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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fernando's: Yes for Mom, but for Jan a NO!

Lunch date #59; June 20, 2014

We had our thinking-caps on; trying to figure out where to go next. I knew Mom always likes Mexican food, and I knew she liked Fernando's. Has something to do with a sister-restaurant Celia's that she used to like, or at least, it reminds her of Celia's. We had been to Fernando's (348 St. Mary's) for dinner several years ago, but couldn't remember trying it for lunch. My previous memory was not too fond, but thought it was worth a try in the spirit of the project.

Location 4 points: A bit more off Main Street than the others, but still officially downtown.

Ambiance 1 point: Really dingy and dark inside. The carpets have worn/dirty paths and the booths are the old-Formica style (one table occupied). We chose to sit outside, and found we were alone. The seating consists of haphazardly arranged basic metal patio tables but at least there were World Cup banners hanging about to give some feel of decor to the place (or I would have wanted to give it 0 points).  To get to the patio, we had to pass through the sketchy/smelly bar, where a few guys were having their lunch with a beer. The bar area definitely has that stale-old-beer on the carpets smell—quite unappealing.  

Menu selection 3 points: The usual Mexican style choices, but nothing very creative. I was trying to figure out the difference between the Tostada and the Tostada salad. Our server didn't really help with the description-other than that the tostada was served with rice and beans, so I went with the salad. Mom ordered the chili relleno—maybe she thinks the project goal is to compare all of the chili rellenos in Pleasanton!

Service 1 point: The server doubled as the bar tender. Her took our order, someone else brought out the food and then we never saw him again. I had to take my glass into the bar to get a water refill. I had asked for more water from the guy that brought out the plates, but he must have forgot. Again: there were about 4 total people in the whole place.

Food 3 points: Mom likes the food-she would want a 4. I thought it was rather poor, and would give it a 2 at most—so we're compromising. Mom did mention some concern that with the scarcity of customers, she was worried the food wasn't turned over and was probably not too fresh. Then some of the employees came out to the other end of the patio and started smoking-there was our server/bartender too! Fortunately I had stopped eating, and although not finished I had already lost my appetite!

Value 2 points: Just too dingy and dirty to give it a higher score. The price is cheap: I believe the lunch specials were $5 each, but I'd rather pay more and be able to enjoy the dining experience. As for the smoking-just couldn't believe it. 

Overall score for Fernando's 2.3 points: The lowest of any place we've tried so far! Since I'm the one writing the review, I'm exerting my bias; I never have liked that place. But I was willing to give it another try-which was most definitely my last. We wonder how the place stays in business. I suppose Mom could get take-out chili rellenos from there, and help contribute to their survival?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Swirl: Perfect for a birthday-girl!

Lunch date #58: June 13, 2013

What better way to spend a birthday celebration, than with Mom, some dear friends and a lovely outdoor setting for lunch? We chose this "excursion from Pleasanton" to try Swirl on the Square, 21 South Livermore Ave (in the Blacksmith Square): www.swirlonthesq.com. This wine-bar-by night now serves lunch on Fridays, and is a cool-new fun place to go. After all, we're so trendy!

Location 4 points: Although not P-town, we love downtown Livermore also, and while a bit off the hub/bub of First Street, it is still a good location with plenty of nearby parking.

Ambiance 4 points: It was a lovely day and we sat outside in the courtyard, after pushing together a few tables. The outdoor seating is very casual/no-frills, with  metal tables and chairs, but the shade trees together with the blooming roses, made for a lovely setting. One negative: to use the restroom, you have to fetch a key from a neighboring business.

Menu 3.5 points: A rather short list of sandwiches offered for lunch: 5 sandwiches, 2 of which are grilled-cheese variations, and two salads. We were happy with the choices, however, and all found something interesting to try. Mom ordered "The T-25", a Havarti grilled cheese with prosciutto and grilled onions. I had the "Classic": brie with prosciutto, fig jam and arugula on a baguette. All sandwiches also come with a side salad.

Service 3 points: It's an order-inside-and-they-bring-it-to-you, sort of a deal. Serve yourself water also. That was all fine, but the food delivery was rather slow and not delivered at the same time. It wasn't very crowded, so no reason for the delay that we could see.

Food 4.5 points: Everyone enjoyed their selections. My sandwich was perfect and the salad was crisp and flavorful. Mom liked her choice also-and was happy to take home half for another meal. Around the table, everyone was pleased with a variety of the sandwiches and salads. We had a yummy birthday dessert treat also: the chocolate chip brownie and "Famous Secret Cake" were both worth the calories!

Value 4.5 points: The $8 price for the sandwiches, including the side salad is an excellent value. The bottle of BoaVentura White wine we shared was not very economically priced, I'm afraid.

Overall score for Swirl 3.9 points: I'm thankful for my dear friends, and Mom, to help me celebrate.  The lovely setting, good food, and of course, wonderful company, made for a perfect birthday luncheon!