A January 2004 trip
to San Ramon by SFPhotocraft
Quote: The Bay Area is big and diverse. Most visitors only spend time in San Francisco. If you step across the bay, I promise you that even more surprises will be in store for you! The area is vibrant and there is less fog than in the city by the bay.
Hotel | "Residence Inn"
This hotel is located next to Market Place, a popular area strip mall. This Residence Inn looks like most other Residence Inns; they all have an apartment complex feel rather than a hotel feel.
We had booked a studio, and our rate was a great value at only $79. The room included a small kitchen, a small sitting area around a fireplace, a king-size bed, and a bathroom. The room was in good repair and clean. The size of the room certainly would feel spacious for a couple or even a couple with one child. However, with four of us, the studio was a bit tight. This was our fault and not the hotel's, as we booked it this way. However, for just $30 more, we could have had a one-bedroom unit, which would have given us the space we desired. In our studio, once the hideaway bed was pulled out and the extra rollaway set up, our poor studio turned into a sea of mattresses, where not one inch of open floor space was to be seen.
The hotel does offer a free breakfast each morning. It's served buffet style in the lobby and has fresh muffins, juice, waffles, cereals, and fruits. It offers enough to get your morning started. Our unit was about a half a block from the main lobby and breakfast area and was a nice walk each morning. Those not up for walking may want to request a room location that is closer.
The hotel offers a few extras, like free morning papers, an outdoor swimming pool, and outdoor barbeques. The hotel is right across the street from one of the best skateboard parks in the area.
The hotel adjoins a strip mall. This may seem rather uninteresting, but with a little exploring, you will find some of the best San Ramon restaurants just a few feet away. The Marketplace offers Hawaiian, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese cuisines and pizza and a great microbrewery. They even have a deluxe supermarket if you want to keep a snack in your room fridge or pick up a roasted chicken.
Residence Inns are a very predictable product. They are always comfortable and roomy and offer all this at a fair price. They are great for an extended stay or for a family needing some extra space. We were happy with the San Ramon property and would not hesitate to rebook it in the future. Although on our next visit, we will upgrade to a one-bedroom unit for our family of four.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2004
Residence Inn by Marriott San Ramon
1071 Market Place
San Ramon 94583
The hotel is fairly understated from the outside and blends into the surrounding office park. It's a pleasant six-story, cement building just across the street from the Stoneridge Mall.
Our check-in was smooth and friendly. The lobby was quiet and didn't have a lot going on. It was evening when we checked in, and both the lounge and the restaurant in the lobby were open but empty.
We had a lovely fifth-floor room overlooking the small pool. The room was great. It had two queen-size beds and was light and bright, using light woods and soft colors. The room had everything we needed: a hairdryer, iron, Playstation, TV, and a CD player. The room was extremely clean and well taken care of. We noticed that although we were very near the freeway, the soundproofing was excellent and we could not hear any outside noise.
This hotel takes sleeping seriously. They had a section of the hotel set aside where no school groups or children were booked. Since we had kids, we were not able to stay in this area. However, the rooms had sleeping CDs and clips for the curtains, and they guaranteed wake-up calls. If they missed a wake-up call, that night’s room would be on them. The room even came with a sleep mask, ear plugs, and an aromatherapy spray. This hotel seemed to be an oasis amid the freeways and hustle and bustle of this area. The room felt like a haven.
However, the rest of the hotel lacked. The gift shop had closed and was now a vending machine room, the computer in the office area was broken, the pool was not heated, and the lounge and the restaurant were very marginal, although the location is good and there are plenty of good places to eat within blocks of the hotel.
All in all, if you are looking for quiet, peaceful, and well-appointed rooms, you have found your hotel. If you are looking for a hotel with a lot of bells and whistles and facilities, you may want to look elsewhere in the area.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 1, 2005
Crowne Plaza Pleasanton
11950 Dublin Canyon Road
San Ramon 94588
Restaurant | "Max's Diner"
The first thing you note when walking in is a sign bolding stating "NO FOOD CRITICS ALLOWED;" this sign reflects some poor write ups Max's has gotten from local papers and food critics. Some of the critics I have to agree with, others I do not.
Max's does have good sandwiches -- they have a good Reuben and a pretty decent Pastrami sandwich. Their desserts are outrageous and their pieces of cake can easily be shared by the entire table. I am not a fan of their matzo ball soup and some of the salads are a little boring. The take great pride in that their ice tea is freshly brewed, however this mean you get a little pourer of HOT tea and a big glass of ice. When the hot tea hits the ice you now have a glass of almost cold tea with no ice! I wish they would serve good old regular ice tea.
The wait staff at this location seems to be very young, they do a good job getting the food to your table. Max's goal is to get diners in and out quickly.
Max's has a list of 17 house rules posted at all locations. Two that I like best are: You will get a free round of drinks if anyone asks you "IS EVERYTHING ALL RIGHT?" and if you are a single diner and you are greeted with "Just one?" your meal is on the house.
The latest craze is that Max's now has a page of low carb delights. Those of us on the Atkin's diet find this page helpful. You can get a sandwich with no bread, no bun, no fries -- just the meat and slaw. Max's says, "This is a bad place for diet, this is a good place for a diet".
Another favorite is the Family BBQ, which serves four people ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket for only $39.95. A real deal in this part of the country!
Max's is fun and a good family choice. This location does have waits during busy times. They do offer a full bar. Max's isn't on par with a New York deli, but for the west coast it's pretty darn good.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 10, 2004
Max's Diner of San Ramon
2015 Crow Canyon Place
San Ramon 94583
A friendly Icelandic family owns the little hangout. They all are gorgeous! No matter if it's your first time or 100th time you will be greeted by a huge smile like you are the number one customer. The family is there running the show and making sure everybody feels welcomed.
They are only open for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast and lunch is what they do best. The pancakes are huge and the French toast is the best anywhere. They keep the coffee cups full with delicious coffee.
Katy's is located in one of San Ramon's many strip malls. The interior is a bit eclectic with funny signs and a huge ceramic pig collection. It look a little like the kitchen of the crazy aunt's home that you love so much. Kids are king here and they offer a small playroom in the back of the dining room with videos and toys galore. It's been a challenge to pull the kids back to the table when the food arrives! In the summer months a patio is open to enjoy your meal outdoors.
Games are brought to the tables for kids and daily newspapers for the adults. Everyone is kept busy, even though the service is quick and you seldom wait for your meal.
We love Katy's. It has a good feel, the service is friendly and familiar and the food is just what you want when you crave a huge, carb-loaded breakfast! Don't take my word, ask anyone in the valley - it's an area favorite!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 29, 2004
2550 San Ramon Valley Boulevard
San Ramon 94583
The place is tiny and located in a rather nondescript strip mall. It can be found with colorful red Japanese lanterns hanging from the overhand in front of the door.
Friday nights are the most crazy and the groups cluster inside the door and spill out into the parking lot. There is a reservation policy that is off and on here. Some nights they will accept reservations and other nights they will swear they never have and never will take reservations. It just depends who you talk to and what their mood is that night!
The wait can be as fun as the dining experience, as they hand out free bottles of cold Japanese beer while you wait in line.
The walls are covered with colorful handmade posters describing unique sushis. If you invent a sushi that is so good that the chefs give it a thumbs up, it becomes a house special and you can make a sign for your sushi and name it whatever you wish. There are some not-so-hot choices, but there are also some outstanding, fun sushis that are unique to Kane Sushi. Don't be afraid to make up what you think would be fun to try, the chefs will be happy to make it for you.
The fish is fresh and the waitstaff is friendly. They drink sake all night if offered and can be crazy by the end of the night!
Close out your meal with a scoop of ice cream served on the end of a fork, covered with soy bean wrap. It sounds awful, but trust me on this one - it's great!
Kane Sushi is an east bay favorite. Be prepared for lines and wait, but the wait is worth it.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 17, 2004
125 Hartz Avenue
San Ramon 94526
Once inside, you feel like you are in a mountain lodge. The art is all western - there are stuffed bison and bighorn sheep heads mounted on the walls, a lot of timber, and a very rustic feel to the place.
The restaurant has a full bar and is a popular singles hang-out in little San Ramon. The crowd is mostly local and this is the hot spot for a special dinner.
The wait staff is pretty professional. They wear white shirts and long aprons and do their best at giving this place a big city feel.
The last time we went, I had a filet and it was cooked perfectly - it was juicy, tender, and a nice cut of meat. Chris had a burger, and it was very good as well.
The menu won't surprise you since it's your basic chop house fare. There are meat and potatoes and salads. It's exactly what you expect in a steakhouse and does not disappoint.
Even though this is in the middle of a strip mall in San Ramon, you feel like you are in a mountain resort enjoying a good steak. You will realize you're in San Ramon when you leave the building and realize that you are parked in the dental lot in a very busy mall.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 13, 2004
2410 San Ramon Valley Boulevard
San Ramon 94583
Restaurant | "Uncle Yu's"
The restaurant is tucked away in a small strip mall just off Crow Canyon. When you enter, you will be greeted by one of the smiling hostesses who will seat you. The restaurant is pretty. It's somewhat formal with crisp, white linen table clothes. The staff all wear black tuxedos. It's somewhat fancy, but the prices are good and we have spent many school nights here when we have an Uncle Yu's craving.
Uncle Yu's has a full bar and a great wine list. They offer many of the best wineries from Sonoma and Napa. You can get many by the glass here.
The service is friendly and efficient. They work at making this a nice dining experience.
Most of the food is Szechuan. My favorite is the Shrimp with Walnuts. They also have a great wonton stuffed with cream cheese and crabmeat. It's out of this world and I never miss a chance to order it. They also have an unusual wonton, which is goat cheese and stuffed with caramelized apples. I have no idea if this is a true Chinese dish, but it's delicious.
The best bargain is the combination dinner for two or more. It's only $15.95 per person and includes three appetizers, soup, and a choice of entree. The choices are long, but they do include some of my favorites like Mu Shu Pork and Lemon Chicken.
The menu is extensive, and they have all of your favorites on the menu. I can, in all, honesty say that I have never had a bad item at Uncle Yu's. Whatever comes out of their kitchen is delicious.
For a nice time while you are in San Ramon, pass up all the quantity over substance places and head straight to Uncle Yu's for really good Chinese food.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 16, 2004
Uncle Yu's Szechuan San Ramon
2005 Crow Canyon Place
San Ramon 94583
This is the real thing - a small diner in a San Ramon strip-center and run by a true Hawaiian family. The place isn't much to look at. It is small and plain. A few tropical flowers are painted on the wall and that's about it for Hawaiian décor. Festive Hawaiian music is played and puts you in the Aloha spirit.
You order at the counter and then find an empty table. It's usually crowded, so, at times, finding a table is the like finding a place to put your towel down on Waikiki beach.
Patrick and Breana's favorite dish is the Kalbi Ribs, which are ribs marinated in Korean BBQ sauce, and then char-grilled. All this for only $8.95. I like the mahi-mahi or the saimin, which are island noodles cooked in broth and then garnished. They also have a true Hawaiian favorite called Loco Moco. This dish is a bowl of rice and a hamburger patty topped with two fried eggs and then smothered in brown gravy. It's the real thing, I have had it in Hawaii and it's delicious. Don't miss the Hawaiian Poor Boy. It's got Hawaiian steak inside. Okay, you ask, "What is Hawaiian steak"? It's SPAM!!! Yes, Hawaiians eat more spam than anyone on the planet. They really love it. So this fried spam sandwich with two fried eggs on top is a true favorite of the Hawaiian people.
The dishes all come with two scoops of white rice, and an island salad. The prices are cheap when you see all the food you are offered.
On Friday and Saturday, they serve their luau specials: Lau Lau, which is pork in luau leaves that is steamed for hours in a ti leaf pouch, or Kalua Pork, which is pork roasted for hours and pull-apart tender. Yes, they even have poi!
Kilohana is open from 11:00am until 8:30pm and is closed on Sundays. It's a fun place for unusual, but real Hawaiian food. You will notice the place is filled with Hawaiian families - this is the REAL deal!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 21, 2004
1016A Market Place
San Ramon 94583
The restaurant is very small. It has only about ten tables and a very small sushi bar in the back. It's very clean and somewhat sparse. It's very Japanese in feel.
The food is great here. My favorite is the beef sukiyaki. It comes in a big black bowl and is served piping hot. It's filled with tofu, crystal noodles, and a ton of beef cooked in a tasty broth. It's hearty and will fill you up.
The sushi rolls are also very good here. The have one house speciality called the Big Foot, which is 8 inches long. It has tuna, salmon, hamachi, spicy tuna, and avacado. This is one roll for sharing.
The fish here always seems fresh.
They have all the usual rolls and the usual Japanese picks like teriyaki, tempura, and Soba. All the food here is tasty and very authentic. They also have good sake and all the Japanese beers.
The service is friendly and attentive. They always give the kids a Japanese candy bar when leaving, which is a fun touch for the kids. Sometimes the service is a little too attentive. The busboys always seem to want to clear a table before you are completely finished.
Overall Yuki is a good pick. It's a little tucked away and should be more popular, as the food and the service is top notch.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 25, 2004
Yuki Of Tokyo
200 East Hartz Avenue
Restaurant | "Vic Stewarts"
When you enter, you are greeted by friendly hostesses in a large foyer. They will take you to one of several dining rooms. The most fun is the old 1909 Pullman car. This is an authentic rail car that ran all over the country at the turn of the century. It had a stateroom, an observation room, and private sleeping cars. The train was elegant with dark wood paneling, and the car still has all its original light fixtures, which have been restored. Today, the car sits next to the main restaurant and has a main dining car with several private rooms. This night, we had the wine room, which was the old kitchen for the car. The door can be shut for privacy. The train theme is subtle and not overdone or tacky. Even if you sit in the depot part of Vic Stewars, I urge you to take a walk and look at the old Pullman car; it's a piece of history come alive.
Vic Stewarts also has a main dining room and several private function rooms. The bar is called the Tahoe Room and looks like a cabin in Lake Tahoe.
The steaks here are what it's all about. They have some great cuts of meat. They start with a very extensive wine list - most wines are local from Napa or Sonoma County. This night, we started with an appetizer of roasted garlic and bread. It was good, but I like the garlic in the bulb form and cooked until the garlic is the consistency of mashed potatoes. These garlic cloves were a little too firm for my taste. However, the filet mignon that I ordered was perfect. It was pink in the middle and full of flavor. Chris had the steak and shrimp kabobs, and they, too, were perfect.
Our server was attentive, but not pushy. Our busboy was always there and did a great job keeping our glasses filled and clearing our plates.
It was Breana's birthday, and our waiter came out with a little goblet of chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries. He did the right thing by bringing four forks!
Vic Stewarts is quickly becoming an East Bay landmark. It's the kind of place people come for special occasions. You see, folks having birthday, anniversary or special parties here. It's a great place for a unique business meeting or a rehearsal party in a private room. The food and service makes this a special evening.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 29, 2004
Vic Stewart's Famous for Steaks
850 South Broadway
San Ramon 94596
So I was thrilled when a new hot dog place came to town. It set up in one of San Ramon's many strip malls. It's located just a few blocks off the main freeway (Highway 580). From the outset, you can tell that this place was unique. The look of it is a little retro, 1950s-diner appeal. However, it's new, shiny, and sleek. They offer tables outside, and the whole place just feels hip and fun.
The minute you walk in, you feel this is going to be a fun meal. The staff is friendly and welcoming. You may want to step back and review the menu. They have a lot of dogs and wursts on the overhead menu. They also have fun drinks like Nehi Grape, Squirt, and Creme Sodas in the bottle. They even have a selection of wines and beer.
The last time we went, I ordered a bratwurst. I have to admit that I did not like it as well as the hot dogs I have had here. The dogs are cooked on the grill (not steamed) and have that nice crisp snap when you bite into them.
The condiments are all set up at the pick-up point, and you can fix your own dog just the way you like it. They offer a variety of mustards.
Several of the gang ordered the garlic fries. I am not a fan of garlic fries, so I did not try them. However, I was told that they were excellent.
The place is very clean and the staff seems to take great pride in keeping it that way.
On the last visit, we had five kids with us, and the manager came around with free ice cream for everyone at the end of the meal. It was a very friendly and fun offering, and we all were impressed by being offered anything for free!
This is a simple place: hot dogs, chips, fries, and drinks. However, if you keep it simple and do it right, the crowds will come to you. It looks like Dog Out is a winner. It's only been open a year now, and the crowds have found this place. This has probably the best hot dog in the area!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 10, 2005
The Dog Out
3104 Crow Canyon Pl.
San Ramon 94583
Attraction | "The Pirates of Emerson"
The pirates dock in a large field in Fremont. While driving up Warm Springs, you will suddenly see an oversized skull in the middle of a field, what appear to be several large circus tents, and police directing traffic here in the middle of nowhere. You have just found the best thrill in the area!
Parking is free, but it's a bit of nightmare--almost as scary as the main event. This is a hugely popular event, and the field has plenty of parking but way too many people to make it flow. The lines are always long to get in. The doors open each night at 7pm, and already you will find endless lines of eager people waiting to get in. The best tip I can give you is that, for $25, you can buy a VIP pass online which allows you to cut to the front of the lines. We splurged on the extra $10 (the regular ticket is $15) this year and were happy we did--it saves time and boredom and keeps you out of those slow moving, endless lines. I highly recommend it!
The event is made up of three area of fright. The sets are very well done, and you go through dark mazes with horrible scenes of ghostly pirates. The most thrilling part is the large number of costumed pirates who jump out at every turn. Everyone is screaming, from young kids to teenage dates to old goats like me! There is no way your heart won't skip a beat or two when what you think is a make-believe statue suddenly gets down from his perch and starts chasing you down a dark hall.
The actors stay in character and seem to have a great time scaring the wits out of the willing customers. Many of the sets are complete with strobe and black lights that give you a feeling of uncertainty. You completely lose your sense of direction and just move ahead, trying to find the exit. And once you are done with that maze of terror, you have two more to go!
There are a lot of haunted houses around this time of year, but few are better done than this one. Our kids look forward to it each year, and so do we. I advise you to check out the web page for dates. It does change slightly each year. I also advise you to get there early, and by all means, buy the $25 VIP ticket.
The Bay Area is great during Halloween. It seems to be one of those places that really embraces the season, and The Pirates of Emerson is one event you shouldn't miss during this season. It's frightfully good!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 25, 2004
Pirates of Emerson
45031 Warm Springs