Saturday, February 22, 2014

Restaurant Review: Calafia Cafe

Calafia - lunch on February 5, 2014
Calafia is Chef Charlie Ayers' cafe. If you're not well versed in Silicon Valley trivia and don't know who Charlie Ayers is, he may be best known as being the former executive chef at Google. Yes, the Google of the free lunches and professionally maintained cafes across the Google campus. That was Chef Ayers' handiwork and when he left Google in 2006, he continued his career in the culinary world. Today, his cafe, Calafia and its adjoining Market A Go Go is the manifestation of his vision to provide "affordable, wholesome fare" for a wide-ranging audience.
Side order of fries
I met a long-time friend, Sherrie, there for lunch one day. It was my first time at Calafia although Sherrie has been there numerous times since it's close to her office. Calafia has a pretty casual setting with picnic-table style seating inside and cafe tables outside. The place was reasonably busy for lunch. It has a pretty good variety of entrees on the menu and, as promised, easily caters to different tastes whether you're a vegetarian or a meat eater, low carbing or carbo loading. Our server told us about the lunch specials and the one that caught my ear was a delicious sounding "seafood hot pot" that had shrimp, scallops, some kind of fish (salmon?) and clams topped with a puff pastry. I eat everything he mentioned except clams and I figured I could take those out. But then it turned out the special was $30. Ouch. Now it isn't like I haven't paid $30 (and more) for a meal before but let's face it - my thrifty soul has a hard time forking that much over for lunch. Dinner, yes. Lunch? Not so much. I don't know why that is because if this had been dinner time I would probably have ordered it anyway but for some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much for a midday meal.
Steak Tacos ($15)
Instead, I went for the Steak Tacos for half the price of the seafood hot pot. The "tacos" were really lettuce wraps so this was a low carb, gluten free option. It comes with sauce which I asked for on the side since I'm not a sauce person. The food here is also sourced locally and organically (I'm really fortunate where I live that we have that as an option at some many restaurants) and the steak tacos were a light yet filling lunch that I enjoyed. I can't confess to going totally low carb though since Sherrie ordered fries that she generously shared with me and I ate my share of those.
Her first choice of the Mahogany Salmon was only available after 4 pm but they were able to accommodate a similar version for her by serving salmon atop a salad of leafy greens. There are still some other dishes I want to try at Calafia, like their grain and noodle bowls and their pizzas. And the flat iron steak and turkey meatloaf. Plus the beef short ribs. I'm definitely going to have to go back and work my way through the menu. Service was attentive but not overly hovering and it's a nice, casual but delicious place to meet for lunch. And dinner if I ever chance upon that seafood hot pot again.

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