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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cocina Mexico, Red Smoke Grill, and Gold Chopsticks: 3 more lunches, reviews are mixed!

Lunch dates #42, #43, #44 Summer-time dining

Well once you cheat a bit; it is easier to do it again. By cheating I'm referring to lumping 3 lunches into one review. The advantage is that it will catch us up—and who knows, maybe after this I will keep up and stay on time…it is possible, not sure if probable! The bottom line, however, is that we are still eating—maybe not every week due to travel, but if I'm in town on a Friday, chances are very good that Mom and I will be having lunch together in Pleasanton!

Lunch date #42 Cocina Mexico (55 W Angela between Main and First Streets): We ended up visiting this little taqueria on a Saturday at about 1:00 right as the Farmers' Market was shutting down. This made parking a bit difficult, but we didn't mind the hike. The ambiance is basic inside, but they do have a few patio tables on the side area. The menu is fairly limited-so no Chili Relleno for Mom this time! She ordered the enchilada plate and I went with a fish taco (special of the day) and a carne asada taco to taste their standard fare. This is an order-at-the counter and pick-up-your-own food sort of place, so we elected not to score the service, but they were very nice. You help yourself to chips and salsa while waiting. Mom liked her enchilada OK and it was a good value at $6.95. My fish taco at $2 (special price) was pretty good and fresh. The carne asada taco, at the regular price of $3, was rather drippy/soggy and the taste was only fair.  I was really hoping for some very authentic Mexican food from this place…but it fell a bit short. One thing we found irritating: they have a speaker (right over our head) to play music, but all we heard was static until just finishing our meal when some Mexican music starting blaring. Not sure which was worse? Overall score for Cocina Mexico: 3.2 points

Lunch date #43 Red Smoke Grill (4501 Hopyard at Inglewood, www.redsmokegrill.com): In all of the years we've eaten in Pleasanton, I can't believe I had never tried this place. I know it is a favorite of the boys-Jordan's group heads there often for a good BBQ sandwich. I figured Mom would like their roast beef. Apparently there was a soccer tournament in town, and all of the teams ended up in that shopping center for some reason, or so it seemed. Parking was a bear. The indoor ambiance is basic, but OK-not as cutesy as Corner Bakery, but a step up from Kinder's. There are a few outdoor metal tables/chairs and we snagged one. The menu has a variety of grilled meat sandwiches and meal platters. It was a hot day and after a morning of tennis, I wanted a refreshing salad. I was pleased to see several on the menu, and the counter-guy promised me they were great. I went for the chopped salad topped with grilled chicken. Mom actually ordered the burger and added on Fries for $.99; she was happy. I, however, was sadly disappointed. Definitely NOT the thing to order at this place. The salad was limp and the dressing was horrible. The roasted chicken on top and the corn muffin served on the side were good, but the rest was barely edible. Considering what I got, the price for the salad with chicken at $9.28 was way too high. Mom was pleased with her burger and the fries were crisp. I think if I ever go back it will be for their BBQ sandwich only.  Overall score for Red Smoke Grill: 3.2 points

Lunch date #44 Gold Chopsticks (3170 Santa Rita at W. Los Positas; www.goldchopsticks.com): Since reopening a few years ago, I had wanted to give it a try and we were up for a basic Chinese-American style lunch. Parking was easy in the large lot, but it is a no frills area, next to a lower-end-than-normal dollar store in the strip mall by our departed Nob Hill and new Walmart Grocery. The ambiance is typical Chinese fast-food restaurant, and Mom pointed out that the tacky Christmas icicle lights handing from the ceiling would have been better replaced with lanterns. The service was very nice and very fast (of course everything is pre-cooked). The server even brought out the soup and salad before we committed to the lunch special (I suppose she rather assumed!). They have a good variety on their lunch special menu, and all are served with hot n sour soup, typical Chinese salad (greens with sesame dressing), an egg roll and a choice of steamed or fried rice or chow Mein. We elected to try the lemon chicken (typical) and the oyster sauce beef-which was pretty decent, especially the accompanying freshly sautéed veggies. Overall we felt that the food was decent and not too greasy. The value for each meal was great at $7.95 inclusive of the tea. We did have to ask for chop sticks, but what can you do! Overall score for Gold Chopsticks: 3.4 points.

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