The Cheese Steak Shop is a Bay Area chain that’s been in operation since the early 1980s. They’ve done so well, they even have a couple franchises in the Philippines! I love a good Philly cheese steak, to the point that it was probably more than half the reason I visited Philly a few years back. The Cheese Steak Shop makes their sandwiches in that classic style, going so far as to ship in their ingredients from Philly-based vendors. I think that commitment has paid off.
At the Castro Valley store, chopped sirloin beef or chicken are the meat options. White American cheese comes with the standard sandwich, which you can get in 7-, 10-, or 15-inch sizes. They have plenty of variations, however, including provolone, meat tossed in barbecue sauce, mushrooms, and spinach. I’m partial to the green chiles and provolone cheese sandwich myself.
That one is a 7-inch with chicken. The slightly saucy cheese is melted on the bottom. The meat is juicy and nicely browned, and the bread is absolutely perfect—squishy Italian rolls that melt in your mouth along with the sandwich fillings. Grilled onions and hot and sweet cherry peppers topped off my roll. Subjectively, I prefer my grilled onions in slices rather than diced into nothingness, and the peppers were sautéed too long for my preferences. But I loved each and every bite of the meal. It successful made me marvel at the magnificence that is the greasy cheese steak.
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I’d been watching the Coming Soon! sign for this coffee shop with interest since I moved to Hayward in August. Downtown Hayward has few coffee options aside from the usual chain suspects. Though I enjoy both Snappy’s Café and the Bistro for my caffeine needs, Snappy’s is pretty small and the Bistro is more of a bar and music venue than a spot suitable for working. Sometimes, I just need that coffee shop escape from the home office.
Éko, which will have been open about a month at the time of this post, fits that bill. The contemporary atmosphere is appealing, especially the mod, black, circle chairs. Those are mixed in with marble tables, bursts of marsh green fabric along the booth row, and rust red and white walls. Excepting the fixed sunburst mirror and white decorative lamps in the alcove, the shop is decorated with local artwork.
But atmosphere is only half the battle, and at a coffee shop, the coffee itself is of primary importance. Éko uses Mr. Espresso beans, which is based in Alameda and roasts its coffee over oak wood. You can taste that oak, whether having the coffee steeped through French press, pour-over, or cold brew. The baristas haven’t quite mastered all those techniques yet, but they’re getting there.
I’ve had both a pour-over and a café au lait thus far and enjoyed the smoky and woodsy qualities they imparted. Those elements particularly shined in the pour-over; I’m still not entirely sure the café au lait’s milk wasn’t burnt, but I pretended otherwise and was perfectly happy with the drink. My husband had no complaints with his cappuccino.
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This was my second visit to Ribs ‘N Things, and I was as impressed by this soul food and barbecue joint as I was the first time. That first time, we were waited on for dinner in their modest dining room decorated with jazz paintings.
The dining room is roped off sometimes, but they are happy to seat you whether or not it looks unavailable. Service was lacking when we ate in, but that’s because this is a small, family-owned operation and chances are the person taking your order is also the one who’s going to cook it for you.
Both my husband and I were starving and had our own helpings of the steak tips dinner.
That was a giant mound of steak swimming in a luscious barbecue sauce that held plenty of spice and enough tang to make it unique. It was just what we’d both been wanting. And boy did Ribs ‘N Things satisfy again the next time I had a craving, this time for fried chicken. The chef/cashier made sure I knew he’d cook the fried chicken fresh so it would take a good 10 to 15 minutes, which I didn’t mind one bit. I minded even less after I took it home.
World, that was some amazing fried chicken. Just this side of too salty, so my taste buds craved that next bite of the rich, red, fried coating and moist chicken. The leg disappeared within seconds of my opening the container. There’s a healthy dose of pepper in the coating that contributes to its savory siren’s call.
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