Lunch date 27: November 9, 2012
For our final contribution for 2012-we actually report on our lunch date last month, and sadly have not had one since! We are happy to relay, however, that our project was a huge success. We dined together 27 times in 2012-and had some wonderful lunchtime experiences-by trying new restaurants, different types of cuisine, and also spending great time together. Mom commented recently that while she really enjoys our dining experiences-she'd prefer to eat food that she likes! I think she’ll be a good sport, however, and willing to continue our project into the New Year-there are so many more restaurants in Pleasanton to try. I'm sure she'll appreciate some new finds, and we're bound to find something she will like.
Lunch date #27 was at Z Café Express in Mission Plaza-former site of Sister's Café (1987 Santa Rita Road, www.zcafeexpress.com). I had been at Z Café for breakfast (quick heat-up egg sandwiches, only a few choices), but looked forward to trying some of their appealing lunch choices. Interesting that they bill this café as an espresso bistro and wine bar, although they close at 3pm. Certainly, some people do enjoy a glass of wine with lunch, but just not what you'd expect in a neighborhood coffee shop/café. This is a "branch" of the Z Café in Oakland, a full upscale café and bar in the uptown district of Oakland near the Paramount Theater.
Location 3.5 points: across the parking lot from Blessings, so the same score seems appropriate for location.
Ambiance 3 points: Definitely café style: order at the counter and just a few plain tables. Outdoor seating is available when favorable weather. Big chalk board menu sets the tone. They do have a lovely display-case of baked goods at the counter. There is a good sized wine bar at one end.
Menu selection 3.5 points: There are some interesting panini combos such as my choice of the turkey with apple, brie and a lemon sauce on a flavorful bread. You can get a bag of chips or side salad for $1 extra. It seems they do not have a kitchen/grill as all of the sandwiches are made on a panini maker or served cold. They offer all of the usual hot coffee drinks.
Service 4 points: Although order-at-the-counter style places are hard to judge regarding service, the server/cook/barista was very helpful and cheerful. She immediately made a fresh pot of coffee for mom since the last cup from the old pot wasn’t hot enough. She brought our sandwiches to the table very quickly, although I did have to fetch our own napkins from a self-serve counter. She cleared our table promptly, and asked if we wanted anything else. So why the high score, you might ask, considering the type of 1/2 service offered? She was very pleasant and cheerful; it was clear she was trying very hard to provide good service within the confines of the organization of the café and we salute that!
Food 3.5 points: Mom ordered the turkey chipotle and cheese sandwich and was happy. The cut of turkey was thick and had good flavor. I really liked my sandwich: it was rather unusual with the combination of flavors (lemon with apple), but it was good and something I would order again.
Value 5 points: This one was a hit! Our sandwiches were very reasonably priced: mine $7 and Mom's $6. Even the coffee was reasonable at $1.80.
Overall score for Z Café Express: 3.75 points. Would have scored higher if a better location, but overall very good quality of food, promptly served in a comfortable atmosphere, for a very reasonable price. Tough to beat this one. Not fine dining, but an excellent place to grab a quick bite for lunch. Might have to go back and try a glass of wine next time!