In many larger U.S. cities, it's not uncommon these days to spot an eatery selling boba or pearl tea?blends of tea, milk, fruit juice, and flavored syrups that buoy marble-size spheres of chewy tapioca. On the West Coast, at least, Tapioca Express is partly to thank for that trend. Wayne Lin founded the growing chain of drink and snack shops in 1999, starting with simple versions of the Taiwanese delicacy and then systematically designing and testing new flavors?such as coconut pineapple and vanilla cookie?in a state-of-the-art flavor collider.
Today, the menu tallies more than 100 different kinds of drinks, including yogurt and fresh-fruit smoothies, creamy coffee drinks, and tea-based slushies. Snack choices may be a little easier: favorites from the concise, pan-Asian menu include crispy chicken, steamed buns, and tempura.
Castro Street eatery Honeycreek serves up specialty desserts, traditional Taiwanese cuisine, cocktails, and tea in an elegant lounge setting. Seated in plush purple chairs, guests can savor specialties such as pork pot-stickers or Hainan-style noodle soup made with chilled, poached free-range chicken and aromatic spiced stock. There are more than 200 types of specialty drinks, including milk teas with bursting boba. Finish your meal with the house specialty, melt-in-your mouth shaved snow in flavors such as green tea or chocolate.
Though Go Go Gyro is a relatively recent arrival in Los Altos, its recipes are firmly rooted in tradition. Here, the chefs churn out flaky baklava, savory gyro pitas, and rich béchemel-laced pastistio. Their authentic spread of hummus, spicy feta dip, zesty cucumber salad, and buttery stuffed grape leaves has won over droves of loyal customers and garnered awards from the Palo Alto Weekly and Mountain View Voice. Feasts with phyllo-dough tyropitas and housemade greek yogurt unfold within the casual eatery or on the restaurant's sunny patio, graced by live musicians who serenade diners with their personal theme songs.
Tucked away in the kitchen of each Paris Baguette, bakers trained in French techniques craft buttery, flaky croissants and tart crusts, and their success at this has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times. In addition to pastries and sweets such as mocha rice balls, the bakers knead bread for their namesake baguettes and yeasty creations that hold an Asian twist, such as red-bean-paste-filled donuts. The experts also create fondant-cloaked cakes that venture beyond classic flavors into green tea, cappuccino, and sweet potato, delighting partygoers bored of the same laminated sheet cake that makes its appearance at each year’s birthday celebration.
To wash down these treats, patrons sip cups of java or more exotic drinks such as wheatgrass and black-sesame lattes, persimmon smoothies, and bubble tea. At lunchtime, many locations layer sandwiches, filling hungry stomachs with croque monsieurs and baguettes stuffed with chicken and pesto.
Garlic is a key player in the kitchen of Garlic Catering and Restaurant. Cooks chop the pungent cloves to mix into creamy hummus, lending the dip a mouthwatering bite. But the eatery's cooks let other flavors shine in their Turkish cuisine, too?mint leaves star in their red lentil soup, for instance, and rich tahini tempers savory gyros. When it's time for dessert, diners get a choice of two baklava varieties: one with pistachios, and one with walnuts.
It seems the inmates are running the asylum at Psycho Donuts. Not only do the shop's donuts often use ingredients that, at first blush, make you wonder if the person behind them is all there—including everything from cereal and green tea icing to bacon and liquor-infused fillings—they also take menacing forms such as the Jasonut, a delicacy of chocolate-raised dough dressed in powdered sugar that's sprinkled to resemble a hockey mask. The shop embraces its insane-asylum theme in other ways, too. Employees dressed as nurses dole out all the treats, and clients can take pictures in the shop’s padded cell after enjoying their donuts with a cup of coffee. Guests can also peruse artwork by local artists or take turns guessing which donut comes filled with nothing but a disembodied cackle.