Taqueria Zarape's buildine
Photograph of the exterior of Taqueria Zarape.

Place: Taqueria Zarape

Category: Mexican

Website: http://taqueriazarape.com/

Yelp: https://yelp.to/T86mL63Fvdb

Location: 1107 Fremont Blvd. Seaside, CA 93955

Date of visit: 2021 January 31

On Sunday, January 31, 2021 I went to Taqueria Zarape for the first time. I really have no excuse for not getting to this place before because it has always been on my list since I moved to the area. The old time drive-up style building is very inviting. I think the main reason I haven’t been here before is I tend to acquire my tacos from food truck so had no need to go get a taco elsewhere.

While we are once again allowed to dine outside in Monterey and Taqueria Zarape had a few tables set up, I decided to get my food to go. I ordered a taco and enchilada combination platter for $9.99 before tax.. The combination platter came with beans and rice as well as some salsa and chips. I noticed that they have a salsa bar which was obviously closed due to the current circumstances. However, I’m intrigued.

Taco and enchilada combination platter
Taco and enchilada combination platter from Taqueria Zarape

Taqueria Zarape has a wide range of meat options. For the more adventurous readers choices include beef tripe, beef tongue, and pig stomach. I was not that adventurous and got a carne asada (beef steak) taco and a carnitas (shredded pork) enchilada. They also have a couple of chicken options, a couple of other pork options, and chorizo.

The taco was pretty big. The carne asada filling and the toppings were delicious. The enchilada was also a good size. The carnitas inside was cooked perfectly and the enchilada sauce was tasty. I really enjoyed both and don’t know which one I liked better. The chips, beans and rice filled out the meal nicely. They all tasted good and between all the food I was fill by the time.

As usual it is hard to judge customer service when getting take out but I definitely have no complaints. The staff was friendly and there was no delay in getting my food. Instead of ordering ahead, I ordered when I arrived. It did not take them very long before my food was ready—I was actually surprised it was ready so soon!

I definitely will be bag to try some of their other foods and different meat choices. I doubt I’ll be adventurous enough to try the pig stomach or the beef tripe but perhaps I’ll give the beef tongue a try. I also noticed they have some breakfast platter and breakfast burritos for reasonable prices. I really haven’t found many breakfast places I like in Monterey. There are some places that have great food but they are not all that cheap. Perhaps Taqueria Zarape’s breakfast offerings will fill that void for me.

A colorful Nepalese tuktuk
A colorful Nepalese tuktuk displayed inside of East Village Café.

Place: East Village Café

Category: Coffee, Café

Website: https://www.facebook.com/eastvillagecafemonterey/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/east-village-cafe-monterey-2

Location: 498 Washington St., Monterey, CA 93940

Date of visit: 2021 January 22

On Friday, January 22, 2021 I went to the East Village Café for the first time. Some of you may ask how can a coffee lover living in Monterey for over three and a half years not have been to the East Village Coffee Lounge before? But therein lies the catch: the East Village Coffee Lounge has been sold and has been rebranded as the East Village Café. With new ownership and a slightly different name, I figured it is a big enough change to be considered a new place for Ed’s Eats to visit. So far there has not been many changes but once COVID restrictions loosen up it sounds like their will be some tweaks according to an article on Edible Monterey Bay.

Spinach & Mushroom Quiche
Spinach & Mushroom Quiche from East Village Café.

I decided to order a drip coffee along with a spinach and mushroom quiche. I am not a huge fan of quiche but I like it once in a while. However, the person behind the counter said she really liked them so I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did because it was really good. If more quiche tasted like this and had as good of a texture maybe I would become a bigger quiche fan. They had various pastries and croissants that looked really good as well.

The coffee was hot and tasty and hit the spot. It was what you would expect as far as quality and flavor from a café of this type. Next time I’ll probably try a latte or some other type of fancier drink but on a rainy morning I wanted to go with the tried and true American drip. I look forward to when I can go back there and enjoy my coffee inside while using their wifi to work on Ed’s Eats posts!

The staff were friendly and made my coffee and heated up my quiche right away so good marks on customer service.

Boston Cream Donut
Boston Cream Donut from Marina Donuts & Bagels.

Place: Marina Donuts & Bagels 

Category: Breakfast

Website: n/a

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/marina-donuts-and-bagels-marina

Location: 266 Reservation Rd Marina, CA 93933

Date of visit: 2021 January 9

On Saturday, January 9, 2021 I went to Marina Donuts & Bagels for coffee and, shockingly, a donut and a bagel. I have to admit to being skeptical about the bagels when I saw the sign and decided to give the place a try because outside of Montreal, Ottawa, and New Jersey/New York I have not really found many good bagels. I had a little higher expectations for the donut because there are good donuts here in California.

I decided to sample a donut and a bagel to see how much I liked their namesake products. I went with a Boston cream donut and a buttered toasted poppy seed bagel. I also got a coffee. The coffee was better than expected but it wasn’t like going to a fancy independent coffee shop but it definitely could compete with chain coffee shops as far as flavor.

The Boston cream donut was stuffed full a lot of Boston cream—much more than you normally get. The cream was very tasty as was the donut itself. The chocolate frosting was also delicious. It definitely tanks with the best Boston cream donuts I have ever had and would highly recommend it. As with most (all?) donut shops they had plenty of other choices so perhaps I’ll try a different kind when I return but it will be very hard to pass up their Boston cream donut.

Poppy seed bagel
A toasted and buttered Poppy Seed Bagel from Marina Donuts & Bagels.

As you can see in the photo, they are not at all stingy with the poppy seeds. Do not get this bagel if you do not love them! As I said I was skeptical going in due to the fact I never had anything better than a satisfactory bagel in California. I am no longer a skeptic! The bagel was good enough that it could have been a New Jersey bagel! (Not a Montreal or Ottawa bagel, however because they are a bit different). I will definitely go back next time I am in the mood for a bagel.

They also had muffins and some other breakfast pastries and they sell bagel sandwiches. One pastry that caught my eye was the cinnamon roll but I wanted to stick

to the donut and bagel for the review. I also noticed they had a bagel hot dog. I might try that next time as a hot dog stuffed in one of their bagels must be good.  

The process of ordering and getting my food was fast and friendly but seemed a bit chaotic to me with multiple people behind the counter taking parts of my order. While it seemed chaotic to me, the chaos did not cause a delay or any other issues with my order; it was efficient and it did not take very long to get my items. I guess everyone that worked in their just jumped in to serve people as quickly as they could as the place was quite busy. They obviously understand the chaos much better than me as a first-time customer!

As you probably guessed from the review thus far, I will definitely be back. I’m actually thinking I could go for one of their bagels right now!  

Chef Lee’s Mandarin House
Chef Lee’s Mandarin House

Place: Chef Lee’s Mandarin House 

Category: Chinese

Website: http://www.chefleesmandarinhouse.com/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/chef-lees-mandarin-house-monterey

Location: 2031 N Fremont St. Monterey, CA 93940

Date of visit: 2021 January 8

On Friday, January 8, 2021 I ordered lunch to go from Chef Lee’s Mandarin House in Monterey. I have never been here before because, both from the outside appearances and the website (at least pre-pandemic), it appeared more of a place for in-person dining and I usually am more interested in take-out when I want to eat Chinese food. Just like I wouldn’t go to a nice steak house for takeout, the same goes for Chinese or any other food. Of course, everything is currently takeout so it seemed to be a good time to give it a try. Probably another factor for me not going here before is the online reviews. Their overall rating on Yelp! is not great (3 out of 5). Oddly enough some people seemed to have had a bad experience while others loved it. There are an almost equal amount of 5 star reviews as 1 star reviews; some people say the food was great but bad service and others say the food wasn’t good but the service was great. The reviews are not at all consistent! It is like people are talking about different restaurants. I don’t know what caused this dichotomy and I’m sure my review won’t solve the quandary but as I will describe, I was happy with my meal.

As I stated above, I ordered lunch for takeout. Like many Chinese restaurants they have a lunch menu that offers meals at a cheaper price than dinne

Scallop and Chicken with Shrimp Rice Plate
Scallop and Chicken w/ Shrimp Rice Plate from Chef Lee’s in its takeout container.

r. I like cheaper! I ordered the Scallop and Chicken w/ Shrimp Rice Plate. This was served with white race unlike some other restaurants that provide fried rice with their lunch and other specials. The rice was perfectly done. The amount of chicken, shrimp, and scallops was appropriate for the price paid ($12.95 before taxes). Overall the main part of the meal (i.e. the proteins and vegetables) was well-prepared and I felt quite tasty. They did not over-do the seasonings which I guess may be a good or bad thing depending on what you want but I found the taste pleasing. The chicken and shrimp were quite good. The scallops were good but not, in my opinion, as good as the chicken and shrimp. To elaborate, they were not under- or over-cooked but they were a bit bland. That said, scallops tend to be that way unless they are drenched in butter or something else so that is a matter of taste.

Scallop and Chicken w/ Shrimp Rice Plate
Scallop and Chicken w/ Shrimp Rice Plate from Chef Lee’s

With takeout it is hard to evaluate service but, as with most of the places I’ve been going to in the area, the food was ready on time and the transactions were pleasant so no complaints. I didn’t take any pictures of the interior because the chairs were on the tables for cleaning and that wouldn’t give a fair impression of what the interior was like but I thought it looked like a nice place to have a sit down meal and once indoor dining opens back up, I would like to check it out.

Overall I was satisfied with my takeout meal. Will I add it to my standard Chinese takeout rotation? I think I will likely get takeout from them again but it probably won’t supplant other places on my regular rotation. This is mostly because I think other places are a better value for takeout. That said, I really do want to give the in-restaurant dining a try when we are able to do that again as I think the ambiance would be nice and they have some dinners  (Peking and Chef Lee’s) designed for multiple people, that I assume are served “family style,” that sound really good. I imagine these are Chef Lee’s Mandarin House strength.

A large to-go coffee cup from Jack’s Coffee.

Place: Jack’s Coffee

Category: Coffee

Website: https://www.facebook.com/jackscoffeesalinas

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/german-restaurant-stammtisch-seaside-2

Location: 1348 S Main St, Salinas, CA 93901

Date of visit: 2021 January 2

On Saturday, January 2. 2021 I went to my first new food place of the year. It was Jack’s Coffee in Salinas in the same shopping complex as Nob Hill Foods. It is a small hut in the middle of the parking lot that is reminisce of Fotomats of years past. I have been wanting to check out this locally owned drive-up coffee place for a while but whenever I drove past it I usually already had coffee or it was latter in the evening so it was closed.

Jack’s Coffee hut in Salinas.

I bought a “regular” large coffee for $3.00 but they also have all of the typical coffee drinks that you would expect. They also had pastries and oatmeal but I already had my breakfast so I did not partake. The prices were probably, on average, slightly lower than other local coffee shops in the area (likely because they do not have as big of a space with inside dinning and restrooms to maintain).  

I am not a professional coffee taster so I can’t tell you if it had hints of whatever exotic fruit you like but it was extremely tasty and not overly roasted (aka burnt) that some of the chain coffees taste like to me.

The service was very efficiency and friendly. I’d definitely stop at Jack’s Coffee again. I just need to remember to not get coffee before I end up driving past it.