The owner of Athena Gyros got his start in the restaurant business at age 18. Before immigrating to the US, he learned to cook Greek food while helping out at his grandfather's restaurant on the Mediterranean. After refining his skills at hotel restaurants and, later, his own establishments, he opened Athena Gyros. Today, chefs carefully re-create his recipes for dishes such as roasted lamb, which is slow-cooked for seven hours before being draped over rice pilaf. Diners may crunch through layers of honey-coated baklava or bring catered dinners home to serve at parties or eat secretly while living inside someone else's chimney.
Making a good sandwich, like removing a child’s head from between stair balusters, requires delicate handling and a lot of mayonnaise. Marvel at skilled condiment usage with today's Groupon: for $7, you get $14 worth of sandwiches and bagels at Izzi's To-Go East-Coast Bagels & Smokehouse in Redwood City.
The chefs at Karakade Thai Cuisine mix flavorful ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir-lime leaves to craft classic Thai dishes. Tofu, green onions, and ground peanuts sink into a soft bed of noodles in traditional pad thai ($9.95), and more adventurous basil chicken crawls through thickets of thai chilies, peppers, and sweet basil ($8.95). Diners lick their lips between forkfuls of sweet-and-sour pork ($8.95), wipe their brows between bites of spicy green-curry fried rice with a choice of meat ($9.95–$14.95), and punt paper footballs into neighbors' wineglasses between sips. Guests can open their own wine for a corkage fee or sample the bar’s imported thai beers ($3.95).
“Hueco” translates roughly to “little cave,” a tribute to the Peruvian hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve ceviche and charcoal-roasted meats at any hour of the day. El Hueco attempts to capture the feeling of a hangout in the little mountainous country with traditional dishes crafted by lauded chef Jaime Laos. “Laos,” the San Jose Mercury News noted in an article, “has come a long way since his grandmother taught him to cook in a one-faucet house they shared with eight others in Lima.” He now creates a full menu of traditional small plates and entrees, which rely heavily upon the seafood, South American chilies, and sweet potatoes that make up the bulk of Peruvian cuisine.
From the steaming vats of beef stew cooked in a corn-beer sauce to the pan-fried chicken cooked in a blend of porto butter and chocolate, Laos introduces clients to the ancient flavors of Peru. Guests experience how Peruvian chefs prepare mixed vegetables and quinoa. The soft grain was cultivated by Incans hundreds of years ago, but is now becoming popular in North American health-food stores and slapstick movies about people falling into vats of different things. After bowls of ceviche, traditional desserts at the eatery pair root vegetables with a splash of sweet molasses.
Tablecloths, fine china, and finger sandwiches speak of refinement during high tea or tea parties at Lisa’s Tea Treasures Menlo Park. During afternoon tea services, guests sip a selection of 23 loose-leaf teas—such as strawberry darjeeling, lemon mint, and Winter Solstice—and nibble on scones and sandwiches inspired by the food of Europe’s culinary capitals. The menu lists bites from Greece, Italy, and France, including Chicken Parisian croissants, salmon mousse, and cucumber-mint cream cheese. A fresh scone with devonshire cream completes any tea party, and evoke thoughts of England other than your recurring dream of building a cricket pitch in your backyard. In addition to the fine fare, the tearoom itself oozes class with delicate trinkets on display, floral wallpaper, and small chandeliers gently lighting the space.
Bona Restaurant enriches the Bay Area’s culinary landscape with a varied menu packed with authentic Eastern European cuisine, ranging from a spread of distinctive soups to traditional Polish entrees. Each savory recipe emphasizes the fusion of mixed meats and winter vegetables energized with a variety of spices. In the lunch menu, noontime noshers can refuel for a busy day transcribing bird conversations with a plate of Bona’s pierogi ($6.95) or pork-and-beef-stuffed cabbage ladled with a piquant tomato or mushroom sauce ($7.95).