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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Strizzi's Restaurant: Dependable family favorite

Lunch date #50, February 7, 2014

How can you not like Strizzi's? A long family favorite for dinner: their Rigatoni Bolognese and seasonally available Copper River salmon are some favorites, but I couldn't remember having lunch at the downtown location, and we certainly had not since starting our project. Mom wasn't sure she cared for the place all that much-I think that because whenever we go, she always has the fettuccini Alfredo, and they don’t prepare it to her liking. Still, for our 50th lunch she was game to give it a go!

Location 5 points: Perfectly downtown


Ambiance 4 points: I like the bistro-open kitchen SF style of Strizzi's. Mom said, "Nothing special," but she's been saying that for every place we've seen since Cheesecake Factory! We elected to sit at a window seat in the "bar" area (tall table) and I liked the granite topped tables and cloth napkins. The table was a bit on the small side though, and by the time out salad and sandwiches arrived, we were a bit crammed.


Menu selection 3 points: Mostly full entrees but for the usual lunch sort of thing-a bit short. Some sandwiches and salads. You can get a soup or salad with a ½ pasta order for $12.99. We both went with the lunch special of soup and a BLTA on ciabatta for $11.99.

Service 4 points: Very fast and attentive. Refills provided. She even helped us try to fit everything on the table!

Food 3.5 points: The fresh, soft French bread served with oil/vinegar for dipping are always a favorite of mine at this restaurant.  The soups were served first and were very large bowls. I had the clam chowder and it was only fair and lacking in flavor. I only ate about 20% of it. I tasted Mom's minestrone and found it likewise bland.  She thought it was OK, but complained that the pasta used (rather large corkscrew noodles) were hard to fit on the spoon and a lot to chew without cutting. The sandwiches were good but the ciabatta was a slightly hard to bite into as it was toasted a bit too much. Mom was so full of bread and soup that she didn't even try her sandwich, but happily took it home for another meal or two!


Value 3.5 points: Although the price was a bit on the high side, we thought the value score should reflect some positive points such as the large portion sizes. We could have definitely split one order and had plenty. The overall atmosphere and dining experience made us feel the price was worth the experience.

Overall score for Strizzi's: 3.83 points. Known more for their wood-fire grilled fish and pasta dishes than a sandwich spot, this is still one of my downtown standbys. Another place we will have to try again and order something different to give it another chance at a top score!


Note on our critique: Overall it has been tough to be objective with our scoring—and when we look back to Deans and Vic's—probably gave out some rather inflated scores. Now that we are seasoned critics, we're being tough! We might have to revamp our project and either re-visit some of those we have tried—or even venture out of Pleasanton and see what the rest of the Valley has to offer….stay tuned!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Buckhorn Grill: no big thrill!

Lunch date #49; January 10, 2014

New for this year! Mom has declared that she doesn't want to go to any restaurants where she doesn't like the food! Not quite sure how to know that in advance, but I sort of get the feeling that her experimenting out of her comfort zone dining days are over. Knowing this, and also knowing we still had some Christmas returns, I thought meeting at the Stoneridge Mall and going to the Buckhorn Grill would be a reasonable choice.

Now I know something about the Buckhorn…the original Buckhorn Restaurant in Winters, CA was a fancy night out when we lived in Davis. It was (and still is) a very famous, old time steakhouse and was reserved for special occasions and was not a bargain spot by any means. It seems that the Buckhorn Corporation has now expanded to include the "grill" restaurants and have several locations throughout the Bay Area, including SF and of all places: New York City at Grand Central Station and also in the Rockefeller Center! The Stoneridge Mall location is somewhat "fast food" in style (http://www.buckhorngrill.com/).

Location Stoneridge Mall 3 points. Tough to say—not at all that appealing to us, as we are not Mall Shoppers in general. Plenty of parking, but not necessarily close by. Going for the middle of the road on points for this one.




Ambiance 3 points. Very much a fast-food style place, as what you would expect in the Mall. We did get the feeling that the attempt was there to make it a bit more special than the other food spots in the Mall.
Order at the counter style place


Menu 3.5 points. They concentrate on the BBQ meats; which is what they do well. I thought it   was adequate. They also offer flat bread pizza and salads. I went with the "Little Buck"; basically their Tri-tip sandwich, served with caramelized onions and dipping sauce (Au jus style). Mom saw the Philly Cheesesteak, known as "Philly Buck", and her eyes lit up! We shared an order of Fries for an additional $2.

Service: all self-serve, so we elected not to review. Order at the counter, and then find a seat. Get your own drinks and utensils. They give you a pager that will light when your order is ready.

Food 2.5 points: Sadly, here is where it fell apart for Mom! She was disappointed that the Philly Buck didn't have more cheese-and what was there was not well melted, but sort of a firm-blob on top. Then it was very hard to eat. The bread was soft, but very difficult to cut in half with the knife provided….and the meat was a bit tough. She was so disappointed! My sandwich was OK, not as good as Kinder's though I might add.  
Mom with her Philly Buck


Value 3 points: My sandwich was $7.50-not a bad deal and Mom got the larger portion (for left-overs) at $9.50. The price was much in line with other places, but considering no service was maybe a touch high? Since Mom was so disappointed with her sandwich (even later when trying the leftovers), we just couldn't give it a very high value score.


Overall score for the Buckhorn Grill at the Stoneridge Mall: 3 points. Not bad if you're already at the Mall and want to grab a bite, but I wouldn't go out of my way to head there for the food. I must admit, if I'm at the Mall, I'd still prefer the Nordstrom Café over the Buckhorn Grill any day!