Lunching Down Solano Year-end Round-up

la farine interior
I am still mourning the departure of La Farine.

Well, my mile-long lunch journey has come to an end. I started at Jerusalem Organic Kitchen at the top of Solano in January, and I averaged one lunch per week for the entire year. It’s amazing that the math worked so perfectly, considering I didn’t count them all in advance. A few eateries closed in 2014 (Jodie’s, La Farine, and Sophia Cafe) and a few opened (Boss and Oori), but in the end, there were 52 places to eat lunch on Solano between the Alameda and San Pablo Avenue. I kept thinking that Montero’s (the former Mexican restaurant/salsa dancing place) might reopen before year’s end, but it didn’t.

I welcome the relatively new Troy for providing the only Greek food on Solano, but I sincerely mourn the departure of La Farine. I suppose life goes on…

ajanta inside
Ajanta’s elegant dining room

My trek included disappointments, a few surprises, and many memorable lunch experiences that sometimes had nothing at all to do with the food. I am not going to put them in some sort of order, such as best to worst or cheapest to most expensive, but I do want to highlight a few and make some general observations.

Most represented among ethnic cuisines was Indian, and the range of style and quality was wide. From Khana Peena’s lackluster but economical buffet offerings to Ajanta’s fine dining to the new kid on the block, the eager-to-please Delhi Diner, Indian food is never more than a stone’s throw away from any spot on Solano Ave.

Merely because Kirin has the good reputation and is closer geographically to my house, it used to be my go-to Chinese place. But now that I’ve discovered the newly remodeled China Village, I probably won’t go to Kirin as often. And I may treat myself to Renee’s once in a while too.

My favorite overall everyday lunch spot is still Talavera, but that’s mostly due to my great fondness for Mexican food, the outdoor seating, and the fact that it’s a two-minute walk from my house.

Nomad dining room
Nomad’s back dining area

There were several places that I’d never been to before where I want to return. (I want to take a group to Nomad and sit in the sunken area in back!) And there are definitely spots I have no interest in visiting again. (Sorry Café Valparaiso, King Tsin, Gordo’s, and Cape Cod!) Despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine, I enjoyed all three Japanese lunches.

miyuki menu
Did they lose the key that opens this dusty display?

This project reminded me of places I knew were good but had forgotten, such as the lovely Britt-Marie’s. It also got me to walk into places I otherwise never would have, such as Miyuki. (I still think they’d get more business if they repainted the outside and cleaned up their outdoor menu display.)

pig hangersFavorite bathroom decor? Sunny Side Up. I used this photo of their hooks on the restroom door as my phone’s “wallpaper” for months.

Longest lines? Gordo’s.

Funkiest authentic coffeehouse? Cafeina.

Best onion rings? Barney’s.

Most problematic bathroom sign? Jerusalem Organic Kitchen. (To be fair, it was probably temporary. I haven’t been back to check.)

Most interesting restaurant layout? Kim’s Café. It’s like two places in one!

Best place to take out-of-town vegan relatives? Nature’s Express.

I’m honestly relieved to be done with my lunching quest, but I’m definitely glad I did it. It got me out of my eating rut and introduced me to new eating spots that I’d passed by dozens of times without considering.

So it was a fun project. I learned a lot and I ate a lot. But I’m thinking that in order to offset the weight I gained from this year, my project for 2015 should involve some kind of exercise…

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