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Monday, April 21, 2014

Casa Orozco: Not far to go!

Lunch date #54 April 4, 2014

Venturing out from Pleasanton! We decided to expand our exploration to the Tri-Valley area. There are many places to try…and while we will continue to report from Pleasanton and have more locations left to try, we thought a big adventure to Livermore was up our alley that day. After we made that important decision, the next question: where to go? Downtown Livermore is quaint and inviting-many places to try there, but I know Mom loves Mexican food so her face lit-up with my suggestion. While we have both been to Casa Orozco (325 S. L Street, Livermore; www.casaorozco.com) for dinner several times, we had not for lunch—so a perfect idea!

Location 4 points: Hard for us to judge this one-we had established that downtown Pleas. was the perfect 5 point location. While this location is fine, with plenty of parking, it is not anything special, as Mom would say.

Ambiance 4.5 points: Love the remodel they did a few years ago: beautiful inside and out. Very Mexican-theme and how can you not love the bronze-sculpture horses leaping from the wall.
The bar area is great and the dining room very nicely decorated. Only down ½ point since, due to the open dining room floor-plan, it gets pretty noisy in there.

Menu 5 points: Not sure there is anything else that could be added. They have thought of every Americanized-Mexican dish I know, and have many of their own personal creations.

Service 4 points: We were quickly shown to a table and our drink orders processed (of course I had to have a margarita—it was Friday after all). Our order was taken and food delivered pretty quickly also—but then as the usual, we never saw another server until it was time for the bill. I was asked if I wanted another margarita as the food was delivered, but no one ever asked Mom if she would have liked a coffee refill. So all in all, quite good with a minor ding.

Food 5 points: Mom had the chili relleno and an enchilada and felt both were perfect. She especially liked the puffed/crunchy egg batter coating.  I had the basic tostada and it was also quite flavorful and not soggy/mushy-the fault of many tostadas. Both had hearty portion sizes.

Value 4.5 points: Prices were reasonable: my tostada with carne asada only $8.50; Mom's combo plate was more the usual$12.99, comparable to other restaurants, but considering she was getting at least one more meal out of it from her to-go box, still a good deal. Really nothing to knock down the score…other than we did have to drive "all-the-way" to Livermore for this very enjoyable lunch experience!

Total score for Casa Orozco: 4.5 points. Mom said "If I wanted Mexican food, I would come here!" We haven't tried their Dublin location, but expect it would be rather similar. Definitely our "to go" place for Mexican food in the Tri-Valley area.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bon Dia Café: Great we say!

Lunch date #53, 3/21/14

Noticed that the location in Mission Plaza that was formerly "Z Café Express" (and "Sisters" before that) had re-opened under new ownership so decided to give it a try. Bon Dia Café (1987 Santa Rita Rd) had only been open for 12 weeks by the date of our visit. Not sure why this location seems tough for cafés to stay in business—obviously not much drive by traffic, so word of mouth will probably determine the success of the place.

Location 3.5 points: Mission Plaza across from Fiesta Taco. Plenty of parking.

Ambiance 3 points: Nothing has changed, that we could tell, from the former establishment. Very plain, café style—but it was clean and on that day, not very crowded. Looks like the hope is to also market the place as a wine bar. Outside seating is also available.

Menu selection 3 points: Fairly limited to sandwiches and salads (I doubt the place has an actual kitchen), but they have a panini maker and offer a good variety of hot sandwiches as well. They offer some breakfast items and have a bakery case, and do a variety of special coffees (espresso style).

Service—we elected not to review service for the type of place where you order at the counter and other than delivering your food, the rest is self-service, but we wanted to comment about the owner, Robert. He was running the show that day—and was very friendly and helpful. He was obviously very enthused about his café and trying (effectively) to make customers feel welcome! He also gave us good recommendations on the sandwich choices. The A/C was cranking, so we took a table in by the window for some sun-warmth. Robert noticed we were chilly and offered to turn off the A/C!

Food 4.5 points: We both ordered the turkey-avo-pepperjack panini. They were full of delicious roasted turkey, on a soft dutch-crunch roll, nicely grilled, but not over done to the point of becoming brittle. The portion size was good-Mom took home ½ for another meal.

Value 5 points: quite a good deal: sandwiches under $7 with hot coffee/tea at $2. Several dollars less overall than most places, with good quality and portion size in a pleasing environment.

Overall score for the new Bon Via Café: 3.8 points. This one measured up pretty well by our standards and we felt it was a great find! We will definitely return-and have been recommending to friends for coffee, breakfast or lunch. Hope Robert makes it and becomes a successful, long-term inhabitant of the space!