Best of San Mateo Food Walk

By Genevieve Dee
Images by Rey Del Fierro

Not too long ago, when residents of San Mateo wanted a good meal, they would drive 30 minutes to San Francisco, or 20 minutes to Palo Alto ~ but now they can just easily walk to dinner. Voted 2013 Best in Small Town Food by Rand McNally, San Mateo has developed into a foodie haven.

With restaurants opening faster than most residents can keep up with, San Mateo has 350 restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines. There truly is something for every palate.

Most recently, I had a chance to visit four of the hottest places in town. Time was limited, but this was an opportunity to taste the food and get a feel of each of the places.

Mortar & Pestle

The first stop, Mortar and Pestle is steps away from the Caltrain station, behind Curry Up Now. The intimate space has an industrial feel.  With a communal table in the middle, surrounding areas allow for more private conversations all basking in the glow emanating from the bar. Mortar and Pestle is the latest addition to the Curry Up Now enterprise which includes food trucks and restaurants. Specialty cocktails using fruits and herbs are handcrafted by bartender Catch Salum. Bar food with an Indian twist is offered along with food truck favorites.  You can’t go wrong with their Fried Ravioli with Tikka Masala, Naan Bites or their award winning Sexy Fries. A Bangalore Ol Fashion or Bee’s Knees are perfect complements. Visit their website

Osteria Coppa

Serving modern Italian cuisine in a warm, open, lively space, 2014 Michelin Recommended Osteria Coppa is a couple establishments away. Among Coppa’s specialties are the Neapolitan style thin crust pizzas, house cured salumi and handmade pasta. Fresh and locally sourced ingredients beget a constantly changing menu. Executive Chef/Partner Lewis Rossman entertained us in the outdoor patio. Executive Chef Chanan Kamen presented us with flavor packed Veal Pork Agnolotti and a glass of Nebbiolo. Named 10 Hot New Restaurants in the Bay Area by Zagat is but one of a long list of awards Coppa has garnered over the last couple of years. Visit their website

31st Union

A block and a half away is another Michelin Recommended restaurant, 31st Union. Farm to Table fare served in smaller plates along with the casual and friendly ambiance encourages family style dining. Braised Beef Tongue Sliders and Chicken Confit Tacos along with Special of the Day Seasonal Risotto were delightfully devoured as owner David Hunsaker entertained. Daily specials and finger-friendly dishes give the younger, hip crowd reasons for many return visits. Visit their website


About 10 minutes away is Three. It has replaced Astaria at Draper University, formerly Benjamin Franklin Hotel. Executive Chef, Owner Alicia Petrakis has designed a menu where you can have 1 bite of 10 things, rather than 10 bites of 1 thing. California Fare is prepared using seasonal, local ingredients in an open space easily accommodating families and larger gatherings. A taste of their extensive menu offered Jewel Yam Fritters, Mushroom Stogies and Bacon Bitz for starters. Browned Buttered Beet and Citrus Salad and Brentwood Corn Soup Spoon highlight summer’s harvest, while the BBQ Boneless Short Rib and Sesame Salmon Bites evoke comfort. For dessert, a lemon meringue tartlet and Three Hoho is your favorite grandmother’s treat x 2!    Appealing to the young at heart, a bar and lounge area serve handcrafted cocktails and craft beers. Try Strawberry -Basil Infused Espolon with Strawberry Shrub, or Ginger Infused Bourbon, ginger beer, lime juice and soda or my favorite, Jalapeño & Blueberry Infused SKYY and lime juice. Visit their website

San Francisco and Napa aside, San Mateo has more Michelin Stars than Oakland or Berkeley.  The city has more Japanese restaurants than San Francisco’s Japantown.  Food -related festivals, weekly farmers’ markets  and monthly dish crawls are scheduled throughout the year.  It has become the place to be.