Village California Bistro and Wine Bar

meter-good-greatI recently got the chance to have a quick bite at Village Bistro, and I was pleasantly surprised. This typically Californian bistro is located right in the middle of Santana Row, which also happens to be typically Californian. The menu has surprisingly good variety, and in spite of being a bit overly faux-sophisticated the food is well crafted and not too fancy.

” ‘Bistro’ means ‘we have small tables’ in secret restaurant language “

I dread going to Santana Row. Once I’m there I like it just fine, but trying to find a parking spot is excruciating. Once I finally managed to ditch my car in an unauthorized area, I strolled over to Village Bistro to meet some people for lunch. Ok, so it’s actually called VILLAGE California Bistro and Wine Bar, which is even wordier and more disjointed than one of my restaurant reviews. I have no idea why they insist on stylizing VILLAGE in all caps. There’s no need to yell at me, I believe you that it’s in a village. Just calm down.

In spite of the weekend lunchtime crowd that constantly swarms Santana Row, I and the rest of my party were seated quickly in a fairly cramped booth. I guess “bistro” means “we have small tables” in secret restaurant language. Our waiter and his perfectly sculpted beard stopped by right away and got us set up with drinks. I couldn’t take my eyes off the beard. It was amazing. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to eat, but I eventually settled on a turkey Reuben with fries. We put our order in, pondered the endless stream of beautiful people wandering past the window, and before we knew it our food had arrived.

If you've never seen a turkey Reuben before, now you can say you have.

If you’ve never seen a turkey Reuben before, now you can say you have.

To my surprise and delight, the turkey Reuben was outstanding. I’d put it in the top 20% of the best Reubens I’ve ever had; the turkey was lean, well seasoned, and not the slightest bit dry. The French fries were above average, and the oddly purple sauerkraut was delicious. Directly across the table from me was the world’s juiciest steak “banh mi” sandwich; I was fortunate enough to try a bite of it and it was excellent. I’ve had better Vietnamese-style sandwiches before, but this one was plenty tasty. I’d be happy to order one, and in fact I probably will the next time I visit.

I liked Village… I mean VILLAGE Bistro (and California thingy and whatever else they said they were) and I would enjoy eating here again sometime. I rate this place 20 out of 25 unnecessarily capitalized letters – certainly worth a visit but not quite what I would consider a destination. Their central location within Santana Row is convenient, assuming you are already there, their versions of culinary favorites are different enough to be interesting, and the overall quality of their food is excellent. Nothing can match the quality of that beard though. Nothing.

VILLAGE California Bistro and Wine Bar
378 Santana Row #1035
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 248-9091
www.thevillagebistro.net
Village California Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


It's just so adorably Californian I could pinch its little cheeks.

It’s just so adorably Californian I could pinch its little cheeks.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Dutchman’s Seafood House – Memorably average

meter-good-My experience at Dutchman’s was a strange one. There were some parts good, some parts bad, and many parts plain old weird. In the end, this restaurant just isn’t as good as I remember it (back when it was called The Flying Dutchman), but it’s still a decent enough place to grab a bite to eat while watching the setting sun.

” It was like watching a rabid woodpecker go to town on a rain gutter “

I love California’s central coast. Some people call it “middle kingdom”, but that’s always sounded silly to me, as though at any moment a hobbit might spring out of a hole in the ground and invite you to tea with Gandalf. The geographic area I’m talking about is San Luis Obispo county, which lies halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are a lot of good places to eat in this region, provided you know where to look.

After only getting lost twice – I have the navigation skills of a heavily medicated toddler – I managed to shuttle a car load of family members to Dutchman’s for an evening meal. We put our name in for a table, and while we waited we enjoyed the spectacular view from the panoramic windows surrounding the dining area. After ten or fifteen minutes we were seated …and then nobody showed up to serve us. We browsed the menus, picked our entrees, discussed appetizers, and still no waiter. All of the tables around us were well attended, but none of the wait staff wanted to make eye contact. Empty tables nearby were seated, people got their drinks, then appetizers, and still we waited. Steam began coming out of my wife’s ears.

Dimly lit shrimp.

Dimly lit shrimp.

Eventually our helpful waiter, I’ll call him Twitch, did a drive-by and said “heysorryforthewaitbethereinaminute”. Okee dokee. After a couple minutes he stopped by again and took our drink orders. “Ok, I’m going to go get your drinks, and then come back and give them to you, and then I’ll take your food orders.” Before we could tell him that we’d been ready to order for a while now, he whisked himself away to a dark corner of the restaurant and began furiously jabbing at a touch screen in an apparent attempt to stick his finger completely through it. It was like watching a rabid woodpecker go to town on a rain gutter. After a few minutes Twitch returned with our drinks, just as he had instructed himself, and began taking our orders.

Years ago, The Flying Dutchman had hushpuppies on the menu that were to die for. Hushpuppies are basically fried balls of cornbread, a staple of any unhealthy diet. The new Dutchman’s menu was a bit different, but I spotted an appetizer called “seafood fritters” that looked like it might have been a version of my beloved hushpuppies. I asked Twitch if they were worth trying and without blinking an eye he said, “No, they aren’t very good.”

Awkward silence. “Oh, haha” I replied lamely. “Uh, so I guess they’re awesome?” Twitch just looked at me and said nothing. Alrighty then.

Dimly lit fish and chips.

Dimly lit fish and chips.

I ordered a bowl of clam chowder instead, we got some shrimp and calamari appetizers for the table, and everyone else ordered fish and chips. The food was brought out promptly by a different, surprisingly normal waitperson, and everything was …average. It certainly wasn’t bad, and in fact I would be happy to return to Dutchman’s for another meal of fried ocean goodies, but there was nothing special about it. Everything had the consistency and flavor of a typical low-to-mid-range chain restaurant, complete with generic tartar and cocktail sauces in little plastic cups.

As far as I’m concerned, any seafood restaurant hoping to be considered decent must first make an acceptable bowl of clam chowder. It is the first and most important test to pass, and I’m sorry to say that Dutchman’s didn’t do very well. The clam chowder was gluey, bland, and almost completely devoid of clams. It was overly thick and mounded up disconcertingly in the middle of the bowl with a flavor somewhere between sausage gravy and wallpaper paste. At least the little baggies of oyster crackers were good.

Dimly lit starchy substance.

Dimly lit starchy substance.

Twitch visited us several more times throughout our meal and continued to give himself precise instructions which he followed diligently. “I’m going to take this water glass and fill it up, then I’ll be back to take those two plates and the dish there and then I’ll come back and ask you about dessert”, and then he would whoosh off before we could get a word in edgewise. He made for an amusing experience if nothing else.

In the end, I have to rate Dutchman’s a mildly disappointing 7 out of 12 buckets of clam paste. The seasoned fries were good and the view of the sunset was amazing, but the mediocre quality of the food and weirdness of our waiter put a bit of a damper of the evening. I’m sure I’ll be back the next time I’m in the area craving fish and chips, but I’ll pass on the chowder. And the fritters too apparently.

Dutchman’s Seafood House
701 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA 93442
www.dutchmansseafoodhouse.com
Dutchman's Seafood House on Urbanspoon


Hey look, a picture that isn't dimly lit.

Hey look, a picture that isn’t dimly lit.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Teeny little cinnamon rolls

This tasty dessert (or breakfast?) is so quick and easy, it can barely be considered a recipe. Because I didn’t think of it myself, I’ll assume you didn’t either. And here we are. There are a multitude of very slightly different versions of this exact recipe everywhere; this is the version I prefer.

” Swearing helps during this step “

One of the other nice things about this recipe is that it can be made normally – in other words, unhealthy – or in a reduced guilt version. Just substitute reduced fat croissant rolls for the regular ones and omit the butter, and just like that you’ve got yourself a low(er) calorie treat that’s equivalent to about one Weight Watcher’s point each.


Ingredients

  • 1 8oz container of crescent rolls
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp milk
  • a double-wide trailer with an oven
Normal people don't assemble their ingredients ahead of time. Only bloggers are this weird.

Normal people don’t assemble their ingredients ahead of time. Only bloggers are this weird.


Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Sorry about the double-wide remark in the ingredients list… It was out of line. You can bake these cinnamon rolls in a single-wide just as easily. Anyway, open the tube-o-crescent-rolls, unroll the dough, and separate it into two sections as shown below. Using your fingers, seal the perforated seams so that you are left with two solid sheets.

The contents of a pressurized dough tube, known on the street as a 'trailer park stun grenade'.

The contents of a pressurized dough tube, known on the street as a ‘trailer park stun grenade’.

Mix together the cinnamon and granulated sugar in a small bowl. Brush the first section of dough with half the butter and sprinkle on half the cinnamon sugar mixture; repeat with the second section of dough, using the other half of the butter and cinnamon sugar. Roll up the sections of dough starting with the long sides, keeping the roll as tight and even as you can. Don’t feel bad if you screw one of them up, because there’s an above average chance you will. I did.

Seal the trailing edge of the dough against the rest of the roll by pinching it into place with your fingers. Cut each roll of dough into 10 sections, making 20 miniature little rolls. Place the miniature rolls on a cookie sheet, standing them on their ends. You may need to smash them down a bit to get them to stay upright. Swearing helps during this step.

Each one of these rolls would be a feast for a leprechaun.

Each one of these rolls would be a feast for a leprechaun.

Place the rolls in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. While we wait for the oven to do its thing, let’s mix up the icing. In another small bowl, slowly add the milk to the powdered sugar a little bit at a time, whisking constantly. Stop adding milk when it looks like it’s supposed to. And what’s that, you ask? Oh come on, you MUST have had a cinnamon roll at some point in your life. Remember what the icing was like? Well, make it look like that.

Mmm, frosting. Or is it icing? I can never keep them straight.

Mmm, icing. Or is it frosting? I can never keep them straight.

Remove the rolls from the oven, place them piping hot on a plate, drizzle some icing on them, and… I’ll let you figure out the rest.


3.. 2.. 1.. Gorge!

3.. 2.. 1.. Gorge!


See also



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Pappadeaux – See food and eat it

meter-great+I’m glad I don’t live near a Pappadeaux. If I did, I’d be so huge you’d need a forklift and one of those canvas slings for transporting orca whales to get me out of the house. Pappadeaux isn’t exactly the last word when it comes to Louisiana-style cooking, but this restaurant chain based in the Southern U.S. sure does know how to put together a great plate of food.

” I’m going to blow out an O-ring. “

I pretty much grew up in California. This means that I take quality Mexican food for granted, I have no idea what a calzone is, and I think jambalaya is supposed to be made with pasta. One day, many moons ago, I got the chance to visit New Orleans and do some restaurant hopping in the French Quarter. My eyes (er, taste buds) were opened to the world of Creole cooking, and it immediately became one of my very favorite types of food. Although I don’t find myself in New Orleans very often, I do visit Houston regularly with my Texas-sourced better half. Every time we go I beg and plead and whine and grovel until someone drives me to Pappadeaux – my favorite Louisiana style restaurant not actually in Louisiana – just to shut me up.

Pappadeaux, pronounced 'poppa dough'. I think.

Pappadeaux, pronounced ‘poppa dough’. I think.

The menu at Pappadeaux is fairly extensive, but I don’t really care about most of it. It’s all very good indeed (yes, I’ve tried quite a number of dishes), but for me it’s all about the crawfish. Mmmmmmmmmmm, crawfish. Crawdaddies. Mudbugs.

Get. In. My. Belly.

For the sake of my fellow clueless Californians, I’ll explain what crawfish are. They’re small freshwater lobsters with a flavor similar to both prawns and saltwater lobsters, but as far as I’m concerned superior to both. They are less rubbery than regular lobster and more flavorful than prawns – a perfect balance. Pappadeaux prepares their crawfish a few different ways, but my favorites are fried and étouffée. Both of these appear on their “Crawfish Platter” along with a heap of dirty rice. Bingo.

Oh yeah, salad. I guess it's important.

Oh yeah, salad. I guess it’s important.

Shortly after taking my order, the waiter brings over… a salad? Oh, right, someone else at the table must have ordered a Pappas Greek salad. Wait, since when have there been other people at my table? Hm. They were probably the ones that drove me here, so I suppose I should be nice. Ok fine, I’ll play along and eat some green stuff.

Hey, it’s not bad! It’s severely lacking in crawfish of course, but besides that it’s excellent. There’s plenty of olives, peppers, and feta to go digging around for, but not too much. The dressing is tangy and well-portioned, and the lettuce is as fresh and crisp as can be. It’s a nice way to wile away the time until the star of the show arrives. Ah, and here it is.

Crawfish! Just looking at this picture makes me happy, happy, happy.

Crawfish! Just looking at this picture makes me happy, happy, happy.

Finally. I love this dish so much it’s hard to describe. Not because I lack the words – I’m just too busy eating it. The fried crawfish are crispy, light, flavorful, and not the slightest bit greasy. The breading is beautifully spiced and has a bit of a kick to it. The étouffée is creamy, rich, bursting with flavor, and not at all bursting with annoying vegetables or sprouts or any of the other silly things Californians feel obliged to ruin their food with. They know how to do things right around here. Speaking of right, the dirty rice is also very excellent and serves as a perfect complement to both styles of crawfish.

Ok, ok, time out. Take some deep breaths here. I have to slow down on the chowing or I’m going to blow out an O-ring. Pappadeaux is one of those places where I would stuff myself unconscious if I didn’t specifically make an effort to stop eating halfway through the meal and take the rest home for leftovers. As long as you use a gentle hand with the microwave, crawfish will reheat pretty well.

Even taking into consideration my irrational bias for both crawfish and Cajun food, Pappadeaux earns a glorious 28 out of 31 fried mudbugs. They really know what they’re doing in the kitchen at this place, and they are consistently above average – especially for a chain. Pappadeaux is a 100% for sure recommendation, so if you are traveling in the region you really should try and look one up. There’s even a Pappadeaux inside Houston Intercontinental Airport, should you find yourself on a stopover there with a grumbling stomach. As for me, I will definitely be back. Oh yes.

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
Multiple locations throughout the U.S.
www.pappadeaux.com
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Urbanspoon


pappadeauxlogo3



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


All Kitchens Great and Small

So, I moved. That’s as close as I’m going to get to providing an excuse for not posting since December. If you’ve ever moved, you know what a soul-eating experience it can be, and if you haven’t I envy your blissful ignorance. Of course I would have been much happier cooking, eating out, and posting about it, but instead I wiled away the months spackling, painting, rewiring, repairing, and doing all sorts of other unpleasant fix-it monkey work that comes with selling a house from the 1920′s. As Tolkien once wrote: “I had many other duties that I did not neglect.”

And that’s what I have to say for myself. Excuse over. Now, back to blogging.

” It’s like our very own miniature convenience store where everything is free. “

My wife and I decided that our old house, although overflowing with charm and history, was also overflowing with our stuff. Combined with a severe case of new house envy, the fact that our garage was turning into a passable representation of the warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones pushed us over the edge. And just like that we decided to get rid of our old house and empty a bucket of cash on a shiny new one. Fast forward a seeming eternity later, and we are finally settling into our new home. Our furniture is all here, we have found most of our clothes, and although there are half-unpacked moving boxes everywhere we seem to be winning the war against chaos. The pantry is full of food, the refrigerator finally works, and the kitchen is all set up and ready to go. Halle-frickin-lujah.

The new fridge is bigger than our old closet.

The new fridge is bigger than our old closet.

As fortune (and our checkbook) would have it, our new kitchen is considerably larger and more fabulous than our old one, and it’s packed to the brim with all the latest and greatest features a slightly competent home chef could want. I have (somewhat arrogantly, I suppose) begun referring to the kitchen as “my office”, because it’s the first place in the new house that began to feel like home. Actually, the couch was probably first, but that’s neither here nor there. Besides, this is a food blog, not a place where I gush about how awesome Sony flatscreen TVs are. They are awesome though, the 3D definition is remarkable.

Sorry, distracted by electronics. Where was I? Ah yes, kitchens.

All of this got me reminiscing about the kitchen in our old house, and the eleven years of cooking, mess-making, dish washing, successes, failures, and quirks that I grew to know and love. There was that back burner that never seemed to want to light, and the unevenly heated oven was always about ten degrees off. The bottom drawer in the island had a cruel sense of humor; it enjoyed suddenly slipping off of its rails in gleeful attempts to crush one’s toes while one was rummaging around in it. And how could I forget about the microwave? That stupid, stupid microwave with only a handful of working buttons was the bane of my existence on more than one occasion; I won’t miss it.

Happiness is an alphabetized spice cupboard.

Happiness is an alphabetized spice cupboard.

In spite of the faults of our old kitchen, I find myself remembering it fondly. It did certainly have character, no doubt about that. I don’t mean to imply that our new kitchen doesn’t have character, it’s just that I don’t know it as well. We are close acquaintances on the way to becoming friends, and I do very much enjoy spending time there. The well-made cabinets have loads of space for all my plates and measuring cups and nerdy kitchen gizmos, and none of the drawers seem interested in playing sadistic games of “This Little Piggy”. The walk-in pantry is a godsend, and honestly I have no idea how I ever lived without one. It’s like our very own miniature convenience store where everything is free.

The image isn't distorted. The walls actually curve like that.

The image isn’t distorted. The walls actually curve like that.

The rock-candy-like countertops look good enough to eat, and they stretch on for what seems like miles. All the better for making messes upon. There is room enough for all of the spices to be in a single cabinet (gasp!), and the gas stove has twice as many functional burners as I’m used to. There are two ovens (three, if you consider the fact that the microwave is also a convection oven), which means both the main course and dessert can be burned to a crisp at the same time.

As much as I’ve waxed poetic about my old kitchen, I’m looking forward to a fresh start in the new one. Here’s to many upcoming evenings and weekends puttering around in the pantry, experimenting with the bevy of different ways my new fangled ovens can become hot, and generally just getting to know my way around. I can see the future, and it looks delicious.



Nothing says elegance like a bouquet of spatulas.

Nothing says elegance like a bouquet of spatulas.


Rico’s Hacienda – Mostly suave

meter-goodRico’s Hacienda is not the type of place you fly all the way to Texas to visit, but it does make for a solid dinner choice. The menu offers a good variety of authentic Mexican dishes to choose from, and the food itself is decent but perhaps a bit unremarkable.

Braving air travel during the holidays is not my very favorite thing in the world to do. Call me crazy, but being herded through mazes of security ropes while people take blurry X-ray photographs of me in my underpants is just not my cup of tea. Follow that up with several hours of being confined in a straight jacket cleverly disguised as an economy class airplane seat, and you have a perfect storm of misery on your hands. The one thing that makes this ordeal worthwhile for me is looking forward to the abundance of amazing restaurants located in and around the destination – in this case, Houston.

” The real test of a Mexican restaurant is the quality of their refried beans “

The flight was joyful. Someone had thoughtfully stuffed the seat pocket in front of me with about a thousand used snot rags, and it made a very nice cushion for my knees. After touching down in Houston, we waited a perfectly reasonable 35 minutes on the tarmac while we enjoyed the fragrance of jet fuel. We were then treated to a delightful half hour of relaxation at the baggage carousel, and by that time I was ready for murder. I mean hugs. I was ready to give hugs. Trying to think happy thoughts here.

My wife and I finally met up with the car load of relatives that had come to collect us from the airport, and as we fled the mayhem we discussed our collective dinner plans. Our primary focus was agreeing on a place that wouldn’t be too crowded on a Saturday night, and if they happened to serve decent food, that was a nice bonus. Appropriately, we settled on Rico’s Hacienda in The Woodlands.

I'm not sure what a hacienda actually is, but I don't think this is one.

I’m not sure what a hacienda actually is, but I don’t think this is one.

Rico’s was exactly as I remembered it from the last time we’d been: Bustling, festive, and dimly lit. The whole place oozes with (relatively) authentic Mexican flair. We were seated immediately and served piping hot chips with fresh salsa. So far so good. Our competent and mostly prompt waiter visited shortly afterwards and took our drink and meal orders: Skillet queso, grilled tilapia, a couple orders of beef fajitas with bacon-wrapped shrimp, and an enchilada plate.

Queso is just better in Texas. I have no idea why.

Queso is just better in Texas. I have no idea why.

Our food arrived after a short wait, and in no time flat our table was jam packed with plates, bowls, and mugs of frozen margaritas. Our waiter caught a mistake with my order before it even made it to the table, and in less than a minute the replacement was sitting in front of me. Bigtime kudos to the waitstaff for being on top of things.

The bacon wrapped shrimp were very flavorful but perhaps a bit dry, and it was the same story with the bed of beef fajitas they sat on. My enchiladas were ever so slightly on the plain side, but the beef was seasoned well, the rice was excellent, and everything was sizzling hot.

Traditional bacon-wrapped shrimp and fajitas. Whose tradition exactly is a mystery.

Traditional bacon-wrapped shrimp and fajitas. Whose tradition exactly is a mystery.

For me, the real test of a Mexican restaurant is the quality of their refried beans. Good beans don’t always equate to a good restaurant, but ill-prepared beans are the kiss of death as far as I’m concerned. Rico’s refried beans were just barely on the acceptable side of average, which is a shame. They did seem to be scratch made – a critical factor – but they were also lumpy and a bit bland. The beans weren’t meh enough to prevent me from coming back, but I wouldn’t exactly say that they passed with flying colors.

In the end, I like Rico’s Hacienda. I didn’t love absolutely everything about my most recent visit, but there were enough high points that I’d be happy to come back for another meal and a frosty margarita. My rating falls somewhere in the range of 3 out of 4 pounds of queso dip. If you’re looking for a decent, friendly restaurant that won’t be too crowded during peak hours, Rico’s is the place to be. If you want the very best Mexican food in the Houston area, there are probably better choices.

Rico’s Hacienda
8000 Research Forest Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77382
(281) 465-4820
www.ricosgrill.com
Rico's Hacienda & Bar on Urbanspoon


The holy grail of Mexican food: An enchilada platter.

The holy grail of Mexican food: An enchilada platter.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Stan’s Donut Shop – Glaze of glory

meter-haIf donuts are a religion, Stan’s Donut Shop is the Vatican. It’s as simple as that. This tiny hole in the wall has people lining up out the door just about every day of the week, and once you’ve been here you will understand why. Be warned: A single Stan’s donut will spoil you for life.

As far as I’m concerned, every single Friday is Official Donut Day. What better way to kick off the weekend than with a sugary hunk of fried calories? Unfortunately, you can’t really eat donuts every week; it’s what medical professionals refer to as “unhealthy”. Party poopers. The best way to justify a donut fix is to invent an excuse to buy some for somebody else, and that’s exactly what I did.

” It’s everything a donut shop should be and nothing it shouldn’t “

My wife and I are having a new house built in Sunnyvale. Lately I’ve been bothering the dickens out of the construction crew with helpful bits of advice like “Don’t forget to install the front door” and “Please stop screwing things up”. They must love it when I visit. I want them to do a good job on the house, though, and because I’m not above petty bribery I decided to bring the guys some Stan’s. Win-win.

This is one of those places you'd never visit unless someone told you to.

This is one of those places you’d never visit unless someone told you to.

If you look up “hole in the wall” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Stan’s Donut Shop. I wouldn’t quite call it a dive, but it’s close. Everything is clean and relatively well maintained, but exactly zero effort has gone into decor. That’s fine by me though – screw the ambiance, focus on the eats. The whole shop is barely wider than the doorway to get inside, and there is a simple glass case with a cash register immediately to the left of the entrance. There is also a bar to sit at; there you can ponder how many donuts to order and whether you’d like decaf or regular coffee. And that’s it.

1974 called. They want their leatherette and wood-like veneer back.

1974 called. They want their leatherette and wood-like veneer back.

Alright, forget about the decor and everything else. First impressions are what matter most, and the first impression you’re going to get is that lovely, lovely display case I mentioned earlier. Just look at it. Ssshh, don’t say a word. Just… look.

Cue the Barry White music.

Cue the Barry White music.

Ahh yeah.

Can’t decide what to try first? I’ll help you choose. What you’re really looking for is whatever it is that they’ve just dragged out of the fryer, and chances are that it’s a batch of plain glazed donuts. Stan’s glazed are so wickedly, incredibly, absurdly good that you really have no choice in the matter but to dump the contents of your wallet onto the counter and plead shamelessly for the nice people to hand you one.

A hot glazed donut from Stan’s is, without question, a bucket list item. They simply melt when you bite into them, and they are… Well, they’re perfect really. Even the very best Krispy Kreme donut you’ve ever had will seem like a distant, disappointing memory after experiencing a Stan’s plain glazed. Remember how I said earlier you’d be spoiled for life? I meant it.

If you’re lucky, you might even manage to get your hands on one of Stan’s legendary cinnamon rolls. They go fast, so you’ll need to get up early if you want a shot at one. They are very similar in texture to the glazed donuts, only curled into a spiral and cinnamon-y. Apparently, because the dough needs to rise overnight, only one batch a day is made – when they’re out, they’re out. You need to be super duper lottery-lucky to snag a cinnamon roll right out of the fryer, but let me tell you… It’s worth the chase, it truly is.

A Stan's cinnamon roll can beat up your cinnamon roll.

A Stan’s cinnamon roll can beat up your cinnamon roll.

Lady Luck must have been more than just smiling on me on this particular Friday, because I somehow managed to obtain a dozen glazed donuts straight from the fryer AND a hot cinnamon roll. Double score! I also picked up some additional assorted donuts, as well as my own personal favorite: A plain buttermilk.

No, this buttermilk donut is mine. You can't have it.

No, this buttermilk donut is mine. You can’t have it.

If you’ve never had a buttermilk donut before, you’re missing out. It’s like a cake donut, only a bit more substantial. Stan’s buttermilks are somehow both denser and fluffier at the same time, and the perfectly golden brown exterior is delicate and ever so slightly crispy and crunchy. Mine was absolute heaven, just as I knew it would be.

I pulled up to the construction site with my bounty, and there didn’t seem to be anybody around. Strange. I got out of my car and grabbed the donut boxes, and suddenly the crew started coming out of the woodwork. Literally, I suppose. They were like a swarm of cats that had just discovered a crashed sardine truck – I was fortunate to escape with my life. I drove away to a chorus of thank yous and many gracious waves; I had done my good deed for the day, and I had ended up with a couple Stan’s donuts for myself to boot. I strained my arm a little patting myself on the back.

As much as I hesitate to hand out a perfect rating, Stan’s Donut Shop deserves one. I give it exactly 471 glazed donuts out of 471; it’s everything a donut shop should be and nothing it shouldn’t. Stan’s has taken a single, humble food and elevated it to a level you’d hardly believe was possible. If your travels land you somewhere vaguely in the western hemisphere, you absolutely must, must, must go here.

Stan’s Donut Shop
2628 Homestead Road
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 296-5982
Stan's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon


A dozen doughy little angels, living in a box.

A dozen doughy little angels, living in a box.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.