Out to Lunch

My wife and I both work from home, so we eat lunch together more often than not. We usually eat lunch here at the house, but if we are out running errands or if we just need a change of scenery, we go out and have lunch at one of our many local eateries. Partly because of this blog, and partly because it is just our nature, when new restaurants open up we take note and add them to our list of places to try. Recently we’ve had the chance to sample a couple of the area’s newer offerings, so this week I thought I should tell you a bit about them.

First up, Nick the Greek. Located in the spot formerly occupied by Broadway Sub, at 2034 Broadway in Redwood City (between LV Mar and Vino Santo Bistro), Nick the Greek is a quick-service restaurant that specializes in “Greek street food”: gyros, Souvlaki, and salads, essentially. Since they opened in early March my wife and I have visited them two or three times, and I’ve become a fan…as have the many people who daily line up for lunch, it seems.

I enjoy Mediterranean food but I am by no means an expert. After my first visit I had to investigate the difference between Souvlaki and gyros, since it was hard to tell based on a casual examination of the inside of my pita. Essentially, it comes down to the way that the meat is prepared: gyros is (are?) thinly sliced meat stacked on a vertical rotisserie; the meat is then carved off the edge of the stack, resulting in a pile of thin shavings. Souvlaki, on the other hand, are chunks of marinated meat that are skewered and cooked over an open flame.

At Nick the Greek you can get gyros made from either pork, chicken, or a combination beef and lamb. If you order souvlaki, you can get it either in pork or chicken. And regardless of which you order, you can get it on a plate (with pita bread and greek salad); or folded into pita bread and wrapped in paper, to be eaten by hand. Either way, you generally also get tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce (which is made from yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers)…and french fries. Yes, even if you order a pita—including the Veggie Pita—expect to find it stuffed with french fries on top of the other ingredients. Which I must say is quite yummy…

Nick the Greek is not a large place, but they have a handful of tables outside and a dozen or so tables inside. Finding a table from noon until one might be a bit tricky, but it appears that most patrons get their food to go, so there is hope. In any case, now that the weather has turned nice and the umbrellas are out, taking your food to Courthouse Square—which is only a block and a half away along Broadway—is a delightful way to enjoy what Nick the Greek has to offer. Can’t pick it up? Head to their website and order your food for delivery, and as long as you are within their service area DoorDash will bring it to you. Since DoorDash is working with Starship Technologies to pioneer food delivery by robot, don’t be surprised if it shows up inside a small robot that looks like a six-wheeled ice chest…

Although I’ve only been to Nick the Greek for lunch, they are an option for dinner, too: they are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

My next recommendation is for a restaurant that isn’t actually within Redwood City, but is close by. The Toss is a fairly new salad place on Laurel Street, just north of Saint Francis Way. I’ve been meaning to try them for a couple of weeks now, and finally managed to get there. The Toss has a big advantage over many restaurants in that they are open on Mondays. For whatever reason (I’ve heard several), many restaurants are open Tuesday through Sunday (or Saturday) and elect to closed on Monday. So if you head out at noon on a Monday looking for lunch, expect to find a rather limited set of choices. Fortunately, though, The Toss is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (they are closed on Sunday).

The Toss is located on the ground-floor of the colorful new four-story building at 1673 Laurel; it is basically across the street from one of my favorites, Johnston’s Saltbox restaurant. Reflecting the modern design of the newly constructed mixed-use building (the upper three floors contain a total of six apartments), the interior of The Toss is clean, modern, and very comfortable.

Although The Toss is not large, it does have three outside tables and about ten inside. As you might be able to tell from the photograph above, on nice days the distinction between outside and inside is small: the entire front of the restaurant consists of large glass doors that can be opened to give inside patrons the feeling of sitting outdoors. And like Nick the Greek, The Toss seems to do a lot of takeout business: you always have the option to purchase your food and take it elsewhere.

The Toss specializes in salads. Indeed, their motto is “Salads by Design.” When you enter and first see the menu written on the large wall-mounted whiteboard, you’ll note that they have a number of entree-sized “house-designed” salads topped with their house-made dressings. My favorite, so far, is their version of a Caesar: it is made up of chopped romaine and kale, and includes croutons, shaved parmesan, and caesar dressing; plus, it has roasted chicken, house-dried tomatoes, and roasted garlic. My wife, on the other hand, is partial to the “Grove,” which tops mixed greens with apple, dried cranberries, shaved fennel, candied walnuts, faro, and blue cheese; to that she adds chicken. The menu also lists a Cobb salad; “Siesta,” which as you might expect includes a number of Mexican-inspired ingredients; “Geisha,” which is their interpretation of a Chinese Chicken salad (the Geisha does not include chicken, although you can add it); and “Corfu,” which includes marinated artichokes, garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, and feta cheese among other delectable ingredients.

If the above-mentioned salads aren’t quite to your liking, The Toss is more than happy to let you design your own from their many ingredients. Just specify what you want, and they’ll build it for you. Plus, The Toss doesn’t just serve salads: they also serve soups (including a soup & salad combination); scones, rolls, and whole-grain bread; intriguing looking snack boxes; and kid-sized dishes. Add to all of that a good range of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and you have the makings for what is already proving to be a popular destination.

Ever since the closure of our Fresh Choice at Sequoia Station, my family has been on the lookout for places where one can get a good salad. Various Redwood City restaurants include salads on their menus, but none have the variety that The Toss offers. The Toss thus fills a valuable niche in our burgeoning restaurant scene; I for one hope that they, er, live long and prosper.

Turning back to Redwood City, Lovejoy’s Tea Room has been open since early December and although my wife has been there a couple of times it wasn’t until recently that I managed to go myself. This is definitely not a traditional lunch place, but again it fills a niche, this time left by the closure of The English Rose, an English tea room that for a long time welcomed tea aficionados to its San Carlos location. Lovejoy’s, which can be found at 901 Main Street (across from Savers) in Redwood City, has a lot of the trappings of an English tea house.

Unlike your typical American dining experience, a proper English tea is a relaxed affair that should not be rushed. To further help you relax, you’ll want to make a reservation: so far, Lovejoy’s has proven to be popular and there is no guarantee you’ll be able to sit if you walk in without one. Fortunately they take reservations by phone (650-362-3055) and online, so making one is a fairly easy process. Note that they are open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (but their last seating is at 4:30); they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

While I must admit that the clientele skews heavily towards the female—when I was there, I was the only guy in the place, and the decor is not exactly what I would call manly—I really enjoyed the experience. Each member of your party receives a small pot of their chosen tea, and all of the sandwiches, scones, and other yummy treats that accompany your chosen teas (see their menu for the different tea services they offer, plus various entrees and sides) usually come on a multi-tiered serving tray. When your food is delivered your server points out who gets what, and what each item is, so there is no confusion.

Lovejoy’s is a wonderful addition to our Main Street dining scene. If this kind of thing interests you, I would highly recommend making a reservation and then paying them a visit. I know I’ll be going back…

While on the subject of downtown midday dining opportunities, I should note another new addition that I have yet to try: Origins Juicery. “Dining” is an appropriate word here since they do offer wraps, “Quinua” bowls, salads, and Chia Pudding bowls; however as their name implies their primary product is cold-pressed juice blends. They have some smoothies, too, in case you are looking for those, and some other rather interesting looking drinks. Origins hasn’t been open long—they celebrated their Redwood City grand opening on April 22—but they’ve been operating in San Jose since mid 2016, so they must be doing something right (apparently they were a Kickstarter project!). If you are into cold-pressed juices or into juice cleanses, check them out: you’ll find them at 2070 Broadway (next to Captain’s, in the spot that used to house the “Grooming with TLC” pet grooming business).

Redwood City has always had places to which you can go for lunch, but with the recent boom our restaurant scene has been improving by leaps and bounds. I’m particularly delighted to see new places come in that don’t just duplicate an existing cuisine but instead serve up something that isn’t readily available elsewhere or at least present their offerings in a new and different way. The sheer variety available in Redwood City these days means that almost every palate can now be satisfied. Now if we could only do the same for our retail offerings…

On May 20 from noon until 9 p.m. Redwood City will celebrate the city’s 150th birthday with a free “150th Festival and Flower Extravaganza.” The event will be “a fun-filled day of exciting, historic activities, music, entertainment, culture, dancing, food, beverages, and a wonderful time for the entire family.” For more information, go to http://www.rwc150.org.

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