La Penca Azul on Park – Alameda

This is a place we’ve been to many times and have tried a wide variety of dishes. Overall we think the food is above average at average prices and there are enough gems on the menu that put it as a go-to place. The service is good, the cocktails are done well and the place is large enough that you aren’t stranded in a line for very long.

It is a family restaurant so it can be chaotic and noisy. There is a smaller side piece in the back, with a separate entrance which is an alternative to the chaos. The patio is really an after thought and not very pleasant.

The gems we think are worth mentioning are:

  • The beer battered fish tacos – very complex and tasty
  • The Pescado – a whole fried fish that is perfectly crisp and not greasy and
  • The mole, guacamole, burritos, carnitas – are all well executed.

The only dish we ever had that was not one to recommend was their “bowls”. We tried them when they first introduced them. The rice and the chicken were very dry and overall the dish was flavorless. That may have improved but we haven’t tried any since.

La Penca Azul, 1440 Park St., Alameda, CA.

Burma Superstar – Alameda


We try to hit this when there is a lull because it’s so popular. The food is very good, at decent prices. But it’s too small to accommodate the flow of people so it can be noisy, have a long line and the service sometimes suffers. The fact that it doesn’t take reservations adds to the problem and as a result, we haven’t had been here as often as we ordinarily would. We can recommend the coconut rice, the pork curry, mango chicken, and every salad we’ve had has been great.

What ever misses there are, we haven’t gotten any yet but catching this place when it’s accessible has become an issue for us personally.

Burma Superstar, 1345 Park St., Alameda CA

Unintended Consequences – Campaign Finance Disclosure

The Open Oakland Brigade, in cooperation with the City of Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission have created an excellent web facility, Open Disclosure Oakland which allows anyone to see campaign contributions (right now, just for the Oakland Mayor’s race).

The motivation for such a facility is clear – unless you are really acquainted with a candidate, finding out who his/her supporters are gives strong hints and insights into the candidate’s likely positions in issues you value, since you will recognize the interests of the ‘well known’ supporters. A candidate receiving support from a Vegan advocacy group will most likely have a different view than one reciving support from a livestock cooperative.

BUT, you can invert this relationship. You may already know a candidate’s postion on an issue, and by looking through the list of contributers, infer that the views of these contributers align with the candiate’s. Now, suppose that you are an EMPLOYER, and have strong views on some policy issue. Checkout the contribution list to see if any of your employees have supported candidates in line with, or opposed to your position! If you, as an employer, even do this search you most likley will let the results influence your employer-employee relaionship.

So, given this critical privacy issue, how can one protect one’s private participation in government beyond the secret ballot? Corporations have many ways to hide or obfuscate their activities; what is available to citizens? If I cannot donate money anonymously, can I create an alias? Do I need to create a super PAC just to get privacy? After all, it used to require dedication to comb through records to see what your employees, or your neighbors, were doing. It is all available now with the flick of a mouseclick.

1400 Bar and Grill – Alameda

We’ve eaten at 1400 since they opened and have witnessed it’s growing pains in service and food consistency. At this time, although their table wait staff changes frequently, the overall service is attentive. The food is pretty consistent now, although on a few dishes it is clear when a different kitchen staff is handling the prep. Not all menu items would be things we could recommend but all are reasonably priced, with good portions. Their weekend brunch is also well done (with endless mimosas) and as a result, can be really crowded.

Their Ruben sandwich, in our view, is the absolute best. But you may need to ask that they go light on the sauce because this is the part that seems to change, depending on who is in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s right on the spot, sometimes it’s really laid on thick. Their lamb shank is perfect; flavorful, tender and nestled on top of mashed potatoes, it absolutely embodies comfort food. Their Greek Chicken is also done well, with a subtle touch on the herbs and spices. Their fried fish is great both crisp without being greasy and in nice portions. The clam chowder is fabulous; it doesn’t scrimp on the clams or over power with potatoes and has a smokey bacon that really finishes it. The poblano burger is also great; moist and tasty. Their sliders are also very good and make for a perfect light lunch. Split, along with a salad, it’s perfect for us both. They also offer to throw in an extra one to make the three slider dish into a four slider for two people

The Irish stew, although tasty, is not Irish stew. It has a creamy tomato base, instead of the rich tones of a beef sauce which makes Irish stews. The pasta bolognese is also tasty but not pasta bolognese. It has spices and flavorings not at all connected to a true bolognese. This makes us wonder if they have ever eaten either dish done authentically or if they couldn’t come up with a better name. The dishes are nice but totally not represented by name. Their meatballs are great but the sauce is weak in comparison, which is a shame. The meatloaf is made from the same mix and is great but the sandwich is overpowered by a huge pile of crisp fried string onions. Maybe the kitchen thinks it makes for a showier presentation but you can scrape it off or you can ask for it without the onion in order to actually taste the meatloaf, which is really very good.

Their prices are really reasonable, they have a good drink selection and the two owners are very personable, attending quickly to your requests. The weekends and game times make this place too crowded. Weekday lunches are relatively quiet and it also has a good sized outside eating area, which is a nice alternative.

1400 Bar & Grill, 1400 Webster St, Alameda, CA

Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails – Alameda

This restaurant opened in November and manage to skip many of the burps that new ones usually suffer through. The owners are incredibly visible and passionate about what they do and the food shows it.This is not a low priced place but it isn’t exorbitant either ($11-$30). You can certainly get cheaper Italian food but not at this quality. They make their own pastas and  bread; all their sauces are wonderfully complex. We have yet to get a poor meal even though some items are not our favorites.

The gnocchi is buttery, silky and melts in your mouth. Our favorite is in the tomato sauce which is used at lunch time but can be asked for at dinner as well. We have found all of their appetizers, pasta and pizza’s utterly fabulous. The pork belly doesn’t have a huge slab of fat, like it frequently does elsewhere. Their rotisserie specials have always been perfect and their oxtail ravioli is just wonderful.

The restaurant is very noisy so we’ve taken to sitting in the bar area, which is actually quieter. We will split a gnocchi which is fine for lunch. I’ve been there alone and had the carpaccio as a salad and that was a nice light, moderately price lunch. They have a TV in the bar area but it’s volume is kept low, which keeps it from being an annoyance.

Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails, 2213 S Shore Center, Alameda, CA

Q’s Halal Chicken – Alameda

On a Saturday, we stopped for lunch about 12:30. The place had three people in line and four tables of patrons (place sits roughly 8 tables inside and  6 outside).  Getting our order in at the counter took about 5 minutes. We ordered two dishes; the combination kabob plate with chicken breast and ground beef, as well as the mantu which is a steamed ground beef dumpling dish. The stream of people who followed behind us were, for the majority, take out orders.

We sat outside because the weather was nice and we aren’t fans of big screen TV’s. The kabob dish took 25 minutes to get and we almost missed it because they yell out your name but it can’t be heard outside. The mantu wasn’t ready and as it turned out, wouldn’t be done for another 12 – 15 minutes. If we had ended up waiting for it, our kabob dish would have been cold.

That aside, the chicken on the kabob plate was flavorful and moist – often other places it’s really dry. The naan was run of the mill, the rice was really tasty and the salad, crisp. The ground beef ovals were moist but not particularly flavorful. In a spiced meatball, ground beef is great but this was just small patties of ground beef, not much flavor even if it was cooked perfectly. The dish came with two sauces; a yogurt sauce and an green
sauce. The naan, the green sauce and the ground beef together made sense, becoming much tastier. With two ice teas, we commented that this was perfect for a light lunch for two, which would have been about $15.

When our mantu came, we really didn’t need it. But it was fabulous. The dumplings were beef filled, steamed wontons with a sauce that had yogurt with tomato, spices and pieces of corn. The flavorings were complex and spicy, which made us wonder again why the beef patties had been so plain. This was something we’d come back for. The prices were reasonable, would feed us both at under $20 and just perfect for a nice weather, light lunch.

Q’s Halal Chicken. 2306 Central Ave, Alameda CA