Izakaya Mai is a Japanese Izakaya or Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food. They are more small plate oriented restaurants. This restaurant has an extensive drink menu. They’ve been here for years. Several similar restaurants have opened over the years, but this still packs them in.. (Izakaya Ginji, Kokko)
Santa Ramen has a new owner in 2020.
Santa Ramen is a very popular Japanese noodle Ramen restaurant in San Mateo. Mr. Kazunori Kobayashi sold this location in 2020 but continues to be the proprietor of nearby Ramen Dojo and Parlor. Located in a small shopping mall with a Diddams Ninja Japanese supermarket, Party Supply and JoAnn’s Fabric, the restaurant has achieved a legendary cult following and has long lines at both dinner and lunch times. We have eaten here many times with our last visit in 2020.
Rave Burger is a burger joint that opened October 2008 in downtown San Mateo. We were walking by and decided to give it a try to see how it rated. The provide sit down service in addition to to go food. They serve hamburgers, vegan burgers, hot dogs, and salads and a lots more now. We have been to Rave Burger several times over the years with our last visit in 2019.
Best Shanghainese Chinese restaurant in San Francisco? Little Shanghai Restaurant is a family run Shanghainese Chinese Restaurant in San Mateo near the San Mateo Fairgrounds. They have the usual Americanized Chinese dishes along with a fair amount of Traditional Shanghai dishes not served in most restaurants. Our last visit was in Fall 2017.
Why did we dine here? – Sushi Maruyama is the latest Japanese spot to give this corner a go. They are not related to the last place. The last 2 came and went over the years. This Japanese restaurant joins a ton of others on virtually every block of downtown San Mateo. The town is now home to some top spots including Wakuriya, Sushi Sam, and Sushi Yoshizumi.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is a hot pot restaurant in downtown San Mateo, right across from Walgreen’s. Their soup base options have recently become more acceptable for mainstream Americans. This company has a couple locations in the USA and many more in Asia. Yum Asia (KFC, Taco Bell) actually owns this company.
Why did we dine here? – Ben Tre (A city in Vietnam) has three locations on the San Francisco Peninsula.
ABC Cafe is a casual Chinese eatery with two locations in San Francisco and a new one in downtown San Mateo. The parent company also owns ABC Seafood restaurants. We went to the new location about a week after it opened. They serve Hong Kong style Chinese American food. ABC Cafe is open into the wee hours of the morning. We have been here multiple times with our last visit in 2018. They have fallen to a lousy 2.5 stars on Yelp.
Taqueria La Cumbre Mexican Restaurant has a location in San Francisco and San Mateo. We tried the one in San Mateo, located near Caltrain. They have everything from burritos to tacos to caldos to plates. The San Francisco location has lines often times. Our last visit was in 2017. The great thing about his place is the parking lot!
Why did we dine here? – Best Sushi in the San Francisco? Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo, California is a new One Michelin Star receipient for 2016. They serve the expert crafted omakase menu of Chef Akira Yoshizumi. Ingredients are sourced both domestically and internationally (Tokyo) for his Edomae sushi style cuisine.
Shabuway is a Japanese hot pot restaurant in San Mateo that opened in 2004. They also have a location in Mountain View, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Union City. You cook vegetables and thinly sliced beef at your table in a your own boiling pot of watery broth. Shabuway does not take reservations and insists all folks are present when names are called. Our last visit was in 2016, where we get a sense that the business changed hands.
Himawari is a Japanese Ramen Noodle house located in downtown San Mateo. Every block down here has a Japanese restaurant. Their chief rival, a couple miles away, is the legendary Santa Ramen along with its sister Ramen restaurants. They have a broader menu than Santa Ramen, with Rice Bowls, lots of appetizers, and many ramen options. We came on hot day and noted no air conditioning, just ceiling fans cranked up. Last visit September 2017.
Espetus Churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse serving Rodizio style food. They focus on meats straight from the fire brought to your table, continuously through the meal! You can stop the meat parade by flipping the table card to red. They have a salad and hot plate bar with lots of different options including asparagus, bean salad, eggplant, rice, beans, cod, and much more. Do not eat too much of this stuff otherwise you wonder have room for all the meat. Vegetarians should stay away.
Espetus Churrascaria has locations in San Francisco and San Mateo. We tried the brand new San Mateo location for dinner. It is all you can eat, with lunch going for $25.95 with 7 meat options, $37.95 on weekends. Dinner is $54.95 with 14 meat options. Kids are 50% off. Our last visit was in the Summer of 2014.
Jeffrey’s Hamburgers is a popular burger joint in downtown San Mateo open since 1997. They also have a location in Menlo Park. They serve American fast food including burgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, salads, fries, and shakes. Seems like every town has a place like this, San Francisco has its Mel’s Drive in..
Little Sichuan is a Sichuan Chinese Restaurant located in Downtown San Mateo next to legendary foodie hangout Draegar’s. It has been around for many years but changed hands in 2007. The former co-owner and chef used to run Classic Sichuan Restaurant in Millbrae. Do not confuse this place with others with similar names. Many folks stopped coming after the change in ownership including ourselves. It was time to check Little Sichuan out again in October 2010, after another year. This is a place to come for Sichuan dishes like noodles, not for generic Americanized Chinese food such as Beef Broccoli. classic Cantonese Chinese dishes that are better down the block at Champagne Seafood or HK Causeway Bay. Our last visit was in March 2014.
Why did we dine here? – Pacific Catch is a small string of restaurants in the Northern California area. They were started by the founders of World Wrapps. The first location open in San Francisco on Chestnut Street in 2003, with the San Mateo branch opening in 2014, right next to the Century Theaters multiplex.
Japanese Izakaya is hot in the SF Bay Area right now.. Yakitori Kokko is a Japanese Izakaya or drinking oriented establishment (like Sumika in the South Bay, Ippuku in Berkeley or Izakaya Mai in San Mateo) that serves casual food focusing on skewers of meat and liquor. It is run by Japanese folks and feels pretty authentic. Yakitori means chicken grill, so the focus is on charcoal grilled meats. The place has gotten some good buzz, so we decided to give it a try. Our last visit was in the summer of 2015.
California Pizza Kitchen started back in 1985 in Beverly Hills by two attorneys. It is now International and publicly traded. Their BBQ Chicken pizza is their signature dish. We were passing by the San Mateo location and decided to refresh our memories. Fate has lead us to eat here, more than we would like to admit..
Why did we dine here? – Kagura Ramen Izakaya is the sister restaurant to San Francisco’s Waraku on Post St. This Japanese restaurant joins a ton of others on virtually every block of downtown San Mateo. They focus on ramen for lunch and dinner along with a variety of small plates for dinner only.
Yuzu Sushi and Grill is located in a sleepy shopping district in San Mateo across from the former location of Alhana foods. It is a sister restaurant to Burlingame’s well respected and Michelin Bib Gourmand Sakae Sushi. We decided to try it to see if it was a lower cost but similar quality version of Sakae Sushi. Sakae Sushi has lots of exotic seafood air freighted in from Japan. Our last visit was in April 2014.
Why did we dine here? – Paul Martin’s American Grill is a new restaurant chain from the P in PF Chang’s. This new dining establishment open in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Mall in July 2013. They have a location in Roseville as well as 3 in southern California. Normally hearing the above would cause us to run, but we were nearby, so we gave it a go.
Shanghai East has moved to Millbrae from San Mateo and changed names to Shanghai Bistro. Their staff and chef are intact. Spicy Empire has taken its place in its old 25th Ave location, San Mateo. The owner took over China Bistro in San Mateo in early 2013 but closed it later that year.
Windy City Pizza has been serving pizza, BBQ, and Sandwiches since 1984. They specialize in Chicago style deep dish pizza and Texas smokehouse BBQ. Rib sticking classic American food that many people love. Our last meal was in 2014.
By Henry Kwan
Why did we dine here? – Inshou recently opened in the Marina Plaza shopping center, just off Highway 101’s Hillsdale exit. We were shopping at Marina supermarket and decided to give this new place a try.
San Mateo is home to a large Japanese and Asian population making it ground zero for some excellent Japanese restaurants including Hotaru, Yakitori Kokko, and Sushi Sam. Our last visit was in November 2013
Unfortunately, Osteria Coppa Closed in June 2016.
Osteria Coppa is a new restaurant from the owners of Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay located in the former Pomaroma Cafe location. Osteria in Italian means a place where the owner “hosts” people or an Italian-style eating establishment. They are focusing on artisan pizza and pasta along with a variety of other authentic Italian dishes using local and seasonal ingredients. Seafood is sustainably-fished and the meats we use are antibiotic free. This mirrors places like Pizzaiolo in Oakland, Flour and Water in San Francisco. Founding Executive chef of Osteria Coppa is rising star Chanan Kamen, formerly of Quince, but he left a couple years ago for Mexico. His proteges continue turning out the menu. Our last visit was in 2016.
Why did we dine here? – All Spice is one of the highest rated restaurants on Yelp (4.5 stars) within the San Francisco Peninsula. We’ve heard good things about this restaurant. A recent review on Check Please reminded us. Their unlucky but cozy mini Victorian location just off El Camino Real has housed The Dining Room, Dolly Marie, among others. This restaurant focuses on seasonal food along with the traditions of Indian cuisine.
Why did we dine here? – Attic is a Asian fusion restaurant in downtown San Mateo with an emphasize on Philipino cuisine. Tim Luym (Poleng Lounge) is their consulting chef. He previously ran restaurants in San Francisco. This restaurant has been here for about two years, so we figured it was worth a try.
Why did we dine here? – Ramen Parlor is the third location in San Mateo from the legendary Santa Ramen folks. It is located one block from the original Santa Ramen, which now houses the very popular spicy ramen oriented Ramen Dojo. All three are owned by the same person.
This restaurant uses the same noodles as Santa Ramen but adds some lobster oil as well other toppings. In the evening, they have additional items on the Ramen Parlor menu including skewers. We have been here for both lunch and dinner with our last visit was in the spring of 2013.
Sushi Sam’s is a popular Japanese restaurant in downtown San Mateo. We have considered them and Hotaru as the 2 best Japanese restaurants in this area that seems to have a Japanese restaurant on every block. There is a large Japanese and Asian population in this area. Our last visit was in January 2012.
Ristorante Capellini is a popular Italian restaurant in downtown San Mateo, near the Caltrain station. Since 1990, this beautiful Pat Kuleto designed restaurant has been packing them in. It looks pretty unassuming on the outside, but once you open the door.. Our last visit was in the Summer of 2012.
Mutsu is a long-standing family run Japanese restaurant about 2 blocks from the CalTrain station that has been here for a while and probably hasn’t changed much. We’ve been to most of the Japanese restaurants in this area, except for this one, so it was time to expand our horizons. San Mateo is home to a large Japanese community, so there are Japanese restaurants on practically every block.
Spicy Empire is a Chinese restaurant that recently opened in the former location of Shanghai East. They focus on Sichuan Chinese cuisine with an emphasis on spicy dishes.
Thaiger Thai Kitchen recently opened in San Mateo and focuses on high food with local and organic ingredients. Most of their business is takeout, but they do have some seating.
China Bee is a Chinese Restaurant in Downtown San Mateo, near the Caltrain station. This restaurant has been here for at least 10 years and focuses on Taiwanese Chinese Cuisine. They have $6.50 – $6.95 lunch rice plate specials during the weekday. They have additional special menu items on the weekends. China Bee specializes in dishes like Stinky Tofu and Spicy Beef Noodle soup.
Another trendy fancy burger place… The Counter opened in 2006 and is another fancy casual restaurant located in the Palo Alto, California Avenue shopping district. They have locations in CA, CO, GA, NC, and TX with many more coming soon. We revisited in March 2011 at the brand-new San Mateo location, click next door to Trader Joes. Loud music greeted us as we entered the place along with some flat screen TVs at the counter.
Downtown San Mateo has a very high concentration of Japanese restaurants with one on almost every block. Hotaru is one of the best and most economical. No surprise, there is a line out front most of the time. We’ve tried pretty much all the nearby Japanese restaurants. Sushi Sam and Kisaku are also good but more expensive. Nearby Yuzu and Sakae are also very good Japanese Restaurants. Our last visit was in 2016.
Since 1932 Toto’s has been serving ‘authentic’ Neapolitan pizza. They have restaurant locations in San Bruno and Belmont. The Belmont location is an order and sit type restaurant with no table service. They have a to-go only facility in San Mateo that we also dined at. Toto’s uses Baker’s Pride pizza ovens.
Luna Japanese Fusion Bistro is a new Japanese restaurant in downtown San Mateo, where there seems to be a Japanese restaurant on every block and one right next door. This restaurant, run by Chinese folks, focuses on tapas or small plates and is located where Lure used to be.
Ramen Dojo opened in San Mateo at legendary Santa Ramen’s original location back in 2010, no doubt hoping to capture some of its good karma. In fact it’s owned by chef-owner Kazunori Kobayashi. They focus on spicy ramen, specifically Sutamina Ramen (aka Spicy Stamina Ramen) that is served in a couple restaurants in the SF Bay Area. They de-emphasised Spicy ramen and now even serve regular ramen. Our last visit was in October of 2017.
- Santa Ramen is the original, now in larger dig, better for parties 4+
- Ramen Dojo is focuses on spicy ramen, perhaps a little better broth, toppings. Tiny location
- Ramen Parlor has more starters and variety on their menu
Myung Dong Tofu Cabin is a Korean restaurant with two locations, San Mateo near Highway 101, and Santa Clara. We went to the San Mateo location which is in a strip mall next to a Marina supermarket. Our 2010 revisit of the restaurant occurred in April 2010. They had dropped the weekend specials and added half orders.
Jack’s Prime Burgers is a burger place in San Mateo that opened in 2008 on El Camino Real just south of Hillsdale mall. They serve burgers, salads, and have a fair amount of beer and wine selections. They serve Meyer Ranch Beef patties and Diesel Ranch free range turkey patties. All beef is humane certified raised and handled. They have to go, patio dining, and sit down dining. Our last visit was in the middle of 2012.
La Pinata Mexicatesen is a Salvadorean/Mexican restaurant in San Mateo, near the Caltrain station. It is located in an area that is full of Hispanic businesses and opened in early 2008.