretty much everywhere and there are similar downtowns all around Silicon Valley. But, one day at lunch a particular craving struck that I only knew how to fix at a single place. The craving? Oyako-Don. The place? Sumika.
If there's one dish that the Bay Area does better than anywhere else in the country, it's most certainly the burrito. Even in Silicon Valley, where finding anything decent to eat is a challenge, there are a number of more than just passable options. Through my exploration of Sunnyvale, I've found Taqueria Latina, Ruby's Taqueria, and in the neighboring town of Mountain View another excellent shop called La Costeña. Whereas the former two are pretty classic Mission style Mexican, I think that La Costeña's creations lean closer to Cal-Mex. The shop is a little brighter and a little cleaner than the others and the produce is super-fresh tasting. It's just that I've found that the flavors tend to deviate just a bit from the truly traditional Mexican flavors – hence Cal-Mex.
I think most New Yorkers have heard of (and had their fair share of) Bon Chon Chicken. After originating in New Jersey and expanding to NYC and truly blowing up with hype and mega-popularity, this mini-chain has now spread its reach across the US and around the world. There's even two locations out on the West Coast near me in the Bay Area – one not far from my office in Sunnyvale. Since lunch options in Sunnyvale are so scarce, I've found myself stopping in whenever the urge for a satisfyingly deep-fried lunch strikes.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Finding a decent meal in Sunnyvale has always been a challenge and always will be. But, when I dig deep enough and keep my eyes firmly peeled, I have actually been able to find a few local gems. On this particular day, I took a mile-long walk down a suburban road I'd never been down before stumbling onto something intriguing. For the majority of the walk, I saw nothing worth a second glance, but then I spotted it. It shined in the distance like a shining beat-up beacon of hope. The sign read Taqueria Latina.
What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.