Spotlight On Burlingame
Tasty Quality and Variety are the Name of the ’Game
The small Peninsula community of Burlingame boasts an unexpectedly vibrant dining scene. Recently renovated, Burlingame Avenue offers a charming downtown with a mix of retail stores, classic restaurants and trendy eateries. Just over a mile away, Broadway Avenue has an older-school feel and is host to more restaurant offerings and smaller, family-owned stores. Among the many dining options Burlingame has to offer, here are a few favorites.
Sixto’s Cantina, 1148 Burlingame Ave.
The owners of Sixto’s Cantina, Francesca Tashjian and Teresa Lindhartsen, have been in the Burlingame community for more than 20 years. Their first restaurant, Alana’s Café, serves breakfast and lunch inside Burlingame Avenue’s oldest building. Executive Chef Benjamin Prieto started as a dishwasher at Alana’s but quickly moved his way up to the head of the kitchen. His Wednesday Mexican specials, such as a tortilla soup prepared with a verde base made from fresh cilantro, tomatillos and pasilla peppers, became instant hits at Alana’s Café. “It was out of the love of his food, that everyone wanted more of it,” said Lindhartsen, describing how customers who loved Chef Prieto’s specials urged her to open a Mexican restaurant.
Sixto’s Cantina opened in 2013 and has become a popular destination for lunch, dinner and happy hour—with handcrafted cocktails made from local spirits—as well as brunch on the weekends. Prieto was born in Cuquio, Mexico, a small village outside Guadalajara, and the restaurant is named after his father. Inspired by the cuisine he enjoyed growing up in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the menu includes popular dishes such as Mexican-style boneless short ribs served with a pasilla and guajillo chile sauce, and diablo shrimp simmered in a sweet and spicy coconut milk sauce. Asked to name his favorite dish on the menu, Chef Benjamin quickly replies with, “everything,” flashing a large, proud grin.
Maverick Jack’s, 1190 California Dr.
Located along the CalTrain railway in the original Broadway train station building, newly opened Maverick Jack’s is an offshoot from Jack’s Prime, which serves a menu of hamburger creations, milkshakes and craft beer. But that’s not all. The sign on the building reads, “Maverick Jack’s: Mostly Burgers But Also Drinks and Other Food” and the restaurant has expanded the menu to include dishes such as a teriyaki salmon and slow-roasted pulled-pork sliders. Maverick Jack’s and Jack’s Prime owner Michael Mallie said he is enjoying being creative and experimenting with what works on the new menu: “We are trying to stick to our values of using really great product, and kind of kicking it up a notch, but still making it very familiar so it is within reach of everyone.” For example, Mallie has partnered with Petaluma-based Double 8 Dairy, using milk from the farm’s Jersey cows to produce rich and creamy ice cream for the restaurant’s popular milkshakes. Still a main feature of the menu, the burger creations vary from classic cheeseburger to the Beermeister, topped with fried pickles and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale mustard sauce. When asked his personal favorite, Mallie named the Outlaw burger, topped with smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, barbecue sauce and jalapeños.
With a modern and brightly lit interior, Maverick Jack’s features a number decorations and menu items subtlety linking the restaurant to its railway proximity. “We wanted to get as contemporary as possible, but still pay homage to the spirit of the building,” Mallie said. Outside the restaurant a small box painted the same bright yellow as the restaurant’s facade serves as a community library where guests can exchange books. Mallie said they enjoy promoting a family environment and ensure the library stays stocked with books for young children.
Rasa, 209 Park Rd.
Opened in November 2014, Rasa has quickly become a favorite location for enjoying contemporary Indian cuisine in the Bay Area. Rasa’s owner, Ajay Walia, left his career in the tech industry to open his first restaurant, Saffron Indian Bistro in San Carlos. A little over a year after opening Rasa, Walia received a surprise phone call informing him the restaurant was being recognized with a Michelin star in the 2016 San Francisco Michelin Guide. The restaurant has gone on to maintain its star for the 2017 Michelin Guide. At Rasa, the food is prepared with local and sustainably sourced ingredients and served in a stylish and elegant bi-level dining room. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is from the appetizer menu, which features a number of creative and tasty adaptations of typical Indian street cart fare. Similar to a vada pav, the Bombay sliders sandwich a spiced potato fritter between soft bread rolls with cilantro and a sweet and tangy tamarind chutney. The menu also features a number of dosa: thin, crispy pancakes made from fermented rice flour and stuffed with a mix of spiced vegetables. The masala dosa with a simple but delicious filling of curried potatoes is an excellent option for those trying dosa for the first time. On the entree list, Rasa serves several curries as well as a chicken biryani. The butter chicken is served in a thick and creamy tomato curry flavored with ginger and garlic and a side of flaky and buttery kerala paratha, just right for sopping up the last drops of sauce. For dessert, a passion fruit crème topped with coconut ice cream is a delectable option for cooling the palate.
Stella Alpina Osteria, 401 Primrose Rd.
Stella Alpina Osteria, a romantic Italian restaurant themed after an Alps mountain inn, is one of the most popular restaurants in Burlingame. Executive Chef and Co-Owner Matteo Ferrari grew up in a small mountain town in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, where he fished and foraged for wild porcini mushrooms, and his menu reflects his upbringing and those culinary experiences. The restaurant’s signature dish is a tasting of light and fluffy handmade ricotta gnocchi served in a sage brown butter with truffle oil, however, they serve a number of excellent dishes prepared with handmade pastas and gnocchi—all passed down from Chef Ferrari’s grandmother.
1213 Burlingame Ave.
In a town home to a number of Burmese restaurants, one does appear to stand out from the crowd. Michelin-rated from 2010 through 2014, Mingalaba is a wildly popular Burlingame destination for dinner, including takeout. Serving a menu of authentic Burmese dishes, the colorful—and often bustling—dining room is decorated with Burmese art and tapestries. Those unfamiliar with Burmese cuisine will easily fall in love with the complex flavors and textures found in dishes such as rainbow salad, which is prepared from 18 different ingredients including three types of noodles, green papaya, fried garlic, tofu and dried shrimp, all tossed in a sweet and salty tamarind vinaigrette. A popular dish of Burmese cuisine, the pumpkin yellow chicken is served with tender chunks of kabocha squash simmered in a yellow curry sauce with chicken thigh meat, string beans, onions and bell peppers, and garnished with fresh mint leaves. The rich curry is best enjoyed alongside tampoi rice, which is colored and seasoned with saffron, studded with sweet golden raisins and topped with toasted cashews and crispy shallots. The restaurant also serves a number of tasty vegetarian dishes, such as the pan-fried string beans with tofu.