Restaurants

Mac & Cheese Night #5: American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

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Fifth macaroni and cheese night already? And I’m not even sick of the stuff yet. I must say, though, that all this mac and cheese analysis has affected my standards. Let’s just say that a recent order from a fast food chain was NOT up to snuff. Bright orange sauce lacking flavor and overcooked noodles doesn’t do it for me as easily as it used to.

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen does commit the atrocity of overcooked noodles, but in their case, it’s no crime. We went to the Mission location (2400 Harrison St.), a spot that’s steadily busy even at 2 on a Saturday afternoon.

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That menu is composed of sandwiches made of locally sourced ingredients, which results in quality that you can taste. The drinks illustrated that for me most clearly.

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My lemon-thyme soda hit the spot. The thyme wasn’t any bit player; it was a refreshing counterpoint to commanding citrus with just enough sugar to make it palatable. Husband’s pomegranate-rosemary soda was also tasty, but it didn’t hold a candle to the lemon-thyme for me. Obviously, I was not in a berry mood.

And both Husband and Friend #1 were not in mac & cheese moods, opting instead for the club turkey and cubano, respectively.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

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Sapporo

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Sapporo is the sushi restaurant’s answer to the overly familiar neighborhood pub. If you need to be greeted warmly by a hostess and have your every need catered to in a reasonable time frame, I’m not sure it’s the place for you. There’s nothing wrong with those expectations, but Sapporo won’t meet them. Instead, the tiny staff—consisting of one waitress and the sushi chef Sam—will get to you in due time, and your drink order will likely be yelled across the restaurant.

As soon as you see the restaurant’s interior, you’ll realize it’s a playful joint. Keep yourself entertained while waiting for service by looking at the polaroids covering the walls and booths.

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And keep that playfulness in mind as you realize Sam’s banter with the regulars is far more entertaining than the photos. Otherwise, you may be worried actual insults are being flung around rather than friends skewering each other. Heck, not knowing for certain is part of the appeal.

Sam, the sushi chef.

Sam, the sushi chef.

But I think the existence of a Crazy Sammy roll resolves that question pretty well.

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Burger Joints of Hayward #3: Red Rocket Char Grill

The newest burger joint in Hayward is Red Rocket Char Grill, right in the heart of the downtown strip (1057 B Street).

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This qualifies as the second echelon of burger joints, the ones classed up enough that you don’t worry about whether your chair will collapse beneath you or if you’ll pick up splinters from the table. Being on the second echelon doesn’t mean they make a better burger, but atmosphere can definitely affect opinion.

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Red Rocket’s red-and-black checker design, complete with a tiled mosaic wall in back, is assuredly more inviting than my first two stops. But it comes with a black mark from my husband; he swears it takes far too long for a fast food restaurant. So I’m counting the minutes from order placed to order up.

14.

Doesn’t seem that long for freshly grilled burgers to me, but don’t expect McDonald’s assembly line speeds. I’ll continue thinking my husband odd for doing just that.

In addition to burgers, Red Rocket offers chargrilled chicken, sausage, and steak sandwiches and salads—they all have “rocket” as part of the name, but somehow I doubt I’ll be calling them that instead of burgers anytime soon. Standard potato, garlic, cheese, and sweet potato fries are available as sides. For dessert, the expected trio of shake flavors appears….and New York cheesecake and churros! It’s good to have choices.

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